GoPro Hero 5 Black Review – 4K UHD Action Camera
GoPro’s 4K and HD action cameras are some of the best known devices of their kind on sale today and with good reason. Whatever financial problems the company behind them may be having with its stock prices and profit margins, it never stopped making some damn fine camera technology as far as we’ve ever seen. The GoPro Hero 5 Black is in no way an exception to this tendency. In fact, we’d argue that this particular tiny camera has taken all the very best aspects of its predecessors, improved them still further and crammed them into one awesomely tough little package that’s superb for fans of action ultra HD video even under the most rugged conditions.
Coming with a completely redesigned and much tougher exterior, the Hero 5 Black features every good thing you probably want or recognize in a GoPro action camera while also departing in some very crucial ways from the design of its predecessor the Hero 4 Black from 2015. Some of these changes are good and others not quite so much, as we’ll shortly see.
Let’s start with the Hero 5 Black’s design. Like its predecessors, this camera sticks to the same basic boxy form we’ve become used to. However, with the Hero 5 Black, the boxy shape is a bit more rounded off along the edges and definitely a bit more robust thanks to a rubberized outer skin over certain key parts of its form. This obviously means that the camera is going to handle bumps, bangs and being dropped a bit better while at the same time also being easier to hold firmly so that you actually don’t even drop it and bang it against random objects in doing so. The dual protection against accidents with the not-so-cheap Hero 5 Black that these design aspects offer is quite useful indeed.
Another part of the Hero 5 Black’s redesign that we do love is a newly included in-camera waterproofing that’s worth its name. Unlike its predecessors, or many other 4K action cameras this little action shooter comes ready right out of the box for immersion in up to 10 meters (about 35 feet) of water. This of course isn’t quite as good as the 30 meter immersion that the Hero 4’s external case allowed (it doesn’t fit on the Hero 5’s body either, but more on that below) but one major benefit of the Hero 5’s waterproof body is that you can take underwater video with audio quality that doesn’t sound utter crap recorded from inside a bucket. The waterproofing features of the Hero 5 Black include reinforced watertight covers for its ports and while these do make the camera’s ports, battery, MicroUSB slot and so forth harder to access on the go, the camera safety factor they impart when you’re swimming in a coral reef or slogging through mud and heavy rain does offer some piece of mind.
Moving on to other favorable aspects of the Hero 5 Black’s redesign, we come to the camera’s touchscreen. This is one area where the new camera departs heavily from what its predecessors offered in that some of the old and rather clumsy physical button controls of the Hero 4 and others have been replaced by menu navigation and shooting control via touch. Thus, you can use the touchscreen much like you’d use a smartphone display to handle camera menu items, turn features on or off and bring up your gallery of previously recorded photos and videos. Other settings like video stabilization, resolution control, photo format switching and so forth can also be handled by touch quickly and much more easily on the move. On the other hand, for those who still want them, the physical shutter and mode buttons are still built into the Hero 5 black like they were in the Hero 4 camera. The Hero 5 Black’s 2 inch touchscreen isn’t big, given the compact size of this camera but it’s good enough for using the new Hero rapidly and easily.
One other aspect of the new touchscreen design that we love in the Hero 5 Black is how it lets you capture and frame photos or video without having to rely on an external smartphone app. This means a much easier and smoother shooting experience while also letting you compose better shots in conditions where you really wouldn’t want to be carrying your fragile, not-so-waterproof phone along with you. The Hero 5 also offers physical control for pretty much all of its newfangled touchscreen features so if you’re not feeling so agile with the tiny 2 inch LCD display, using this shooter remains the same as using the Hero 4 if you want it that way. Then, for the more adventurous, the Hero 5 also comes with voice controls. These are a bit limited but it’s nice to be able to have the camera turn on, start recording a video and so on just by talking to the device.
Finally, while we’re going to cover it in further detail down below, we have to mention the single most important aspect of the Hero 5’s benefits. This is of course its ability to shoot photos and video. This little camera naturally enough excels at both things to about the same degree of quality that the Hero 4 Black did but in this case you get a couple of neat new twists. Thus, the new Hero camera comes with the same ½.3 CMOS sensor and 4K video recording at 30fps. several other video resolutions like 2.7K, 1,440p, 1,080p, 960p, 720p and 480p are all available in their own distinct frame rates with a max frame rate of 240fps for some very high quality slow-motion video. Photo stills can also be taken in the same 12 megapixel image size that was the case with the Hero 4.
The real tweak to the GoPro Hero 5’s video recording abilities however is this camera’s new electronic image stabilization technology. This is a feature that sets the Hero 5 Black apart from all of its predecessors and it allows you to stabilize video recordings as they get processed by the camera’s sensor. The resulting footage is reasonably smoothed out and if you combine the EIS with a gimbal for physical image stabilization, the Hero 5 undoubtedly delivers some of the most stable video we’ve yet seen from a GoPro shooter.
Finally, we’d also like to mention that the Hero 5 Black camera offers a superior level of battery performance to its predecessor and that its CMOS sensor seems to handle low light video and photo shooting better than did the sensor in the Hero 4 Black. Both of these are what we’d call very welcome improvements for outdoor recording of almost any type.
4.4 - 427 Reviews
On the other hand, the Hero 5 Black does have a couple of fairly minor defects that are worth mentioning. None of these are what we’d call deal breakers but they can get annoying.
For starters, the same physical redesigns that make the GoPro Hero 5 Black such a tough and coolly different looking little camera also might seriously piss off some owners of numerous older accessories for previous Hero camera designs. The main example of this is the redesigned body. Any effort to cram this new model into the waterproofing cases of previous Hero models apparently doesn’t work regardless of how hard we try and while the Hero 5 is waterproof without a case, some Hero 4 accessories would have been nice to use with this latest GoPro model.
