GoPro has just launched the Hero 9 Black, its latest action camera for 2020. This new model introduces brand new features such as a high resolution 23.6-megapixel sensor, a colour display on the front, a larger battery, and plenty of software tweaks.
GoPro is launching only the Hero 9 Black this year, which takes the top spot in its portfolio. It will be launching in India around late October for Rs. 49,500. The Hero8 Black will continue to be sold, followed by Hero7 Black as the entry-level model. GoPro isn't updating the Max this year, and that will continue to be its only 360-degree camera offering.
I was able to get my hands on a unit, and these are my first impressions of the new GoPro Hero 9 Black.
Physically, the GoPro Hero 9 Black is larger and heavier at 158g than the Hero8 Black, which weighs 126g. However, the core design elements are still very similar to those of the previous model. The Hero 9 Black has the same built-in mounting fingers on the bottom, which can be folded flush with the body when not in use. There's a power button on the right and a record button on the top, both of which are a bit larger and easier to use. There are a total of three microphones and two status LEDs spread across the body.
A flap on the side of the camera hides the battery compartment, microSD card slot, and USB Type-C charging port. The GoPro Hero 9 Black is waterproof up to 10m and features the same familiar rugged body as its predecessors. It's also compatible with all existing GoPro mounts, but not the Media Mod, which was introduced for the Hero 8 Black. GoPro will be launching a new Media Mod, designed to fit the Hero 9 Black, which is said to offer an improved microphone design and a weather resistant body.
GoPro has even changed the retail packaging of the Hero 9 Black. Instead of shipping it in a plastic box, it will come in a reusable hardshell case.
One of the biggest upgrades to the GoPro Hero 9 Black is the new sensor. It has a higher resolution 23.6-megapixel sensor, compared to the 12-megapixel one used in previous models. It can now capture up to 5K video at 30fps and 20-megapixel still images.
The rear touchscreen is a bit larger, measuring 2.27 inches diagonally, and there's a new front-facing colour display too. This 1.4-inch LCD can be used to get a live preview from the camera, which is very useful if you have it pointed at yourself. The front display can be used as a monitor for framing your shot or a status display, or it can be turned off.
The lens cover is once again removable on the Hero 9 Black, which is a feature the Hero 8 Black had dropped. You now have the ability to swap it in case your current one gets damaged or you can replace it with the new Max Lens mod. This accessory is said to offer a wider field of view and lets you use Max HyperSmooth stabilisation and horizon lock software settings.
Finally, the Hero 9 Black also has a larger 1,720mAh battery compared to the 1,220mAh battery in previous models. GoPro says this should offer up to 30 percent better battery life on average, across shooting modes, compared to the Hero 8 Black. While better battery life is great news, this also contributes to the device's increased size and weight, and means you'll need to buy new spare batteries as you can't reuse existing ones.
The main new software feature in the GoPro Hero 9 Black is HyperSmooth 3.0. This is said to offer improved stabilisation and now lets you use Boost mode for any resolution, including 4K 60fps and above, which was not possible on the Hero 8 Black.
The new version of TimeWarp (3.0) now lets you momentarily switch the hyperlapse video speed to either real-time (with audio) or half-speed, for a slow-motion effect, simply by tapping the display. The GoPro Hero 9 Black can also now perform horizon levelling within the camera itself, instead of relying on the GoPro app, and this works across resolutions.
The new Hindsight function continuously buffers the last 15 or 30 seconds of footage, and saves what was captured right before you press the record button. This sounds like a very useful feature but it could adversely impact battery life, which is something I'll be keeping an eye on in the full review.
Scheduled capture is another new feature, and as the name suggests, it lets you set a time for when the GoPro Hero 9 Black should wake up and begin recording. This sounds very useful especially if you plan on shooting a scene at odd hours of the day or night. You can also specify a duration for the clip, ranging from 15 seconds to three hours, after which the camera will turn itself off.
The GoPro Hero 9 Black has some really interesting features, which I will be testing over the new couple of weeks, so stay tuned for the full review coming soon.
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