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Like clockwork, GoPro has once again released their latest gen camera, this time the Hero 8 Black. While you’ll undoubtedly hear about the headliner features like the improved stabilization via GoPro’s new HyperSmooth Boost, the real goodness on this camera is actually some of the less attention grabbing headlines such as having HyperSmooth 2.0 now in every frame rate & resolution (though not every digital lens), or the higher bitrates offered. Same goes for the Live Burst photo functionality that mirrors what you’re used to on your phone today in features like ‘Live Photo’.
Atop that, GoPro has also pushed out a new 360° camera called the GoPro Max, which replaces the GoPro Fusion of the past. But that one’s not quite ready yet, so we’ll save that for another post down the road this fall. Also down the road this fall (maybe more like winter) are a slate of accessories GoPro calls ‘Mods’, which add a flip-up Vlogging style screen, a shotgun mic, and a 200 lumen light. These reasonably priced accessories though do take away some features that GoPro had previously in the camera, like the HDMI port.
There’s also a slew of other changes, which is a great time to skip into the ‘What’s New’ section, or just simply hit play on the brisk video below. I squeeze 18 new things into 13 minutes. Hold onto your hats!
Finally, note that GoPro did send me a pile of media loaner Hero 8 cameras to test with. But as usual this isn’t sponsored in any way (trust me, you’ll see that here pretty quickly), and those cameras will go back to them shortly and I’ll go out and get my own pile of cameras via normal retail channels. If you found this review useful, hit up the links at the bottom to help support the site!
At first glance it might not seem like there’s a lot of newness in the Hero 8 Black aside from the new Boost mode, but in reality there’s actually a ton of under the covers type newness that’s less headline grabbing to the mass market, but hugely important to those making full videos/edits with these cameras. For example, things like the new ability to do Linear mode in 4K/30 & 4K/60, or the 100Mbps bit rate 4K/2.7K modes. Which isn’t to say there’s not goodness for everyone too. For example, the aforementioned Boost is definitely a bump up on smoothness, and the lack of needing a frame case is also pretty appealing.
With that, here’s the round-up of all the new features on the Hero 8 Black, including a few that didn’t quite make the cut in my video above:
– Added HyperSmooth Boost Extra stabilization with a tiny bit of crop
– Added HyperSmooth 2.0: Basically HyperSmooth is now available in every mode on the camera (including 240FPS and 4:3 modes)
– Completely redesigned externals, no more case: The case is gone, and the mount is built into the case
– Extendable mount: The mount pops out of the bottom, allowing you to both mount it, but also have it flat on table
– New ‘Mod’ Accessories: Includes pop-up screen, light, and shotgun mic (more on this later)
– Added Linear support to 4K: You can now do both 4K/30 & 4K/60 Linear
– Added Live Burst: Just like ‘Live Photos’ on iOS, it takes a 3-second video and you pick the photo frame you want
– Added TimeWarp 2.0: Now automatically adjusts/determines correct recording rate
– Added Digital Lenses: Makes it easier to change between Linear/Wide/SuperView/Narrow from main screen
– Added Capture Presets: Effectively like capture profiles, where you can customize and make your own quick access presets
– Increased lens strength: GoPro Claims 2x stronger, and increased thickness from 1.3mm to 2.0mm
– No longer removable lenses: This reduces thinness, but GoPro says they’ve partnered PolarPro for ND filters
– Removed HDMI port: That’s gone, so they can upsell you on the accessory
– Livestreaming now supported at 1080p: Previously this was 720p
– Livestreaming to YouTube now supported: Previously this was only Facebook & RTMP
– New Hero 8 Battery Design: Fear not, it’s backwards compatible to Hero 5/6/7, and old batteries still work with Hero 8
– SuperPhoto mode revamped: They claim to have dramatically reduced chances of ghosting (seems true)
– SuperPhoto mode options: You can now toggle independently HDR from SuperPhoto
– New front-facing microphone: This has been redesigned and repositioned to better handle wind (my last two watch videos in the running sections have actually been shot on this, without people knowing)
– Added Auto-Leveling in App: When you have off-kilter footage, it’ll automatically fix it
– Very slightly tweaked image coloring: Barely noticeable, but it improves range a tiny bit
– Added quick-access shortcuts: Can go ahead and swipe from corners and customize the functions
– Added 100Mbps Bitrate: For 4K & 2.7K modes, you can toggle the high bitrate option to get 100Mbps footage
Note that battery timeframes are about the same as before with the Hero 7 Black (covered down below). While the Hero 8 did get a new battery, it’s only a 0.01v difference between the two, and is mainly to accommodate some higher battery requirements for the HyperSmooth 2.0 modes.
