Tech improvements these days are usually measured in millimeters instead of milestones. With smartphones you expect a slightly better resolution, maybe some USB-C charging, and added waterproofing is nice, but nothing truly transformative. The same can be said for action cameras, the 2018 Hero, Hero6 Black, Hero5 Black, Session, and so on are all small improvements, but the Hero 7 Black is something much, much bigger.
The new top-end GoPro camera, the Hero 7 Black has a feature that will make people pay for the $400 upgrade: inside the otherwise normal looking Hero is a top-notch stabilization system. When testing, GoPro PR didn’t give up details about how much of that stabilizing magic is achieved through digital software or optical sensors, but the results speak for themselves. The Hero 7 turns your once chaotic, Cloverfield-esque action video into footage worthy of a David Attenborough commentary.
The result is video that eliminates our annoying and largely subconscious micro-motions. Normally, on a motorcycle, tilting my head down to quickly check the speedometer would translate to a distractingly abrupt camera shake. With the Hero 7’s stabilization, the camera remains focused on the road. Footage that should look like an earthquake instead looks like a speeder ride in Return of the Jedi.
That stabilization, which GoPro calls HyperSmooth, benefits another mode called TimeWarp, GoPro’s time lapse setting. The camera records video, then speeds it up to add drama to otherwise mundane scenes—stars passing through the sky at night, a train station, flowers blooming. The title sequence on House of Cards is a good example. It’s a feature best reserved for DIY videos or for documenting your next road trip.
Besides HyperSmooth video, I also because obsessed with a feature called SuperPhoto. This is basically a high dynamic range (HDR) system, in which the camera takes several exposures of the same photo and combines the best elements of each one, creating one exceptional image. The results won’t replace your midrange mirrorless camera, but they are more than capable in a world where smartphone photos reign.
To round out the specs, the Hero7 can shoot 4K at 60 frames per second, or 1080p at 240 frames per second for some slow-motion fun. The Hero 7 can also live stream, so you can toss up a feed on Facebook Live (with intermittent video quality) while saving a full high-res version to the SD card. It’s a lot of camera for $400.
That also means this is a camera built for serious adventurers or photography pros. For an enthusiastic amateur like me, filling my cloud storage or my phone with huge video files just meant more work maintaining storage. In the end the cheaper $200 Hero ticks enough boxes even if I give up 4K quality and some next-level stabilization tricks. Really I just need a GoPro to go places where my much more expensive smartphone can’t.
But if your life is making video, then the GoPro Hero 7 is a camera worth your consideration. It may not be as revolutionary as the original GoPro, but it’s the first time GoPro made a camera worth lusting after.