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GoPro still dominates in action cameras

GoPro's cameras have been the go-to action cameras for many for the longest time, thanks to their small size, durable design and intuitive features that keep up with user demands.

With its newest flagship product, the Hero7 Black, GoPro's reign seems likely to continue.

While it does not make many big changes to the GoPro formula, it does come with a new video-stabilisation feature called HyperSmooth that is sure to be a hit with action camera users.

In a nutshell, HyperSmooth allows the Hero7 Black to capture professional-looking stabilised videos without a motorised gimbal. This eliminates the need for extra equipment to get smooth action shots.

It also helps that the camera works underwater as well as in high-vibration and windy situations.

But HyperSmooth's appeal is more than that. The footage obtained from the Hero7 Black in this mode is not only stable, but also retains a natural quality that is hard to find in other cameras.

With a gimbal, the video recorded can seem unnatural and devoid of a sense of movement. For example, in a video held by someone running, a gimbal-camera set-up would give stable footage, but it would look like it was gliding, not running.

HyperSmooth stabilises the footage while still retaining a natural look. Viewers watching your footage will get to experience not just smooth action, but also a sense of the movements you were making while shooting the video.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $595

    IMAGE SENSOR: 12 megapixels

    LENS' FIELD OF VIEW: 170 degrees

    DISPLAY: Built-in 2.0-inch touchscreen

    WATER RESISTANCE: 10m

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

    WEIGHT: 116g

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Not everyone might like this look for his action camera footage, but I find it a refreshing change.

Another new Hero7 Black feature is TimeWarp, which makes it easier to shoot time-lapse sequences, one of the most common uses of GoPro cameras.

In a time-lapse video, images are recorded at certain intervals and then sped up. Those familiar with Instagram's Hyperlapse will know what I am talking about.

TimeWarp applies HyperSmooth to make time-lapse videos smoother than before.

The Hero7 Black also lets users choose the speed they want their video to be sped up to, offering two to 30 times the normal speed of recording.

While there is nothing ground-breaking about this feature, the ability to crunch down the lengthier and less action-packed parts of one's activities or trips in a GoPro is a nice option.

The Hero7 Black also has live-stream capability built into it. These features are just the latest to be added to a device already jam-packed with things such as voice control, 4k video recording and a touchscreen - it can be hard to believe that it manages to stay so small.

Unfortunately, its battery life is short too. According to GoPro, the battery life for the Hero7 Black is 45 to 50 minutes for shooting at 4K/60p. It gets better if you shoot at lower resolutions, but even then, it does not last long.

Getting an extra battery is highly recommended, especially since the Hero7 Black comes with a removable battery.

The device also tends to overheat after prolonged use, which is a problem I have experienced with previous GoPro products.

Also, GoPro has yet to fully solve its camera's performance in low-light conditions.

Videos and photos look great in well-lit environments, but the quality dips when it gets darker. Images recorded get noisy and there are occasions when the camera on my phone performs better than the Hero7 Black.

But these drawbacks do not diminish the GoPro's many attractive features.

Anyone keen on getting an action camera to record their adventures would unlikely be disappointed with the Hero7 Black.

• Verdict: Thanks to HyperSmooth, the Hero7 Black ensures GoPro's dominance over the action camera scene - just remember to buy extra batteries.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2018, with the headline 'GoPro still dominates in action cameras'. Print Edition | Subscribe