If you’re the type who likes to or dreams of jumping off an aircraft, pulling off a double backflip on a motorbike, swimming around sharks or simply standing at the edge of a skyscraper and, well, leaping off it*, you would be keen on documenting it all via videos and pictures. (*except for the last one - we’d recommend seeking help.)
What's that ? Did you say GoPro? Good, we are on the same page then. Because this tiny, rugged camera has literally been in the middle of things since the digital version of the GoPro Hero camera was first launched back in 2006. Over time, numerous adrenaline seekers have pulled off incredible stunts, broken bones, cried in joy - and all of it was captured effortlessly by the Hero range of cameras from GoPro. Which explains its popularity in the circuit and outside it.
And so, when GoPro invited us to the launch of its latest, we jumped in joy. Say a big hello to the new, hugely improved, cloud-connected HERO5 Black edition camera. But there's one more thing; two actually. A smaller, neater camera called the HERO5 Session and the Karma grip stabilizer. All of which we will talk about in a separate review. For now, meet the HERO5 Black.
The Hero you deserve
So, for $399.99 or about ₹27,000 (approx; actual launch price will be a wee bit more, we reckon), you get a camera that is superbly built, still rugged and now waterproof out of the box. The controls are hugely simplified and slicker, and we see an improvement in the 2in touch display too. You can now shoot at upto 4K video resolution at 30fps or snap images at 12MP. What else is new? How about stereo audio recording and support for voice commands that actually work even as you rip across the terrain at breakneck speeds? Advanced wind noise reduction is now built-in too and boy, does it help. To keep things in check visually, both cameras now feature electronic video stabilization. Does it work, you ask? Read on.
Hold it in your palm for the first time, and the HERO5 Black feels rubbery, non-slippery and nice to hold. It is beautifully finished and the buttons are placed where you can access them easily. Shutter button on the top, mode button on the lower right - it is a clean design and we love it. GoPro HERO5 Black features a built-in touchscreen for easily shooting, accessing and fine-tuning content. Charging happens via a USB-C port hidden under the side door.
The new GoPro HERO5 Black edition is completely waterproof, but we being us, couldn't just take that at face value. Hence we plunged it into the pool first and then into the Mediterranean sea. It does work. Rather superbly. No more frustrating cages required. It is waterproof upto 33 feet (10 metres). What makes things even better is that the HERO5 can now record sound in full stereo. Great when that shark begins to circle you, no?
We also particularly love the new Linear view setting for videos and photos. It gets rid of the fish-eye effect, hence offering a magnificent sweeping view of your shenanigans with planet Earth. The 12MP sensor captures rich colours and does well to handle exposure with panache. You get to choose between the Protune or WDR modes, depending on the light you shoot in. It helps to capture that perfect shot, pretty much every single time.
Say my name, say my name!
Okay alright, the new GoPro may not be able to impress you by reciting your name Siri style, but it can do things for you as you command it with your voice. At the moment, seven languages are supported and you can croak upto 13 commands. For example, you can literally say, “That was sick” and GoPro will add a HiLight tag to your video while recording. You can then use the HiLighted part while editing the video. Useful stuff. You can take pictures, record videos or time lapses, change modes and even turn off the camera with your golden or coarse voice, it is pretty good at recognising the sonics of it. Even when you are tearing through the wind on your motorbike. It actually works.
Paul Greengrass wouldn't approve
If you are looking to shoot shaky cam videos, the GoPro is not for you. Because even though it features only electronic image stabilization, it manages to do a fab job of it. Videos are crisp and super smooth. If you need even more cinematic fluidity, you can always plonk it onto the Karma grip and shoot an Alejandro González Iñárritu style visual spectacle. What adds to the awe factor is the fact that this can shoot videos in full-fledged 4K splendour (24/25/30fps). It will get you teary-eyed, simply because the video quality is spectacular in daylight and pretty decent even in low light.
One of the neatest things about the new GoPro universe is that it can auto-upload your images and videos to the Cloud while the camera is in the charging mode. Otherwise, you can also effortlessly transfer control to your smartphone, tablet, Mac or PC. The HERO5 Black is compatible with existing GoPro mounts, which means if you own one, you don’t have to bin it yet.
We are absolutely in awe of the latest GoPro camera and will extensively use it, update it and use it some more. Which means a full review is in order. Until then, we can safely say this is the best adventure camera you can currently get your hands on.