Every time GoPro releases a new action cam, I find pleasure not only in trying out the new unit but, in preparation for my piece, also watching some Youtube reviews. With the HERO8, I found that a few influencers were criticising the integrated lens, the protective housing and tempered glass lens and screen protectors being optional and all of this possibly a deliberate attempt by GoPro to direct you to their GoPro Plus service.
The last argument was presented by one of them in a way that I found suggestive with no proof offered of what is claimed. The other I saw was showing that the door on his HERO8 easily came off. This guy was also lamenting the integrated lens and showing that the lens of his previous model could be replaced easily.
Why didn’t I criticise those things in my review? First a little bit about where I come from. I left the Bar Association of which I was a member some 30 years ago when I became a journalist and started writing about IT and “multimedia”. I wrote for 13 magazines in the US, UK and EU combined and used to cover enterprise systems in the eighties and nineties, covering interviews with COs of Intel, IBM, HP, etc, and later also reviewing products ranging from computer disks to publishing software, stills and photo, film, video and audio equipment and software.
I’m not telling this to brag but to make clear I am not a freshman at this. I abide by journalistic ethics and I am not in the habit of defending a company if it’s being criticised. I do have a problem with reviews that suggest something that you can’t prove with facts — in trade publishing, such remarks are just as damaging and poisonous as they are in politics.
The target of suggestive remarks can’t respond to them because they’re usually too undefined and some criticism of some Youtube reviewers is flawed, which is why I didn’t criticise the same “flaws” in my review. I’m offering you sort of a defence — in a bout of nostalgia if you wish — below.
The battery/SD-card door came off too easily. — One of the Youtubers showed it on camera, so it’s true, his battery door came off easily. On my test unit, not so much. On the contrary, it’s darn difficult to get it to open in the first place. That frustrates me and probably a lot of other users, but it’s sort of reassuring as well — it’s an action camera, after all. His, like mine, experience is anecdotal, which is why you can’t make more general conclusions. It would take a test of a significant sample (a large enough number of HERO8 cameras), to tell you with some certainty the door is working fine or is rubbish.
The SD-card is very difficult to remove. — That’s true, but it’s not worthy of criticism as all SD-cards on practically every GoPro since the HERO4 have been difficult to remove. One of the Youtubers argued that it would be impossible to do with gloves on. Given the fact that we’re talking about MicroSD cards here, I don’t think he can handle one with gloves on without great difficulties anyway.
The old lens’ one-turn removable hood was better than the integrated lens. — I don’t agree. Firstly, I never managed to unscrew the hood on my HERO5/6/7, because it was very tight and I never have wanted to use brute force to the point of breakage to remove it. Secondly, I am not a physics Ph.D., but I’ve always learned that if you put a body with removable parts under a lot of stress, the parts will give in sooner than when they’re 100% integrated with the body. If that is true, it’s actually better to have an integrated lens — and if you want to reinforce the lot, to be able to enclose the body in a more robust accessory.
This is also the point where the suggestive argument was used. Its author made the remark that GoPro has integrated the lens into the body and only provides optional tempered glass lens protectors and a protective housing as a deliberate attempt to steer people towards its new Plus service that includes a replacement policy. The suggestion is that GoPro has deliberately made the camera weaker and is charging you for the options to bring it on par with previous models to boost sales of its Plus service.
However, none of the Youtubers showed that the HERO8 is weaker than its predecessors, which is hardly surprising. Reviewers can only prove that a device has a worse quality of build than another one by breaking both of them and observing or calculating which one broke first. As most of us don’t have the budget to break one, let alone two cameras, we can’t tell if one has a weaker construction than the other. We can only guess.
I do know, and I told as much in my review, that the foldable mounts tend to wiggle when you don’t tighten them enough, but other than that, I haven’t found evidence the HERO8 is easier to break than the HERO5/6/7.
I also don’t buy into the suggestion that GoPro is devious about them being after my subscription money for their Plus service and the reason is that you have options: you can buy a protective housing that turns your GoPro into a tank. You can even reinforce the HERO8 in stages. If you’re worried about the lens and the screen only, €19.99 will buy you a set of tempered glass protection sheets. If you want to have total protection with underwater capabilities thrown in as an extra, there’s the clear polycarbonate plastic (or is it acrylonitrile butadiene styrene — ABS?) housing for €49.99.
Perhaps GoPro’s goal is only to offer a choice. As many HERO’s today are used for a lot more than action, a HERO8 with its already strong build for reasonably rough handling is more than sufficient.
Besides, if GoPro were deviously trying to shove the Plus service down our throat, they’d better not offer the staged protection upgrades — there’s no legal obligation to do so as long as the camera can be used under the conditions it’s claimed to handle.