The new edition of the GoPro, the Hero7 Black, promises video as steady as a drone. For real? Jefferson Graham checks it out.
Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY
MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Who hasn’t marveled at watching amazing video footage from a drone soaring through the skies, without hitting any bumps?
Drone footage is as smooth as it gets, and now GoPro wants you to buy its new camera, saying the Hero7 Black edition is as smooth as a drone. What’s missing, of course, is the added weight of the 3-axis gimbal that accompanies the drone and steadies the shot.
The $399 Hero7 Black, out September 30, is the same tiny size as past GoPro cameras. Instead of using a gimbal, it uses software to steady the shot. Is it as smooth as a drone? No. Not even close.
Is it smoother than the previous edition, the Hero 6? Yes. Are the new features a major addition and worthy of an upgrade? Definitely.
GoPro is a company that has been struggling over the past few years, as smartphones have all but replaced camera use for most shutterbugs. The firm shed 20 percent of its workforce earlier this year, and has been awash in red ink.
But for the Hero7 Black, the engineers still in place did a marvelous job using software trickery to smooth out the footage. The GoPro has always been an awesome tool to capture surfing, cycling, motor sports and other action activities, but the dirty little secret about the tiny cameras is that 80 percent of the footage was shaky. (If a camera is attached to a surfboard in an aggressive ocean, how could it be anything but jerky, right?)
GoPro did a good job of adding image stabilization on the 6 camera. But us video editors still had a lot of trimming to go to excise the shakes.
We got our hands on an early review copy, and brought the Hero7 Black on a roller blading and cycling expedition. Here’s the deal: once I got a groove on, the footage was markedly steadier, as you can see in the accompanying video. But if I went over a bump, duh, the camera went bump too. You’ll still need to edit out the bad stuff.
With the 7 Black, GoPro is eliminating the current cameras in its lineup, (goodbye Hero 6, Hero 5 and Hero) and selling just three models. Also new are the Hero7 Silver ($299) and Hero7 White ($199.) The Silver and White have the stabilization features of the previous Hero 6, and the White doesn’t shoot in 4K, but maxes out at 1080p.
Beyond the stable images, a really awesome new feature for the Hero7 Black is called TimeWarp which brings motion to time lapse videos. The basic time lapse is a static shot of the world zooming by at top speed. Now, GoPro takes the same concept, and lets you walk or run down the street with it. Again, see an example in the accompanying video. (The Silver and White don’t have TimeWarp.)
Photo features touted include something called SuperPhoto promising richer colors and sharpness, but in my tests, I didn’t see much of a difference from regular photo mode.
The Black edition, which I tested, was more of a battery hog than previous models, running out in less than an hour. I recommend picking up another battery or two with the Black.
The smartphone era has made phones great for selfies, snapshots, group photos and landscape images. I’m a big GoPro user mainly for time lapses, because while smartphones also let you make them easily, GoPro’s tools are even simpler, and the quality difference is night and day, as far as I’m concerned.
GoPro has been struggling as action fans already had their camera, it’s been surmised, and saw no reason to upgrade. But if you’re going to hang the camera off the car, as I did the other day in Pismo Beach, California, while driving the dunes, off a skate or surfboard, atop a bike or some other amazing location, the Hero 7 Black is hands down the best camera GoPro has come up with, and a worthy upgrade.
About the Hero 7 Black:
Pro: Great image stabilization, simple menu, sharper images than before.
Con: Battery life is too short, pricey.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
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