GoPro has long been synonymous with extreme sports enthusiasts who insist on leaping off buildings with a camera attached to their head, rather than doing something more sedate of a weekend.
[Update: The GoPro Hero5 Black has not only been replaced by the Hero6 Black, but also the new Hero7 Black as well. The Hero6 Black offers 4K at 60fps, as well as improved image stabilization and numerous other tweaks, while the Hero7 Black delivers an even better image stabilization, improved user interface, as well as a host of other refinements and improvements. Don’t discount the Hero5 Black though – it’s still a cracking action camera that’s seen a hefty price drop in recent months. If you can live without some of the new features that the Hero6 Black and Hero7 Black brings, then the Hero5 Black is still a great buy.]
The footage captured by these sturdy little action cams (or POV cameras) has historically been among the best, if not the best, on the market, and as such has been used by everyone from skilled filmmakers to amateurs looking to add a professional sheen to their YouTube channel.
- 4K video capture at 30fps
- 2.0-inch touchscreen
- 12MP still images
Unfortunately, previous generations of GoPros have erred on the unapproachable side, lacking a rear screen to set up and review footage, bamboozling users with a variety of complicated camera settings, and making it a pain to retrieve footage and images when in a rush or on the move.
As a result, a plethora of rivals have popped up, boasting a number of user-friendly features in an attempt to steal sales.
TomTom’s Bandit, Garmin’s Virb range and the seriously affordable Olfi camera all offer 4K video recording, but with a much friendlier UI designed to appeal to those starting out in the action cam game.
Like all good tech companies, GoPro has listened to customer grumbles, and has thoroughly updated its latest line of cameras to ensure they still pack the same heavyweight features but are generally easier to live with.
That range now consists of the Hero Session, Hero5 Session and the daddy of the lot: the Hero5 Black.
New additions to this high-performance monster include a rear touchscreen display, voice activation and super-easy one-button control, while the overall experience has been abridged to make capturing the action as painless as possible.
At £349.99 / $399 / AU$569, the Hero5 Black is priced in line with the Hero4 Black that it replaces, despite the new gizmos, while video resolution is boosted to 4K at 30fps, still images jump to 12MP and ultra-smooth super slow-mo opportunities are now possible with a 1080p resolution at 120fps.
Stills can be taken in single, burst and timelapse modes, and saved as raw files for post-production tinkering. In addition, a new WDR (Wide Dynamic Range) mode, which is GoPro’s version of High Dynamic Range (HDR), makes shooting perfectly exposed still images much easier.
Design and accessories
- Simplified design
- Waterproof up to 33ft (10m) – without waterproof housing
- Bigger battery, small wrap-around frame and USB Type-C port
Aesthetically, the Hero5 Black – which sits above the cuboidal Hero5 Session – packs a neat matte black exterior and remains about the size of a matchbox.
The two-inch touchscreen on the back is bright and easy to see, while a smaller screen at the front gives readouts on the shooting mode, SD card space and remaining battery.
There’s also a large red button on the top of the camera, which GoPro refers to as its One-Button Control. Simply press this rubbery square and the camera powers on and immediately starts recording.
The eagle-eyed among you will notice that the Hero5 Black no longer wears the protective casing of its forefather – that’s because this camera is waterproof up to 33ft (10m) straight out of the box, although the absence of a case does leave it feeling a little exposed (more on this later).
The small lens cover on the front of the camera is now removable, as GoPro offers a range of filters that are said to boost footage captured when diving or snorkelling. You simply twist to remove the cover and snap on a filter; it’s also handy if the cover gets damaged.
Other notable GoPro accessories compatible with this new camera include a Remo waterproof voice-activated shutter remote button, as well as a Quik Key USB-C (yup, GoPro has finally moved to the new USB-C ports) mobile microSD card reader for downloading and transporting files when a phone or laptop isn’t available.
In addition to updating its action cams, GoPro has made its first foray into the drone market with Karma, a super-simple aerial filming solution that folds up and fits neatly into a backpack.
The drone comes with a fantastic gimbal, which doubles up as a removable stabilisation grip, and this is now available to purchase separately, as the Karma Grip, for $299.99/£249.99.
It sounds pricey, but the footage captured by this neat little device it simply stunning. It’s tantamount to employing a full Hollywood steady-cam for your amateur productions.
Finally, GoPro has introduced a new, sturdier and longer-life battery (meaning old ones won’t be compatible) and thrown in dual microphones (front and rear) for improved audio capture – particularly good for reducing wind noise when shooting cars, bikes and other fast-moving subjects.
Build quality and handling
- Sound quality much improved over Hero4
- One-press shutter
- Sturdy design
The absence of an additional plastic casing has greatly improved the Hero5 Black’s exterior styling, and it also means that sound quality is now better than ever, thanks to bulky casing not getting in the way of microphones; but it does leave the little unit a little exposed.
A Super Suit is available for those who wish to take their cameras deeper than 10m, but we’d suggest using it for any rigorous underwater activities, as we found that the wet stuff can penetrate the removable lens cover seal, especially when diving in and out of the warm waters of the Balearic Sea.
In fact, the camera feels a little naked without the tough plastic casing of old, but it does make access to the touchscreen nice and easy, while the mode selection button (located on the side) is just a prod away.
The one-press shutter is also unhindered and easy to operate (even with gloves on), while the new and very svelte plastic frame also houses the typical GoPro mounting system at the bottom.
Luckily, the company hasn’t overhauled its mounting system, so this camera will work with whatever accessories you already have – simply screw in and away you go.
