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GoPro Hero 6 Black 4K UHD Action Camera, An In-Depth Review

by on November 8, 2017
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Overview

GoPro’s 4K and HD action cameras are some of the best known devices of their kind on sale today and with good reason. They excel in their market niche like almost no other competitor. Yes, they’re on the pricey side (though the older Hero 4 4K models are now quite affordable and still great) but they deliver the goods for the dollars and cents you spend on them, very effectively. The new GoPro Hero 6, finally released in late 2017, takes this manufacturing quality to its ultimate peak so far. The new UHD action camera is without a doubt the best that GoPro has yet built in certain key ways.

However, the new shooter looks pretty much identical to its Hero 5 predecessor and aside from the “HERO6” label, you’d be hard pressed to find any way of distinguishing the two at a glance. On the one hand this is pretty handy since all your existing Hero 5 accessories (assuming you’d bought one) will fit the Hero 6 Black just fine but on the other hand, just seeing a camera which looks so similar might turn someone off towards buying it over the cheaper Hero 5. Well, we can fairly definitively say that the newer model contains a lot more than a first glance would suggest and its features/specs distinctly outshine those of the Hero 5. We’d actually go so far as to argue that they make the device worth the extra $100 it’s going to cost you.

Yes, the Hero 6 Black comes with its small share of defects and some of these are annoyingly identical to those we saw in the Hero 5 Black last year but its new enhancements certainly compensate nicely.

 Positives

  • Awesome [email protected] and [email protected] shooting speeds
  • Fantastic electronic image stabilization
  • Visuals on photo and video are better than ever
  • Mobile app is great
  • Tough, weather resistant design
  • Fits GoPro Hero 5 accessories
  • Much faster WiFi transfer

Negatives

  • 4K shooting drains power and memory
  • Controls still a bit clumsy
  • Pricey 4K action camera

GoPro Hero 6 Black 4K UHD Action Camera In-Depth Review

Bottom Line

There’s no denying the quality of the new 2017 GoPro Hero 6 4K UHD action camera. The company behind it has outdone even its already great 2016 Hero 5 model (which we reviewed here) and we’re definitely impressed. This little action camera heavily improves on its predecessor and for serious outdoor action shooting pros, we absolutely recommend it for its hardiness and performance. However, if you just want to fool around with some casual 4K UHD action video shooting from a gimbal, drone or via mounting, we’d recommend something cheaper unless your budget is broad..

GoPro Hero 6 Black 4K UHD Action Camera In-Depth Review

The Good

Whats good about the GoPro Hero 6 action camera? Well, plenty of stuff. This new model is genuinely and more than just modestly superior to its Hero 5 Black predecessor in at least a couple of very important ways and they make a big difference for professional users in particular. In between these, there are of course all the other good aspects of the Hero 6 that it shares with its older cousin. They’re as great as ever or ever so slightly better than they were in the Hero 5. Here are the key goodies that you’ll get if you pay the roughly $100 extra that this model costs over the 2016 version.

Design and Durable Build

First and most fundamental, there is the build of the GoPro Hero 6. The Hero 5 was one hardy little 4K UHD action camera and this model sticks to a good thing that’s been shown to work. In other words, the Hero 6 is physically, externally identical to the Hero 5 in all the good ways that we liked about the original. It’s robust, feels tough and genuinely delivers on hardiness and it’s also waterproof down to 33 feet (10 meters). This is probably more than enough depth protection than most users besides pro scuba divers will need but if you happen to be one of those serious under water recording enthusiasts who needs something more robust, the Hero 6 also has an available Super Suit external housing which will keep it nice and safe down to a solid 200 feet of depth, or 60 meters.

Going back to the Hero 6’s design, being the same as that of the Hero 5, it’s just as small and as transport/mounting friendly as its predecessor was. Everything’s snugly packed into the little lightly rounded body of the shooter to an impressively compact degree, with controls, LCD display, microSD slot and battery bay all snugly against each other in a way that lets you easily use the camera while saving a maximum on space. We’re quite frankly impressed with how much GoPro has packed into such a tiny form factor, in terms of both hardware and raw photo/video power, as we’ll get to shortly.

This of course brings us to a more fundamental benefit of the GoPro Hero 6’s design. Since it’s identical in small size and form to the Hero 5, all of your existing Hero 5 accessories will work just fine with it. Furthermore, because the accessory landscape for the older camera has had over a year to develop, there are plenty of useful additional tools to choose from for this little 4K action camera.

