HERO9 Black 5K Video 20MP Streaming Camera

The GoPro Hero 9 Black is now available.

The GoPro Hero 9 Black has just been launched, along with a couple of significant upgrades over its predecessor: 5K video recording, a front-facing display, and a new HyperSmooth 3.0 stabilisation feature. And, as it turns out, we have some good news for our readers.

The GoPro Hero 9 Black is now available! While the official GoPro site lists the new action camera as “out of stock”, we’ve spotted an event announcement on GoPro ’s Facebook page — with full pricing details, as well as a couple of freebies for early bird buyers.

About this item

  • 5K Video – Shoot stunning video with up to 5K resolution, perfect for maintaining detail even when zooming in. Packing a new 23.6MP sensor, HERO9 Black brings lifelike image sharpness, fluid motion and in-camera horizon leveling.
  • 20MP Photo with SuperPhoto – Capture crisp, pro-quality photos with 20MP clarity. And with SuperPhoto, HERO9 Black can automatically pick all the best image processing for you, so it’s super easy to nail the shot.
  • Front Display + Rear Touch Screen – A new, larger rear touch screen with touch zoom on HERO9 Black should feel instantly familiar and a dazzling new front display makes for easy framing and intuitive camera control.
  • Live Streaming + Webcam – Live stream in 1080p on social, get HyperSmooth stabilization as you broadcast via the GoPro app and save footage to your SD card to check out later. Connect HERO9 Black to your computer to broadcast in 1080p full HD.
  • HyperSmooth 3.0 – Experience ultimate smoothness with our most advanced video stabilization ever. HyperSmooth 3.0 enables in-camera horizon leveling and boost in all settings.
  • Horizon Leveling – In-camera horizon leveling (up to 45% tilt) is now possible with the new Linear + Horizon Leveling digital lens—helping your footage stay stable and straight.
  • TimeWarp 3.0 – Record mesmerizing time lapse scenes as you move on the road, on foot or anywhere else. Speed Ramp is a new capability that lets you select Real Speed (now with audio) or Half Speed while recording.
  • Rugged + Waterproof – Shoot in the gnarliest conditions imaginable. HERO9 Black can take it. It’s tough as nails, and waterproof down to 33ft right out of the box.

Two-minute review

Update 16/9/20: GoPro has released some new firmware for the Hero 9 Black, which could resolve some of the slight issues we found with its touchscreen interface and auto exposure – we’ll update this review as soon as we’ve tested it fully.

The GoPro Hero 9 Black is the most powerful and versatile action camera you can buy, but collectively its new features don’t provide quite enough real-world benefits over its predecessor to justify the price.

The two biggest upgrades are its new sensor and front display. That new 23.6MP sensor shoots 5K video that does deliver slightly more detail than the Hero 8 Black, in the right conditions. 

But perhaps the bigger benefit is to its electronic stabilization, with the Hero 9 Black able to provide HyperSmooth Boost – GoPro’s strongest stabilization – in all shooting modes. This makes it a top performer for those who demand high-quality 4K (and 5K) video.

Design

  • New 1.4-inch color display on the front is useful for vloggers
  • Redesigned body is around 10% bigger and heavier than Hero 8 Black
  • Larger rear display isn’t as responsive as previous GoPros

The Hero 9 Black is the biggest redesign of GoPro’s flagship action camera since the Hero 5 Black, and the results are mostly positive (with a few caveats).

There are three big physical changes from the Hero 8 Black: a new 1.4-inch color display on the front, a beefier body (to house its bigger battery), and a larger rear 2.27-inch rear touchscreen. 

Collectively, these new features feel like a response to the DJI Osmo Action, a fresh-faced rival that in some ways made GoPro action cameras feel a little dated. In some ways, the Hero 9 Black still does, and that’s partly because the new features all come with slight downsides.

First, the good news. That 1.4-inch color display on the front is definitely a handy new addition for vlogging. It thankfully isn’t touch-sensitive, otherwise your memory card would quickly fill up with lots of unhappy accidents, but it does provide a live video preview of your scene and some useful shooting info.

