GoPro announced the eighth generation of its tiny, versatile camera today, and in some ways it’s the most radical redesign the camera has ever gotten — and in others it’s very much more of the same.
What’s different? For one thing, the GoPro Hero8 Black ($399) is the first of the company’s cameras to have its mounting system built in. GoPro calls it “frameless mounting,” with built-in “mounting fingers” that fold in and out from the camera’s body as needed. That’s one less thing you have to pick in your camera kit, and it keeps other camera features — like its SD card slots and batteries — more accessible in the field. GoPro says it’s also 14% lighter than its predecessor, which is always nice.
The Hero8 Black is also the first GoPro camera to embrace a modular design, with customized accessories. The Media Mod ($80) includes a shotgun mic, two cold shoe accessory mounts, and USB Type-C, HDMI and 3.5mm mic ports. The Display Mod ($80) includes a 1.9-inch front- or rear-facing display that mounts on the Media Mod, making the camera a more convenient vlogging tool. And the Light Mod ($50) is a rechargeable light (with a diffuser) that can be mounted right to the camera via the Media Mod or mounted separately to serve as a standalone light source. Like the camera, the light is waterproof to 33 feet (10 m).
What hasn’t changed? The overall form factor of the camera remains remarkably similar and, judging from sample video posted online, the image quality remains surprisingly robust for such an inexpensive device — it should intercut pretty well with higher-end camera footage. Video resolution maxes out at 4K 60p or 1080p240, recording at up to a respectable 100 Mbps.
Elsewhere, the line on the Hero8 is that it’s the same, but better. GoPro says HyperSmooth 2.0 image stabilization is “dramatically improved” over the already impressive performance of v1.0 of the technology and works in all resolutions and frame rates. TimeWarp 2.0 allows automatic frame-rate adjustments and touch-control speed ramping, and the camera uses what GoPro calls “digital lenses” to process and frame the full-sensor image for four different fields of view — almost like switching between lenses on the fly and without the hassle.
Bottom line? If you’re in the market for an action camera, odds are this is the action camera you want.
But GoPro did try to one-up itself this time with the announcement of the GoPro Max ($499), a dual-lens model that can shoot 360 video (with six mics!) as well as function as a single-lens camera using the six-mic array to capture directional audio. It shoots 5.6K 360 video at up to 30p, and shoots flat video at up to 1440p60. The Max also has HyperSmooth and TimeWarp technology, and it’s waterproof to 16 feet (5 m).
GoPro seems to be aiming this one beyond the typical 360-degree crowd, looking to bring vloggers and action sports types into the fold as well by showing how easy it is to edit a flat video with unusual POV effects from 360 content by reframing it with keyframeable features in the GoPro app. (Stitching takes place in camera.) Don’t worry about pointing the camera while you shoot — just follow the action in the edit. It may end up being a fun camera for anyone who enjoys spending time playing with their footage in post or just wants to experiment with 360 video, but the Hero8 looks like the better all-around performer.