The Hero 9 Black needs to be the most leaked GoPros thus far. To that end, you might may have learned a lot about it, mostly that all-new front color display and the higher 5K resolution? But there’s a lot occurring here that likely wasn’t inside leaks, or at minimum, doesn’t really mean much until we’ve tested it. I have tested it. The result is probably the most critical update to a GoPro lately, certainly since introduction in the Hero 4 Black.
If you were able to prevent the leaks, or perhaps require a straight-up refresher of the things that’s new now, you will find it here. If you’re already on top of things though, let’s not waste any further time.
All new hardware
We’ve seen cosmetic and internal changes to GoPros over time, but on this occasion there’s a bit more occurring. The Hero 9 Black includes a new (if subtle) redesign, which include that shiny new 1.4-inch front color display, and also the camera itself is bigger and heavier than before. It’s a subtle bump in size, but the one which soon becomes apparent whenever you pick it up, particularly if have last year’s camera inside other hand. In numerical terms, the Hero 9 is around 5-6mm wider on both sides in comparison to the Hero 8. The Hero 8, for reference, would have been a shade taller and wider (3mm possibly even) compared to Hero 7. As to the weight, the newest camera is over 30g heavier than the Hero 8 and 42g heavier than the Hero 7. In fact, at 158g, the Hero 9 even outweighs as well as larger Max (154g).
It may appear strange to begin our review referring to size and weight, however it’s for a simple reason, as the extra heft is the trade-off for around three of the new (and quite a few interesting) features found inside Hero 9: the brand new front display, the more expensive rear display and the more capacious battery (finally!). One last detail to clarify right up top: the removable lens cover is back, so those who need to add filters are able to do so again (unlike around the Hero 8). What’s more, GoPro is introducing a unique “Max mod” for your Hero 9 which gives the newest camera some with the key features looking at the 360 sibling (more information on that here).
GoPro Hero 9 Black review.
That 1.4-inch front display is just about the striking new addition. GoPro continues to be planning this for quite a while, and, without a doubt much to its chagrin, DJI ultimately got there first having its Osmo Action. Either way, it’s finally here, and it’s a nice little addition. If you’ve been using a GoPro for virtually any length of time, you’ve likely figured out the best way to point it at yourself to ensure you’re centered inside shot through experimentation (it’s much less straightforward as you think, due to that extra wide-angle lens). The new screen just makes it ridiculously easy now.
There is also another benefits too, beyond just having your grinning face in shot. It also helps it be much simpler to line up what’s behind you. This might not matter so much should you’re gonna handle a black diamond, but when you’re establishing a vacation shot having a landmark behind you, or about to talk to camera to get a vlog, it genuinely makes it possible to build the shot. Especially if you’re using some with the wider-angle video modes, which often stretch or warp objects inside background.
I initially considered that I wouldn’t employ this feature much, as I’ve been shooting with GoPros for years, nonetheless it didn’t require much time before I realized something: I’ve learned to avoid an excessive amount of self-shooting because I’ve had so many duff shots by using it. Not any longer!
The new front screen will be the same size because one about the Osmo Action, although initially, it appeared to be it may be smaller on account of DJI’s camera being shorter as opposed to Hero 9. And while we don’t hold the exact specifications from GoPro yet, I did find its front display to be a little sharper and brighter.
GoPro Hero 9 Black review.
There are a few things to know. The screen’s not touch-enabled, but it’s small enough that that wouldn’t be too helpful anyway. You can choose what's shown here, using the options as being a center up close, a full (but tiny) take a look at your whole shot, camera info only (i.E. The same info shown on older GoPros) and “off.” The latter obviously negates any extra battery drain, but I do no less than want to be able to see the status info instantly.
With it as being a secondary screen, it’s less important that it’s high res, because the absolute goal is made for it for everyone like a quick reference. Either way, the look it shows is surprisingly clear, during direct sunlight.