Being a square display, it certainly isn’t quite in the same league as the side-hinged screens seen on cameras like the Sony ZV-1, or your smartphone’s screen when mounted on gimbals like the DJI OM 4. While the latter give you a generous live preview of your whole shot, the Hero 9 Black’s is more of a rough guide. It’s enough to make sure your face is going to be in the frame, at least.

Previous GoPros have all had monochrome displays, which show shooting info like the remaining battery life, how much space is left on your memory card, and your current resolution/frame-rate. Not quite as exciting, but certainly more practical if you don’t shoot a lot of videos to camera.

Features

  • New 23.6MP sensor brings 5K/30p video and 20MP stills
  • This also helps boost its electronic image stabilization
  • New features trialled in GoPro Labs are built into the Hero 9 Black

GoPro’s special sauce has long been the combination of its class-leading HyperSmooth stabilization, first seen on the Hero 7 Black, and clever software features like TimeWarp. While the Hero 9 Black improves on these features and broadens its versatility, it doesn’t really introduce one killer reason to upgrade from the Hero 8 Black.

Not there aren’t some significant changes under the hood. GoPro flagships have had 12MP sensors going all the way back to Hero 3 Black in 2012, but the Hero 9 Black takes the radical step of pushing this resolution up to 23.6MP with a new sensor. This allows it to shoot 5K/30p video and take 20MP stills, while also supporting the more powerful HyperSmooth Boost stabilization mode (which crops your footage by 25%) in all resolutions and frame-rates.

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Video and image quality

  • 5K video is the most detailed on any GoPro
  • Hero 9 Black’s footage looks more processed (out of the box)
  • Resolution supports cropping of both video and stills

The GoPro Hero 9 Black shoots some of the best video and stills you can get from an action camera, but it isn’t a huge upgrade over the Hero 8 Black.

The new 5K/30p mode certainly captures more detail than any other GoPro flagship, particularly when you switch to the high 100Mbps bit-rate mode. File sizes also aren’t noticeably bigger thanks to the use of the efficient HEVC codec in some modes, although they can very demanding on your computer.

But if you’re mainly looking to shoot videos to watch on smartphones or social media, then the extra resolution probably won’t be hugely noticeable. Even on a 4K monitor, you’ll only be able to see a significant increase in detail when cropping or pixel peeping. Of course, having the option to crop can be useful, but it’s worth considering whether or not you’ll realistically need this.

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Should you buy the GoPro Hero 9 Black?

Buy it if…

You need rugged, waterproof vlogging camera

The Hero 9 Black’s front LCD is one of its main benefits over earlier GoPros. This doesn’t make it the perfect vlogging camera, and alternatives like the Sony ZV-1 offer better quality, but if you need one that can survive outdoor adventures and sea dunkings, it’s the best around.

You want the most versatile GoPro ever

Other GoPros offer better value for those who simply want to shoot travel videos and stills, but the Hero 9 Black is the best all-rounder of the bunch. Handy new features like HindSight, scheduled captures and the webcam mode all make it the most versatile pocket camera around. 

You demand maximum resolution

The Hero 9 Black’s 23.6MP sensor and 5K video mode aren’t unqualified successes and not everyone will benefit from their improved resolution. But if you shoot for the big screen and need a  tough B-cam to go into places that your dedicated video camera can’t reach, then it could be the best GoPro for you.

Don’t buy it if…

You already have a GoPro Hero 8 Black

The Hero 9 Black’s new features aren’t collectively a big upgrade on its predecessor, which is compatible with most of the same Mod accessories and is a very solid performer. Even Hero 7 Black owners might consider it an unnecessary upgrade, unless they need a front LCD for vlogging.  

You’re looking for a bargain action camera

GoPro’s flagships have never been the cheapest action cameras, but the Hero 7 Black now offers the kind of value that makes the Hero 9 Black look a little pricey. Unless you need all of the latest features, you’ll find its two predecessors offer better bang for the buck.

You’re unlikely to need its rugged, waterproof powers

There’s a certain comfort in knowing that your camera can take pretty much all the abuse that’s thrown at it. But if you tend to shoot most of your video away from action sports, there are better pocketable vlogging options, including the DJI Osmo Pocket and Sony ZV-1.

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