Major 4K & HD video recording enhancements

GoPro Hero 6 Black 4K UHD Action Camera In-Depth Review

Moving beyond the basic benefits of the Hero 6’s design, we come down to the features which most make this ultra HD action shooter stand out as an exceptional choice and as a serious improvement on the Hero 5. Specifically, we’re talking about the Hero 6’s truly massive improvements in video recording formats of all types. While the Hero 5 could grab ultra HD footage at 30FPS and 1080p video at 120FPS, the new model completely doubles all of these specs, allowing for truly smooth, professionally recorded 4K footage and some extremely slow-motion-friendly 1080P HD video. Thus, with the Hero 6, high quality slow motion smoothness can finally escape the slight graininess of 720p resolution and become legitimately sharp. As for 120FPS recording, this has been reserved for 2.7K video. This is a particularly great frame rate spec for those of you who might want something more than the sharpness of Full HD but without veering into the memory gobbling storage weight of full 4K video.

Video and photo improvements

The new GP1 processor core inside the GoPro Hero 6 doesn’t just facilitate all of that high frame rate shooting at different HD and ultra HD resolutions. It also improves image and video quality, and shooting across the board. For starters, there is the Hero 6’s Quick Story feature, which we’ll get to shortly and a new touch-to-zoom functionality which you can use to smoothly shift field-of-view during recording itself. It’s essentially an action camera version of zoom lenses on camcorders but in a digital form and it can be used to quickly crop images in certain resolutions.

GoPro Hero 6 Black 4K UHD Action Camera In-Depth Review

As for inherent photo and video quality, both are excellent in the Hero 6 at all resolutions and GoPro has made a visible effort to create a superior level of HDR and color performance in all shots with this model. The improvements distinctly show and the Hero 6 records with a consistently better dynamic range and even more notably, at least as far as we noticed, with much more visibly better color performance. Quite simply, the colors are just richer in the Hero 6 than they ever were in the Hero 5 and this amounts to better video or photos right out of the camera under any normal recording settings at any of the Hero 6’s resolutions. On the other hand, because the Hero 6 is definitely better in the color and dynamic range departments, it can more easily over expose video during daylight shooting, so keep an eye on the EV as you record. We’d recommend keeping it at minus 0.5 in sunny daylight conditions.

The Hero 6 also delivers some slight improvements in how well it handles low light shooting, though we didn’t see as notable a difference in this regard as we did with color refinement between Hero 5 and Hero 6 models. One low light performance spec which has been majorly improved is the maximum exposure time for low light conditions. In the Hero 6 it’s set at 10 seconds, whereas it was limited to just 2 seconds in the Hero 5. This definitely makes a difference for still images. One top of all of the above though, we come to the next truly major improvement offered by the Hero 6 over its predecessor, it’s far superior image stabilization.

Definitively Better image stabilization

The image stabilization of the Hero 6 4K action camera is one area in which it absolutely shines. EIS in this model works in all resolutions, including 4K (in the Hero 5 it didn’t work at all for 4K shooting, which was a real bummer) and on all three axes in the wide field of view. The image stabilization feature of the Hero 6 is quite probably the best we know of in today’s action camera market and we’d even go so far as to say that it works almost as well as an actual physical gimbal underneath the camera. That’s bloody impressive and all the more so because its available not just for high frame rate 1080p video but also for 4K and 2.7K modes in this little action camera. We should also note here however that this fantastic electronic image stabilization technology works in 4K only up to 30fps and 1080p at up to 120FPS, and that it does crop images by about 10% when used.

GoPro Hero 6 Black 4K UHD Action Camera In-Depth Review

Photo Recording in the Hero 6 also needs to be at least briefly mentioned for its quality. Quite simply, we loved it as much as we did the video recording of the Hero 6. The Hero 6 does still shots at a 12 megapixel resolution just like its predecessor and it’s also capable of single shot, burst and time-lapse shooting modes. These are all what we already saw in the Hero 5 however with the 6, you also get a new High Dynamic Range mode and the benefit of the same color enhancement we saw in the video recording for this camera. In other words, while we certainly don’t recommend the Hero 6 primarily for photo shooting, it does the job really well for a little action camera.

Connectivity Enhancements

On a final note, with all the major improvements to photo shooting, video frame rates, video quality and GDR additions found in the GoPro Hero 6, you’d probably worry about just how easily these files can be transferred out of the little camera via WiFi. Well, GoPro has taken this into consideration and made the process as simple as they could by integrating a much more powerful 5GHz band card that allows for transfer speeds for videos and photos which are three times faster than what was possible in the Hero 5. Moving giant 60FPS 4K UHD videos, 120FPS 2.7K files and even 240FPS 1080p files is still slow and annoying but it’s not quite as annoying as it could have been. We call this a benefit.

