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GoPro Hero 9 Black review: The action camera, redefined

Posted by Anuj Bhatia | New Delhi |

October 26, 2020 12:33:44 pm


The latest GoPro Hero 9 Black has a front-facing color screen and can record 5K videos at 30 frames per second. (Photo credit: Anuj Bhatia / Indian Express)

Acton cameras are nothing new. Those who need one, already own one and are expanding the segment have become particularly difficult for the market leader GoPro. And that’s why the Hero 9 Black opens up a new front by appealing to vloggers. The latest GoPro has a front-facing LCD screen and the ability to record videos up to 5K resolution at 30 frames per second or take 20 megapixel photos. At 49,500 rupees, the GoPro Hero 9 Black is more expensive, but is it a better device for creating vlogs? We’ve been testing the GoPro Hero 9 Back for the past few days to find out.

GoPro Hero 9 Back Review: Design and Build

On the surface, the Hero 9 Black hasn’t changed in terms of design, and that’s a good thing. It looks like the GoPro I was expecting and is small enough to fit in my pocket. The outer frame is made of metal, with rubber on the edges and on the front. It has a tough build and is made to survive drops. It’s also waterproof up to 33 feet.

Like its predecessor, the Hero 9 Black has integrated mounting clips – these can be easily folded into the floor and are attached magnetically. My test device included a mounting base and screw, as well as other mounts.

GoPro Hero 9, GoPro Hero 9 Review, GoPro Hero 9 Price in India, GoPro Hero 9 Sale, GoPro 9 Hero Specifications, GoPro Hero 9 Features The 1.4-inch color screen, while small, can be very useful for vloggers and YouTubers. (Photo credit: Anuj Bhatia / Indian Express)

Of course, there are visible changes when you compare the Hero 9 Back to the previous generation models. For the first time, GoPro has added a front-facing color LCD screen for capturing self-shots. The 1.4-inch color screen, while small, can be very useful for vloggers and YouTubers. The logic behind the front screen is to give users a preview of their shots and correct the frame as needed.

GoPro Hero 9, GoPro Hero 9 Review, GoPro Hero 9 Price in India, GoPro Hero 9 Sale, GoPro 9 Hero Specifications, GoPro Hero 9 Features The outer frame is made of metal, with rubber on the edges and on the front. (Photo credit: Anuj Bhatia / Indian Express)

The Hero 9 can also be used as a high-resolution webcam. On a Zoom call, I found it better than my laptop’s built-in webcam. I don’t know how many people will be using a GoPro as a webcam – but it can be very useful for professional gamers who like to broadcast the gameplay to millions of followers.

Then there is a front-facing microphone on the Hero 9 Black. It picked up my voice clearly while I was making a selfie video. On the back there is a 2.27-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 320 × 240. It’s a bright display and I had no problem viewing the recorded videos or changing settings, even in direct sunlight.

The power supply is on the left and the record button is on the top. The side button also toggles between three capture modes – video, time-lapse, and photo. The battery, the USB-C charging port and the microSD slot are in the same compartment.

GoPro Hero 9 Black review: mods

One of the best things about a GoPro action camera is the ecosystem of “mods” that attach directly to the camera. There is a wide variety of mods to choose from, ranging from display mod to max mode. Display mode adds a fold-out color screen, while a “Max” mode offers some of the Hero Max for Hero 9’s best features. The third is the Light-Mod, a battery-operated LED light. The fourth mode is media mode, which adds a directional microphone, HDMI video out, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

GoPro Hero 9, GoPro Hero 9 Review, GoPro Hero 9 Price in India, GoPro Hero 9 Sale, GoPro 9 Hero Specifications, GoPro Hero 9 Features For the first time, GoPro has added a front-facing color LCD screen for capturing self-shots. (Photo credit: Anuj Bhatia / Indian Express)

GoPro Hero 9 Black review: user interface

I haven’t seen a camera (including professional DSLRs) as simple as the GoPro Hero 9 in terms of usability. There is no learning curve involved and using the Hero 9 is as easy as turning on the camera. You’ll need to use the touchscreen on the back to change settings like resolution and set a frame.

