I’ve always wanted a GoPro, but for one reason or another I never bought one (mainly because I didn’t think I’d use it). So this review is a first hand experience of using the GoPro Hero 9, and coming at it from a first time user as opposed to a GoPro veteran user.
I’m going to go over the best new features, the pros and the cons and why I’ve finally bought one. So if you’re like me, and you’ve never owned a GoPro before, this might be of interest to you.
I opted for the bundle as it came with a few extra accessories including a hand grip, a floating clip and a spare battery. I’d read that these eat through batteries so thought I’d best go for an extra one.
Price wise it can be a little confusing if you buy direct from GoPro, as you can buy it with and without the yearly GoPro subscription, but it works out cheaper overall if you buy it with the subscription. I’ll cover what’s included in the subscription later.
So it’s either £430 or $450 for the camera with no subscription, compared to £330 or $350 which includes a year subscription. Then the bundle is £50 or $50 more.
What’s great about the GoPro 9 is they’ve done away with the plastic packaging and replaced it with cardboard. The hard case itself acts as the packaging, which actually looks pretty nice.
The whole purpose for getting a GoPro is to record footage, and the Hero 9 does not disappoint.
It records in 5K at up to 30 fps, 4K at up to 60 fps, 2.7K at up to 120 fps and 1080p at up to 240 fps.
When it comes to recording, there are several lens modes available, these are SuperView at 16mm, Wide at 16-34mm, Linear at 19-39mm and Narrow at 27mm, They all give a different field of view. To swap between the different lenses, you just tap the icon on the screen, and slide the bar up and down.
One of the reasons I wanted the GoPro was to replace me using my iPhone when I shoot on UltraWide. But even on the limited testing I’ve done so far on the GoPro, it’s far better quality than the iPhone at 16mm, which is great.
Next up the photo quality. So the GoPro 9 is packing a new 23.6 MP sensor, which is incredible for a camera of this size. It’ll take still JPEG photos at 20 mp using various options including SuperPhoto, Standard and HDR. It also has RAW photos available, which means you can edit your photos even further without losing any data.
The photos are really nice too, I was genuinely surprised at how good it was.
The front facing screen is probably one of the biggest new features this year, something that the previous versions haven’t had.
This is one of the main reasons I held off buying in the past, and it nearly led me to buy the DJI Action Cam instead.
This little screen allows you to see what the camera sees while you’re looking at the lens. This is obviously perfect for vlogging or talking to the camera, not something I do often, but it also means I can now set the camera up without needing to view the rear screen. For me this will be perfect for doing in-car driving shots, where I can look over my shoulder and see what is in frame, without having to get into the back seats and check.
When it comes to using the camera, it’s pretty straight forward. There’s a power button on the side, which you press and hold to turn it on or off, or you tap it to cycle through the different modes, including Photo, Video and Timelapse.
Then on the top there’s the record button, again one quick tap and it’s recording or taking photos.
One thing I noticed, that was pretty cool, was if the GoPro was turned off and I pressed the record button, it woke it up and started recording, then once I stopped recording it turned straight back off again. So there’s no need to power it on, wait, then press record if you don’t want to miss something.
Prongs and Mounting
On the bottom of the camera there are these two prongs, or folding fingers, which are designed for mounting onto any accessories you might have. I’ll be using it to attach to my suction mount in my car, mainly for inside shots, but if I’m feeling brave I might do some outside shots too.
But you can also use it for the hand grip if you’re using one, or even the clip that will allow you to clip it onto almost any surface or object you can think of.
Now these cameras are designed for extreme sports, which means not only are they waterproof, up to 10 meters, they are also pretty tough. That means dropping it shouldn’t cause you any issues, but saying that if you did drop it, the first thing you’re going to break or scratch is the lens. Fortunately they’ve brought back the removable lens again, which they took away on the Hero 8. Whereas now, you can just pull and twist the lens to swap it out.
The Hero 9 comes with Hypersmooth 3.0. This is essentially a digital stabiliser to make the footage taken as smooth as possible, and it does an incredible job, I mean it’s almost as good as an actual gimbal.
So if you’ve seen my DJI Osmo video, where I compare the DJI gimbal to an iPhone 11 internal stabilisation, you’ll see how the iPhone did, which was OK. Well this is kind of the same idea, GoPro’s Hypersmooth 3.0 will take the footage and automatically add the stabilisation.
Personally I’m not going to be using this for extreme sports, however it will make the footage I do take smoother and easier to watch.
Rear Screen Controls
On the rear there’s a 2.7” touch screen display. The picture quality is adequate for seeing what you’re shooting, but it does not do the footage justice.
I will add that the screen itself is laggy, slow and sometimes impossible to use. On several occasions I was trying to press options, including swapping the lens view, and no matter how many times I tried, it just was not responding. I have read online that I’m not alone with this, so it doesn’t warrant a return, but thought I’d mention it. The screen is frustrating to use if you need to change any settings.
One awesome feature of the GoPro is the ability to control it via the GoPro app on your phone. This allows you to view a live feed of the camera, press record, stop and even view previously recorded footage back on your phone.
For me this is extremely useful for putting the camera in places, such as on top of the car, and checking what the GoPro can see while sitting in the car.
But what’s even better than that, is the ability to change the resolution, lens and every other setting. As I mentioned earlier, the touch screen on the camera is fiddly and laggy, so the app is actually a great choice instead.
When watching previous footage back, it’ll be in low resolution until you download it. But that’s enough to get an idea what you’ve recorded, which does include sound too.
From the app you can also create stories too, this will piece several videos together along with music into a creative story to share. It’s actually pretty neat.
Another awesome feature of the Hero 9 is the ability to use voice commands. And let’s face it, most of us are using voice commands on our phones or around our homes anyway. For example if you had it set up on a tripod, or on your helmet and you either couldn’t press the button or didn’t want to use the app to control it, just say “Start Recording” or “Stop Recording”, the same applies to photos and timelapses.
I mentioned at the beginning of the video that the GoPro was cheaper if you signed up for the subscription model. Well what you get for around £50 or $50 a year, is unlimited cloud storage for all of your GoPro footage, total camera replacement if you break it twice a year, and up to 50% off GoPro accessories.
Which actually isn’t a bad deal. Just remember to cancel the subscription or put a reminder in your calendar, otherwise you’ll be charged again in 12 months.
The battery life on this is OK. So the new and improved batteries are rated at 30% more battery life when compared to previous versions. But this is dependent on what settings you’re using.
I was recording and messing around for hours and still only used 40% battery during that time. 2 Hours of recording is achievable on this, so using it for half a day won’t be a problem, but having a spare battery will be a good idea just in case.
Summary of the GoPro Hero 9 Black
So for the last 2 years of wanting a GoPro, the Hero 9 finally ticked every box for me.
It’s got the front facing screen, which is the reason I nearly bought the DJI Action Cam, it’s got app and voice control, a removable lens and awesome 4K footage.
This really is their best one yet, and I’m pleased I held out for this as I don’t change my gear that often.
Hopefully this means I can get creative with my future videos, especially my Tesla videos where I can now use the GoPro in shots I couldn’t achieve with my iPhone.