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The best GoPro cameras in 2021: from the new Hero9 Black to thrifty older models

Best GoPro camera
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Thinking about the best GoPro camera for you? One might assume that the  latest GoPro Hero 9 Black is the obvious choice, but it's not that simple. GoPro has an extensive catalogue of cameras, some with different specialties, all at different price points. Depending on your need and your budget, you may be able to find something that suits you better.

After all, do you really need 5K resolution? Unless you're a professional filmmaker, possibly not, and this means that an older GoPro model might well be the more sensible choice. Or, do you fancy doing something different, and experimenting with 360º imaging? GoPro offers specialised cameras just for that purpose!

• Check out the latest Black Friday GoPro deals

GoPro cameras may be waterproof and shockproof, but they aren't just for underwater adventures. So the fact that they're among the best waterproof and underwater cameras is something of a given, but they're also up there with the best travel cameras around too. If you're a vlogger, it's worth knowing that GoPros can also be some of the best YouTube cameras too!

As we're on the GoPro Hero 9 at this point, there are lots of cameras in the back catalogue. While GoPro doesn't keep everything in production, plenty of models back to around the Hero 7 are still widely available, and often at slashed prices compared to the latest products. This means that picking the one that's right for you can be a bit of a daunting business. And that's where we come in! 

So, to return to the question of the day, which is the best GoPro? As with many tech decisions, it really depends on what you're looking for and what your budget is. It's safe to say the Hero9 Black is the best that's currently available, with its 5K video, front-facing screen and sophisticated HyperSmooth 3.0 image stabilization system. However, cameras from the Hero7 and Hero8 range are still fantastic in their own right. Then there's also the slick 360-degree GoPro Max, which is a marked improvement on the GoPro Fusion. It's a fantastic choice for those who like to push the envelope technologically; if this is you, it might be worth checking out our guide to the best 360 cameras.

The best action camera arena is a competitive one, and there are lots of rivals out there for GoPro's crown. If budget as a real concern of yours, then we'd say check out our list of the best cheap action cameras for a selection of models available for less than $100. However, ultimately, we'd say that GoPro is still the best game in town when it comes to action cameras, and if your budget allows, it's a good idea to pick something with that official branding on it.

So let's count off the cameras. 

The best GoPro camera in 2021

(Image credit: GoPro)

1. GoPro Hero9 Black

The ultimate action camera has got even better!

Specifications
Weight: 158g
Waterproof: 10m
5K video: up to 30fps
4K video: up to 60fps
1080P: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: : 12MP
Battery life: 1-3hrs estimate
Reasons to buy
+Superb image stabilization system+Excellent 5K video+Built-in accessory mounts
Reasons to avoid
-Bigger than the Hero8 and Hero7-Not compatible with older batteries

The latest of the GoPro range is the best GoPro yet, but it’s also the most expensive. The key addition to this newer model is the front-facing color LCD screen, which allows you to frame yourself while vlogging, when used as a webcam, or just for selfies. The resolution gets a boost too, with a 20 megapixel stills capability and a 5K video shooting. The latter will be overkill for many, but it also allows 14.7 megapixel grabs from video, which could be hard to resist. 

At 2.27-inch, its rear display is larger than that found on the GoPro Hero8 Black, and its Hypersmooth 3.0 video stabilization system – unique to this model – is unbeatably smooth. Thanks to its removable lens cover there’s also an option to add a Max Lens Mod accessory to the Hero9 Black, which will bring a few GoPro Max-style features including 360º horizon lock and an ultra-wide 155º Max SuperView mode. Either way, even the ‘basic’ Hero9 Black is a thoroughly advanced piece of kit.

• Read more GoPro Hero 9 reviewGoPro Hero 8 vs 9 Black

(Image credit: GoPro)

2. GoPro Hero8 Black

Last year's flagship is now better value

Specifications
Weight: 126g
Waterproof: 10m
4K video: up to 60fps
1080: up to 240fps
720: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: : 12MP
Battery life: 1-3hrs estimate
Reasons to buy
+Great image stabilization system+Excellent 4K video+Great range of frame rate options+Built-in acccessory mounts
Reasons to avoid
-Screen is smaller than some rivals

Despite now being surpassed, 2019’s GoPro model remains one of our favorite action cameras available. Sure, it doesn’t do 5K and it has an older image stabilization system, but like the Hero 9 Black it has the mount built-in. Like the Hero9 Black, you can accessorize the Hero8 Black with a series of bespoke optional extras called Mods; Media Mod improves the production value of your videos, Display Mod adds a second monitor that’s perfect for vloggers, and a Light Mod LED light adds illumination. These add-ons cost you more, but if you’re looking for a good value action camera and you don’t need 5K or a front-facing screen, then the Hero8 Black is a great option. 

