Update: The GoPro Hero5 Black release date is today and we've updated our ongoing review with more footage from the GoPro Hero5 Karma drone. See the new camera in action from the air.
GoPro Hero5 Black is here to give you an new epic level of 4K video that, for the first time in two years, gives you a reason to upgrade your action camera.
There's no GoPro Hero5 Silver. Instead, the Black version combines the best features of both editions with 4K video at 30 frames per second and a much-needed interactive two-inch touchscreen.
The touchscreen provides a simplified interface that makes the GoPro Hero5 Black much easier to use, and it all comes together in a tighter, more waterproof package.
Here's our first look at the GoPro Karma drone using the GoPro Hero5 in high wind
That said, in two years, a lot has changed. There are a lot of cheap GoPro clones for sale, and we've run into a lot of GoPro Hero4 and even GoPro Hero3 owners who struggle to find a reason to upgrade.
Price and release date
- It costs $399 (£349, AU$569) and launches October 2
- That's actually cheaper than the Hero4 Black, so hold off
4K video capture from an action camera is still an expensive hobby for most, but the Hero5 price is $399 (£349, AU$569). That's $100 (£20, AU$80) cheaper than the GoPro Hero4 launch price two years ago.
In fact, the new camera is cheaper than the Hero4 price a month ago, which we found for $439 on Amazon in the US. You actually saved money to waiting for the new Black version.
So when can you get it? The Hero5 Black release date was October 2, so it's now available to order around the world. That's also when the GoPro Hero5 Session comes out for $299 (£249, AU$459).
Let's take a look to see if the GoPro Hero Black is worth its $399 (£349, AU$569) price now that we have reached the release date, and how it compares to the smaller GoPro Hero5 Session.
- Boasts a two-inch touchscreen for controls and playback
- Waterproof up to 33ft (10m) – without waterproof hosing
- Bigger battery, small wrap-around frame and USB Type-C port
The GoPro Hero5 Black is the action camera that we've wanted for a long time. It combines the high-end specs of a camera a Black edition, with the screen that was strangely limited to the Hero4 Silver.
The two-inch touchscreen changes the way you control the GoPro, with streamlined menus. You no longer have to press a series three physical buttons in order to do a million different tasks. It's all right on the display.
Don't worry, the Hero5 Black still has one-button control at the top to quickly start recording footage, and a on/off/mode button on the side to power up and cycle through various ways to capture. The screen just a clutch wingman.
What's stripped back is the plastic housing, and that's a good thing for the most part. The camera is no longer fully encased in waterproof-sealed plastic - it's waterproof on its own up to 33ft (10m). You can add a plastic housing to take it deeper, but by default, it's ready for a swim.
We dig actual matte black color of the Black edition (previous Black GoPros were still silver, despite the name). The new color ensures it doesn't stick out as much when strapped to your body.
Likewise, the the wrap-around plastic frame is also grayish-black, and has a minimalist design. Taking cues from the Hero4 Session, it exposes most of the front and back without a bulky, clear casket.
There is a small, protective casing around the lens, and it's now swappable. It pops off with a little pull, just in case you dent the lens and need a $20 replacement. on The Hero4 Black, the lens was either exposed in the camera's smallest form, or encases in the plastic housing.
All GoPro mounts are compatible with the Hero5 Black, and the camera also works with the new GoPro Karma Drone. Launching on October 23, it's shaping up to be the best way to shoot 4K aerial footage with super smooth video. It'll be interesting to see how it compares to the DJI Mavic Pro.
The replaceable lithium-ion battery is a notch better than before, with its 1220mAh size. That's up from the 1160mAh battery. Even better, it uses reversible a USB Type-C cable to recharge.
USB-C here is a really big deal. Both GoPro Hero4 Black and Silver used the already-archaic USB mini when they debuted two years ago. Having to carry around a USB mini cable just for using a GoPro while microUSB dominated every other non-Apple gadget was a serious pain.
With the Hero5 Black, GoPro is way ahead of the pack. We're pleased they didn't go with microUSB just when that standard is fading. This one is designed for the long-haul.