Finally, the company is keeping around the Hero 7 Black at $329 (down from $399), while the Hero 8 Black gets introduced at $399. They’re also bringing the Hero 7 Silver down to $199, and getting rid of the Hero 7 White. Meanwhile, the GoPro Fusion gets replaced by the GoPro Max, which has pretty similar resolution type specs as the Fusion did, but adds in most of the Hero 8 stability features and a large screen on the front. Further, it gets rid of the 2 micro-SD card requirement and goes to a single card.
For this review I’m primarily focusing on things that have changed (for better or worse), rather than the absolute basics of turning on the camera and pressing record. Perhaps I’ll add that level of detail down the road, but I think for the action camera crowd that’s looking at my posts, you’re really aiming for the ‘Give me the tech geek details’ rather than the ‘How to press the red button’ bits.
The most obvious change in the Hero 8 from the outside is the lack of a frame case. That case previously enabled the Hero series to be mounted to GoPro mounts, but now that mounting bit is built into the camera and flips out:
This makes it easy to just put the GoPro on a flat surface when not using a mount, but also to then quickly attach it to any standard GoPro mount. Note that because the Hero 8 is a slightly different size, certain frame-specific accessories may not work anymore. For example, the deep dive housing won’t work, and the silicone case takes a bit of surgery to get it to fit due to lack of holes (though, certainly plausible). Also, with the front mic being in a slightly different spot, you’d want that taken into account in newer cases such as the Hero 8 specific silicone case.
The orange case below is a Hero 8 case and you can see the hole for the mount, whereas the black Hero 7 case at right lacks that. Again, a sharp knife might solve this for a bit.
The other major change you’ll notice is the battery door is no longer on the bottom, but now on the side. And without question, this is the suckiest piece of the entire Hero 8. The battery door is horrible to open (a nail breaker), and barely clears the thumbscrew on most mounts (but only if fully tightened). Also, the micro-SD card is nearly impossible to get out without poking it with another pointy object.
With the new location comes a new battery, but fear not – it’s still backwards compatible with existing Hero 5/6/7 batteries. It’s just that GoPro says in certain HyperSmooth 2.0 modes there may be non-optimal performance (but doesn’t clarify exactly what that is). Hero 8 batteries work fine in the Hero 7 Black I have. The Hero 8 batteries are identified by the blue edging.
For the most part, the Hero 8 hasn’t changed the UI a ton (unlike the Hero 6 to Hero 7 jump), but has definitely made it quicker and faster to navigate most of the functions – especially changing certain settings like whether something is wide or linear. As such, I’m mostly going to focus this section on the new bits of the camera that aren’t specific to a given mode like photo or video, and then cover pieces in more detail down below.
Next, the lens itself is now twice as strong according to GoPro. They did that by increasing the thickness of the glass from 1.3mm to 2.0mm, however in the process of doing that they removed the ability to detach the lens. Previously you could remove the lens if you broke it. Now you can’t. GoPro says that if you subscribe to their $5/month GoPro Plus service then any damage is covered no questions asked, though given the previous lenses used to cost about $20 or so, that seems less than ideal. Though, GoPro Plus also backs up all your media as well as gets you 50% off accessories – so that’s worthwhile there if you buy lots of accessories.
