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The GoPro Hero 7 Black is hands down the best action camera on the market right now. With meaningful updates such as incredible stabilization, improved built-in sound, and better app integration, GoPro makes a compelling case for even its most loyal user base to upgrade to the latest model. If you’re on the market for an action camera, read on to find out 5 big reasons why the GoPro Hero 7 Black is the best one for you.
GoPro released three new action cameras in September 2018: the Hero 7 Black, White, and Silver. The Hero 7 Black is their most premium model at US$399, with the other two being stripped down versions. GoPro’s mid-tier camera is the Hero 7 Silver. Priced at US$299, the Silver has most of the features of the Hero 7 Black minus Hypersmooth; it’s also capped at taking 10-megapixel photos compared to the Hero 7 Black’s 12 megapixels. GoPro’s new entry-level camera is the Hero 7 White. At US$199, you get the same 10-megapixel sensor as the Hero 7 Silver. Most features are retained except for the ability to shoot in 4K video.
Besides the price difference, the Hero 7 Black is also the only model to receive three new key features: HyperSmooth, live streaming, and TimeWarp video. More on all of these features below.
The Hero 7 Black retains the same rubberized design that was first introduced with the Hero 5 Black. Side-by-side, it looks almost identical to the Hero 6 Black. Both cameras have the same 2-inch touchscreen, button placement, and the same ports (USB-C and micro HDMI). They even use the same replaceable batteries.
Before you gripe about GoPro retaining the same camera design, consider this: reusing old designs means you can keep using the same GoPro accessories. This is key as GoPro, and many third-party manufacturers such as Joby have created some truly helpful accessories to get more use out of the camera. So if you have mounts, cages, or adapters for the Hero 5 or 6, rest assured that you can use them all with the Hero 7 Black as well.
Hands down the best feature about the GoPro Hero 7 Black is Hypersmooth. GoPro claims it is the very best in-camera video stabilization on the market, adding gimbal-like stabilization to video footage. After profuse testing, it’s hard to argue. Shooting with Hypersmooth enabled does indeed produce ultra-smooth footage akin to what you would get if you used a gimbal. In turn, this seems to kill the GoPro Karma Grip gimbal as it seems the Hero 7 Black can record video just fine without it.
You can shoot in Hypersmooth even when shooting at 4K 60fps at full resolution. Just be mindful that Hypersmooth can’t be enabled when shooting in 4:3 aspect ratio, and also when shooting in Full HD at 240fps and 120fps.
Also new on the Hero 7 Black is a feature called TimeWarp. In a nutshell, this is timelapse video with HyperSmooth applied. The resulting effect is being able to capture timelapse videos that are ultra stable. This is key for time-lapsing anything with movement, such as driving, hiking, walking, running, or biking. When using TimeWarp, you have the option to record at several different speeds including 2x, 5x, 10x, 15x, and 30x.
On the outside, GoPro made almost no change to the Hero 7. It looks exactly the same as the Hero 5 and 6, and even uses the same batteries. This is actually a good thing. If you’ve invested in GoPro cages or batteries before, you can reuse them with the Hero 7. Also, many third-party companies have created accessories for the Hero 5 and 6. You can use these just fine with the Hero 7.
One design change I’d love to see in future GoPros: a camera that comes with its own mount and doesn’t need to be put in a cage.
While GoPros have had touchscreens for several models now, the user interface has been revamped in the Hero 7 Black. Key information such as resolution and framerate are condensed at the bottom of the screen, while battery life and remaining memory card space are in the upper portion of the screen. Portrait mode has also been added, allowing you to shoot vertical photos and videos for platforms such as Instagram Stories or IGTV.
Speaking of social media, the Hero 7 Black now allows for live streaming. Using WiFi or cellular service, you can conduct a 720p live stream on Facebook. At this time, live streaming to other platforms (ie. YouTube) isn’t yet enabled.
One of my biggest gripes about modern cameras is how terribly unreliable their smartphone integrations are. While most cameras offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity for remote control via smartphones and easily transferring images, it’s always hit or miss whether or not these features will work. With the GoPro, connectivity is the most responsive and reliable I’ve ever seen on a camera. This makes it very easy to use your smartphone to control the GoPro and review photos and videos immediately after capture. Well done, GoPro.
For all of the things that GoPro improved in the Hero 7 Black, there is still room for improvement. Here are 5 features in particular that I would like to see refined and improved in future generations.
While the Hero 7 Black’s touchscreen is largely improved, it has one major shortcoming: it’s not very responsive! This problem also extends to GoPro’s other two buttons. In general, it’s hit or miss whether the GoPro will react to buttons being pushed or the touchscreen being swiped. This can be very frustrating, especially when trying to shoot spontaneously.
Another feature that is hit or miss is voice control. New on the Hero 7 Black are two voice commands that can control the GoPro: “GoPro capture,” and “GoPro Stop capture.” While useful in theory, these voice controls seem to work about half of the time.
In the past, GoPro was notorious for having awful built-in microphones. All of that changed with the Hero 7 Black, which offers remarkably improved in-camera sound. However, there are still instances that require enhanced sound capture via a lavalier (lapel) microphone or shotgun mic. Unfortunately, GoPro has withheld the mic jack from the Hero 7 Black, opting instead to give us USB-C and micro HDMI ports. GoPro does offer a solution in the form of a mic jack adapter. However, it is bulky and expensive, and you must use GoPro’s adapter (other brands will not work).
Of all the things GoPro improved in the Hero 7 Black, one thing that remains unchanged is battery life. It’s hard to give an estimated battery life as it depends on how you are using the camera. But in general, one battery lasts about an hour when shooting in 4K. Luckily, all three Hero 7 models come with a USB-C port to allow for charging via a wall socket or external battery. However, it is still a wise idea to carry several spare batteries with you.
All three Hero 7 models have an f/2.8 aperture. This means they are decent at shooting in low light, but the video and photo quality still leaves room for improvement. In the case of the Hero 7 Black, it also seems that HyperSmooth is automatically disabled in low light conditions, further worsening the low light performance. In general, you’ll get the best photo and video performance out of your Hero 7 if you use it in daylight or good lighting conditions.
Despite some shortcomings, the GoPro Hero 7 Black is easily the best action camera on the market right now. GoPro made significant and actually useful improvements on this camera and it is worth using not only for action scenarios but everyday use as well. Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments below!