While we’re for the topic of screens, it’s worth mentioning that there’s a whole new, bigger one round the back, too. The main screen for the Hero 9 is 2.27-inches across, up in the “shade over” 2-inches seen on older models. It’s obviously still fairly compared to the one in your phone, but that extra real-estate does make navigating the menus easier (the on-screen buttons are slightly bigger, too). It also means viewing your videos on the camera itself is more enjoyable.
With earlier GoPros, the large update annually typically meant a better resolution, or a brand new shooting mode (like SuperView inside Hero 3+). Of course, even as hit 4K at 30fps within the Hero 4 Black, there wasn’t really anywhere else to look. We’re still not ready for 8K, so the best we're able to expect was 4K at a greater frame-rate. Finally, GoPro has broken using that glass ceiling with a new 23.6-megapixel sensor. This is a big deal.
Not only does the new sensor enable the Hero 9 to shoot in 5K (that's nice, if your little irregular), it offers up 20-megapixel photos, too. This also represents initially a GoPro has received a higher-resolution sensor since likely the Hero 3 Black. All the GoPros since that time have offered 4K and 12-megapixel stills in certain form (different bit-rates and so forth), and so the Hero 9 is really an all-new camera in this sense.
GoPro Hero 9 Black review.
Back to that particular 5K mode for any moment though. You might be thinking “why do I want 5K? And what can I even watch it on?” That is often a fair question. Of course, you may watch it on a single from the 5K iMacs? Or on the PC which has a 5K monitor? You can even watch it over a 4K laptop whether it can downscale or handle the processing required. But, actually, it’s not about this much. It’s much more about headroom and adaptability. For example, in the past GoPros with 4K and Linear mode, you may experience a little crop in the image. The 4K shot is trimmed slightly to match the “straightening” from the image. With the Hero 9, however, you’re obtaining a much truer 4K image with either Linear mode or HyperSmooth thanks to any additional pixels around the sensor.
One thing is referring to resolutions, but does the modern sensor translate with a new-improved image? Mostly, yes. I say mostly, as my side-by-side testing showed a lot of similarities involving the old and the new images. There’s still that trademark GoPro “look,” particularly if shooting in Wide or SuperView modes. When I opened a photo of the same scene from the Hero 8 and the Hero 9 it’s obvious that the brand new sensor pops large more. I don’t think it’s unnatural, but your opinions will likely be driven by the amount you prefer an even more saturated image.
The similarities between the two lie more within the level of detail. If you zoom into a graphic from either camera to 100-percent (“actual size”) then i believe the photographs supply about the same volume of clarity. Clouds have similarly soft edges, and instead gives off on trees look a little fuzzy if they’re inside distance. (It could be that GoPro is definitely on the limit of the company's lens’ capabilities.) That said, whenever you look at the same images on the phone, or desktop screen (i.E. They are being shown less space-consuming than actual size, like most of the photos there are), as there are a noticeable improvement using the Hero 9.
GoPro Hero 9 Black review.
This is particularly true with textures on natural environments: rocks, leaves, water and the like. With the Hero 9 you can see more definition and everything just feels just a little sharper. I personally just like the extra pop in color, so it’s an over-all thumbs up from me in terms of overall image quality.
One thing the 5K resolution doesn’t take along by using it are any new slo-mo modes. That 5K is “only” available in 30fps (which is fair), while 4K continues to be purely available up to 60fps. As before, 2.7K and 1080p top out at 120 and 240fps, respectively.
This one has become in my wishlist since, basically, forever. The “price” we buy smaller electronics is undoubtedly smaller batteries. It’s something of a catch 22 for items like a GoPro, as you can’t increase battery size without increasing the dimensions in the camera. As mentioned before, the Hero 9 is greater, and GoPro has utilized a number of that extra space to raise the scale (and capacity) with the battery this time. The Hero 8 cell is 1,220mAh as well as the one within the Hero 9 is 1,720. That’s a generous 500 more milliamp-hours to play with.
But what do i mean in the real world? Surely 5K is really a power suck and running the two new screens can’t help. And you’d be (partly) right. Those features no doubt do tax battery, but overall you will have more life out from the Hero 9 under similar conditions towards the Hero 8.
