Review: GoPro Hero 9

The term GoPro has become synonymous with the “action camera” genre in much the same way a vacuum cleaner became a “Hoover”, cling wrap became “Gladwrap” and any fast setting epoxy is “SuperGlue”.

Even DJI hijacking the term “action cam” (as did Sony) to try and nail the phrase to their own mastheads didn’t deter the mass population from calling all cameras of this type a “GoPro”.

And recently, the GoPro mob released the latest iteration in its line-up, the Hero 9 Black claiming this new model has “more everything”.

But is the Hero 9 a major leap forward in GoPro-dom or just a polishing of the edges of previous models?

What’s New

HERO9 Black reflects our commitment to delivering what our customers have been asking for, including more value for their money,” said Nicholas Woodman, GoPro’s founder and CEO. “HERO9 Black is a beast of a product”, he said.

It is certainly physically bigger than the model 7 or 8 as the attached photo shows, and this has been done to accommodate a new full colour 1.4” front display complementing the also larger 2.27” rear display. Unlike the rear display however, the front one is not touch enabled. In fact the Hero 9 is a fully 30g heavier and 6mm wider.

The battery is bigger too (and therefore batteries from older models are not compatible) and is said to give a 30% better life than previously, alongside cold weather performance being improved.

Also brand new is the 23.6 megapixel image sensor, employing 5K video and 20 megapixel photos together with an updated version of GoPro’s stabilising system, HyperSmooth, now at version 3.0. An optional accessory, MaxLens Mod, further enhances this by upping the ante to Max HyperSmooth video stabilization, as well as adding the Max SuperView ultra wide-angle photo and video to HERO9 Black.

There is also a new Horizon Levelling system.

(The fact that GoPro Mods were announced back last year and as we have yet to see any at this stage makes this last point a bit moot. We’ll have to wait and see I’d suggest).

Also in the Hero 9 Black are SuperPhoto + HDR Night lapse video and RAW capabilities.

The inbuilt TimeWarp system has also been upped to version 3 and 1080p streaming has been added as has a new webcam mode (like everyone else, GoPro is jumping on the webcam bandwagon).

BUT.

Live streaming and webcam model are only allowed via the USB-C port as the HDMI port has not been returned to the Hero 9, this only being available by the ubiquitous MOD system mentioned earlier (the not yet available MediaMOD).

Whilst for many this may not be too much of an issue, if you take your streaming / vlogging seriously by using a device such as the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro, then this is an obvious disadvantage.

Now, this new 5K res does not improve on the fps. You’ll only get 30fps out of that, but the 4K will give you 60fps. Drop down to 2.7K and 1080p and you be able to utilise the 120 and 240fps as before, so no change there.

In the video settings you’ll find some new PowerTools options – Scheduled Capture, Duration and Hindsight. It doesn’t take a very stable genius to work out that Scheduled Capture is to get the GoPro Hero 9 Black to start videoing auto-tragically at a specific time, and Duration is to set how long to video for, but Hindsight?

Surely it cannot go Back in time a la Dr Who?

Nope.

Simply put, when Hindsight is turned on, it records in a 30 second loop before you have pressed the shutter release. When awaiting something this can be useful – a lightning storm is the obvious one, or perhaps a sporting event – but of course battery life is accordingly challenged, so I would not be leaving it on permanently.

Voice control is still there too, although I haven’t ever really managed to be totally successful with it. Your mileage may vary.

The Hero 9 Black now has 14 commands in 11 languages and 6 accents, But no Scottish, sorry.

One thing that IS back though is the removeable lens cover. Much loved by the GoPro faithful to protect the fragile glass, this was taken away in earlier models much to the howls of the masses, so this is a Good Thing.

But GoPro has taken away something that not one person will lament; those stupid plastic cases the camera came in that I defy anyone to open without destroying it.

Instead mine came in a dinky zip up case that included an extender mount (that sadly didn’t double as a tripod, spare battery, spring loaded clamp (straight from the GoPro Zeus Mini light we love and use daily), a single sticky mounting point and extra articulated mounts and screw locks.

There are also some handy pop out reference cards, a discount voucher for your next GoPro and accessories and a subscription offer to GoPro (the old GoPro Plus has been rebadged to simply “GoPro”).

In Use

How a camera feels and what the resultant imagery looks like is very subjective. One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor and all that.

I like the bigger screen of the Hero 9 Black as the menus are easier to read, and joy of joys, it can also be read in bright sunlight (which many know is a major bug bear of mine). The touch screen also seems more responsive and I am not now plagued by that incessant “Locked Screen” message which annoyed the hell out of me on my Hero 8, and I never quite found a way to get rid of.

Textures appear to my eyes to be sharper – especially moving water – and colour definition seems to be slightly improved over the 8 and other earlier models.

Of course 5K is a bit of a misnomer as very few devices can actually playback 5K video so you will not be shooting in 5K to do that. No, 5K means you have wriggle room for cropping so you still have genuine 4K footage which is the (almost) defacto standard these days.

The new MODS – if and when available – will further the power and usability of the GoPro Hero 9 Black and we await with bated breath to see and play with them. These also give a huge advantage over the competitors – particularly those from Sony and DJI.

Sorry, cheapie GoPro “knock offs” are not at all in the same realm as the “real things” so I don’t even count them as competitors.

If you have MODS from the Hero 8 by the way, they are compatible, but I have yet to meet anyone who has successfully acquired any. I am particularly interested in the MAX lens and the Media MOD (giving me access to HDMI, external mic input and a cold shoe).

Conclusion

Overall, the Hero 9 Black is a worthy successor to the 8. The new features are not just a cosmetic upgrade but truly additional functionality.

The addition of the front screen is a major catch up to the DJI Action Cam (which also does not have HDMI by the way or any way to get it I am aware of), and the bonus of the bigger battery and removeable lens cover are welcome.

The one accessory I consider a must have is the rubberised “sleeve” available with a lanyard attachment to hang the camera around your neck, and this is the first I will be buying regardless.

(A quick call to local retailers has drawn a blank by the way, with all saying they have no idea when accessories may be available even though they have them on order. Actual Hero 9 Black cameras are available though).

You can buy the GoPro Hero 9 Black for AUD$699. For more information, see https://gopro.com/en/au/

 

 

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