While smartphones keep getting better and better photo and video quality, GoPro keeps upping the performance on their impressive HERO action cam line-up. The new $450 GoPro HERO9 Black features a front-facing screen to make vlogging and selfies even easier, as well as the incredible HyperSmooth 3.0 technology to make the shakiest video conditions usable. Head below to watch the video and see it in action.
Out of the Box
The first thing you might notice about the HERO9, if you’ve bought a GoPro in the past, is the packaging. The HERO9 comes with a reusable zippered case for carrying the camera and accessories. This is great because not only can you protect the camera when moving, but it also means there is a lot less that you have to throw away when getting the HERO9 out of the box.
GoPro HERO9 Black: Mounting
While this debuted with the Hero8, in the retractable in-body mounting tabs are a huge addition to the GoPro body style. Making the camera even more of an all-in-one solution, it’s nice to not have to remember a mounting cage or to remove the cage to access the battery and SD card.
To me, the most impressive addition to the HERO9 Black is Hypersmooth 3.0. I can flat out sprint, just holding the camera in my hand, and it will be a smooth, usable video. It’s insane. Match that with the 4k60fps, 1440p 120fps, or 1080p 240 fps and it is incredibly easy to get smooth video. I had a blast chasing my kids around the park and going on motorcycle and bicycle rides and seeing how the footage turned out.
Even riding a bicycle with the camera hard-mounted to the handlebars gave minimal shake when riding over gravel. I’ve been very impressed with how much it can steady the picture.
A Front-Facing Screen!
Additionally, the front-facing screen is a huge improvement. Even beyond just doing selfie-style shots, making sure the camera is facing the right direction is a lot easier with this display. With previous models, if you wanted to make sure that the camera was angled how you wanted it, you’d either have to eyeball it or connect it to your phone and view the feed through there. Not a huge deal, but can take up a bit of time to get that all setup.
With this screen, though even when on a chest mount with the camera upside down, it’s quick and easy to check to see if the horizon is properly set for your current activity.
GoPro HERO9 Black: Video
Auto Horizon Leveling
Another handy update with the HERO9 is the auto-leveling horizon feature. Taking the linear lens mode a step further, Linear + Horizon Leveling keeps the video level while the camera is turning. So, if you’re leaning into a turn on a motorcycle, this mode keeps the footage level and prevents the camera from turning back and forth.
GoPro HERO9 Black: Video Specs & Quality
At the top of the spec range, the HERO9 Black will shoot 5K video. It can shoot in nearly all of the lens modes, besides superwide, at 24 or 30 fps. 4K opens up 60fps, 2.7K allows 120 fps in wide lens mode, and 1080p can shoot up to 240 fps for super slow motion.
1080 definitely starts to show its age when blown up to full resolution on my monitor, but when viewed in a smaller window or a smaller screen, which is how I think most content is consumed these days, the slow-motion footage from the HERO9 looks pretty incredible matched with HyperSmooth 3.0.
GoPro HERO9 Black’s Touchscreen
Changing settings and viewing previous clips is very easy with the touch screen. All of the controls are well labeled and the screen itself is responsive to gestures. I enjoy how easy it is to quickly change settings like toggle HyperSmooth 3.0, change lens settings, and review the last clip I shot.
While it still needs a couple of batteries or a portable battery pack to keep it shooting all day, the HERO9 does feature a bigger battery. Coming in at 1720mAh, the HERO9 has a noticeable increase in battery life over the 1220mAh battery in the older HERO8.
How’s the Mic?
While I’m not sure it’s changed much from the HERO8, the microphone on the HERO9 Black is also impressive for the size. There is a Media Mod or 3.5mm Mic adapter available for external audio input, but even the built-in microphones are impressive. With “advanced wind-noise-reduction,” I didn’t get any noticeable wind noise going 50-60mph on my motorcycle.
Overall, the HERO9 is a pretty incredible camera for the size. HyperSmooth 3.0 makes footage extremely stable. The front-facing screen is great for helping to make sure your framing is right where you want it, and the boost in resolution is, of course, a welcomed upgrade as well. Do you need to upgrade from the HERO8? Well, depends on how aggressive you are when using the camera. But, if you don’t have an action camera or have skipped the last couple of generations, I think the HERO9 is a great upgrade. While it might not be aimed directly at vlogging like the Sony ZV-1, it’s rugged and ready to go anywhere at any time.
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