Big things are expected from GoPro's latest camera, the Hero8. So how does it measure up? Chris Schulz takes a look.
What is it? After weeks of rumours, GoPro's Hero8 has finally been unveiled, a slightly smaller and sleeker camera than its previous model, released about a year ago. It's just one of two new GoPros out this month, with an improved version of its 360-degree Fusion camera, renamed Max, due shortly. Today, all eyes are on the Hero8 and its most notable improvements, the downsized frame and in-built mounting for adding grips and accessories. Straight away, they make the Hero8 a much easier unit to slide in and out of your pocket. The biggest changes, however, are under the hood, and they're impressive, with the Hero8 boasting improved frame rates, better stabilisation and upgraded live-streaming.
What's in the box? You'll get your camera, a coloured rubber cover to keep it safe, a range of mounts, a small tripod, and a felt case to keep cords and extras in. Also in the pack is a handy card with information about the Hero8's video settings. Don't throw this away, because it's important: this is the first GoPro camera that lets you save your own preset modes, and for noobs like me, the card helps you decide how to set the correct resolution and frame rates for what you're shooting. Going to the beach? Use the wide angle. Shooting up close and personal? Go for the narrow option. One thing that's not in the box is a mount for your bike, and if you're a keen mountain-biker like me, getting your hands on one of those is an absolute necessity, and something you'll need to buy separately.
How does it work? Just like other GoPro cameras, really. Shoot your footage, load it up to the newly configured GoPro app on your phone or tablet, then edit your videos down and add filters from there. The app is brilliant for editing novices like me, easily allowing you to cut out the boring bits, hone in on the best parts, then post them to social media. It's here you'll find one of the camera's biggest improvements, thanks to something called horizon levelling. Basically, it straightens up your wonky shots, turning your home footage into Martin Scorcese-style scenes in seconds. Something everyone seems to forget is that GoPro's cameras are also great for taking photos, and on a recent trip up Mount Maunganui, we captured impressive wide-angle vistas destined for Instagram.
What's the best feature? The Hero8 is big on stability. While previous cameras needed mounts and grips to keep things stable, you won't need any of those with the Hero8. This is all thanks, apparently, to something called HyperSmooth Boost, a feature that creates super smooth videos no matter what. To test this out, I gave the Hero8 to my kids for an afternoon, and they really put the camera through its paces, rolling around on couches and in the grass, bouncing on the trampoline, chasing the cat, and taking it on scooter rides with little thought given to framing or stability. Looking back at their footage, I was shocked at how smooth their carefree videos were. Also shocking is that my nine-year-old son is a natural vlogger, happily turning the camera on himself and narrating the action like a pro. Watch out, YouTube, he's coming for you.
And what's the worst? GoPro's battery remains its achilles' heel. Yes, you can buy extra batteries to charge up and swap out if you're away from a charging port or shooting for lengthy periods of time. But when my phone can last a full day of use without needing to recharge, why can't the Hero8? There's definitely room for improvement there. There was also an issue with the battery cover on units given to reviewers, something to do with insecure waterproofing. That has, apparently, been corrected on units being sold to consumers.
So how much is it? The Hero8 lands with a RRP of $669.99, with accessories sold separately. You'll need some of those depending on what and how you're shooting, and a GoPro Plus subscription might be handy for cloud access and free replacements if you suffer from a severe case of the dropsies. For those who already have the Hero7, you might want to wait until the Max (RRP $869.99) is released later this month before deciding on whether it's time for an upgrade. Even after just a short hands-on session, the Max's 360-degree camera and editing options looks to be a stunner, one I can't wait to test further. But the Hero8 will easily do till then.
IN A NUTSHELL
What: GoPro's Hero 8
Pros: Sleeker case, better stabilisation, impressive wide-angle shots.
Cons: Poor battery life, cost of accessories.
Review rating: 8/10