Written by Craig Rhodes-Harrison
In October 2016, GoPro unveiled the new HERO5 camera platform consisting of the HERO5 Black and HERO5 Session. On surface level, one might think that it’s just a costume change however when you dive into it, the HERO5 range has so much more on offer and a lot more bang for your buck.
As per GoPro’s naming convention, the HERO5 Black is the flagship model of the range and for all intents and purposes, it’s an all-out powerhouse that scales to suit the needs of both personal and professional use.
New And Improved:
Getting into it, the launch of the HERO5 Black saw the continuation of the previous high spec photo (12MP) and video modes (4K) however a few noticeable new additions were also thrown into the mix namely: voice control, built in EIS, touch display, GPS and advanced audio.
Voice Control is often seen as a gimmick however it’s safe to say that they thought this one through. The HERO5 Black supports ten languages and twelve different commands which include the likes of changing camera mode, triggering the shutter button and highlighting those awesome moments during the action.
The voice control range is around 3 metres however it is affected by wind and loud background noise levels. Still, there are very few occasions when it’s in your hand or mounted on or near your body that it doesn’t pick up voice commands. One just needs to speak slowly and clearly for best results.
The built in EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) is another new feature and possibly the most noticeable for those shooting video. In videos, most shaky movement comes from the outsides of the field of view so essentially EIS shoots a higher resolution (4K) and then cuts off 10% of the sides providing you with a smooth video at the resolution of your choice (up to 2.7K). How cool?
The announcement of the 2-inch touch display brought a lot of stoke to the previous HERO4 Black users however some felt the HERO4 Silver touch display was overly complex. Thankfully GoPro took the general feedback into account as the HERO5 Black’s new and improved menu system is clear, logical, user friendly and responsive to touch in most conditions bar under water.
GPS is another new feature added to the HERO5 Black however the initial launch just saw the GPS feature used for geo-tagging photos and videos. Months later, GoPro released telemetry via their Quik for desktop app which allows users to add speed and mapping gauges to their HERO5 Black videos. A nifty feature indeed however one does tend to wonder if there’s more in store for the GPS feature. Let’s hope so.
The last new feature to talk about is advanced audio which supports both auto and pro-tune modes. Auto mode drives the camera to automatically select between stereo and wind reduction for optimal sound whereas in pro-tune mode, the HERO5 Black allows you to manually choose between stereo and wind reduction. The pro-tune audio files also save out separately for that higher level of professional editing. The level of manual audio control is impressive but perhaps not something that everyone will use.
Design And Build Quality:
Unlike the previous models, the HERO5 Black is waterproof up to 10m as is and therefore does not need a protective or waterproof housing. The HERO5 Black sports a matte grey finish with a durable rubber, outer shell as well as a removable glass lens and two side doors which house the charging ports, SD card and battery.
When it comes to size and weight, the HERO5 Black is lighter than previous models (in their casing) as well as slightly more compact and rounded in shape. Durability seems to be on point although the rubber shell does show scuff marks after considerable switching in and out of mounts. The lens and touch display are surprisingly scratch resistant.
On the overall, the design and build quality of the HERO5 Black is right up there with its performance. It’s slick, durable and more compact than ever which bodes well for the GoPro evolution.
Photo And Video Performance:
In photo mode, the HERO5 Black offers the same 12MP performance as the HERO4 Black. The same standard modes of single photo, time-lapse mode and burst mode are also there, however they can now be activated via voice control e.g. ‘GoPro Burst Mode’ or ‘GoPro take a photo’. All the above-mentioned modes have pro-tune options where one can manually adjust the EV comp, ISO and colour of your images. That is nothing new however the nice touch here is that there is a live preview of the setting changes via the touch display.
When it comes to photo quality, the main difference between the HERO5 and the HERO4 does not necessarily come in a change in resolution but rather via the new photo modes of RAW, WDR and linear. In a nutshell, RAW presents a separate and larger JPEG file that allows one to access and unlock more detail in the image using third party editing software systems. The everyday GoPro user won’t need this however professional users will appreciate this.
WDR (Wide Dynamic Range) is used to improve shadows and even out the over-exposed spots which presents users with a well-balanced photo. Note that both RAW and WDR are only accessible in photo mode and not time-lapse or burst mode. Lastly, linear mode allows you to remove the fisheye angle normally seen in all GoPro photos which is great for shooting portraits.
Left Image: Normal, Right Image: WDR on
Left Image: RAW on, Right Image: Linear Mode
Moving on to video, the HERO5 Black offers the exact same shooting modes as the HERO4 Black however the built in EIS makes a world of difference by presenting super smooth imagery. Take a look at the difference between EIS turned off and EIS turned on. Impressive right?
As for the battery life, due to the increased battery size, the HERO5 Black lasts longer than the HERO4 Black although it’s still advised to only use the Wi-Fi when truly needed. When shooting at 4K resolution the HERO5 Black will deliver between 60 – 90 minutes of life per battery depending on the surrounding environment conditions (heat etc).
The Complete Package:
For those that were wondering about whether your favourite mounts from previous cameras still apply, the answer is yes. In addition to that, there are a bunch of new mounts that have come out however we will cover those in a separate review.
The launch of the HERO5 platform saw a significant shift in making their cameras and software simpler and easier to use. They succeeded in doing that with the HERO5 Black however they also overhauled their original ‘GoPro app’ and labelled it Capture which is now the key to getting that content off your camera and onto the world-wide web
On top of that, GoPro has also recently launched two other mobile editing suits, Quik and Splice. Quik is also available on desktop however its primarily a mobile device platform that automatically assists in putting together short edits that are themed and synced to music. Splice is only available on mobile however it is the app for those that want a little more manual control of their edits.
To wrap things up, the GoPro HERO5 Black is as good as the hype surrounding it. GoPro took what needed improving on their previous models and packed it into a new camera that is lighter, far more powerful and even slightly cheaper than its predecessors - now that’s what I call progression!
The HERO5 Black is not a faultless canvas however it’s damn close and with its improved ability to satisfy both personal and professional users, it’s a powerful tool that anyone with a need for photo and video content should consider at the top of their list.
If you’re interested in more GoPro HERO5 Black content then swing by Craig's personal Instagram account (@craigrh_) for more GoPro content.