Updated: Aug 19, 2021
Thanks to GoPro Singapore, I got to review the brand new GoPro Hero9 the past month for Tech360.tv.
The annual GoPro camera refresh cycle is upon us again, pandemic or not. In fact, GoPro has not rested on its laurels and has been steadily improving its Hero line, making the GoPro Hero9 even better than its predecessors.
Is the GoPro Hero9 worth getting if you are looking to purchase your first action camera? How about those of you who already own a recent iteration, such as the Hero8 or Hero7? Should you upgrade?
Let’s find out the five things we love about the GoPro Hero9.
1. 23.6MP Sensor with 5K Video & 20MP Stills
The GoPro Hero9 comes with a brand new 23.6MP sensor, a significant upgrade from the 12MP sensor which has been the standard since the Hero3 in 2012.
This upgrade in resolution size allows the Hero9 to now capture 5K 25p videos and take 20MP stills. While 5K video capture isn’t that useful on its own since the majority of us don’t own devices that support anything above 4K, it is useful in post-production, giving you the flexibility to crop in for 4K and HD output.
Take note that 5K footage is unfortunately limited to 25fps videos. So if you want higher frame rates of 50fps, you will still need to shoot in 4K. That said, we actually found shooting in 4K resolution easier to work with.
For those of you into slow-mo capture, shooting in 2.7K resolution allows you to go up to 100fps and HD resolution allows you to shoot up to 200fps.
2. All New Front-Facing Display
Aside from the larger rear display, the addition of a 1.4-inch colour display on the front is definitely welcomed! Without a doubt, this is GoPro’s answer to last year’s DJI Osmo Action.
This new front-facing display is perfect for front-facing captures such as vlogging and selfies. During the Experiential GoPro Sidecar Tour organised by GoPro Singapore, having this was super useful as I was able to frame myself nicely without second-guessing the angle of my outstretched arms and selfie stick.
You have the option of changing the front-facing screen’s display information as well – switch between Full Screen (which is slightly cropped in but gives you a rough guide for framing), Actual Screen (which is our personal favourite) and Status Only (similar to older Hero models).
3. HyperSmooth 3.0 and TimeWarp 3.0
GoPro’s HyperSmooth Stabilisation remains the best-in-class for action cameras.
Now at version 3.0, the improvements to its already outstanding ability to reduce camera shake in the most challenging situations are somewhat mind-blowing. All these video clips shot during my time onboard the sidecar shows just that! They are so smooth and look as if I was using a gimbal!
TimeWrap, which is essentially HyperSmooth applied to Timelapse videos, now brings enhanced Speed Ramp in version 3.0. This lets you slow the action to Real Speed or Half-Speed while recording!
4. Brand New “Power Tools”
Perhaps the most exciting additions to the Hero9 are what GoPro terms as “Power Tools to do the heavy lifting”!
Our favourite is Hindsight – It allows you to capture up to 30 seconds of footage before you start recording. When this function is turned on, the camera will buffer and “waits in anticipation” for you to capture something interesting that you might have missed. This way, even if you press the record button a tad bit late, you’ll still get the shot!
The other “Power Tools” such as Scheduled Capture, Duration Capture and Live Burst are welcome additions, giving the Hero 9 added versatility.
I tried out the Live Burst feature a few times during the sidecar tour and it was pretty awesome. It records what happens 1.5 seconds before and after your shot, allowing you to pick a single frame for the best picture or share a 3-second 4K video, similar to a Live Photo or Boomerang.
5. Longer Battery Life
Thanks to a new battery, there is a 30% improvement in the Hero9’s battery life over its predecessor, the Hero8, according to GoPro. This means that if you are upgrading from an older Hero model, your old batteries would not be compatible.
During the 2 hour Experiential GoPro Side Car Tour, I recorded non-stop on different modes in mostly 5K and 4K resolution! And I was surprised to see that I still had about 40% of battery life left at the end.
The GoPro Hero9’s not perfect though, and here are three things we hope to see improved in future GoPro models.
1. A larger sensor
While GoPro has improved the resolution of the sensor found in the Hero9, the sensor size essentially remains the same at 1/2.3-inch sensor as found in its predecessors. While software processing thanks to the GP1 chip found within the GoPro helps to keep image quality optimal, nothing beats an upgrade in sensor size.
We’ve already seen the inclusion of a 1-inch camera module for the Insta360 ONE R, so here’s hoping that GoPro will work towards this in the upcoming Hero models.
2. Better Low Light Capabilities
This brings us to the next point – the GoPro Hero series of cameras is still something that we find difficult to use when shooting in challenging low light situations and at night. While we don’t have the Insta360 ONE R on hand to do a side-by-side comparison, check out the video for a comparison with a similar-sized camera with an in-built 1-inch sensor – the Sony RX0 Mark II.
Just putting these 2 cameras side by side to capture some night-time footage shows how much a 1-inch sensor would help to improve the GoPro’s low-light shooting abilities.
3. A Better Touchscreen
The larger 2.27” rear display with touch is great and the menu system is easy to get used to and navigate. However, we noticed lags and delays when using it.
We understand that this will be fixed in an upcoming firmware update, so fingers crossed!
The GoPro Hero9 is a solid action camera and we are thinking of adding one to our filmmaking kit as well.
With a front-facing display, removable lens cover, improved stabilisation, new capture modes, and longer battery life amongst its many upgrades, the Hero9 is definitely something that vloggers and action-adventure filmmakers would want in their arsenal!
Content by Claudio Chock (Tech360.tv Community Creator)