GoPro is back with another camera — this time it’s the GoPro Hero9 Black. It’s slightly bigger than last year’s Hero8 Black, has longer battery life, and will soon have a new accessory: The Max Lens Mod that improves stabilization and delivers an ultra-wide field of view.
You won’t have to wait long to get the new GoPro in your hands, either. It’s available starting today, for $449.99. Or if you pay $49.99 for a year of GoPro’s online service, you can get the camera for $349.98. Formerly called GoPro Plus, the GoPro subscription service will back up your photos and videos to the cloud with unlimited storage space, offer replacements for a broken GoPro, and get you a discount up to 50% off of GoPro accessories.
The Max Lens Mod will cost $99.99, and starts shipping in October. So unfortunately we weren’t able to test out the new Mod, but we have been using the Hero9 Black for the last week.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s jump right in.
Two screens are better than one, right?
The GoPro Hero9 Black is the first GoPro to feature a 1.4-inch front-facing color LCD screen that acts as a viewfinder. The main display on the back of the Hero9 Black wasn’t left out when it came to improvements either. GoPro is increasing its size by 16%, now measuring 2.27 inches, compared with 1.95 inches on previous models.
The front display is incredibly useful as a viewfinder to line up your shot, or just as a means to see what settings you’re currently using. It’s a very welcome addition to the GoPro line.
On the right side of the housing is a cover that opens to reveal a USB-C port, the battery compartment and microSD card slot. The back of the camera is nearly all display, with an indicator light in the top left corner that helps you keep tabs on when it’s powered on, charging or actively being used.
The left side of the housing is where you’ll find the power/mode button. Long-press it to turn the camera on or off, or use it to switch between shooting modes or go back when navigating the camera’s menus. On top of the GoPro is a capture button that you press to start or stop recording, or capture a quick photo. Pretty simple.
You can control the camera, its shooting modes, and adjust settings or use the live preview feature with the GoPro mobile app on your phone. It’s available for Android and iOS.
Alternatively, you can navigate the camera’s menu using the rear display that doubles as a touchscreen. There’s a slight learning curve to getting around the interface, and it’s not as responsive as your smartphone or tablet’s screen, but not having to take out your phone every time you want to make an adjustment is convenient.
Like the Hero8 Black, the Hero9 Black also has mounts that fold out of the bottom of the housing to quickly attach the camera to any GoPro compatible mount. The mounts eliminate the need for an extra housing, as older model GoPros used, which was then mounted to a tripod or another accessory. Think of it as removing the middleman, to a degree.
This is the first GoPro model we’ve tested with the foldable mounts, or “fingers” as GoPro refers to them, and it’s brilliant. Not having to worry about an extra accessory just so you can place the camera on a tripod is a small, but useful feature.
With a larger display and battery, the overall size of the Hero9 Black also increased. It measures 71 x 55 x 33.6 millimeters and weighs 158 grams. Compare those dimensions to the Hero8 Black, which measures 66.3 x 48.6 x 28.4 millimeters and weighs 126 grams, and you can see that the size increase isn’t drastic, but it is noticeable.
But it’s really about new software tricks
Fancy new color displays aside, where the GoPro Hero9 Black really shines is in its overall performance. It boasts a 23.6-megapixel sensor, can record 5K video, can capture 20-megapixel still photos and has a 1,720mAh battery to extend your recording session.
There’s so much more to the Hero9 Black than its specs, though. Most of what makes the Hero9 Black appealing is a series of software features, each one aimed at helping you capture the best shot or video possible.
For example, HyperSmooth 3.0 with Boost ensures that your videos are captured as if you are using a gimbal to provide a stable shot. So if you strap a Hero9 Black to your chest and wear it as you ride your bike down a rocky trail, instead of the resulting clip showing every bump and movement, HyperSmooth 3.0 will remove most of the movement. While we didn’t have a chance to ride a mountain bike over rough terrain, we did test HyperSmooth by running around the yard, and it does what GoPro promises.
You lose about 10% of the shot due to cropping when smoothing is used, but that’s a small price to pay for usable footage.
Another feature keeps the horizon of your shots level, which you can see in the time-lapse video captured during a drive in the mountains. You can see the car lean as it goes through each corner, but the video itself stays straight and never leans with the car. It’s pretty cool.
There are, of course, more software features, like TimeWarp 3.0, that make it easy to get creative with time-lapse shots, adjusting speeds and adding audio. Or HindSight helps you keep the amount of recorded footage to a minimum. When you use HindSight mode, the camera will stay on and capture video but won’t save the last 30 seconds unless you press the record button.
This is handy for when you’re trying to capture yourself hitting a trickshot, but don’t want to record 45 minutes worth of attempts. Instead, you turn on HindSight, then after you hit the shot and celebrate, press the record button of the camera to tell it to save the clip.
There’s also a scheduling feature that lets you schedule a time for the camera to turn on and take a photo, video or start a time-lapse. We tested it on several occasions and it worked without issue — that is, until we scheduled a night time-lapse to start in the middle of the night. For whatever reason, anytime we scheduled it to start recording around midnight, it simply didn’t turn on. We’d wake up the next morning, and nothing was captured. We’ve been working with GoPro to figure out why we’re seeing such a weird issue and will update this review with what we learn.
We don’t have a Hero8 Black to compare battery life between the two cameras, but we were able to record over an hour of video on a full battery.
You can use it as a webcam, too
Perhaps our favorite feature over the last week or so of testing is the fact that you can use the Hero9 Black as a webcam. Currently, the software to make this happen only works on a Mac, but GoPro is working on a Windows app that enables the came capabilities.
We used the Hero9 Black as a webcam for a long list of Zoom and Google Meet calls over the last week, and found it to be a huge upgrade over the webcam built into an older 27-inch Apple iMac. Not only was the shot clearer and not as grainy, but the wide-angle lens allows more of your surroundings into the shot, and it just looks cool. The software allows you to switch from wide-angle, narrow or linear views.
To be clear, it’s not worth buying the GoPro Hero9 Black solely to use as a webcam. For those who buy one and are looking for more ways to get use out of it, though, there’s the added bonus of being able to use it for a Zoom call, which is one we cannot praise enough.
The GoPro Hero9 Black is far more camera than we’ll ever need, and that’s kind of what makes it so fun and exciting. Sure, it’s marketed toward people who are jumping off of cliffs and out or airplanes, and those people will be more than happy with the wide range of features the Hero9 Black has to offer.
But for someone who doesn’t do all of that, and who instead wants a dedicated camera with features that will help capture moments of their life — be it catching a fish or getting creative with time-lapse videos — and then turning around and using it as a webcam for a conference call, the Hero9 Black is worth spoiling yourself with.