GoPro HERO5 Black: a better user experience and some surprising improvements

GoPro’s Karma drone wasn’t a resounding success, but the company’s action camera product range is still among the best money can buy. Their latest press release states HERO5 Black sales are going well, which is encouraging to say the least. I purchased one and tested it, comparing it with a HERO4 Black in the process.

The GoPro HERO5 is a little bigger than its predecessor, but has a brilliant (literally) LCD touch screen built-in, is waterproof with no further protection required for depths of up to 10m and has a battery that lasts for 1h20min at 4K with all the options turned on. The technical specifications of the camera’s sensor and its recording capabilities in terms of frame recording speed and resolution haven’t changed, but some video and photo results looked better than the HERO4’s nevertheless. One field of view has been added: linear, which gives you almost as much view as wide with a fisheye correction applied to it.

The HERO5 can be controlled by voice. Just like with Siri, however, it can be flaky. For example, “GoPro start recording” resulted in the HERO5 switching to photo burst mode instead. Still, if you don’t mind ar-ti-cu-la-ting, it works most of the time. I’ll keep using the surprisingly responsive 2-inch colour touch display, though. Even the advanced features which you need to swipe to a different screen for, are easily accessed.

The HERO5 comes with QuikCapture, which lets you use the record button as a combined ON/OFF/ – START/STOP Recording switch. This is supposed to save battery life, because you start recording immediately and turn the camera off when you press it again to stop recording. That sounds like a great idea, but I often shoot short clips with somewhat longer pauses in-between. As I don’t know what all the powering up and down does to the electronics, I turned it off.

Something to be really thankful for is the built-in electronic video stabilisation (EIS) feature. It works great when walking, smoothing out all the motion-sickness inducing jerks. Yes, it has limitations: you can forget about it in 4K or higher than 60fps modes. Nevertheless, it’s still a boon as opposed to stabilising in post-production.

The features that really make a difference, however, are the advanced ones. To begin with, the HERO5 has a clean HDMI-out mode and it outputs at 4K.

The HERO 3, 3+ and 4 all had some kind of exposure control. You could set it to spot meter mode, with the spot dead centre. With the HERO5 you hold your finger anywhere on the LCD screen, select whether the camera should lock on or not, and the rest is history.

The HERO5 is the first that really gets audio right. You can record to a separate .wav file right from the camera mic. You are in control of the quality of these recordings — for example, you can choose wind noise suppression as a target. In addition, you can connect an external microphone via an adapter that connects through the USB-C port. Whatever you choose, the sound is definitely richer than before.

In the photography department there’s the ability to shoot raw images. Raw photos are saved as .gpr files, which are based on the Adobe .dng format. For the time being you need an Adobe app to read them. A Wide Dynamic Range mode is also available, although this mode is incompatible with the raw format. Photos as well as videos have metadata, including full GPS data. In video mode, you recall that data only within the Quik app, using the widgets (or gauges as they’re called).

Finally, and with an optional GoPro Plus subscription only, the HERO5 Black can auto upload photos and videos directly to the cloud for easy viewing, editing and sharing on the go.

Conclusion

In my opinion and despite some other reviews I’ve read, the HERO5 Black is definitely worth the upgrade, even from a HERO4. Much to my surprise some video resolutions (4K and 720p) are somewhat sharper on the HERO5. Changing shooting parameters such as shutter speed and exposure control is efficient and I would strongly advise to make use of these and not let the camera decide everything for you all the time. Certainly when you’re not using the HERO5 as an action camera, you’ll get superior results. The HERO5 costs €429.

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