The positive side to the change though on lenses is that it makes the camera a bunch skinnier:
Note that GoPro says they’ve partnered with PolarPro to produce ND filters for the Hero 8 lineup, so that option is at least still there.
Finally, on the hardware front, you’ll notice there’s no longer an HDMI port on the camera itself, leaving just the USB-C charging port. That function has been shifted to GoPro’s ‘Media Mod’, which has the port there. While I’ll admit I only rarely use the port, that doesn’t mean I think it should shift into the category of yet more paid accessories.
The first thing you’ll likely notice when you power on the camera is the new capture presets, which GoPro says they added because people found it confusing to know which mode they should be in when they use the camera for different activities. As such there’s a slate of default ones that you can customize, but are based on GoPro’s recommendations:
But then you can also create your own, up to 10 in total, and tweak each and every settings option for any given preset. After which, you’ll go ahead and give it an icon and a name from the list:
Meanwhile, back on the main shooting screen you’ll notice a single letter off to the left hand side, that’s the new ‘Digital Lenses’, which is basically another way of saying ‘field of view’, and it changes between the standard GoPro options: Wide, SuperView, Linear, and Narrow. Some resolutions don’t offer all those options, but in general far more resolutions do now than did in the Hero 7.
To change between them, simply tap on the letter and it’ll enable a quick slider that shows you the exact view for each setting:
Lastly, there’s a new quick-access shortcut feature that you can customize for each mode, which allows you to configure each of four buttons in the lower portion of the screen and immediately access a given function. You can choose which function you want for each corner, functions include all the following:
– Raw Audio
– ISO Max
– ISO Min
– White Balance
– EV Comp
– Bit Rate
– Clips (choose 15 or 30-second snippets)
– Low Light
So, for reference if you look at the photo as the header for the next section, on the left side the following quick access buttons are configured:
Beyond that, all the remainder of the features are specific to either audio/video, or photos. So let’s dig a bit deeper.
For this section I’m mostly going to focus on what’s new around the video side of things, specifically around HyperSmooth 2.0 and Boost, but also the additional framing options as well as higher bitrate pieces. However, before we get too deep into that, if you’d like a complete comparison video of all the footage, then check out the below which has side by side bits against multiple cameras and multiple modes:
Starting with the base – you’ve got HyperSmooth 2.0, which lays the foundation for all the stabilization you’ll see on the Hero 8 Black. Previously HyperSmooth worked in resolutions up to 4K/60, but not in 4:3 for 4K. Now it does. In fact, it now works on every mode and every aspect ratio – including even 1080p/240FPS and 1080p/120FPS. When it comes to toggling it, by default it’ll be on, and Boost will be enabled as a secondary option.
However, if you open up the stabilization menu you’ll see there’s basically a slider to go between the different stabilization modes, including in fact HyperSmooth 1.0 as well as HyperSmooth 2.0 and Boost:
I could list off all the resolutions HyperSmooth 2.0 is available in, but that’d be silly because it’s every resolution. I haven’t noticed any major tweaks to HyperSmooth 2.0 versus HyperSmooth 1.0, nor any downsides. It seems about the same, though invariably GoPro says there’s some minor edge cases they’ve improved – but the main thing is just being available in all modes. And it’s worthwhile noting this includes the SuperView option in 4K, so you can do something like a chesty mount while mountain biking and get that really wide-angle look but still have it stabilized with HyperSmooth.
Where you get the biggest changes though is when you enable Boost, which is as the name implies – and additive to HyperSmooth 2.0. It crops in a tiny bit more, but not yet as much as the DJI OSMO Action. When you look at the available frame rates and resolutions for Boost, it’s kinda like those for HyperSmooth 1.0 – meaning you’re limited to 4K/30 (though, you can enable Linear mode in Boost).