GoPro Hero 6 Black 4K UHD Action Camera In-Depth Review

Check the Price of the GoPro Hero 6 4K UHD Action camera on Amazon:
 

The Bad

The Hero 6 also isn’t without its moderate share of flaws, though noe of them are what we’d call deal breakers if you want a really powerful, well-built action camera and are the kind of person who looks for the best in this market.

The Price

First and foremost, the little camera is bloody expensive. At a current (at the time of this writing) retail list price of $499.99, the Hero 6 4K action camera costs the same as many very decent mirrorless 4K UHD cameras and even some DSLR models with UHD recording. For something as small as an action camera, that’s a steep price indeed and might be hard to stomach for many buyers. If anything it means that you might want to go for the Hero 6 only if you really have a pressing need for the best action recording video quality available right now. Otherwise, if you’re a casual user, the Hero 5 and even possibly the Hero 4 Black will both deliver great video at considerably lower cost. Other affordable options like the Yi+ 4K action camera even offer the same 60FPS 4K video recording and some very decent video quality as well while costing quite a bit less.

Video size problems

We mentioned above that GoPro has given the Hero 6 a new 5GHz WiFi interface which makes transferring large files 3 times easier than it was before. This is true and it’s great but that doesn’t mean the Hero 6’s video files are now a piece of cake to offload. The 4K/60FPS hype around the camera means easy capture of great video but it doesn’t mean easy transfer of said footage. Most users will probably want to stick to 4K at 30FPS and 2.7K at 60FPS while also shooting 1080p at 120FPS despite the higher potential in the new Hero. It’s also worth noting that the HEVC codec for compression of UHD and other video formats in the Hero 6 is a fairly new thing, so if you’re moving files from this camera to older laptops or PCs, they might just bog down in actually playing it back for review or editing. The same goes for older smartphones being used to grab the Hero’s higher resolution, superior compression files.

GoPro Hero 6 Black 4K UHD Action Camera In-Depth Review

 

The above video size problem also affects this GoPro camera’s QuikStories software. GoPro installed it here (Just as it did in the Hero 5) to make in-camera edits of video easier to perform as needed but due to those above-mentioned large sizes, the actual practice of this basic editing is a pain in the ass sometimes. Even when shooting 4K at 30FPS and then cutting out the unnecessary bits through QuikStories, it can still take as much as twice a video clips runtime to handle a transfer to another device.

This brings us to the Hero 6’s 2 inch LCD touch screen and its controls for reviewing video and adjusting settings. Using them on such a tiny display isn’t terrible but it’s also not exactly smooth either. In this case the otherwise great feature of the camera being so compact works decidedly against it. Luckily however, there is an iOS/Android GoPro app for the Hero 6 camera and it makes video editing and camera control a bit easier to handle. Furthermore GoPro has given the Hero 6 an expanded voice command feature which has to be manually activated but which allows for the use of 12 basic voice commands that you can speak (or shout if you prefer). These include phrases like “GoPro start recording”, “GoPro take a picture” and so forth, all of which make the camera do its thing right away. You can even turn the camera off with voice command or command it to go into a sort of hibernation mode in which it will save battery juice while waiting for you to say “GoPro turn on”. This feature will shut off and completely power down the Hero 6 if you don’t use it for 8 hours.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the GoPro Hero 6 is probably the single best action camera available today and it’s fantastic in its general specs. However, the Hero 5 was also great and the Hero 6’s biggest selling point, which is its expanded recording frame rates is something that most people neither need or would much like dealing with due to the file size issues we mentioned. That leaves the new Hero’s improved photo and video quality and its superb image stabilization. The photo/video enhancements are not quite as stunning as GoPro paints them to be (though they are notably better than what we saw in the Hero 5 Black) and we don’t think they fully justify this camera’s price. Thus, the video stabilization is the new aspect of this new camera which most makes it worth buying for most users. Even then however, the majority of casual action camera buyers would probably be better off spending less on a Hero 5 or something else.

That said though, for those who want the best for their professional needs, the Hero 6 is absolutely worth its extra $100 cost and if any 4K action camera sold today is unlikely to disappoint on performance, it’s this one.

