Action cameras are rarely versatile enough to let you record in extreme conditions and get professional results at the same time. Many companies have tried but without much success, the Yi 4K from Xiaomi or Action cameras from Sony being a few popular examples. Still, the GoPro reigns supreme.
The GoPro Hero 5 Black is the latest adventure sports camera available in the market that is waterproof out of the box, and comes with a touchscreen at its tiny back to preview all the recording. But a touchscreen is just one of the upgrades in the hero 5. There is so much more in it.
Whereas the Hero 5 Black is the more expensive brother of the Hero 5 Session, which doesn’t come with a touch display, it launched at nearly the same price as the Hero 4 Black that has a price tag of Rs 38,000 and sells for Rs 34,999 on Reliance Digital stores.
But at the time of writing, its price has been slashed on Amazon and both the Session and Black variants of the Hero 5 sell for the same price of around Rs 29,000. You can also get them shipped from the GoPro website, which would cost you $479, shipping included, which translates to about Rs 30,750.
Though expensive, the Hero 5 Black GoPro is best action camera I have used. But, is it good enough to be worthy of its high price? Let’s find out.
Design and features
Hero 5 has got a lot of useful functional upgrades over the previous model but still manages to remain almost the same size. The first thing you will notice is that the protruding camera eye is more streamlined and the ports are covered under a flap.
The Hero 5 Black (and the Hero 5) is waterproof out of the box and you don’t require a special (polycarbonate) housing for it, at least till 10m of depth under water. This will include your swimming pool dives, cliff jumps and even scuba diving to an extent considering you can reach corals in Andaman at 5-metre depth.
But you will still need to snap on the waterproof housing when taking the camera deeper than 10m. We tried to find one on Amazon and it is not available from GoPro. Very few original accessories are available from GoPro for the Hero 5, like the karma grip (which as expensive as the camera), mic adapter (yes, you can connect external mic with Hero 5 using this connector) or the hand wrists. You may also find them on the Reliance Digital stores where the GoPro cameras are officially available offline.
The ports are covered under the flaps now, which include the Type C for charging (and external mic) and mini HDMI for video out in one and battery and microSD card in another. You do get Type C cable in the box, along with two adhesive mounts, a mounting buckle, a black Frame (in which you can insert the camera and attach to the mount) and a battery. MicroSD cards, editing software and other accessories need to be bought separately.
The Hero 5 is also a rugged device, which I can tell from the time I spend with the camera. I dropped it several times while pulling it in and out of the mounts and even without the casing it easily survived the waist and shoulder height drops. Note that GoPro doesn’t certify the Hero 5 as a rugged camera, though it is meant for recording action and sports.
There are just two buttons on the camera — one at top for recoding and another at the side to turn the camera ON or to switch modes. The record button can be programmed to override the power button and start recording when it is pressed even when the camera is Off.
The touch screen is a big upgrade that helps navigate the settings of the camera and do what you couldn’t have done with just two buttons. For example, you can view the footage, edit it and take a 5 second clip out, set brightness levels on display, touch to focus and connect wirelessly to a smartphone. There is also GPS on-board that etches your location coordinates to everything you shoot.
You can switch to different modes, but if the camera is mounted out of sight (read overhead), you can’t really see which mode it is running. Coupled to the beep sound, the voice control is also a great addition that helps. With voice command you can literally tell the camera to switch to time lapse mode for example and the camera will let out a beep which confirms the job is done. The beep sound helps will inform you of the switch.
GoPro has nicely executed all the features so they don’t end up looking like gimmicks
In fact with the camera mounted overhead, the voice command works so amazingly (for the Indian accent) that you may not pair the camera to smartphone to control it remotely. This will also save battery. You ask (rather loudly) GoPro to switch to any mode. You can tell it to “start” and “stop recording”, “take a photo” and even “turn off”. And you don’t need internet for this.
The accuracy, I think, could be due to the dual-mic setup on the Hero 5 Black. The setup can record stereo audio (left and right channels) and is also used to cut out wind or other unwanted noise (an algorithm automatically switches between the two unless you lock it to one). These are very high quality mics and the sound comes out very clean and loud, though wind noise is captured every now and then in the movement. You can also record RAW audio and improve it in post processing.
The Hero 5 Black also has a speaker to listen to the playback and it is quite loud. Not as loud as what you will get on a smartphone, but loud enough to check if the sound you wanted on it is there on not.
At front there is a tiny black and white display that isn’t back lit but comes in handy while you are recording self videos with the camera put on a stick. The new features on the GoPro Hero 5 Black are not gimmicks but thoughtful and nicely executed.
Though the Hero 5 adds a lot of features, its video recording capabilities are same as the Hero 4. That is, it has the same 12MP sensor that can record 4K videos at a maximum of 30 frames per second and 1080p (fullHD) at a maximum of 120 frames per second which can be used for making slow motion videos.