As portion of my testing for this review I would use each camera side by side for comparisons, along with the Hero 8 would usually be used up most an hour or so before the Hero 9. It’s always tough to put a precise number of minutes on the “gain” in mAh, because every mode and feature will drain the battery differently. In a straight shoot out though, with both cameras recording 1080p, Linear mode and with HyperSmooth off, the Hero 8 were able to record for 1:45 before flaking out. The Hero 9 ran on for around another 25 minutes. GoPro’s marketing claims the newest battery offers thirty percent more life -- and that’s pretty near what I achieved with my test.
GoPro was also keen to indicate that the modern battery should perform better under cold conditions. I’ll admit, this can be something I’ve never really encountered like a problem (I evidently don’t ski enough), I also live somewhere that’s typically hot, so for the time being, just know that it’s a claim GoPro is making and may represent interest for you if snowboarding will be the thing.
GoPro Hero 9 Black review.
TimeWarp, HyperSmooth (and Horizon Leveling)
Since the Hero 7, GoPro may be very attached to HyperSmooth and TimeWarp. Understandably so, as HyperSmooth was a vast improvement around the stabilization found around the Hero 5 and 6, and TimeWarps are addictively fun. Both features are actually given a modest revision inside Hero 9.
Let’s start with HyperSmooth 3.0, as personally, it is become a go-to setting for me. GoPro doesn’t really go into specifics about what’s new these times, however it does make sure “Boost” mode is for sale in all video modes (including 4:3 modes and SuperView).
Comparing the HyperSmooth 3.0 with all the version on the Hero 8 (2.0), it’s challenging to tell simply how much better it can be. This is a feature that I always love, and contains easily doubled, otherwise tripled the level of usable footage I get out with the camera. What I know, though, is the fact that when it’s used in addition to Horizon Leveling (a characteristic available only in Linear mode) you opt for what I say is the supreme combination for self-shooting and/or regular filming (such as, not POV action shots etc.).
With Linear and Horizon Leveling on, HyperSmooth really makes a unique for more “conventional” cinematic shots. I tried it out while taking hard corners with a scooter, and the resulting footage looks a lot more like it had been shot on a dolly or rail. The not enough lateral movement or angled turns, coupled with all the smoothness in the stabilization, really do create impressive establishing shots, scenic tours or run-and-gun vlogs.
TimeWarp, around the other hand, gets a whole new feature: half time. If you’ve ever used TimeWarp, you’ll realize that you hold the option to drop from the sped-up timelapse mode into real-time. Perfect for if you need to jump out with the effect for any moment to trap some natural action. With “half time” it will require things a bit further by dropping you into, well, half (real) time. Or slow-motion, basically. It’s another neat effect I expect a great deal of people to obtain creative with.
GoPro Hero 9 Black review.
One thing I will say is always that going from the “fast” TimeWarp as a result of half speed actually makes it think that super slow-mo because with the immediate contrast. This is similar to how I noted in my Hero 8 review the (then new) real-time mode felt like slo-mo in comparison towards the TimeWarp parts in the same video.
A minor complaint here is the fact that, whilst you are able to use both real-time and half time inside the same TimeWarp, it’s not an easy task to do in case you’re doing something different which involves both hands. For example, I tried switching between the two even though the GoPro was mounted around the handlebars of an scooter (in motion). The thing is you have to choose what the big button on screen will activate (i.E. Either half time or realtime). If you then desire to change that, it’s a reduced button to the right, and after that tap the large button again. All very tricky when whizzing along at speed.
GoPro has been sneaking in new advanced features since forever, but now it’s which makes them a primary feature. If you head into the playback quality settings about the Hero 9, you’ll see newer and more effective options, namely: Scheduled Capture, Duration and HindSight. As you might have guessed, scheduled capture lets you set a moment and date, along with the GoPro will magically turn itself on and commence recording. Duration simply lets you set a limited time for you to record for. These two features can also be employed in tandem, say in case you need to record the sunrise for 20 minutes, simply dial inside the time you want it to start shooting, set the duration, and revel in sleeping in.
