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GoPro Hero 8 vs 9 Black

GoPro Hero 8 vs 9 Black
(Image credit: Jamie Carter/Digital Camera World)

GoPro Hero 8 vs 9 - which should you choose? If you’re after a waterproof, drop-proof camera for taking on a ski or surf trip/bike ride/kayak or anywhere else where a smartphone just isn’t going to cut it, you need an action camera. It’s likely that the first brand that popped into your head was GoPro camera, but which model do you need? 

A ‘selfie’ screen, 5K video and 14.7 MP video stills. That’s what the new GoPro Hero 9 promises, but do you need the latest and greatest GoPro? The brand is synonymous with rugged, rubberized cameras that can be placed almost anywhere, but in GoPro’s latest flagship line-up of action cameras there’s a big decision to be made; GoPro Hero 8 Black or GoPro Hero 9 Black?

With the release of the Hero 9 Black, the Hero 8 Black has been discounted, but for many users, that's an opportunity to get exactly the camera they need. After all, as our head-to-head shows, the Hero 9 Black is a little bigger than the Hero 8 Black, and there are other subtle differences that may mean the older model is for you. 

While the Hero 9 Black is now the top dog in GoPro’s stable purely in terms of features and functionality, the best value is the Hero 8 Black. Whichever generation you choose, these pocket-sized cameras are great for cyclists, skiers, skateboarders and all-round adventurous types wanting to produce content in ever more creative ways. 

So, with all that in mind what are the main differences between the Hero 9 Black and the Hero 8 Black? Read on to find out. 

Full test reports: GoPro Hero 8 BlackGoPro Hero 9 Black

GoPro Hero 8 vs 9 Black: front display

(Image credit: Jamie Carter/Digital Camera World)

If you’re a vlogger than there’s a good chance you’ve turned away from GoPro recently. That’s because while the Hero 8 Black does technically have a small front display, it’s not for framing video, but merely for showing you the remaining battery time, recording time and what resolution you’ve selected (though a front-facing screen Display Mod is also available from GoPro for the Hero 8 Black). In an attempt to catch-up on the DJI Osmo Action and the Akaso Brave 7 LE – both of which have front-mounted LCD 'selfie' panels – the Hero 9 Black has a ‘selfie’ live preview screen built-in for framing and vlog-style recording. Measuring 1.4-inches, it’s quite a departure for GoPro and adds to the Hero 9 Black’s physical size, though it may not be a feature many users want or need. However, it can host either a ‘full screen’, ‘actual screen’ or live preview, used only as a status screen, or deactivated entirely. Either way, it’s a reason for upgrading to the Hero 9 Black. 

GoPro Hero 8 vs 9 Black: rear display

(Image credit: Jamie Carter/Digital Camera World)

While the flagship GoPro’s new front display will grab the headlines, the rear display has also been sized-up. Both cameras have a 16:9 widescreen LCD touchscreen displays, but they differ in size; the Hero 9 has a 2.27-inch display while the Hero 8 offers a noticeable smaller 1.95-inch display. That’s a 16% difference in size. 

GoPro Hero 8 vs 9 Black: lens

(Image credit: Jamie Carter/Digital Camera World)

When it comes to the lens, there’s a huge difference between the Hero9 Black and the Hero8 Black. While the older product has a fixed lens, the new flagship has a removable lens cover, just as the Hero7 Black featured. It can host a Max Lens Mod (US$99.99), which will be available in October as an add-on accessory. It’s a key new feature, and one that will allow the Hero 9 Black to perform some of the features hitherto exclusive to the GoPro Max, such as 360º horizon lock, which means the camera can be rotated through 360º. It will also permit an ultra-wide 155º Max SuperView mode up to 2.7K 60 fps. 

GoPro Hero 8 vs 9 Black: size and build

(Image credit: Jamie Carter/Digital Camera World)

Are those new features worth their weight? We hope so because the new Hero 9 Black is physically larger than the Hero 8 Black. The Hero 9 Black measures 71x55x33.6mm and weighs 158g, which doesn’t compare too well to the GoPro Hero 8’s slimmer 66.3x48.6x28.4mm and 126g weight. 

However, there are many similarities between the two cameras. For example, both are waterproof down to 33ft/10m, both have the same styling, a left-hand battery compartment (complete with micro SD card slot and USB-C charging slot), the same microphone placed beneath the lens, and the same ‘folding fingers’ on their undercarriage. Both require the same Class 10/UHS-I rated micro SD card. 

That said, while the power/mode and record buttons have the same placement, the Hero 9 Black’s buttons are slightly larger and protrude slightly more, which makes them easier to operate when wearing gloves. 

GoPro Hero 8 vs 9 Black: battery

(Image credit: Jamie Carter/Digital Camera World)

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Hero 9 Black comes with a significantly larger battery than the Hero 8 Black. Rated at 1,720mAh compared to 1,220mAh, the former is physically larger than the latter, and not compatible with older GoPro models. However, it offers 30% more battery life. The slight increase in size is necessary to drive a bigger sensor and two screens, but also to offer better performance in freezing temperatures. The battery life of the Hero 9 Black is rated by GoPro at 101 minutes when filming in 1080p, while the Hero 8 Black manages 75 minutes. 

