GoPro HERO 9 Black overview: the flagship of extreme photography
The last few GoPro models have received minor updates and improvements. However, the manufacturer has worked hard to improve the performance of the new action camera. HERO 9 Black is equipped with a 20-megapixel sensor with 5K video support, an extended battery, and advanced stabilization.
For the first time since 2012, the developers have significantly improved the camera: instead of the old 12-megapixel sensor, they installed a 23.6-megapixel matrix. It provides improved movie detail and allows you to record 5K content at 30 fps.
Despite the updated sensor, the shooting quality of the GoPro HERO 9 can hardly be called impressive - modern top-end smartphones give better results. On mobile phones, thanks to processors with insane performance, recording in 8K and Dolby Vision is available, and neural networks perform color correction on the fly. Raw footage of GoPro HERO 9 Black, especially in cloudy autumn weather, does not look bright enough.
However, comparing action cameras with mobile phones is still not quite correct. It is unlikely that anyone will risk attaching an iPhone 12 or Galaxy S20 to a surfboard, snowboard or motorcycle — fragile gadgets will stop turning on after the first fall. And it's not easy to find the right mount. In turn, GoPro models are designed to work in extreme conditions.
The HERO 9 Black has a trump card that beats any phone - it's hyper smooth 3.0 stabilization. It slightly cuts the frame in width and uses a clever system of optical and software methods to produce a stunningly smooth image. This feature is necessary for active shooting, because a strong shake will spoil the video during a snowboard descent or an off-road trip on a motorcycle. In the case of an action camera, sometimes you can't even believe that the clip was made without a good Steadicam — sharp movements within 30 degrees practically do not affect the alignment of the image. This function works in all modes, including 5K.
Another interesting option is the TimeWarp 3.0 preset. It speeds up the video, allowing you to shoot spectacular materials even during normal walks, where you don't seem to need an action camera. Unlike conventional time-lapse, which requires a fixed tripod, TimeWarp allows you to record on the go. You can go by transport, run or just walk - the smart software will automatically select the optimal settings. This creates dynamic videos with excellent stabilization. In the process, you can switch to normal mode with one button - this gives a huge scope for creativity.
In addition to 5K, 1080p, 1440p, 2.7K and 4K are available for recording. In the settings, you can choose several ready-made scenarios with different frame rates or create your own combinations. Supported shooting in 4K at 60 fps, 2.7K at 120 fps, and 1080p at 240 fps.
2.7K with 60 fps — a reasonable compromise between image clarity and saving space on the memory card.
GoPro HERO 9 is also able to take pictures. By modern standards, the quality is below average. It is not difficult to make an interesting shot on a mountainside or on a surfboard, but in everyday life it is easier to use a smartphone.
The new product understands voice commands. To start recording, just say "Gopro, shoot a video." A very handy feature for an action camera. There are 14 such commands in total.
The design of the GoPro models, which has become the hallmark of the brand, has remained practically unchanged over the past four years. Visually, it is a black rectangular box with an impressive lens and a touchscreen display on the entire rear panel. The main difference between the HERO 9 Black and its predecessors is its increased dimensions. The accessory has become larger and heavier - 158 grams, not 103. This allowed increasing the battery capacity from 1220 to 1720 mAh. The gadget shoots about 30% longer than the GoPro HERO 8 - the specific figure depends on the selected mode. For example, in the 2.7 K format, the battery lasts for two hours.
The GoPro HERO 9 became the largest model in the history of the company. However, the increased dimensions do not affect the convenience — it is still convenient to shoot with one hand. The clamping rings are built directly into the body, just like the HERO 8. All mounts from older versions are suitable. The battery compartment has a different mechanism, now it opens with a slight movement of the hand.
The device is protected from water — you can dive to a depth of 10 meters. A special design helps protect microphones from moisture. After immersion, water flows out of the hole and does not interfere with the operation of the equipment. On previous cameras, you sometimes had to wait for the device to dry out to avoid a dull sound when recording.
They added interchangeable lenses, which the company ditched in the HERO 8. For example, you can buy a Max lens with a viewing angle of 155 degrees — a record value for GoPro. Other accessories will probably appear over time.
Another bonus is the small color display on the front panel. It is useful for displaying technical information and previewing videos. The previewing videos option is useful for fans of blogs — you can see yourself while recording material. The main screen slightly increased: 2.27 inches. This makes it easier to view the captured content.
There are only two physical buttons on the body, which are responsible for turning on the device and starting shooting. Any settings are made on the display. The sensor does not stand up to any criticism: the response is slow, you have to press the button several times to make the gadget understand the command. If you are actively moving, such thoughtfulness can become a serious problem.
All options are also adjustable in the GoPro mobile utility. However, there are questions about it — the program often loses the connection to the camera, clips and photos take too long to load, and some files with a frequency of 120 fps are played with brakes.
Connecting to a computer also does not cause positive emotions. The device does not appear as a removable drive. To view the recorded content, you need to download a proprietary utility that sees HERO 9 Black every other time. Even when you register an account, confirm the data, and successfully connect to the camera, the application asks you to enter your username and password again every time you click. It is easier to remove the memory card from the camera, install it in an Android smartphone and transfer data to a PC.
HERO 9 Black has many useful features. Hindsight mode will allow you not to miss the important moment, even if the user did not press the record button in time. The active camera continuously records video and saves the last 30-second snippet before the shutter is released. It's easy to imagine how many interesting scenes this option would save.
LiveBurst is a cross between snapshot and video. The device creates many images in three seconds and combines them into a movie. Then you can choose the most beautiful frame and use it as a photo.
"Delayed Start" - it is convenient to put the camera on a tripod, select a timelapse, set the time to turn on HERO 9 Black and go to sleep. The gadget will launch at the right moment and give you a beautiful clip. The recording duration is also easy to change, so as not to waste battery power and save space on the memory card.
The webcam mode will appeal to fans of online broadcasts. There is support for YouTube, Twitch and other popular platforms. All this is set up in a couple of taps in the GoPro mobile app. You can stream in 1080p with HyperSmooth 3.0 stabilization - subscribers will be happy with the smooth picture and the lack of shaking.
Despite the software flaws that do not affect the quality of the shooting, the GoPro HERO 9 Black is the most advanced action camera of 2020. The updated stabilization works just as well as the gimbal, and the 20-megapixel sensor with 5K support produces videos with excellent detail. Nice bonuses - a 30% larger battery and a color external display. You don't have to be in extreme sports to shoot with HERO 9 Black. The new product is suitable for bloggers, streamers and ordinary users who want to capture their vacation or other interesting moments of life.