GoPro Hero 6 Black 4K UHD Action Camera In-Depth Review

Check the Price of the GoPro Hero 6 4K UHD Action camera on Amazon:
 

Specs

  • App control: Android, iOS
  • Sensor: 1/2.3in CMOS
  • Sensor pixels: 12,000,000
  • LCD screen size: 2in
  • Video recording format: MP4
  • Video recording resolutions: 4K (24/30/60fps), 2.7K (24/30/48/60/120fps), 1080p (24/30/48/60/80/90/120/240fps),
  • Max recording resolution: 4K (60fps)
  • Time lapse mode intervals: 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, 60s
  • Video recording media: microSD
  • Maximum still image resolution: 4,000 x 3,000
  • Memory slot: microSD (not included)
  • Data connections: USB Type-C, Micro HDMI input
  • Battery type: Li-ion
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 44.5x62x32mm
  • Weight: 117g

Accessories

The GoPro Hero 6 comes with a number of basic accessories right in the box. These include the camera’s frame, a single rechargeable battery, a curved adhesive mount, a flat adhesive mount, a mounting buckle for completing the camera’s mounting accessories for all sorts of devices and surfaces and a single USB cable.

Of course we’d also recommend getting yourself an extra battery unit, a head strap for shooting while walking and if possible, getting a shooting pole, gimbal of some kind and if you really feel like splurging, buying a couple of other important mounting devices such as the GoPro suction cup and a GoPro large tube mount. Two further obligatory accessories that don’t come included are the microSD memory card you’ll need to store photos or video and an HDMI cable for quicker transfer of videos (especially 2K and 4K videos). A good example of this last would be something like a 64GB or higher high bitrate Memory Card.

GoPro Hero 6 Black 4K UHD Action Camera In-Depth Review

One thing we like about the Hero 6 that’s worth mentioning is its complete compatibility with all Hero 5 Black accessories. Thus, if you have a bunch of those lying around from your previous purchase, you can save yourself some money on buying new extras. This wasn’t quite the case for users who upgraded from the Hero 4 Black and the considerably different Hero 5 model.

Overall Performance

As we made abundantly clear in the sections above, the GoPro Hero 6 offers a truly premium level of overall performance nearly across the board. Its biggest flaws lie not in taking photos and videos, which is both easy and excellently achieved, but in actually maneuvering them over to other devices for editing and practical use. This is where the otherwise superb new high frame rates of the Hero 6 fail a bit, particularly for 4K video at 60FPS. This of course is not really the cameras fault but it does mean that users who want the best footage quality in the higher resolutions will have to show a bit (or more) patience to get their finished product ready.

GoPro Hero 6 Black 4K UHD Action Camera In-Depth Review

In all other respects, the Hero 6 is marvelous and we’d argue that it’s worth its price if you’re dedicated to serious action recording or fantastic slow motion 1080p video. The camera’s video and photo quality enhancements for HDR, superior color and low light performance aren’t as big as GoPro would like you to think they are but they’re definitely there and notable. Furthermore, for fans of low light action shooting in particular, the new 10 second exposure time limit is quite handy in this camera. As for the Hero 6’s electronic image stabilization, we’d argue that it’s the camera’s single most excellent feature, offering stability which nearly rivals what you’d get from a full-blown physical gimbal underneath the camera. The EIS does have some slight floating frame issues when the camera stops moving but this is a very minor effect.

Finally, the GoPro Hero 6 is as robust as you’d expect from a flagship GoPro camera after the Hero 5. It’s sturdy, tough, and highly resistant to just about any weather conditions except maybe for extreme cold and it even offers plenty of depth tolerance for full submersion in water.

To really summarize, we’d argue that the camera is unnecessarily expensive for casual users, who could get perfectly decent performance from cheaper models like the Hero 5 or rival cameras like the Yi 4K action camera and the Hero 6’s real closest rival, the Yi 4K+ (which also offers 4K video at 60FPS but costs about $160 less), but if you need a rugged, serious outdoor action camera, this is your model. Handling it is smooth and it’s only in the transfer of its best possible UHD video formats where the Hero 6 bogs down a bit.

Pricing & Availability

GoPro and all associated retailers are now selling the Hero 6 4K UHD action camera for a general price of $499.99. There are small variations among retailers and the cheapest price that it can be bought new for at the time of this review is $474.99 from Amazon.com. Check the link below to see if this is still valid or if it’s been changed in any way (prices on Amazon can vary based on sales offers).

GoPro Hero 6 Black 4K UHD Action Camera In-Depth Review

Check the Price of the GoPro Hero 6 4K UHD Action camera on Amazon:
 

 

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