The new GoPro Hero5 Black has plenty of new features, but it’s some of the neater details over its previous models that makes this camera so appealing. GoPro began as a wearable extreme sports action camera but in recent years the brand is broadcasting more lifestyle imagery to appeal to the masses. GoPro’s YouTube flow is no longer a constant flow of cliff-jumping, wave-surfing, bear-fighting adrenalin junkies but a more realistic approach targeting explorers, families, pet-lovers and adventures.
If you’ve owned previous models of the GoPro, you’ll notice the Hero5 has a smaller footprint. The camera no longer requires a waterproof housing, it’s all built-in to the unit. Even with the built in waterproofing and additional screen, it’s smaller than previous models.
I’ve owned plenty of different size cameras from full-frame digital SLR’s with bulky lenses to the newer generation of mirrorless cameras. It reached a point with digital SLR’s where my camera gear got so heavy that I wasn’t enjoying taking photos or I wouldn’t even take my camera out.
‘The best camera is the one that’s with you’
You don’t have this issue with the GoPro, it’s so neat you don’t notice it in your pocket. This has allowed me to enjoy my trips again and when I need to shoot, there’s a professional grade camera right there.
After you’ve used Hero5 it becomes clear how bad the user-interface was on older models. The setting were difficult to access through the blocky, tamagotchi-like display. An interface of a camera should be easy to use and the Hero5 is just that. Its touch display settings are easy to access through a single gesture and you can visually see your adjustments live on the display.
The Hero5 also has the addition of the push to record button. Friends and families no longer need to try and work out how to use your GoPro. By pressing this single button the camera will turn on and instantly start filming (which is customisable if you prefer taking photos etc).
So you can say goodbye to having accidental selfies of your friends and family trying to work out how your camera works; the Hero5 is a doddle.
As a keen film maker, I tend to have a pretty steady filming hand. Yet when you’re on a snowboarding travelling at 60mph down the side of a mountain this is pretty hard to maintain. Thankfully the new Hero5 has built in stability to smooth out the camera shake.
How does stabilisation work? With stabilisation turned on, your frame crops itself around 10%. The GoPro uses this 10% of reserved space to move and adjust to smoothen out your footage. If your GoPro detects any shaking, it will automatically move the frame with this 10% spare to make your footage less jarring and much smoother.
For more advanced film makers, this also makes post-production easier. With the footage being smoother to start with, further stabilisation in Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects makes seamless footage much more achievable.
In the hunt for smooth footage, I recently purchased the FeiyuTech WG 3-axis wearable gimbal (an electronic wearable stabiliser for the GoPro), but my Hero5’s built in stabilisation has been working so well that I haven’t got round to trying the FeiyuTech WG yet!
GoPro have not previously produced their highest end camera with a display. With no display, it’s previously been a guessing game with filming until you plug it into your laptop to see the results (except browsing your media via the GoPro app). It’s not uncommon to be disappointed with the results, the GoPro films at such a wide-angle 170 perspective it takes a while to get used too. With the added benefit of a screen you can see the footage as you record, being able to avoid disappointment should be much easier.
As an enthusiast for 35mm film SLR cameras, there’s something special about having the film developed and seeing all the results at the very end. I liked this unpredictable nature with previous models of GoPro because it was always exciting to get some and see what you’ve recorded. You loose this magic with the new ability to see your filming in progress but this will certainly be a bonus for the majority to avoid bad filming.
We cannot have a GoPro review without mentioning 4K filming. The GoPro has been capable to film in 4K for a couple of generations and you can do the same on this newest model. For big production companies this is a brilliant feature with TV’s and consoles becoming 4K compatible. However if you’re not a production company, it requires the correct machinery. This includes a particularly high-spec computer and a high enough resolution display to see the benefits. If you’re planning on filming in 4K, it’s not quite worth it for most scenarios.
It does however have its advantages if you plan on scaling down your 4K footage to 1080p. This unlocks some impressive new capabilities, by dropping 4K footage into a 1080p window you will gain extra movement allowing you to crop, zoom, pan and track a huge amount before the quality drops.
Something GoPro has promoted is the ‘Voice control’ commands, you can use voice commands such as ‘GoPro take photo’. This works pretty well when tested, but seems like a bit of a novelty. A feature like this screams for too much attention and the beautiful thing about the GoPro is it’s so discreet.
If you have previously owned a GoPro, you may be aware that there’s a blue LED that blinks to indicate when the WiFi is turned on – not any more.
If you’ve been using the WiFi option on the Hero5 be sure to turn it off afterwards. If you leave the WiFi turned on and shut down the camera, the WiFi will remain on and drain your battery within a few hours. It gives you a surprise when you go to use it and your camera’s completely flat – this has caught me out a few times. The blue LED used to make it obvious when the WiFi was left on but this is no longer the case. I would recommend purchasing a spare battery incase this does happen, on that vital day you want to do some filming no one wants a flat battery!
So at £350 the top-level GoPro Hero5’s doesn’t come cheap. In previous years the top-level GoPro has been as much as £399 so the price is lower than previous models. GoPro as a brand is also highly respected, their cameras always seem to hold their value well. I’ve previously been able to upgrade my camera and sell on the older version for not a lot less than I purchased it for.
If GoPro is new to you, it is worth mentioning the extortionate cost of the optional mounts. If you want a 3-way handheld mount and a chest harness for example, expect to pay £54.99 for the official handheld mount and £34.99 for the chest harness – ouch!
Fear not though, there’s a tonne of aftermarket mounts available on ebay and Amazon at a fraction of the cost. After 5 years of thorough testing, they have proved themselves to be just as durable. An unofficial spare battery complete with charging dock functions just as well as the official GoPro branded battery.
There’s no doubt that the GoPro Hero5 Black has plenty of new features, but it’s the small refinements that make this camera so appealing. There’s no need for an additional waterproof housing, usability is easy with it’s touch screen display and the built-in image stabilisation all contribute to a fantastic pocket sized camera.
You no longer have to be camera competent or an extreme sports junkie or to use a GoPro, some of the most interesting videos on GoPro’s YouTube channel involve people being innovative with their kids and generally having a good time!