When you toggle Boost on you’ll see the small round blue icon illuminated. No blue, no boost. Blue means boost. Be sure you’ve got the blue:
HyperSmooth Boost is supported in the following modes:
Note that in some modes – such as SuperView, you can’t enable Boost concurrently with specific frame rates – for example you can do 4K/30 Boost in Linear or Wide, but not SuperView. Now for all these modes it’s honestly better to see it in action than not – so here’s a massive compilation set. Further, I’ll be adding many of these clips into a Dropbox share for you to check out and download.
As you can see, the specific advantage that GoPro has over DJI here is really the ability to go wide and still be stable. In DJI’s case they crop in significantly, which for most action sports isn’t all that ideal. Sure, it’s better for vlogging type scenarios, but you could crop-in on the GoPro anyway (via Linear or Narrow modes) and achieve the same thing, while still going wide otherwise.
From a stabilization standpoint, you’ll most notice the Boost in moments where you have a big shock, it seems to handle that better. Further, it handles the rotational aspect better than a DJI OSMO Action, which sometimes has a slightly faked look to it (or, it jitters as it rotates).
Next up there’s the ability to enable High Bitrate for the Hero 8 Black in 4K and 2.7K modes, this bumps it up to 100 Mbps, from the usual ~67Mbps:
When you enable this you’ll see about a 75% increase in file size, for example, here are two files sizes from a Hero 7 vs a Hero 8, both at 4K/30 for a 2 min 31 second file:
Hero 7 Normal Bitrate File Size: 1.06GB
Hero 8 High Bitrate File Size: 1.75GB
I’ve added two comparative files to a Drobox share full of GoPro Hero 8 samples that you can take a look at. Also of note is that GoPro says they’ve slightly tweaked the coloring on the Hero 8, and while it’s mostly hard to see, you will see it in some specific environments where you’ll get very slightly richer and deeper colors with usually a bit less overexposure. It’s nowhere near as dramatic as the Hero 6 to Hero 7 shift, as the Hero 8 continues to use the GP1.
Next, probably one of the biggest changes for me is the availability of Linear mode in 4K – both 30FPS and 60FPS. In the case of 30FPS you can enable Boost with that, whereas for 60FPS it’ll be ‘just’ HyperSmooth 2.0. But realistically that’s still a pretty big bump. In particular I like using 4K/Linear for blending my footage from different cameras. For example on my InsideRide KICKR Accessory video a week ago, I used the 4K/30 with Linear option to fairly seamlessly blend ceiling footage (shooting straight down) with my DSLR and Mirrorless camera footage.
Now I’ve seen a bunch of questions on Linear mode and 4K in my YouTube video – so to answer the most common question: You can do linear 4K/30 or 4K/60, but in 4K/30 you get HyperSmooth Boost whereas in 4K/60 you do *no HyperSmooth* of any sort.
Next, there’s a minor but fairly useful tweak to TimeWarp, which allows you to configure an ‘Auto’ option. As you may know, TimeWarp is what the rest of the world calls HyperLapse, which makes a super silky smooth time-lapse while you’re moving, leveraging the unit’s accelerometers and gyros to ensure the positioning doesn’t have any weird jumps. With the Hero 8 you can now basically just set it as fire and forget, and it automatically shifts the speed of the video based on the content, rather than making you choose from a predefined list.
In my experience this is working mostly pretty well. Where it falls apart a little bit is super long TimeWarp’s, because you might want to consolidate what would be a really long trip into something only 5-10 seconds. I found the Auto option was really best for shorter duration bits. I included a few Timewarps in both the linked videos.
Lastly, on the hardware front, there’s the new front microphone, which is now directly on the front of the camera, versus the top placement of the Hero 7 Black. That’s in addition to the two other bottom and side microphones, however the front-facing microphone is the only one to receive an upgrade, specifically designed to further reduce wind noises. In my testing that seems to hold pretty true (see testing footage). GoPro also says that they’ve made some algorithm changes to assist that further, including also for quieter environments. Most of my testing though has been outdoors.
