Another year, another new GoPro. Arguably the leader in the action camera market, GoPro has been consistently iterating its flagship action cameras, which are marketed as its ‘Black' models in each generation. The Hero 6 Black and Hero 7 Black offered small, iterative updates over the Hero 5 Black, which debuted the design that we see today. Now, with the Hero 8 Black, GoPro is introducing some major changes to the way we use its action camera. It might not look all that new at first glance, but it packs in some notable and much needed design changes, which vloggers will certainly appreciate.
The company is also streamlining its lineup, so for the Hero 8 series, we have only the Hero 8 Black, and no Silver or White variants. In India, the Hero 8 Black is priced at around Rs. 36,500, which is roughly the same price that previous Black-series GoPros have launched at.
It's time to check out the new features of the Hero 8 Black and see if this new version is worth buying over the Hero 7 Black.
The Hero 8 Black features a familiar button and display layout but with some big tweaks. The camera is actually a tad thicker in width and overall volume than previous models, but the camera lens barely protrudes outwards now, making the device a lot more pocketable. The lens also gets Gorilla Glass scratch protection, and GoPro says it is twice as resilient to scratches than before. We hope this claim is indeed true since the lens on the Hero 8 Black is now fixed and not replaceable, like with older models.
You get the same-sized monochrome display on the front as before, and a colour touchscreen on the back. One of the three microphones has been repositioned to the front of the camera for better audio recording, and the GoPro logo is now embossed on the rubber cladding instead of being printed. The flat sides of the camera have a different design too. There's no rubber lining anymore; instead there's now a single water-sealed flap on the right for the battery, microSD card, and USB Type-C port. The Hero 8 Black also loses the Micro-HDMI port which was present on older models.
The single flap on the right is very convenient and we were able to access the charging port even with the camera mounted in most cases. The biggest and most overdue design change though is the built-in mounting fingers on the bottom, which fold flush with the body and stay in place magnetically when not in use. This also means that you don't need the (sometimes) annoying plastic cage any more when you need to use this camera with some accessories. The mounting fingers feel well-built and are backwards compatible with pretty much any existing GoPro mount.
The removable battery has the same capacity as that of the Hero 7 Black but is distinguished by some blue accents on the contact end. There are also two red status LEDs this time instead of three, and they are shaped like tiny dots. We didn't get the full retail box for our review, but if you were to buy one, you should expect it to include a mounting buckle, a curved adhesive mount, a USB Type-C cable, and in some countries (not India), a free 32GB microSD card.
Another new feature debuting with the Hero 8 is the ability to add mods to it. GoPro has created three mods at launch called the Media Mod, Light Mod and Display Mod. These are accessories that attach to the Hero 8 Black, if you wish to use it for professional video productions or even vlogging. The Media Mod is a housing which snaps onto the Hero 8 Black and features a built-in shotgun microphone, a 3.5mm microphone port and an HDMI-out port. It can also be used as a base upon which you can add the Light or Display Mod.
The Light Mod has a string of LED lights with a brightness of 200 lumens that can be attached to the Media Mod or any GoPro mount. The Display Mod features a flip-up screen for vloggers, and needs to be attached to the Media Mod. We didn't get the chance to try these mods ourselves, but it looks interesting to say the least, especially if you're looking to use the Hero 8 Black professionally.
The Hero 8 Black uses the same GP1 processor as the Hero 7 Black, but the company says it has managed to squeeze out a bit more performance by reworking many of its software algorithms. This new model also gets the ability to shoot 4K at a 100Mbps bitrate, LiveBurst, NightLapse Video, and a tweaked user interface. The camera still uses a 12-megapixel sensor with a wide-angle lens and f/2.8 aperture. It weighs around 126g, is rugged and waterproof up to 10m, and has built-in GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The interface has been redesigned a bit to make it easier to access shooting modes and perspectives. The Field of View option is now called Digital Lenses, and lets you select between SuperView, Wide, Linear, and Narrow. However, you need to do this before shooting as you still can't change perspectives while recording. You also get custom presets for different shooting styles, with the ability to add your own. For instance, within the Video menu, you can add multiple presets for slow-motion, 4K, and 1080p shooting, each with its own customised stabilisation setting, perspective, and additional picture tweaks through ProTune. This saves a lot of time, and we found it to be highly convenient.
Another new feature of the Hero 8 Black is HyperSmooth 2.0, which is said to offer even better digital stabilisation than before. There's also a Boost toggle, which can be activated at nearly all resolutions, and crops the frame a bit more to allow for a higher level of stabilisation. There's TimeWarp 2.0, which can now automatically set the time interval for hyperlapse videos based on how fast you're moving. You can also manually switch to the regular speed briefly for some interesting effects.
The Hero 8 Black expands the scope of usable features at all resolutions. HyperSmooth can be used irrespective of the resolution now, including with slow-motion videos. It can still shoot at up to 4K 60fps, just like the Hero 7 Black, but it now supports more perspectives such as linear and narrow at more resolutions. Interestingly, the minimum shooting resolution is now 1080p, as the 960p and 720p options have been removed.
