GoPro HERO8 Black 4K Waterproof Action Camera
“The Hero8 Black is a fantastic new version of GoPro’s already excellent action camera.”
Ridiculously good stabilization
Automatic horizon leveling
Side access to battery and card
New “Mod” support
Last year’s Hero7 Black was GoPro’s biggest release in years. HyperSmooth was introduced, a kind of electronic image stabilization (EIS) that is so good that you don’t need a gimbal – even for the roughest trail runs or rides. It was a really useful innovation that set new standards for EIS and action cameras in general.
An important question was also raised: where could GoPro possibly go from there?
The answer is the $ 400 Hero8 Black, which has the first physical redesign since Hero5 Black 2016 and includes an integrated bracket. Right, you can throw the mounting frame overboard. It’s also compatible with a new line of accessories called Mods, which turns the camera into a powerful vlogging and storytelling tool.
Then there is HyperSmooth 2.0, which now works for all frame rates and resolutions. In combination with the optional horizon adjustment, this is a further advance for EIS.
It’s only been a year, but with these and many other new features, the Hero8 Black is very affordable compared to the Hero7 Black. More importantly, the latest GoPro flagship proves that the company that sparked the action cam craze still has what it takes to compete – and win – against DJI, Yi and the myriad of other competitors.
New design and user interface
The new design looks largely the same, but hides an important functional improvement. There are two tabs on the underside of the camera, which are unfolded and form the conventional GoPro mounting parts. You had to put the camera in a case or frame before you could use it with a bracket.
While this has caused the size of the product to swell slightly compared to a naked Hero7, it is actually smaller than a Hero7 wearing a frame. And since a GoPro is almost always attached to something – be it a helmet or a selfie stick – the Hero8 offers a small size advantage over previous models.
This also increases the convenience of accessing the memory card and the battery without having to remove a frame first. And thanks to the new side door, you don’t even have to remove the camera from the attached items to replace the battery or card. These small improvements make a significant contribution to improving the user experience.
The lens is unchanged, but now sits behind a protective glass that is thicker and twice as hard as before. Nevertheless, it also protrudes less from the body, which makes the camera slimmer overall. As a result, the glass can no longer be removed or replaced, so a separate frame is required if you want to use filters.
The touch surface has also been optimized to simplify navigation. A new menu of presets allows you to quickly access different modes for different situations. In addition to the standard modes, you can save up to 10 of your own custom presets for different activities or shooting styles and label them accordingly. With four customizable on-screen buttons, you can also quickly access settings such as stabilization, zoom, exposure compensation, white balance and more.
GoPro already had the best touch interface in its class, and I’m pleasantly surprised to see that the Hero8 has made it even better. Due to the limited screen area, you will still occasionally press the wrong button, but using this camera is otherwise a breeze.
What I am not so happy about is the LCD screen itself. It is the same basic unit that has been around since Hero5 and it definitely shows its age. It is too small and the wrong aspect ratio for video. The only thing that DJI Osmo Action introduced that GoPro was undeniably superior was the large 16: 9 screen, and I would have expected GoPro to compete with it on the Hero8. (I don’t mind that GoPro didn’t copy DJI’s front-facing screen, as there was an alternative solution that I’ll go into below.)
Nevertheless, the Hero8 Black sets a new standard for the design of action cameras, which is likely to continue in the future.
HyperSmooth 2.0 and TimeWarp 2.0
Just like HyperSmooth was the reason to buy a GoPro Hero7 Black, HyperSmooth 2.0 will make you want the Hero8 Black. It offers improved stabilization performance without changing the harvest (10%). If you don’t mind a more important harvest, you can increase stabilization even further with the new Boost mode. GoPro said this would be ideal for follow cam shots.
Not that I found a need for it. Whatever I threw on the Hero8, from a mountain roller coaster to a trail run, Standard HyperSmooth 2.0 handled it with ease. It has never been so easy to get professional results with so little effort. In short, your videos will finally look more like GoPro’s official promo videos.
HyperSmooth 2.0 (left) stabilized GoPro Hero8 footage compared to the original HyperSmooth stabilization of GoPro Hero7.
