You've got to feel just a little for US action cam maker GoPro, which launched its new Hero 10 device smack bang into lengthy lockdowns recently.
On lovely spring days, you'd look at the new Hero 10, nicknamed Kong, fiddle with its many settings and feel action-aspirational.
An idea to make a video to show just how much nicer Auckland roads are without cars didn't pan out as alert levels changed and the usual motorama reappeared, but yes, bungeeing NZME staffers from the Harbour Bridge is definitely on the cards.
This year's Hero upgrade is all on the inside. There's very little difference between the Hero 9 and 10, with both being small form factor and element-proof, rugged casing, although the front lens cover on the latter is now sturdier.
Inside, the big news is the upgraded ARM architecture processor, the GP2. It's a big move for GoPro, as it means shifting from 32-bit to 64-bit for software. No show-stopper bugs were encountered during testing and the Hero 10 worked well on its own and with GoPro's new Quik video editing software (which is one somewhat feeble excuse to splash out on an iPhone 13 Pro Max with its large screen to see more detail).
The GP2 is snappier, and offers higher resolutions
Stabilisation in the new HyperSmooth 4.0 v 3.0 is probably a bit better but, it's hard to quantify how much. On the other hand, the Horizon Levelling feature that now fixes up to 45 degrees tilting, up from 27 degrees, without the image changing, is downright amazing.
Stable video that stays focused on what you shoot even while moving, and not the seasickness-inducing moving around is easily possible with the Hero 10.
Depending on resolution, you get frame rates ranging from a cinematic 24 per second to 240/s at a high 2.7k resolution. Picking the right one depends on your target output, and the amount of light on the scene.
The USB-C port offers not just fast in-camera battery charging, but also quick transfer of videos. In the same way, you can get a GoPro cloud subscription and store videos in there, quickly and automatically downloaded via the 5 GHz Wifi for editing in Quik.
If you're that way inclined, the Hero 10 can be used for streaming and vlogging (with flip out display mods available) as well, but I didn't get around to trying this out.
There are more features, higher camera resolutions, a rear touch-screen and a front preview display; all of which eat battery. The small 1720 mAh battery that didn't last very long in the Hero 9 and empties out even faster in the Hero 10. You'll need at least two charged batteries, ideally more for longer shoots.
How useful the 5.3k/60 fps resolution is depends on your patience. GoPro says you can shoot 20 minutes at that resolution in "zero airflow" situations before the camera overheats. Unless there's a compelling reason to capture those extra pixels, it seems sticking to lower resolutions like 4K or even 1080p for longer shooting makes more sense.
All in all, the results are pretty unbelievably good, both for video and importantly, still shots through frame grabs, from such a small camera with auto-exposure and sub $800 price.
You'll want to budget for holders, mounts and grips as well as spare batteries, not to mention fast, large capacity memory cards, so that's your starting price. Batteries and memory cards apart, I'd get the MAX 360 grip and mini tripod, which is sturdy but lightweight, and costs $99.99.
Even with the cost of addons, the Hero 10 hits the right value-quality proposition up to a semi-pro level.
How much further can GoPro continue with its current design though? Looking at what's happening across the smartphone camera fence, it's clear that low-light and night-time shooting have both moved into focus (sorry!).
Smartphones can fit bigger sensors that capture more light and have a natural advantage compared to the Hero 10 that has the same small imager of the Hero 9. Despite GP2 computational fixes, the Hero 10 works best during the day, even if you drop the frame rates to capture more light after the sun's gone down.
I wouldn't be surprised to see an "After Dark" only variant of the Hero pop up sooner rather than later and yes, you're now free to make all the night-time action jokes you wish.
The Hero 10 overheating is no joke though, and it feels GoPro has run up against some hard boundaries here with its small camera system in that respect. Still, if you can work around those issues, there's nothing like the Hero 10 at the moment.