Another year, and despite earlier rumours of doom and gloom for GoPro, another Hero. Number 8.
And this time, they are serious it seems, with some major changes having been made.
Unlike the 7, where we had to wait over 12 months to get our hands on one to review it, thankfully Australian Videocamera managed to get one relatively early in the piece (and in line with our overseas counterparts so things ARE looking up) and have had a quick play.
In this part 1 of a 2 part (at least) review system, here are our first thoughts.
Most of it is the short answer. The Hero 8 might on the outside look the same, and in reality, the design has been a raging success so why alter what works, but this is similarity is superficial only as the only thing that is exactly the same apparently, is the processor inside! Everything else – body, lens, user interface and internal thermal system are all new from the ground up.
Most evident on the surface is the incorporation of a mounting system into the body on the base of the camera. This is achieved by adding a pop out bracket pair and gets rid of the need for an external cage when using any sort of mount as has been necessary in the past.
Some commentators have criticised this method as being a bit flimsy, but our unit, when mounted to a selfie stick or windscreen mount seemed rock solid as long as all the necessary screws were tightened accordingly.
Unlike earlier models, the lens protector is no longer replaceable by the way, apparently to make the camera body more streamlined. It is thicker though – now 2mm as against the original 1.3mm, and GoPro says that it has been tested to withstand grit being fired at it at nearly 140kph. You can get additional tempered glass protectors and a full housing is optional which then gives you a dive depth of 60 metres, which is more than most recreational divers will get to.
Also new is the trapdoor for the battery which is now side mounted as against the traditional bottom mount. The design is supposed to allow better access and integration for third party integration of external power systems, mics., lights etc.
There has been criticism here too, and I’d add my voice to this in some areas.
Firstly, the catch system to seal it is quite stiff and finicky. If you are in a colder clime and need gloves, I’d even suggest it is not possible to operate this with your hands securely gloved away from the cold. Whist changing batteries is not that common a thing, under this trapdoor is also the USB-C port and the micro SD card slot, so access is relatively important.
But there are two other things that really annoyed me about this setup – both of which I admit quickly become insignificant, but they need to be said.
It IS possible to put the battery in upside down, which I inadvertently initially did. It then took 20 minutes to get it back out again with the aid of two jeweller’s screwdrivers as it jams in there very tightly even though it slid in quite cleanly.
The second of the two annoyances is purely cosmetic. In the process of installing the battery, the trapdoor itself came off – which it IS designed to do and is useful when using mains power. Getting it back on needs a little tweaking, and again you’d have to be gloveless I’d suggest. But, I am not alone, when having the door back in place, in thinking that it didn’t look Quite Right, with a largish gap evident.
Now I had not noticed this prior to the door coming off, so was convinced it wasn’t back on correctly and therefore, would leak like a sieve if exposed to wet stuff. The packaging had no images of the top of the Hero 8 so I couldn’t check there and a search online for a photo that would reassure me also drew a blank.
In the end I did a Google search on the subject and finally found a few posts in a GoPro forum asking the same question. “Is that gap between the trapdoor and the main body supposed to be there”?
Well, according to a GoPro rep who finally popped up, yes, it is, so huge sighs of relief all around.
I would recommend though you keep a close eye on it to make sure any liquid is clear of the door when sealing it.
The battery is new too and identified by a light blue flashing on the base. It is compatible with earlier Hero 6 and 7 models, and while rated at the same 1220mAH as the older style batteries, apparently is “optimised” for high power draws when for example, using the HyperSmooth-ing system. GoPro also reckon it has a longer shelf life.
The front of the Hero 8 has the familiar status LCD showing battery power left as well as recording time or number of photos left on the SD card and the current mode the camera is in. The rear LCD is a large and bright panel that is touch screen capable letting you access all the setup functionality of the camera. This is done by a combo of swipes and taps.
There are only two controls on the Hero 8 that are physical. On the top of the body is the Big Red Record button, and the side has the mode button.
The User Interface
In Part 2, I’ll go into the user interface of the GoPro Hero 8 which really is a radical departure from the “old” system – and in my opinion, a huge improvement.