We’ve not been in a situation where the camera has been tested to destruction, but our unit has been dropped, bumped and submerged in water many times, and the rear touchscreen remains unscratched, the casing is still intact, and the lens is in good condition.
The only issue we found is with that removable lens casing, which causes a small amount of water leakage after being subjected to some high dives from a party boat, which in turn creates some steaming in underwater situations.
Regardless, it’s a sturdy little thing, despite the degree to which it’s seemingly exposed to the elements.
- Capture app offers tethered shooting
- Voice controls work well
- Touchscreen annoying to use when wet
We tested the new GoPro Hero5 Black in a variety of situations, from the sunny climes of Mallorca to the slightly dismal and drizzly surroundings of southern England in winter.
In short, the new camera is extremely simple to set up and use. A new Capture smartphone app means it’s easier than ever to tether the camera via its inbuilt Wi-Fi in order to adjust settings, review clips and download files to a mobile device.
That said, the rear touchscreen ensures that a smartphone isn’t really required, as it’s now possible to set up the perfect shot, with the correct settings, straight off the bat.
Simply swipe to access camera settings or change the frame rate and so on, swipe again to review footage, and swipe some more to access ProTune settings and tinker further.
However, the touchscreen requires a definite swipe to get things going, and trying to achieve this can become frustrating when the unit is wet, with much prodding and poking required.
Helpfully, GoPro has added voice control, should accessing the touchscreen or smartphone app be impractical. Users can bark “GoPro start recording”, or “GoPro take a photo” in order to carry out those functions, and it works well in the majority of situations.
There’s also a small screen at the front which displays the mode (video, photo, burst, etc), the battery level and memory levels of the SD card.
- ProTune offers advanced control
- New Linear mode provides less barrel distortion
- RAW and WDR photos, with GPS tagged locations
As with any GoPro it requires some photographic knowledge to get the most from the Hero5’s footage, with advanced users able to fine-tune exposure with a new Exposure Control setting, as well as adjusting ISO, sharpness and EV comp through the ProTune settings.
There’s a bunch of resolutions and frame rates to tinker with, with the Hero5 Black able to shoot in 4K resolution at 30fps and a whole host of other combinations.
The sheer weight of options can be baffling for those new to the action camera game, but it doesn’t take much trial and error to get things right.
Generally, sticking with the most common 1080p/30fps is a reliable way to capture great footage, while we also found that leaving the camera to determine the best settings produced solid results.
The built-in spot metering also did a good job of rapidly adjusting exposure settings, while bumping up the ISO in lower-light conditions doesn’t cause too much noise.
Better still, the addition of Electronic Image Stabilisation is a huge boost for this camera, as it creates much smoother footage without making the viewer feel ill, as can be the case with the typical motion sickness effect of some rivals.
Unfortunately, EIS does drain the battery, as does leaving the Wi-Fi and built-in GPS functionality switched on.
Editing and apps
- Quik and Splice apps
- Quik is quick and easy to use
- Splice gives more control
GoPro knows that capturing the footage is the easy bit; editing and uploading it is where things get tricky.
As a result the firm has revised its Capture app, which makes it easier to pair the camera to a smartphone over Wi-Fi and review footage. The pairing process is still a bit of a faff, but the app is intuitive and simple to use.
Editing is taken care of by two new apps: Quik and Splice. The former is a really easy way of cutting together a quick movie from pre-selected stills and footage. The user simply chooses the music and tone of the project, and the app will cut together a neat little film.
The results are pretty cool; projects are limited to a set number of themes, but it’s great for getting something up on the social networks quickly.
Splice gives the user greater control over edits, as well as enabling access to the iTunes library for overlaying proper music, but it’s currently only available on iOS.
Quik for desktop is the most powerful editing tool that GoPro offers, enabling users to overlay the data captured from the built-in GPS technology for extreme analysis of speed, G-force and other data fields, as well as giving greater control over the editing process.
Unfortunately, the whole process eats up a load of memory and space on internal storage, so it’s worth investing in a performance boost for your machine, and and big external hard drive, if you’re going to embark on some serious editing projects.
GoPro really had to step up its game if it wanted to remain at the top of the action cam pile, and the Hero5 Black is a great reminder of why the name is so revered.
The camera is simple to use, yet remains a very powerful tool, while the addition of a rear touchscreen, voice control and GPS make it one of the most feature-packed cams currently available.
Video footage is now smoother than ever, while the ability to shoot stills in raw, and the Wide Dynamic Range feature, make the Hero5 Black more versatile than ever.
In addition, the overhaul of GoPro’s post-production apps has made it much simpler to do something interesting with the resulting footage – an issue that bothered many action cam owners in the past.
Yes, the touchscreen can be a bit fiddly (especially in the wet), the battery life needs improving, and the lack of plastic casing leaves the Hero5 Black a little exposed to the elements; but all in all this is a brilliant addition to any videographer’s kitbag.
There’s not much an Olfi one.five owner is left wanting, despite the unit costing half the price of GoPro’s Hero5 Black. If you don’t mind foregoing features like GPS, voice activation and the ability to link external sensors, such as Garmin’s numerous cycling products, and simply want to capture good-looking footage without breaking the bank, there’s very little to complain about here.
Read the full review: Olfi one.five
GoPro Hero5 Session
The Hero5 Session follows on from the Hero4 Session, stripping back the action camera concept to its basics, but sharing many of the same specs as the Hero5 Black. That includes 4K video capture up to 30fps, image stabilisation, voice control and is waterproof down to 10m/33ft. Back to basics, but still captures the quality of video that you’d expect from GoPro.
Read the full review: GoPro Hero5 Session
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