Next, we’ll shift over to the GoPro App to round out a few more items here. First is that there’s a new auto-leveling option for certain footage types. This allows you to one-tap level the scene if you had mounted it off kilter. It’s much easier.
The only downside here is that it doesn’t quite seem as smooth in the leveled footage as the source footage, as if the algorithms aren’t quite perfect yet. But given that’s an app-driven thing, it’s pretty easy for them to update that over time.
Also in the app is (finally) the ability to stream to YouTube natively. Previously you could do it with a manual RTMP connection, but that was a solid pain in the butt to set up and maintain. Now it’s just like Facebook was in the past in that you can choose it from the drop-down and then link your account.
Note though that YouTube does require you have 1,000 subscribers in order to commence a Livestream these days, so that’s probably going to be a limiter for a lot of people to actually use it. However, on the bright side – GoPro has upped the output resolution during streaming to 1080p now. So you can both stream and concurrently record a local copy in 1080p, whereas previously you could only stream in 720p. And for fun, if you were to pick up the GoPro Max, that also now allows you to stream in 1080p too.
Photo Mode Upgrades/Changes:
For the most part, tweaks to the photo section are fairly modest with the Hero 8 Black, however, of the two changes they did make – one is pretty substantial in my endurance sports eyes: Live Burst.
As you may be familiar with the concept on your phone (such as Live Photos on iOS), Live Burst is essentially the same thing on the Hero 8. When you enable Live Burst it will automatically be recording constantly in the background in a buffer. Then, when you press the record button it’ll capture 1.5 seconds before and 1.5 seconds after that button press, giving you 90 possible frames to pull from.
When you transfer the photos to your phone via the GoPro app, it’ll by default show you the photo for the moment of the button press, however, you can also then choose from any of those 90 photos from the video footage. Because it’s ultimately taking a short video clip – which is why you don’t get features like RAW mode on Live Burst. In fact, if you look at your GoPro Hero 8’s micro-SD card, you’ll see it just recorded a 3-second video, that’s it.
You can see below as I scroll through the first portion, middle portion, and back portion of this little clip from within the GoPro app, noting the frame numbers at the bottom:
In any event, once transferred to your phone you’re able to save it to your camera roll in one of two ways:
A) As a singular photo
B) As a short 3-second video clip
Note that in either case once transferred out of the GoPro app it won’t be a ‘Live Photo’ in the same way your phone would take one. You can’t long-hold to play it back and choose a different frame within the camera app (but you can in the GoPro app). Minor nuanced differences, but things to be aware of.
I’ve been lovin’ this feature for getting snippets for my runs and rides lately for Strava, especially since sometimes you don’t always get the exact second you want when you press the button. This definitely beats my previous method of shooting video, or shooting 0.5 second time lapses. Speaking of which, you can also set a delayed countdown/shutter on a Live Burst as well, for doing group shots or such.
The only other change in the photo realm is GoPro says they’ve enhanced SuperPhoto mode, specifically the HDR components, to reduce the chances of ghosting. Ghosting happens when it tries to compile multiple frames into a single photo and things don’t quite align, producing what appears to be Casper the ghost. In my testing I’ve yet to manage to get a ghosted image on the Hero 8 Black. Which isn’t saying you can’t do it, I just haven’t had the right conditions to trigger it yet. I’m sure eventually I will, but in nearly a month of testing I’ve been lucky thus far.
More visible though is the new HDR toggles that allow you to separately control the HDR enablement from the rest of the camera. Allowing you to specify: SuperPhoto, HDR, Standard, or Raw:
I suspect this setting is mostly coming from user requests to disable HDR more so than enable, primarily due to past ghosting. In my case I’m just leaving it for the auto SuperPhoto settings and have had pretty good luck with it determining the best settings for the lighting conditions at the time.
Finally, here’s a random gallery of photos taken on the Hero 8 Black. Like all my sample footage/shots, none of it is edited in any way, it’s straight off the camera as-is in a variety of lighting conditions.
