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GoPro's improved action camera delivers on videos

The brand GoPro is synonymous with action cameras the way Google is with search engines. And the action camera market leader has launched a new flagship with the Hero8 Black.

In terms of design, it does not seem to differ much from its predecessor, the Hero7 Black. However, among its few differences is one that you will notice immediately.

At the bottom of the Hero8 are built-in lugs you prise open to form the GoPro mount, which has become the universal mount for all action cameras. With the Hero7, you need to attach an included external frame that has the GoPro mount.

Without the frame, the Hero8 is 10g lighter than its predecessor. It is also slightly thinner (around 5mm thick), but a tad taller and wider.

The power button has been moved from the right to the left, while the battery compartment has moved from the bottom to the right side.

Inside the compartment are the microSD card slot and USB-C port for charging. It is now easier to access the battery and the microSD card.

With the Hero7, they are at the bottom, which means you have to unmount the camera to access them.

Another design tweak is moving the microphone from the top to the front. And the camera now allows the installation of optional modules to enable, for instance, the use of an HDMI port.

But the front-facing display continues to be a monochrome LCD display that does not act as a viewfinder like the one on the DJI Osmo Action.

The Hero8 uses the same GP1 chipset, 15mm f/2.8 lens and image sensor for shooting 4K videos and 12-megapixel still images as its predecessor. It also has the same 10m water-resistance, voice controls and integrated GPS.

It has an upgraded HyperSmooth 2.0 video stabilisation feature in three levels - Enabled, High and Boost. But the field of view is narrower with Boost. A new feature called LiveBurst records 1.5 seconds before and after your shot.

The image stabilisation of the videos is top-notch. Frames are silky smooth even when I am running and shooting. I have not seen better image stabilisation performance in the action cameras I have reviewed. In addition, videos are crisp with accurate colours and high dynamic range.

But the still image quality leaves much to be desired. While the colours are spot-on, there are visible noise artefacts in images shot at ISO 400 and in good lighting conditions. In low lighting conditions, I see chromatic noise artefacts with visible detail loss in both stills and videos.

Battery life is average for an action camera - at around an hour when shooting 4K videos at 30 frames per second (fps). But the bigger irritant is how hot the Hero8 gets when it is recording continuously for only 15 minutes. You probably want to let it take a break every now and then.


FOR

• Integrated mount

• Superb video stabilisation

• User-friendly touchscreen interface


AGAINST

• Still image quality can be better

• Camera gets hot fast

• Poor low-light performance


SPECS

PRICE: $599

IMAGE SENSOR: 12-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS

LENS: 16mm f/2.8

DISPLAY: Built-in 2-inch touchscreen LCD

WATER RESISTANCE: 10m

CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

WEIGHT: 116g (with battery)


RATING

FEATURES: 4/5

DESIGN: 4/5

PERFORMANCE: 4.5/5

BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

OVERALL: 4/5

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2020, with the headline 'Improved action camera delivers on videos'. Print Edition | Subscribe