Video and photo quality
- 4K video with long-overdue video stabilization
- New Linear mode provides less barrel distortion
- RAW and WDR photos, with GPS tagged locations
Hero5 Black provides the same wide-angle camera field of view that GoPro is known for, but it also adds new modes and better video quality in key areas.
In addition to the returning fields of view of SuperView, Wide, Medium and Narrow, there's a new Linear mode for less distortion from the normal wide-angle view. That means fewer edits are required.
The Black edition shoots 4K video at either 30 or 25 frames per second in Wide, while SuperView and Wide do 4K at 24 frames per second. Medium and Linear shoot in 2.7K, while Narrow is capped at 1080p.
No matter the field of view or resolution (at least at Full HD or higher), the quality seemed to have been bumped up from the Hero4 Black. That's because there's a new, souped-up sensor inside the camera.
Hero5 touts professional grade low-light performance, ultra-sharp image quality and video stabilization. That last one has been a much-requested feature among GoPro fans, and it's finally a part of the new camera.
It also shoots 12MP photos, can capture RAW and HDR-like wide-dynamic range photos (WDR) and includes your GPS location on all media. There's stereo sound on this camera and pretty advanced wind noise reduction built-in.
GoPro Hero5 Black vs Session
- Better sensor and more options on the Hero5 Black
- Black has GPS, RAW, WDR and a replaceable battery
- Touchscreen controls vs smaller form factor
- $100 (£100, AU$110) price difference
The Hero5 Session is the smaller, cube-shaped GoPro that's much more competent than the Hero4 Session. It's actually tempting this time around with its new 4K specs and $299 price tag.
However, exclusive to the Black is its touch display, GPS chip for location capture and RAW and HDR photos at 12MP. The Session doesn't have any of that, with photos topping out at 10MP.
The camera sensor is a bit better on the Hero5 Black, with professional vs consumer grade low-light performance and a few more options at higher frame rates at 1080p and 2.7k. Battery capacity is also longer on the Black and it's replaceable.
Interface and app
- Touch and voice controls makes operating it simpler
- New GoPro apps for capturing and editing are a plus
- Promises better connectivity, but that's still under our testing
This is GoPro is really trying to solve its biggest problem. It's now easier to capture footage, but turning on the camera, recording and collection and editing the video can be a challenge.
The touchscreen makes everything intuitive, with a left swipe for reviewing media and a right swipe for changing settings. You can toggle preferences on and off and menus spring into view quite nicely.
It's not always the most responsive touchscreen, and that problem is exasperated by the fact that this is a two-inch touchscreen; big for a GoPro, smaller for our fingers. We felt like giants, trying to paw at the text and icon-based on-screen controls.
We've also had instances where we left the camera on and didn't know it. It's always a letdown to return to a hot camera with almost no battery life left.
GoPro added voice control to its new Hero5 cameras (both Black and Session). Enabling it and saying "GoPro take a photo" or "turn off" works best when alone. At a GoPro launch event with 50 other camera in a tight space, it works too, with a hilarity.
Video edits, of course, are never easy, so GoPro has a few solutions for this. It's adding auto-upload of photos and video to the cloud (via a subscription service) when the camera is charging.
It also has a new Capture app for recording video and Quick app for creating video on-the-fly. The Quik app ensures you're no longer limited to editing on your computer, and that's a step in the right direction.
Of course the apps have their limitations right now, specifically regarding which video resolutions (like 1080p) can be edited on a phone, and, as always, connectivity is still a hassle.
GoPro Hero5 Black uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for pairing, but it's not always able to keep the camera and an iPhone talking to each other. We'll revisit this in our final review now that the apps have launched.
Hero5 Black is the GoPro we always wanted. And, really, it's the GoPro the company really needs. It's facing both competition and users holding onto their older devices that, to them, work just fine.
The good news is that this new camera has enough to make it a convincing update. The picture quality is better, it finally has video stabilization and the touchscreen makes it easier to use than any other GoPro.
The new waterproof design out-of-the-box makes it more resilient, yet the actual wrap-around frame has shrunk in size, forging the normal GoPro plastic housing altogether.
There's more testing to be done for our full GoPro Hero5 Black review, now that the new apps are fully launched, and tons of "epic" video footage to capture. We'll return with a final verdict when we have more time with the camera this week.