GoPro Hero 8 vs 9 Black: video 

(Image credit: Jamie Carter/Digital Camera World)

The Hero 9 Black’s larger 23.6 MP sensor means higher resolution video. It maxes out at 5K 30 fps at a bitrate of 100 Mbps– that’s seven times more detailed than regular HD. Meanwhile, the Hero 8 Black’s video pinnacle is 4K 60fps at 100 Mbps. Both shoot in multiple resolution steps below their maximum, though the Hero 9 Black abandons 720p, with 1080p now the lowest quality video it captures. 

Whereas the Hero 8 Black offers HyperSmooth 2.0 for image stabilization and a TimeWarp 2.0 time-lapse mode, the Hero 9 Black is graced by HyperSmooth 3.0 and TimeWarp 3.0. Exclusive to the Hero 9 Black and not available as a firmware update for the Hero 8 Black, HyperSmooth 3.0 – which works up to 5K – has auto-correct horizon leveling that happens in-camera. That’s more good news for vloggers, and it gets closer to gimbal-like stabilization. 

(Image credit: Jamie Carter/Digital Camera World)

The Hero 9 Black also features HyperSmooth Boost, an ‘ultimate’ stabilization mode that works across all resolutions, frame rates and digital lenses. 

TimeWarp 3.0 is the latest version of GoPro’s time-lapse mode best used for endurance activities, such as hiking. Although it only works up to 4K, it’s now got a ‘speed ramp’ feature that can slow down the action at a specific point back to real-time speed, and capture the audio, too. As an example, you could have a fast-motion time-lapse of you ascending the mountain, a few seconds of real-time, regular speed video and audio of a conversation at the peak, then back to a time-lapse for the descent. There’s also a half-speed mode for an epic slo-mo. Meanwhile, for the Max Lens Mode there’s a mode that adds Max HyperSmooth and Max SuperView. Although horizon levelling is part of the GoPro app, on the Hero 9 Black it happens in-camera. 

The Hero 9 Black also adds HindSight (a 30-second buffer for video to avoid missing unexpected moments), Scheduled Capture (for waking-up and videoing a sunrise while you sleep-in) and Duration Capture (set to record for between 15 seconds and three hours). 

GoPro Hero 8 vs 9 Black: webcam and live streaming

While there was a firmware update earlier this year to allow the Hero 8 Black to be used as a webcam, the Hero 9 Black includes it right out of the box. It integrates into all video conferencing platforms and works up to 1080p. The Hero 9 Black can also be used to live stream 1080p video to YouTube, Twitch, Facebook Profiles and Facebook Pages, and with HyperSmooth 3.0 engaged, too. 

GoPro Hero 8 vs 9 Black: photos

GoPro cameras aren’t particularly renowned for their skill with stills, but at a pinch they can take some decent quality landscapes. Both models take RAW and HDR – the latter upgraded on the Hero 9 Black – with the Hero 9 Black offering 20 MP resolution to the Hero 8 Black’s 12 MP. That’s quite a step-up. 

The Hero 9 Black can also grab 14.7 MP grabs from video, which is one of its killer features; it means you can extract decent quality photos of jumps, turns and other ‘moments’. 

Live Burst (1.5 seconds buffer on the shutter button for photos) is on both the Hero 9 Black and the Hero 8 Black. 

GoPro Hero 8 vs 9 Black: packaging

Action cameras traditionally have the kind of rigid transparent plastic ‘window’ packaging that borders on offensive. So when it comes to excessive packaging, GoPro has been a major offender. Thankfully that all changes with the Hero 9 Black, which arrives in a handy nylon carry case wrapped in a cardboard slip. So no plastic whatsoever. Nice, but what took you so long? The non-plastic packaging will also come soon to the rest of the GoPro stable, including the Hero 8 Black. 

GoPro Hero 8 vs 9 Black: accessories

(Image credit: Jamie Carter/Digital Camera World)

In the Hero 9 Black’s case are a couple of batteries, a USB to USB-C cable, two thumbscrews, a redesigned floating grip, a micro SD card, an adhesive mount, a standard buckle mount and a magnetic swivel clip. 

For the Hero 8 Black, the standard package is less generous; one battery, a USB to USB-C cable, one thumbscrew, a selfie stick, an adhesive mount and a standard buckle mount. However, at the time of writing GoPro was selling the Hero 8 Black for $349.99/UK£329.99 bundled with a head strap, a spare battery and a 32GB micro SD card. 

A major difference is that selfie stick; the newer model is larger, padded, easier to hold and has a wrist strap, while the older ‘shorty grip’ version is slippery to hold, but has an extendable design and a built-in tripod. Personally, we prefer the older design. 

Verdict

(Image credit: Jamie Carter/Digital Camera World)

With more screens, more opportunities to grab still photos and a bigger battery, some will find persuasive reasons to reach for a Hero 9 Black over a Hero 8 Black. However, both remain excellent quality action cameras. Which one will you choose? 

See also
Best action cameras in 2020

The best GoPro accessories

The best GoPro camera in 2020

Cheap GoPro deals

GoPro Hero 7 vs 8 Black

GoPro Max vs Hero 8

GoPro Hero 7 Black vs Silver vs White