Best GoPro Ever

Review by Erik Vlietinck

The GoPro HERO9 is a beast. It has a bigger battery and the inevitable somewhat bigger body, a front-facing LCD screen, and a removable lens cover. Its capabilities are just as competition-crushing with 20-megapixel (MP) photos, video maxing out at 5K30, and the 23.6-MP sensor enabling frame grabs of 14.7-MP. In addition, HyperSmooth 3.0 can be enabled so all settings can have gimbal-like performance, and TimeWarp 3.0 has an enhanced speed ramp to slow action to real speed with audio, or half speed while recording. If you’re not drooling by now, how about Horizon Leveling that works like magic and, my personal favorites, HindSight and Scheduled Capture. Oh, and Webcam mode is thrown in for good measure. 

The HERO9 puts you in full control and goes beyond the camera as such. With its 5K resolution, you can edit your footage better than what you could with a 4K clip, including stabilization and the ability to better frame the shot, inclucing framing yourself, etc. 

The camera does it all with gusto and precision. I can tell from experience with the HERO2, 3, 3+, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 that the current HERO9 Black has the capabilities, the quality of output, and the features to go far beyond where other action cameras have gone and are going. It’s become a true creative tool for anyone shooting anything from casual video to a carefully managed film project, from simple action footage to B-camera functionality, or shooting a documentary that requires the camera to activate itself and shut itself down again. 

HindSight captures the 30 seconds before you hit the record button. Of course, it’s the camera that records continuously, throwing away anything that has passed 30 seconds, only to save those when you hit the Record button. And, of course, that eats away at your battery, but it’s a surefire way not to miss anything from an unpredictable event that you absolutely want to have “on tape.” 

One real boon is the combination of Scheduled Capture and Duration Capture. When you schedule a recording, you can set a duration of as little as 30 seconds or as long as three hours. And if you want the camera to keep recording until it either gets too hot or runs out of battery power, you can do that too. 

With TimeWarp 3.0, you can simply tap the screen while recording and your video will slow down to real speed with audio. It’s kind of baffling when you see the results, as it does work brilliantly. 

HyperSmooth 3.0 includes a new Linear + Horizon Leveling lens in-camera for smoother and straighter shots. That lens is spectacularly good at what it’s supposed to do, which is keeping shots level with the horizon without introducing any sort of artifact. For example, if you’re aboard a boat on a rough sea, the boat can yaw, pitch, and roll its heart out, but the horizon will stay level long after your stomach gives up. With the optional Max Lens Mod ($99.99), other digital lenses can apply this trick as well. 

By the way, the Max Lens Mod doesn’t sit over the built-in lens with protection cover. The latter can be removed, as you could with the HERO7. You can therefore also replace the protection cap with ND filters from PolarPro, which are for sale on GoPro’s website (that’s if they’re not out of stock, of course). 

Last but certainly not least, the HERO9 is the first GoPro camera that comes without plastic packaging and with a hard carry case. ■