HindSight is a tad bit more interesting. When activated, it records for thirty seconds on a loop prior to deciding to press the shutter button. So, should you don’t need to capture a minute you are able to do so which has a tap, rather than just recording the entire time in the event. It’s similar for the Loop mode that already exists, but you won’t need to start recording until there’s something you already know you wish to capture. Or simply put, it’s like Live Burst (or Apple’s Live Photos) for video. It’s not something you would like activated all the time though, as it’s planning to ding your (albeit improved) life of the battery definitely.
The main thing with HindSight is always that you will need to remember to turn it on. And remember it’s even a characteristic you will use. For example, I recently enjoyed watching a thunderstorm with fork lightning while you're on vacation. I even commented how cool it could be to capture it on video, every one of the even though the Hero 9 was right when camping. If I had thought about it, that could happen to be the perfect possibility to test HindSight. In hindsight.
GoPro Hero 9 Black review.
For a while, GoPro rivals usually meant “GoPro clones.” Usually these were unknown brands with eerily similar designs. Of course, Sony’s Action Cam series marches on and possesses its very own fans (thanks to the optical image stabilization especially). Then there’s the notable VIRB line from Garmin and, of course, the Osmo Action from DJI. All these cameras get their strong suits, including that OIS, Garmin’s sport-centric GPS data and overlays or DJI’s early adoption of the front-facing screen. GoPro has continued to dominate the mindshare with this space though, because of its ubiquity, range of accessories and deficiency of reliance upon specific features.
But there are also new(ish) challengers like Insta360 and it is modular R camera, Nikon and Yi Cam. One thing each of the above companies apparently share is infrequent update cycle. This means that, while each has its very own strengths at launch, GoPro’s annual refresh soon brings it to date. That combined with all the brand’s sheer dominance inside space mean it’s pretty easy just to reach for that Hero that fits your financial allowance in lieu of search through the rivals looking for one that might meet your specific needs. All this to state, no real change here, other cameras are around inside the action space, however the Hero 9 is a simple, safe choice.
You may be wondering why we’ve got this far without mentioning the purchase price. There are two reasons. The first is that the price with the new Hero Black doesn’t tend to vary a whole lot of (it’s usually $399, although the company did try charging $499 for that Hero 6 Black, and very quickly changed its mind). Secondly because, in mild contradiction on the above, in 2010 there are 2 prices for that same camera.
If you’re ready to sign up for the year of GoPro Plus at the same time, the Hero 9 will only set you back $350 (Plus included). That means the Hero 9 and a year of Plus costs $150 below buying both those activities separately, or $100 below buying the camera alone. If, however, you hate money or really, really don’t want the cloud service that one could simply never use, you can purchase the Hero 9 on its for $450. It’s a somewhat unusual approach, then one clearly meant to shuttle more users onto its Plus service, but given the obvious financial advantage (and decent great things about Plus) it appears as though a no-brainer (you can terminate as soon as the year in the event you wish). If you live somewhere that Plus isn’t available then you’re stuck using the full $450 price.
GoPro Hero 9 Black review.
Another year, another new GoPro that’s better compared to the last. Much like how each iPhone is usually “better” as opposed to one it replaces, the Hero 9 predictably bests the Hero 8 in general. But, unlike previous iterations, the Hero 9 is like one with the more robust updates of latest years. The new front display, new sensor, new/higher resolution in tandem with many decent software features go a long way to earning the Hero 9 think that a really different camera. The new costs might be a bit quirky, however it entails you’re getting another value in the event you opt to bundle in annually of Plus with all the camera (existing subscribers automatically obtain the reduced price).
There will probably be a few people that aren’t fond with the extra size and weight, or have to replace any camera-specific accessories in the event you’re upgrading from a non-current timepiece. The same goes for the people using a stash of batteries, none of which will work inside new camera. That said, there are numerous top reasons to like the Hero 9, and if you’ve been around the GoPro fence, now is nearly as good a time every to jump in.
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