The GoPro Hero 8 Black and GoPro Max are a testament to the fact GoPro isn’t resting on its laurels – and particularly now that its faces fierce competition from DJI and its Osmo Action in the race to offer the best action camera.
While the Max reimagines what a 360-degree camera is and does, the Hero 8 Black (or Hero8 Black, as GoPro like to write it) rethinks the traditional Hero line’s design, adding folding feet for easy, housing-free mounting. It also serves up four focal lengths, despite the fact it only packs one optical field of view, and introduces a range of video enhancements, including the smoothest action camera footage we’ve ever seen. It is, in short, the best GoPro we have seen to date.
Design and screen
Despite the Hero 8 Black not looking too different to the Hero7 Black, meaningful enhancements set it apart from its predecessor.
On the front is a familiar monochrome display, but alongside it is a fixed lens with no removable glass protector. Instead, the lens is shielded by scratch and smash resistant glass that’s 2x more durable than that of the Hero7. Naturally, this means third party ND filter options won’t be quite as convenient - no simple screwing on, but GoPro claims the move to a fixed lens means the microphone below it can capture better audio - and the mic is indeed, better.
At the base are the folding feet, which fold out like butterfly wings, closing to create a traditional action camera mount. A removable waterproof door is on the left, underneath which is a microSD card slot and battery, and on the right is a power button. Up top, there’s a record button, while to the right is a power button.
• See also: GoPro Hero 7 vs 8
It’s a bit taller and thinner than its predecessor, but generally speaking packs a similar footprint, which means its incredibly portable and pocketable in all but the skinniest jeans.
On the back, the screen hasn’t changed much if at all. It’s small, responsive to the touch and bright enough in all but the sunniest conditions. Its aspect ratio is somewhere between the camera’s photo and video capture dimensions, and we can see why GoPro opted to give photo and video takers a middle-ground, but it ended up feeling more like a compromise, given the fact we mainly used it for video. DJI has clearly committed to a video-first approach on its Osmo Action with its slightly larger 16:9 display.
Footage shot on the GoPro Hero8 Black can be captured across multiple resolutions starting at 1080p 240fps through to 4K 60fps. It shoots at either 4:3 or 16:9, and betters the competition by being able to capture Hypersmooth 2.0 stabilized footage across all resolutions.
Give the Hero8 Black good light and it captures stunning content that’s held together incredibly steadily. There’s a new Boost feature for situations when stability is more important than clarity. Alternatively, you can shoot with Hyperboost 2.0 on high, standard or off - we tended to stick with high and it worked to great effect.
The Hero8 Black also adds an additional artificial lens, or focal length, to the mix. In addition to SuperView, Wide and Linear, which we saw on the Hero7 Black, there’s a new Narrow option, which shoots at a similar angle of view to a smartphone - 27mm. This is capped at 1080p, but is still a great feature as it grabs footage with no noticeable distortion.
GoPro’s default video capture profile exposes footage more than the Osmo Action’s, which pulls out more information from shadows. It’s also more inclined to blow out skies and hotspots though, particularly noticeable in darker scenes.
Noise handling in low light is aggressive - more so than the competition, and that’s not a bad thing. The Hero8 Black captures brighter images with less grain than most action cameras at night, though we wouldn’t choose it over our smartphone when the lights go down.
One very smart shooting mode introduced on the Hero8 is TimeWarp 2.0. This is, in effect, a time-lapse, but unlike other action cameras, you can tap the screen to smoothly slow down to real-time, and tap it again to speed things up again. This is a piece of cake to use, works at up to 4K 30fps and across the three widest digital lenses, SuperView, Wide and Linear, producing high-impact fast-slow-fast footage, perfect for walking through a city for the first time.
The fact the Hero8 Black also captures 100Mbps 4K video over the 78Mbps footage captured by the Hero7 Black is just one more boon for quality chasers.
GoPro Hero8 Black vs DJI Osmo Action: side-by-side video comparison of the the two action cameras, comparing stabilization and image quality in good light
GoPro Hero8 Black vs DJI Osmo Action: side-by-side video comparison of the the two action cameras, comparing stabilization and lowlight performance
While we wouldn’t use our GoPro for photos if we’ve got a flagship phone with an ultra-wide lens, like the iPhone 11 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S10 5G in anything but great lighting, the Hero8’s improved SuperPhoto feature captures better dynamic range and more pop than most action cam snaps and the night photography betters night video significantly.
There’s also traditional HDR and RAW photo support too, and if you fancy diving into the manual settings, you can set the shutter to stay open for up to 30 seconds, and drive the ISO up to 3200.
Battery life and connections
While the GoPro Hero8 Black’s battery has the same capacity and physical size as the Hero7, it’s power management is slightly different. This means, while there’s backwards compatibility across the range, you’ll get an on-screen alert if you use an older one, warning you that some features will be disabled.
As for battery life, it lasts for roughly 50 minutes on a single charge, so just like the GoPro Max, the Hero8 Black is good for a day out sporadically shooting two-minute clips here and there. If, however, you’re looking to continuously shoot for hours on end, then you’ll want to pack a spare or a power bank. The Hero8 Black’s door detaches, making it convenient to keep it plugged into a power bank for long shoots, provided you don’t need weather-sealing.
To get your photos off the GoPro, you’ve got a few options. You could go old school and use a microSD card reader, or you can use the app on a phone, tablet or computer. The desktop app is a mixed bag - it didn’t recognize our device when plugged, though we were admittedly using a third-party cable, so we had to import them into it with an SD card reader.
The smartphone app, however, is a much better experience if you’ve got small clips you want to offload. It downloads them from your device via WiFi Direct seamlessly on an iPhone or Android 9 device, though we had a couple of issues with Android 10, getting it to work after a little perseverance.
Within the app, you can also apply basic edits to your clips and set them against themes and music too, not to mention backup all your photos and videos to GoPro’s paid cloud service, GoPro Plus.
The promise of GoPro’s upcoming modular accessories, the Media Mod, Light Mod and Display Mod look set to really differentiate this iteration of the Hero from anything else on the scene.
We’re most buzzed about the Media Mod, which features a built-in directional mic, a 3.5mm microphone port and an HDMI out, as well as two cold shoe mounts. You can slide an LED Light Mod on one of these mounts, which delivers 200 lumens and 200 lux 1m to brighten up scenes, or just use it as a standalone light.
The Display Mod can slide on the MediaMod’s other cold shoe mount, and adds a flip-up screen, built for vloggers. We haven’t used any of these, but are excited to, as they look like the real game-changing element when it comes to GoPro securing a firm lead over the competition for vloggers.
The GoPro Hero8 Black isn’t our perfect action camera, but if the screen was a bit bigger, it wouldn’t be far off. As it stands though, it captures stunning video in well-lit environments that’s incredibly stable – and is certainly the best GoPro ever. The high-impact photos it shoots also beats out the competition in all lighting conditions, delivering plenty of punch and pop, and the camera’s smart new mounting feet are a seemingly simple, but innovative time-saver.
GoPro’s secured the Action Camera crown once again with the Hero8 Black, making its top-tier price tag that bit easier to justify.
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