Horizon leveling also helps to bring stabilization to the next level. This is a feature borrowed from the GoPro Fusion 360 camera, but is rarely seen on a non-360 camera. It’s not enabled by default, but you can enable it in the GoPro mobile app. In contrast to a 360-degree camera, the Hero8 naturally has a limited field of view, so that extreme adjustment to the horizon leads to a noticeable cropping of the film material. In practice, this has never been a problem for me, and using horizon leveling often results in a more polished shot. It is a lifesaver for times when mounting or holding the camera perfectly is not possible.
But my personal favorite feature is less the practicality than the fun: TimeWarp 2.0. Like TimeWarp mode, which was introduced in the Hero7 Black, it creates a stabilized time-lapse video – or a hyperlapse – that looks almost impossible to play when viewed.
Version 2.0 adds some nice tricks. First, the time-lapse speed is automatically calculated based on the camera movement. Second, you can slow down to real-time by tapping an on-screen button and then return to the hyperlapse with a second tap. Although it sounds simple, this is a feature that is painfully lacking in most hyperlapse modes and apps. You can draw attention to important objects or moments or prepare for the dramatic conclusion of your trip. It’s also just fun to play with.
A hyperlapse shot on the GoPro Hero8.
Another new feature is LiveBurst, which buffers frames before the shutter button is pressed, and then saves 1.5 seconds of footage that was captured before and after the shutter button was pressed. As with Apple’s live photos, you can then select a single image or save the entire 3-second clip as video. I personally didn’t find this too useful, but some people will appreciate the option.
GoPro has reset SuperPhoto mode for standard photos for better HDR processing (High Dynamic Range). When photographing moving subjects, ghosting should now be significantly reduced if it is not completely removed. I didn’t push this feature very much in my tests, but the still images I took in SuperPhoto mode looked very good, and the ultra wide-angle lens is sure to create a unique look that you can’t find on a phone .
More than an action camera
Some of the more fascinating new features of the Hero8 Black are not in the camera itself, but in the mods. GoPro has previously announced three – the Media Mod, the Display Mod and the Light Mod, all of which are designed to meet the needs of GoPro’s less action-oriented developers (like Vlogger).
Hero8 black with mods.
Since the publication of this review, I have had the opportunity to try out the Light Mod, but without the required Media Mod to connect it to the GoPro itself. Part of the value of the Light Mod is that it can be used outside the camera, either to illuminate your subject from a different angle or simply as a flashlight. The small LED light has three brightness levels and is amazingly bright at the highest. It also has a strobe mode that makes it work well as a bicycle light. A diffuser is also included that softens the light well, but with such a small light source you will still have hard shadows.
The main feature of the Media Mod is a built-in shotgun microphone, but it also has a 3.5mm jack for connecting your own microphones and two cold shoes for attaching accessories. HDMI and USB-C ports offer video and data output options.
The Display Mod is reminiscent of the old LCD BacPac from the HD Hero era. It adds a screen to the back of the camera, but flips to the selfie position. It is much larger than the built-in front screen of the DJI Osmo Action and is also powered by its own battery, so that the camera is not burdened additionally.
We look forward to testing the additional mods and will update this section of the review as we do so.
The Hero8 is an example of everything a modern action camera should be. It not only excels in one area, but offers a multitude of functions, almost all of which are the best in their class and cover a multitude of scenarios. The video and sound quality is second to none, especially for power users who want to fully exploit the potential hidden in the ProTune settings.
Most importantly, the Hero8 Black offers all of this with the best design and user interface. You can learn how to use it by using it. This experience also extends to the GoPro mobile app.
But please GoPro, can we get a bigger 16: 9 screen next time?
Is there a better alternative?
No. While I like the widescreen and screw-on filter of the DJI Osmo Action, the GoPro takes the cake everywhere. There are certainly cheaper action cams (including others from GoPro), but the Hero8 Black is worth the premium.
How long it will take?
GoPro updates its flagship camera in a cycle of approximately 12 months. So expect a replacement for the Hero8 Black in a year. We have no doubt that this camera will continue to tick afterwards.
Should you buy it
Yes. This is a solid advance over the Hero7 Black thanks to the redesigned camera body and improvement of key features.