Another less than ideal aspect pf the Hero 5's design has to do with the touchscreen itself. Yes we like it and we definitely appreciate the way in which it simplifies and speeds up using the camera in the field with its intuitive navigation menus but after a bit of use we started to notice a bit of a delay in how it responds to touch commands. This happens particularly with switching across special settings, changing shooting modes and with photo shooting. The touchscreen controls always work, they don’t simply freeze or fail to respond but that tiny delay creates an overall feeling of sluggishness that gets irritating.
In any case, if you don’t like the touchscreen or your fingers feel a bit too big to use it with agility, the physical buttons on the Hero 5 are still there to let you do almost anything the screen allows.
Finally, coming down to the quality of video and photos captured in the Hero 5, both are slightly better than those of last year’s Hero 4 due to this camera’s superior low light shooting capacity but the GoPro Hero 5 suffers from the same basic issue of slightly muted color saturation that we’ve noted in other Hero cameras from time to time. Noise in low lighting is also still there in this camera, though it’s definitely lower than what you’d get in the Hero 4 when the camera is being used in a poorly lit place.
The GoPro Hero is a wonderful piece of photo and 4K video recording technology. Overall, this shooter is not only superbly built and robust, it’s also tough, flexible and offers an even better experience than what we got with the Hero 4 Black. It’s flaws are completely minor sorts of things and the benefits of using a Hero 5 completely outweigh them. Specifically, we can’t name a definitively better outdoor action camera at this time.
• 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 (24/30fps), 2.7K (24/30/48/60fps), 2.7K 4:3 (30fps), 1440p (24/30/48/60/80fps), 1080p (24/30/48/60/80/90/120fps), 960p (60/120fps) 720p (30/60/100/120/240fps), 480 (240fps)
• Max recording resolution: 4K (30fps)
• Time lapse mode intervals: 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, 60s
• Video recording media: microSD
• Audio: 48KHz stereo
• 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
• Battery life: 1h 45m
• Dimensions (HxWxD): 44.5x62x32mm
• Weight: 117g
The GoPro Hero 5 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 SanDisk 64GB Extreme PLUS UHS-I microSDXC Memory Card.
4.4 - 427 Reviews
The overall performance of the GoPro Hero Black is not exactly perfect but it’s definitely better than that of its predecessors. Basically, you’ll get all of the best aspects of all the other GoPro Hero cameras on the market stuffed into a single rugged piece of outdoor recording technology and as a result this camera deliver the best overall level of recording and action endurance quality possible right now from anything by GoPro or for that matter just about any other action camera brand available at this time at this price. The Hero 5 is an excellent piece of performance technology for users who are serious about outdoor action recording and don’t want a camera that’s likely to fail at a crucial moment. We do think that the Hero 5 could have been given some slightly better battery life, since it can record for a maximum of only 1.45 hours when used in its non-UHD resolutions but buying an extra battery unit will fix this problem quite nicely.
Overall, the video and photo quality of the Hero 5 is great. The 4K recordings look superb and wonderfully sharp with very little image shake and the level of fish-eye in this particular camera is fairly low by action camera standards thanks to the new linear field of view feature that GoPro built into this Hero 5 version. We’d even say that at fish-eye reduction, the Hero 5 Black performs better than its predecessors. Color saturation in video recordings is definitely on the muted side but the overall effect isn’t anything that will spoil your day, especially not if you have access to some decent editing software. Furthermore, the color mute is more of a problem if you’re recording in lower light and under cloudy conditions. For recording in a brightly lit space or on a sunny day, the camera delivers very little color weakness and much less any noise. One thing we would have loved to see is 4K resolution finally available in a Hero camera at 50fps or more. This was something that had been rumored for the Hero 5 Black but as it turned out, this shooter sticks to the same 24/30fps shooting speeds of its older cousin the Hero 4 Black.
We should note that if the EIS (electronic image stabilization) is activated at any resolution for which it’s available, it will crop out about 10% of the video specs as part of its functionality. So if you’re able to use a gimbal to keep the camera stable while shooting, it’s probably better to use the EIS as little as possible if you want full pixel shots. On the other hand, the Hero’s EIS does actually work pretty well, so if you don’t happen to have a gimbal for manual image stabilization, leaving it on constantly is worth the 10% loss of video pixels. We should however note that EIS doesn’t work at 4K resolution.
Moving onto photo quality, the Hero 5 Black does a great job of delivering clear, crisp and brightly illuminated still images. Colors are also fairly vibrant and the level of color saturation for still shots is notably better than it is during video recording. Low light still photos generally also look very good though we have noticed a bit of fuzziness in slightly darker scenes, especially in shadowy spots in a photo composition. Furthermore, because the GoPro Hero 5 Black comes with the RAW photo recording that a lot of users would have probably loved to see in earlier GoPro models, editing of photos is much easier at a more professional level.
GoPro’s Hero 5 Black action camera is selling right now at a fairly reasonable price of $399.99 for the body-only package with the essential extras we mentioned above in our “accessories” section on Amazon.com. Then there’s also an “Adventure Bundle” available for $3. This little package includes a Head Strap Camera Mount for GoPro and a SanDisk Extreme 32GB SDHC UHS-I/U3 Memory Card.
4.4 - 427 Reviews
• Superb, rugged physical construction
• Built-in waterproofing down to 35 feet (10 meters)
• Excellent 4K video and 12 megapixel still shots
• Electronic image stabilization
• 2 inch LCD touch screen for easier controls
• Multiple video resolutions and reduced fish-eye effect
• Video color saturation still a bit muted
• Battery could use a bit more life
• Incompatible with some Hero 4 accessories
• Some touchscreen controls are sluggish