• Read more GoPro Hero8 reviewGoPro Hero 7 vs 8 Black

(Image credit: GoPro)

3. GoPro Max

The latest 360-degree GoPro model and perhaps the best 360 cam of all

Specifications
Megapixels: 16.6MP
Screen: Touchscreen
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Max continuous shooting speed: 30fps
Max video resolution: 5.6K (30fps)
Waterproofing: 5m
Voice control: Yes
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Super-stabilised 360 footage+Video quality is customisable
Reasons to avoid
-No 4K video capture-A little pricey

A genre-bending, category-redefining one-man-band of a camera, the GoPro Max is a significant improvement on the previous 360-degree GoPro camera, the Fusion, and brings 360-degree video into the realm of being a potential professional tool, rather than a gimmick. The Max shoots 5.6K video in all directions, offering a little less raw resolution than the Hero 8 but making up for it with plenty of other tricks: including four digital focal lengths, horizon levelling, HyperSmooth stabilisation and ProTune video editing software, to name a few. We've been really impressed with the Max in our initial tests, and we don't think it's an exaggeration to say that it could really change the look and feel of YouTube and vlogging in the near future.

Read more: GoPro MAX review •  GoPro Max vs Hero 8

(Image credit: GoPro)

4. GoPro Hero7 Black

2018's top model is now really great value

Specifications
Megapixels: 12MP
Screen: 2in touchscreen
Connectivity: Wi-Fi (5GHz), Bluetooth
Max continuous shooting speed: 30fps
Max video resolution: 4K (60fps)
Frame rates: 60fps (4K), 240fps (1080p), 240fps (720p)
Waterproofing: 10m
Voice control: Yes
GPS: Yes
Battery life: 1-3hrs estimated
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous 4K video+HyperSmooth feature impresses
Reasons to avoid
-Voice commands need refining-Occasional unresponsive screen

While the GoPro Hero9 Black is out grabbing headlines, the now ageing Hero7 Black is still worthy of attention for its debut of HyperSmooth, the basic version of GoPro’s image stabilization technology that brings a smooth, stable, flowing look to even handheld video. It remains impressive as does the original TimeWarp feature. A refinement of HyperSmooth, TimeWarp enables you to create a TimeLapse while walking around a scene, but also increase the speed by 30x for short, shareable and silky-smooth TimeLapse videos. It's enabled by a massive increase in the memory inside the GoPro Hero7 Black, which also gets a fresh new user interface. Add gorgeous video footage and the Hero7 Black remains an excellent action camera.

Read more: GoPro Hero 7 vs 8 Black

(Image credit: GoPro)

5. GoPro Hero7 Silver

With a new low price, this action cam is now great value

Specifications
Megapixels: 10MP
Screen: 2in touchscreen
Connectivity: Wi-Fi (5GHz), Bluetooth
Max continuous shooting speed: 15fps
Max video resolution: 4K (30fps)
Frame rates: 30fps (4K), 60fps (1080p)
Waterproofing: 10m
Voice control: Yes
GPS: Yes
Battery life: 1-3hrs estimated
Reasons to buy
+Great value+4K video quality
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks high frame rates of more expensive models-No HyperSmooth option

The younger brother to the Hero7 Black, the Hero7 Silver may not be a current model, but it has been reduced in price which can make it a tempting deal for budget buyers. Key difference between this and the Hero7 Black are that it lacks HyperSmooth recording, only offers 60fps in 4K shooting mode, and has a non-removable battery (so you can't carry a spare around with you). If you can afford the more expensive Black version then it's definitely worth doing so, as that HyperSmooth stabilization is a real game-changer, but if not then this makes for a solid budget alternative.

Read more: The best GoPro accessories

(Image credit: GoPro)

6. GoPro Hero7 White

The cheapest Hero7, missing a fair few bells and whistles

Specifications
Megapixels: 10MP
Screen: 2in touchscreen
Connectivity: Wi-Fi (5GHz), Bluetooth
Max continuous shooting speed: 15fps
Max video resolution: Full HD
Frame rates: 60fps (1080p)
Waterproofing: 10m
Voice control: Yes
GPS: No
Battery life: 1-3hrs estimated
Reasons to buy
+Highly affordable+Still has some stabilization
Reasons to avoid
-No 4K-Generally basic functionality-Increasing availability issues

The main thing the Hero7 White has going for it is the price. We have seen some great sale prices on this recently-discontinued model - and this means you can get a thoroughly decent GoPro camera at an budget price. There's no 4K and only the most basic stabilization (the Black edition's HyperSmooth stabilization gets nowhere near this model) but for learning the basics, it's a decent tool. It's getting harder to find these days, particularly outside of the US, so if you want this model you might have to prepare to do some hunting. 

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