Maybe the upcoming Hero 6 will improve upon this and probably offer 240fps at 1080p (the leaks have already hinted at this) like the iPhone 7 or the iPhone 8 does. But the Hero 5 gets you the same quality and features in the recording department (reason GoPro slashed the prices of Hero 5 Black?).
In fact, the Hero 5 Black edition costs much less now after the price drop. GoPro initially launched the Hero 5 Black at the same price as the Hero 4 Black so one cannot really complain.
But the video quality on both of these cameras are by no means bad. It is rather the best you would get on an action camera in this price range. They manage to capture great quality for the size of sensor they have. To put that into perspective, they are closer to the hand-held video cameras and better than what high end smartphones of today can manage. It creates MPEG4 file formats that would take around 220MB of space for a 1 minute 1080p.
GoPro says the Hero 5 Black also has a wider dynamic range in the photo but I didn’t find much of a difference. Though it can take photos in RAW now, which does help you refine the photos later if you want. You can also tweak ISO, white balance, shutter and exposure.
The camera takes a lot of time processing the burst frames after the click, the playback on the camera is slow and you cannot zoom in while previewing the photos
Hero 5 Black has 122 degrees of (horizontal) field of view in the wide mode, which converts to a 14mm of focal length equivalent. This fairly wide when you are taking landscape shots or with any other sports you are using the camera for. But it can be brought down to 21mm (medium) and 28mm (linear), which have lesser distortion at the corners and don’t look like a fish-eye perspective. This can be easily switched with a touch from the shooting screen itself.
Apart from 4K video, GoPro Hero 5 Black can shoot time lapse videos in 4K, take 12megapixel stills and take a burst shot (30 photos in a second).
The time lapse videos are a great way to save battery life when you need to record a long journey. Maximum interface that can be set on the Hero 5 Black is 60 seconds.
As for the burst mode, the camera takes a lot of time processing the burst frames after the click, the playback on the camera is slow and you cannot zoom in while previewing the shots. You need to extract them to the phone and view it.
GoPro and Quick Stories app
GoPro has an app for iPhones and Androids to connect to the camera. The app allows you to remotely use all functions of the camera (and view the feed live) and transfer the content from the camera to the phone.
I also used GoPro’s Quick Stories app just out of curiosity to see how the app stitches videos. It is quite a sophisticated editing app for a phone to have. You can trim, split, rotate, speed up, crop videos that you download from your GoPro, select more stuff from your phones gallery or cloud account, select which part of it you would want in the stitch, and add them to the timeline. You can also fill in music (available on the app), add flashy animations and transitions and render out the video to your phone.
To set up the camera, shoot and transfer a 1 minute 4K footage takes up around 30-35 per cent of the camera’s battery.
The battery on GoPro Hero 5 Black has also been bumped to 1220mAh. Still it is very small for the tasks GoPro can do. We could get about 4-5 minutes of total recording time from the camera on a full charge, that includes previewing all the shots and switching to modes continuously.
And this doesn’t include connecting the smartphone to it wirelessly, which in fact depletes the battery like anything. Though the Hero 5 Black has a very tidy system of pushing content back to the phone for viewing and upload, it takes a toll on its battery life. To set up the camera, shoot and transfer a 1 minute 4K footage takes up around 30-35 per cent of the camera’s battery.
The camera surely goes into sleep mode when inactive, but its Wi-Fi doesn’t turn off automatically after some time of inactivity. Which means, the next time you are using the GoPro if you forgot to turn off of the Wi-Fi, you lost a big chunk of your shooting time.
The Type C port on the GoPro allows for a fast charging but it still takes about 2 hours to get from zero to full with a wall charger, more when using a battery bank.
The Hero 5 Black has a surprising amount of stuff crammed into its tiny matchbox size form factor. GoPro has nicely executed all the features so they don’t end up looking like gimmicks. Like the voice control that rarely works well on smartphones without internet works neatly on the camera. The touchscreen has thoughtfully laid out interface for an easy setup and the naked waterproofing makes it a lot more of an action camera and less of a lab instrument put in a glass box.
The fact, that it doesn’t have a better recording engine under the hood could be a big debating point. But it doesn’t hold good when the Hero 5 Black comes at the same price. There are improvements indeed but GoPro has taken a step back and focused them more on the ecosystem that the Hero camera is, an action camera that (should not be) a fuss to use. Despite so much to tweak, the Hero 5 Black is not a fuss to use and that is a big step ahead for an upgrade.
GoPro Hero 5 Black8/10
- Good stuff
- Waterproof sans casing
- Amazing video quality
- Touchscreen, voice control
- Wide and linear FOV
- Bad stuff
- Low battery backup
- Stabilization not for all modes