With the latest GoPro being the HERO9 you may wonder what is the reason for this review. After careful consideration in purchasing a camera to record hikes and other long-form adventures, I was put off by numerous reports of the HERO9 crashing during recording.
The HERO8 still holds up compared to the 9 and there’s not much between them. So I took the plunge and made the purchase and (spoiler alert) if you want a camera that can take some abuse and still give you great results the HERO8 definitely performs.
The last time I owned and used a GoPro was on a backpacking trip eight years ago, I lost it in a Thai waterfall when I stupidly thought the head-mount would stay strapped to my noggin during a jump into the rapid waters below. Back then the GoPro was only waterproof when clipped into its plastic housing and the buttons were huge.
The lens still looked like HAL but there was no screen on the back. In those early days, the GoPro cemented its iconic look in a similar way to the Mark 1 iPod.
A Lot Has Changed
My first impression of my new HERO8 was that the camera’s original strong points are all still there but with huge improvements and a much slicker look. The light little camera is now a lovely dark shade of grey and is waterproof straight out of the box up to 60m, if you don’t already dive, this action camera is practically begging you to start.
The buttons are responsive as hell and have a few cool features. You can set the record button to power up the camera and record instantly for quick-fire filmography. The power button also lets you cycle through filming, photography, and timelapse mode.
Then there’s the screen. Wait there’s a screen? Yes, not only is there a tiny 1.95-inch screen but it’s also a touchscreen. The screen is incredibly responsive and has been well optimized to touch meaning you always get the feeling the camera “knows” which button you pressed or how far you scrolled despite feeling like you are a giant poking a tiny child’s camera.
You’ve Got Options
One thing you may often find yourself messing about if you are a budding amateur filmmaker like myself is film settings. There are a plethora of options that the complete noob may find slightly overwhelming (YouTube is your friend).
For a start, there’s a range of resolution options that can take you all the way up to 4K. If you plan on shooting in 4K which is all I shoot in, I would recommend getting a 256GB Micro SD card (the biggest supported card) which has gone down in price significantly thanks to the rise of solid-state media.
The GoPro is famous for its wide-angle lens, but not every video demands that extreme sports/party look. You can now film in Linear, Wide, or SuperView. Linear is the best for achieving realism but SuperView will look incredible when filming exciting moments where the is a boatload of information to convey like festival crowds (when they return).
One of my favorite features is GoPro’s software-based gimbal-killer. This is of course the famous HyperSmooth feature. I am using my GoPro to film walking and running videos and HyperSmooth does an incredible job of leveling out your footage and getting rid of that unwanted camera shake. I noticed recently that it doesn’t work so well in low light conditions but some experimentation with ISO settings could improve this.
For easy point and shoot when making videos for family and friends using GoPro’s built-in color pallet is a great shout but you also have the option to shoot videos flat if you plan on color grading the footage yourself with third-party software.
Small But Tough
I am filming a lot of my videos in coastal North Wales and on mountains in the Snowdonia National Park. Because this wind is a foe I have to face regularly and is a potential video killer, it’s a well-known fact that people’s patience for bad audio is much shorter than video.
Thankfully the Hero 8 gives you options for wind reduction on the built-in mic (this is a camera designed to be strapped to motorcyclist’s helmets after all). I stick with the auto function and it has done an amazing job so far of keeping the wind noise down with zero distortion.
For serious shooters, you will find most of the options you would expect on a professional camera, shutter speed, bit rate, ISO, White Balance, and many more. With a bunch of preset profiles to choose from the GoPro is as serious or as fun as you want it to be.
That’s what I really love about this camera, the presets. You can edit them to your heart’s desire and then flip between them fast so you waste less time fiddling and get straight to capturing your content.
My only gripe so far with the camera is a very small niggle and that is the inability to give your presets custom names. Maybe GoPro was apprehensive to put a touchscreen keyboard on such a tiny screen, they could have at least used a letter scrolling system like on name select screens in the retro games of my youth.
You’re stuck to using their list of titles such as “Epic”, “Snow”, “Travel” and so on. This is honestly the only negative point I can find about the camera though and it doesn’t even bother me that much.
I am doing the majority of my filming in 4K and unlike horror stories I keep hearing about the HERO9, I have never had a crash. I regularly film videos over an hour-long, like most modern cameras the Hero 8 automatically slices footage to allow for better optimization and in the unlikely event of a crash, less footage is lost.
Do be aware though that the battery life when filming at 4K with HyperSmooth enabled will not get you past the 60-minute point. Thankfully though the GoPro does allow you to plug in a power bank and run directly off that, however, this does compromise the camera’s waterproof feature.
For a camera that could fit in a pocket of the skinniest jeans, the quality of footage it puts out is truly mind-blowing. With the addition of HyperSmooth and the GoPro’s vivid built-in color correction it really is a must for any adventurer that would like to make some memories.
It’s the perfect entry camera into the world of outdoors filming, with the wide-angle lens it’s pretty hard to not capture what you want. It’s also a tough little guy and waterproof to boot and even if you did manage to kill it, it doesn’t break the bank either when compared to the rest of the camera market at the 4K level.