Of course, typically most people will lightly touch-up or edit (brightness levels/contrast/etc…) their photos before posting them to any medium, myself included. So while some photos may not have perfect lighting – almost nothing you see online today is straight out of camera. You can look at my Strava pics from the last month to find mostly GoPro Hero 8 shots.
The Add-on Mods:
In some ways perhaps the most exciting feature on the new Hero 8 is actually features you’ve got to buy extra – the ‘Mods’ as GoPro calls them. Or basically, accessories. There are three mods at this point:
A) Light Mod: A 200 lumen light mod that’s waterproof to 1-meter ($49)
B) Media Mod: Side-mounted mode that includes a shotgun mic, 3.5mm mic port, HDMI port, USB-C, and two cold-shoe ports ($79)
C) Display Mod: A flip-out 2” color display screen display ($79)
In the case of the light and display mods, they have their own batteries and do not transfer battery power to or from the GoPro (somewhat of a disappointment to be honest, yet more things to charge).
Still, they do look cool – even if they’re basically offloading some features that I feel probably should be on the camera. For example, the forward-facing screen is something that DJI added with their OSMO Action, and is hands-down my favorite feature of that camera. And also the *only* reason why I continue to use that camera for some explainer type shooting while running or being on the go when I’m trying to talk to the camera. For every other feature I find the GoPro superior. So I kinda get the feeling this accessory mod is basically a stop-gap – perhaps something they cooked up this past spring when the OSMO Action announced.
On the flip side, while I do think there’s merit to having better 3.5mm mic connectivity via smaller attachments on the camera, I actually like how GoPro executed the concept and pricing of the Media Mod – and if it works well I’ll probably use it quite a bit. Especially if the shotgun mic is solid.
Now, you’ll notice I say ‘if’ a lot here. And that’s because at this point none of these accessories are available – and aren’t slated to hit retail until later this year – December specifically. There were no media test units, or even dummy samples to look at or photograph – which to me implies things are definitely a bit further behind the product development cycle there than normal for GoPro. But again, at least I think they nailed the pricing – though I think offering some sort of ‘Vlogger Bundle’ for a $100-$120 premium could do really well.
In any event – down the road I’ll definitely be doing a full standalone review of these once released.
I’ve added the GoPro Hero 8 Black into the product comparison table, so you can compare it to any action cameras I’ve reviewed, including the GoPro Hero 7 Black and DJI OSMO Action that you see below. If you want to compare it to other cameras from the past, you can mix and match and create your own product comparison tool charts here.
Overall the GoPro Hero 8 Black is definitely the recommended buy over the Hero 7 Black given the relatively minor price difference, no question here. However, I’m not sure there’s a huge reason for most people to upgrade from the Hero 7 Black to the Hero 8 Black. Sure, the stabilization is better and there are plenty of new tweaks, but unless you’re a video geek – the Hero 7 is a really solid camera already. Of course, given I fall into the video geek category, I’m already placing my order for the Hero 8, mainly so I can take advantage of 4K in linear mode with stabilization (so it blends better with the rest of my footage). I also am loving the Live Burst photo option to use on my Strava uploads (since getting the perfect shot while running/riding can be tricky).
On the flip side, the new battery door is absolutely awful, as is getting micro-SD cards out of it. And the removal of the HDMI port, however little I might use it, is also a bummer. While I think the new accessory mods are super cool – there is the reality that you’re now paying extra for something that was always there previously. Not to mention the fact that the mods won’t be available for months.
Still, despite my minor annoyances with some of the Hero 8 product design choices – I’ll definitely be using it as my main cameras going forward. I typically buy two of whatever my main camera is, and for me the benefits around stabilization and linear mode added with the Live Burst, are enough to convince me. Whereas, if I was asked by a friend whether or not to upgrade their Hero 7 – it’d be pretty unlikely I’d recommend that move (whereas I would say a Hero 5/6 is a substantial upgrade).
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