GoPro Hero 9, GoPro Hero 9 Review, GoPro Hero 9 Price in India, GoPro Hero 9 Sale, GoPro 9 Hero Specifications, GoPro Hero 9 Features On the back is a 2.27-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 320 × 240. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia / Indian Express)

Hero 9 supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to connect the camera to the phone. It also has a GPS to help pinpoint its location. The action camera works with a free mobile app that must be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. The app essentially allows you to share the photos and recorded videos you have taken on your phone and comes with an easy-to-use built-in editor. I particularly liked the GoPro Quick App, which essentially creates “stories” based on highlights from your videos. This is a great option for vloggers (especially those into fashion and tech) who want to share quick videos without getting into any serious issue.

GoPro Hero 9 Back Review: Lots of Video Recording Options

Hero 9’s video recording ability is amazing. You can now record videos up to 5K at 30 frames per second. I don’t think I’ll ever record videos at 5K, but I’m glad that at least the feature is available. Recording videos in 5K is nothing short of magic for professional videographers and travel bloggers. Remember, you need a computer that can decode 5K videos. Plus, you’ll need to buy a much larger SD card. The 32 GB memory card that came with the Hero 9 is insufficient.

GoPro Hero 9, GoPro Hero 9 Review, GoPro Hero 9 Price in India, GoPro Hero 9 Sale, GoPro 9 Hero Specifications, GoPro Hero 9 Features The good thing about the Hero 9 is that you can record videos in 4K at various frame rates. (Photo credit: Anuj Bhatia / Indian Express)

For the review, I recorded most of the videos in 4K and 1080p. The good thing about the Hero 9 is that you can record videos in 4K at various frame rates. I’ve found that the image stabilization on this model is a huge improvement over previous generation models thanks to GoPro’s third version of the GoPro’s stabilization technology, HyperSmooth 3.0. With HyperSmooth 3.0 you get impressively blur-free videos. And in some extreme cases, when you find that more stabilization is needed, just use the Boost option.

Of course, you can also record slow motion videos with the Hero 9. If you drop to 1080p, the frame rate will increase to 240 frames per second.

GoPro Hero 9 Black rating: image quality

Another nice trick up the sleeve of the Hero 9? Take 20MP pictures of 12MP. Yes, you can record 20 MP still pictures in JPEG or RAW. The images are sharp and the colors warmer – but I didn’t notice any noticeable noise in the photos I took. In fact, I was surprised to see the quality of the pictures taken with the Hero 9. While I can’t say the picture quality is as good as that on the iPhone 11, the pictures on a smartphone look sharp and vivid. Still, I’m happy to see that an action camera can capture still images that can compete with many smartphone cameras.

Here are some of the still images I took with the Hero 9 Black

GoPro Hero 9, GoPro Hero 9 Review, GoPro Hero 9 Price in India, GoPro Hero 9 Sale, GoPro 9 Hero Specifications, GoPro Hero 9 Features (Photo credit: Anuj Bhatia / Indian Express)
GoPro Hero 9, GoPro Hero 9 Review, GoPro Hero 9 Price in India, GoPro Hero 9 Sale, GoPro 9 Hero Specifications, GoPro Hero 9 Features (Photo credit: Anuj Bhatia / Indian Express)
GoPro Hero 9, GoPro Hero 9 Review, GoPro Hero 9 Price in India, GoPro Hero 9 Sale, GoPro 9 Hero Specifications, GoPro Hero 9 Features (Photo credit: Anuj Bhatia / Indian Express)

GoPro Hero 9 Black Test: Battery Life

The battery life of the Hero 9 has been improved. The camera now uses the new 1720 mAh cell, an improvement over the Hero 8’s 1220 mAh cell. What does that mean? To give you some perspective, I got around 1 hour 30 minutes of battery life when recording in 1080p. I find it very difficult to give you the exact battery life as these results depend on different modes and functions.

GoPro Hero 9, GoPro Hero 9 Review, GoPro Hero 9 Price in India, GoPro Hero 9 Sale, GoPro 9 Hero Specifications, GoPro Hero 9 Features The power supply is on the left and the record button is on the top. (Photo credit: Anuj Bhatia / Indian Express)

GoPro Hero 9 Black Review: Should You Buy It?

This year’s Hero 9 dwarfs every action camera produced by GoPro to date. You will find real improvements in the Hero 9 such as the use of a front-facing screen through self-recording, a removable lens cover, the ability to record videos at 5K, capture stills at 20 MP, and the popular HyperSmooth 3.0 stabilization. At 49,500 rupees, the Hero 9 remains a tool for professionals – but this time, GoPro is after vloggers and YouTubers who have the money to upgrade to a new flagship camera. The Hero 9 also faces major challenges from devices such as the iPhone 12 Pro and the Sony ZV1 vlog camera.

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