The camera syncs with the GoPro app on Android or iOS, which lets you update its firmware, control it remotely, and set up live-streaming to Facebook, YouTube or RTMP (real-time messaging protocol). Videos can now be live-streamed at 1080p, instead of 720p. The app also has GoPro Quik integrated, for creating mini movies from your clips. You can choose from a variety of themes, and add soundtracks and text to your videos. The app also introduces a new feature called Horizon Leveling, which only works with footage shot by the Hero 8 Black and the Hero Max. This lets you ‘straighten' your footage, so it's at the same level with the horizon.
The new cageless design is something we immediately liked about the Hero 8 Black. It's a lot easier to swap out the battery or simply plug in a charging cable without always having to take the camera out of whatever you have it attached to. It automatically corrects the orientation of the video, depending on how you've mounted it (sideways or upside down) before you hit the record button. The camera still gets fairly hot after about 10-15 minutes of continuous recording but it never shut off even with prolonged recording. We dunked it under water too and it continued to work just fine.
The touch response of the camera's main display is good, and menus responded well to swipe gestures in our experience. There were a few times that we noticed the UI getting a little sluggish when trying to open the gallery or the settings, but this wasn't a consistent issue. The built-in presets make switching between different video recording profiles seamless. In video mode, you get shortcut toggles in the viewfinder itself for slow-motion or to enable Boost mode. You can digitally zoom in by up to 2x in video, photo, or timelapse mode, but only at lower resolutions. Our voice commands were recognised well and this was useful for capturing a shot, switching modes, or turning the camera off while we were performing some activity.
When shooting under good light, such as natural daylight, image quality was very good. The tweaked HDR setting in photo mode helped the camera capture stunning images, which looked noticeably better than the photos we took with the Hero 7 Black. Colours were punchy, the level of detail was good, and burst mode worked well. Low-light photos were strictly average, except when we used the ‘Night' mode, which let us set a longer shutter speed (up to 30s). Details were still a little murky, especially when checking photos zoomed in to 100 percent, but otherwise, low-light shots were usable.
Of course, the main attraction continues to be video. Stabilisation with the new Hero 8 Black was noticeably better than with the Hero 7 Black. Using both cameras set at the same resolution simultaneously, the Hero 8 Black produced visibly better stabilised footage compared to the older model. Colours and details were also slightly better. Using ‘Boost' mode, we got even smoother results, Even with all of this, we didn't notice any of the distortion or artefacts that we usually find as a byproduct of electronic stabilisation.
GoPro action cameras have never fared too well in low light and it's pretty much the same story here. Footage shot at night was a little grainy and the stabilisation wasn't too aggressive, in order to prevent severe distortion. Due to this, slight shakes were noticeable but video was still decently stabilised. Until GoPro upgrades its cameras with a larger sensor or a wider aperture, low-light video is going to continue to be its Achilles' heel.
We tried the other modes too, and they were fun to use. The new TimeWarp 2.0 mode gave us some pretty interesting hyperlapses, and the ability to switch back and forth from regular speed to hyperlapse gave us some nice creative freedom. The new Night Lapse video mode produced decent-looking timelapse videos in low light. LiveBurst buffered video so we could capture a short 4K video clip which started a few seconds before we hit the shutter button. After this, we could use the clip as is or export a desired frame as a JPEG from the GoPro app. The GoPro app can also auto-download clips from the camera from time to time, so your media is ready to be viewed or edited. You can also have the clips auto-backed up to the cloud, if you have a subscription to GoPro Plus.
We found the battery life of the GoPro Hero 8 Black to be similar to that of the Hero 7 Black. We managed to shoot 4K video for about 45-50 minutes on a single charge. When we interspersed video shooting with other things such as recording TimeWarp clips and stills, we were able to stretch that to about an hour and a half, or sometimes a little more. In general, with GPS and Wi-Fi enabled, and with us only shooting a few short clips, the Hero 8 Black lasted for about half a day. If you're going to be using this camera extensively for shooting high-resolution videos, having a spare battery would be helpful.
It might not look it from the outside, but the Hero 8 Black is quite a significant upgrade over the Hero 7 Black. The new built-in mounting fingers alone might be reason enough for some people to upgrade. GoPro has also made noticeable improvements to image and video quality, and the new interface with its presets and shortcuts is even easier to use. Technically, many of these new software tweaks should come to the Hero 7 Black too, since they share the same processor, but it doesn't seem as though that will happen.
The Hero 8 Black is a little on the expensive side, but this is the price you'll have to pay for staying on the cutting edge of action cameras. The Hero 7 Black will continue to be sold as a less expensive alternative. It's currently available online for around Rs. 26,000, which is a pretty good price for what it offers.
If you have a Hero 6 Black or older, the new Hero 8 Black would be a significant upgrade. The improved image quality, new design, and flexibility of mods makes this new model well worth the investment.
Price: Rs. 36,500
Ratings (out of 5)