Last year if you jumped off a cliff with a GoPro stuck on your head, chances are, it was encased in a mounting frame. With the Hero8, you simply jump off a cliff (terms and conditions applied).
Adrenaline junkies don’t need any introduction to a GoPro camera and even if you somehow stumbled upon this review through curiosity, we can bet our least favourite child that you’re thinking of an action camera when you read: GoPro.
So does the Hero8 live up to that legacy? Does it capture your deadly stunts with the same smooth consistency like its 7th sibling? Better yet, is it any better than the Hero7 Black? Short answer: It’s incremental but all in the crucial direction.
GoPro Hero8 Black: Design
The Hero8 sends the plastic housing to the grave. You won’t need a housing/cage for mounting your GoPro Hero8 Black. It has built-in foldable fingers and they go back into place with a satisfying snap. The durability of these foldable fingers raised a few eyebrows in the Stuff HQ but so far it seems to be working in peak condition, even after some neck-breaking stunts. Only time will tell.
That old bump in the camera lens cover is now gone too and the entire camera is water-tight itself with absolutely no need for a water-tight cage when you go scuba diving. The lens cover is also stronger now with a Corning Gorilla Glass so you can crash more and worry less.
The battery and microSD card slot housing now moves to the right and this time it’s slightly difficult to open. You really have to get your nail into the groove and pray you don’t ruin your newly acquired extensions. It’s not as bad as we make it sound, but things could’ve been easier, you know.
GoPro Hero8 Black: Modular Hero
Funnily enough during the GoPro presentation, the folks from GoPro never mentioned the Hero8 as an action camera. In fact, it was referred to as the ‘most creative capture device’ and that makes you think how far it’s come from wooing wingsuit divers and people who like to ride a bike on one wheel. Don’t believe us? GoPro is going to launch modular accessories — three new ones to be specific.
First up is the Media Mod that sports a built-in directional microphone, a 3.5mm mic port, an HDMI out and two cold-shoe mounts for the other mods to sit on. This mod wraps around the Hero8 and serves as a landing spot for the other two mods as well. The second mod is a Light Mod, which can peak brightness up to 200 lumens and can work without the camera as well. Lastly, the Display Mod is something that Vloggers would appreciate. It sports a flip-up screen allowing you to frame yourself.
In case you’re wondering what would a mountain climber do with these mods while climbing? Well, mostly nothing, but once you reach the mountain top, you can frame and record yourself with crisp audio. One that will shush-out any wind noise and even light up your mug during a starry night. There are even digital lenses which let you switch from SuperView to Wide to Linear to Narrow through software, so if you want none of that wide-angle distortion in your vlog, digital lenses will kick it out. Believe it or not, the GoPro is turning into a pocket-sitting all-in-one camera, even for city dwellers.
GoPro Hero8 Black: Camera and features
Unlike the new design, the internals of the Hero8 Black remains somewhat similar. The GP1 chip and the 12MP sensor from the Hero7 Black have made their way here too, but this time slightly honed for GoPro duties.
It gets a SuperPhoto and improved HDR upgrade which shoots fantastic stills. The Hero8 Black can easily deal with overexposed areas and retain the drama of HDR on SuperPhoto mode. It’s advisable to stick to HDR in tricky light situations where the subject is against the light or when you want an even exposure throughout your frame.
Video stabilisation now gets a wee-bit better with HyperSmooth 2.0 and TimeWarp 2.0 also steps up to make you feel like you’ve got a nicer upgrade over the Hero7 Black. Even though the stabilisation is marginally better than the Hero7 Black, GoPro squeezed that GP1 chip down to its last drop to bring you a better stabilisation mode atop of the 2.0 called the HyperSmooth Boost. If your eyes are gleaming with joy, then you’re not alone and definitely not a victim to GoPro’s marketing. It’s good, very good. If the Hero7 Black was a gimbal-killer, then the Hero8 Black’s HyperSmooth Boost will send the gimbal for coat hanger duties. You can check out the HyperSmooth 2.0 with and without Boost comparison here on our Instagram.
TimeWarp 2.0 is smarter now. It can automatically adjust speed depending upon the situation and you can even slow it down to real-time while shooting. More flexibility only leads to more creativity, so we’re happy with these features. Like all AI smarts, the auto-mode on TimeWarp 2.0 is not entirely spot on, so for planned shoots it’s better to opt for manual speed adjustment.
Other new features include RAW capture for all photo modes, HyperSmooth 2.0 for all resolutions and frame rates and Live streaming is in Full HD compared to 720p on the previous gen. There’s even a LiveBurst for 3-second videos from which you can pick and choose the best frame (90 frames in 3 seconds). The Burst mode also takes 60 frames in 10 seconds (over 30 frames in 6 seconds on the Hero7 Black).
Night Mode is still not as good as your pocket-snappers and falls behind the Apple iPhone 11 and even the Samsung Galaxy S10. So when it comes to capturing details and controlling the exposure after the sun’s down, the iPhone 11 is the undisputed champion, but even its ultra-wide lens falls short. Ultra-wide lenses are notorious for lacking details (obviously) and that’s something even the digital lenses on the GoPro can’t fix. Computational photography is the next best step ahead for GoPro, maybe Hero9?
GoPro Hero8 Black: software and battery
Too many features to go through on a tiny screen when you’re inches away from your next trouser-soiling stunt, right? Say hello to capture presets. You can choose and edit the existing ones or create a set of new ones for yourself. There are even customisable on-screen shortcuts to cut short the delay before your eventual doom… or success, we ain’t judging.
And as you leap off on your two-tire machine yelling louder than the motorbike itself, remember that GoPro’s placed 3 highly sensitive mics to catch all that vocal drama with pitch perfect accuracy, meanwhile shushing the ambient wind menace and chatty bystanders. The wind reduction can be a bit too aggressive at times, so tread cautiously. There’s even a bump in the Bitrate at 100Mbps for professional users.
The 1220mAh battery limit stays the same and so does the single storage slot, but we were surprised to squeeze more than expected from this dinky cam. At 1080p on 60 frames, we managed to pull through an entire day of sporadic shooting while surfing from 8AM to 6PM. We were back in the hotel room with 55-60% battery. And, obviously, on higher refresh rate and resolution, the GoPro is going to be one hot mess, but there’s some improvement here over the Hero7 Black.
GoPro Hero8 Black: App
Think of the GoPro App as a freshly served Biryani. It’s fantastic and intuitive to use (eat). It comes in all sorts of flavours — from cherry picking still frames from your videos to editing videos with captions, audio, transitions and fixing colour. You can even fix the frame with Horizon Leveling and crop videos on the app, and lastly, control your GoPro from the app.The GoPro App is a great companion app, but like all great Biryanis, there’s an elaichi hiding within. Transfering video files from the GoPro to the app takes a lot of time and sometimes the whole thing doesn’t transfer wirelessly. It also drains the battery on the GoPro significantly.
GoPro Hero8 Black: Verdict
The action camera that steps outside its circle of expertise. The GoPro Hero8 Black is not a full-fledged vlogging camera, but it’s getting there with its upcoming mods. And if you still wish to jump off moving airplanes rather than showing the world how your breakfast and #OOTD looked, it’s got you covered through and through.
The HyperSmooth Boost is genuinely fantastic at stabilisation and that goes beyond what we expected from this dinky shooter. It sits nicely inside your pocket without the annoying house taking up precious space and the battery life is enough to replace a budget smartphone’s lens prowess.
On the surface, the upgrades are minor over the Hero7 Black, but the Hero8 Black carries on the legacy of the best action camera.