GoPro’s Hero 9 Black is not the latest GoPro camera on the market. But, it might be one of the best investments.
Before we review the latest GoPro Hero 10 Black, we bring you the more affordable but almost equally impressive Hero 9 Black Camera. It’s a serious contender for Christmas dollars this year.
I’ve been using GoPro’s since they were boasting about being 720p at 60fps. If you can work out which GoPro that is, you might have more of a GoProblem than I do. It’s the Hero 3 Silver Edition. Duh!
Like many, I upgraded the little action camera almost yearly, cycling through Hero 3 Silver, Hero 3+ Black’s, 4’s, 5’s and the furthest I’d gotten before now was the Hero 7 Black.
The 3’s are still in a drawer somewhere. Probably next to a few iPod Nano’s. I expect they’ll be worth some big bucks one day. I’ll be wrong.
Rejoining the GoPro bandwagon – not that I ever truly left – I was astonished by the performance of the GoPro Hero 9. Before diving into that performance. Here’s a few of the specs that are especially eye-catching. You might need your own specs to be sure your eyes aren’t deceiving you.
- Video: 5K30, 4K60, 2.7K120, 1440p120, 1080p240 and more
- Photo: 20MP
- New 1.4” front color display with live preview and status modes
- Larger 2.27” rear touch display with touch zoom
- 30% more battery life than HERO8 Black with improved cold weather performance
- Advanced video stabilization from HyperSmooth 3.0
- Waterproof to 10m (33ft)
- Detachable lens + mod compatibility to customize + get creative
- TimeWarp 3.0, 8X Slo-Mo
- RAW in All Photo Modes
- Night Lapse Video (hello stargazing/camp timelapses!)
- Built in mounting with unfolding ‘fingers’
- Digital Lenses (SuperView, Wide, Linear + Horizon Leveling, Linear, Narrow)
There’s about 3 times as many techy dot points on the GoPro page, but, you get the gist. There’s a lot going on inside that little box.
Speaking of which, how compact is it really?
The Hero 9 takes the learnings from all previous GoPros and packages them into a 158g camera. If you haven’t seen a GoPro in a while, they no longer require the clunky plastic housing to go underwater and the Hero 8, 9 and 10 all now have frameless mounting with folding fingers that tuck away neatly into the camera when not connected to any mount.
Basically, they’re a lot more discrete and inconspicuous than they once were. A miniature handheld camera – until you attach it to an obnoxiously long selfie stick, if that’s your M.O.
The 9 is also the same size as the new 10 and for once, they both share the same battery which is a breakthrough in itself.
For all their similarities, the most compelling reason to opt for the 9 over the 10 is simply price.
With the advent of the Hero 10, the Hero 9 saw its RRP of $699.95 discounted to $549.95.
I originally hoped to use this camera in the snow this season. Suffice it to say, I live in Sydney, so that didn’t quite happen…
Instead, I swapped the summit footage for some sea, and under-sea level content. I’ve taken it snorkelling with me at Sydney’s Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve. As my gripe with GoPro’s has always been their performance underwater — a reason why I upgraded to an Aquatech underwater housing to accommodate a Canon 5D Mark IV — I wanted to see how the latest sensor and 20 megapixel stills held up.
While it’s obviously not going to rival the quality of glass within a Canon L-series lens which I used to shoot the underwater photo essay, the GoPro performed very admirably indeed. It’s also a hell of a lot easier to swim with than a near 5kg DSLR and housing combo…
The latest cameras like the Hero 9 and 10 have upgraded processing and metadata to automatically improve auto white balance, colour rendering and colour grading. It means the colour profile underwater is much more accurate. The fish that look yellow underwater, look yellow on the screen.
The Hero 9 is waterproof to 10m (33ft) without a plastic housing — although you can buy a housing to extend its depth range to 60m. Gone are the days of slipping little bits of absorbent paper in between the housing and camera to stop fogging (I’m looking at you Hero 3).
Shuffling between video and photo settings it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the range of modes the new GoPros offer. It pays to do some research before heading out there and defining what frame rates and lens profiles you want to use — e.g. wide angle, narrow, linear — because GoPro seriously lets you do it all.
I found that shooting video is a reliable way to never miss the shot, considering you can pull very high quality still frames from the cinematic film (when shooting in 5k).
Another go-to is shooting in the burst mode which allows you to tailor the amount of frames desired and over what timeframe. For example, while photographing fish or surfing, I’d go with something like 30 frames in 3 seconds (30/3) to account for movement. You can get super specific though with a whole range of options: 30/10, 30/6, 30/3, 25/1, 10/3, 10/1, 5/1, 3/1.
I’d suggest dialling your settings on dry land. While it’s possible to cycle between the modes underwater, it’s not the easiest — especially for those of us with big ole button mashing digits.
In fact, it’s actually possible to fine-tune presets and lock the screen, so you’re not taking a 30 second time-lapse when you think you’re shooting in burst mode (clearly, I have been there and it can result in a lot of ugly selfies as you question ‘is this thing on?’)
You can then toggle between the presets by holding the shutter and mode button simultaneously.
Packaging & Extras
One of my favourite low-key features of the latest GoPro’s is the actual packaging it arrives in.
Where the early 4’s and 5’s arrived in a plastic display box that looked great but wasn’t functional after you opened it, the 9 and 10 comes in its own padded travel case – with compartments galore.
GoPro CEO Nicholas Woodman has alluded to the effort to reduce waste and said, ‘’Reducing as much plastic as possible from our business is a priority for us.’
‘We’re excited to package HERO9 Black in a high-value travel case instead of traditional wasteful packaging, and we’re committed to doing the same with the rest of our cameras by the end of 2021.’
If you want a high quality GoPro without the price tag of the latest and greatest, the Hero 9 is a very smart investment.