Looking at the tiny GoPro Hero6 Black, it’s almost impossible to tell it apart from last year’s GoPro Hero5 Black. There are, however, plenty of noteworthy differences on the inside.
[Update: The Hero6 Black has just been replaced by the Hero7 Black. While it shares the same video specs as the older model, the image stabilization system is a huge improvement, while the user interface and a number of other tweaks and refinements have made the GoPro Hero 7 Black are pick of the action cameras. With the price difference minimal between the two models, we strongly recommend skipping the Hero6 Black and getting the Hero7 Black. You won’t regret it.]
, along with the Alpha A7R, was Sony’s first entry into the world of full-frame photography. It’s since been replaced by both the Alpha A7 IIand our favorite mirrorless camera right now, the Alpha A7 III, but it’s still available and cheaper than ever. Performance is a bit sluggish compared to newer models, but if you’re looking for a very affordable way to get into full-frame photography, the Alpha A7 (also referred to as the Sony ILCE7KB by some retailers) is definitely worth a look.]
The new camera can capture super-slow-motion video at a high resolution, output a stabilized image in 4K, and transfer everything to your phone at faster speeds – your video can even be posted before your GoPro-documented adventure is even over if you wish. That’s amazing for an action camera that’s this tiny and durable.
It’s not perfect, of course. The biggest problem with GoPro’s devices is that the image quality is more impressive than our phones and other devices are capable of handling at times, due to the huge file sizes.
It’s a big problem when you offload and edit the video, especially slow-motion footage at a silky-smooth 240 frames per second. You can find yourself – and your phone and computer – overwhelmed by the demands of editing your GoPro’s video files.
That said, GoPro’s edit-in-post software has gotten a lot better in 2017, so as long as you don’t feel in over your head transferring HD and 4K video files to your device this is the best action camera you can buy today.
- 4K video at 60fps
- 1080p video at 240fps
- 12MP still image capture
The biggest change to the GoPro Hero6 Black is the arrival of GoPro’s first custom chipset, the aptly named GP1 processor. This has allowed the Hero6 Black to offer 4K video capture at a smooth 60fps (frames per second); the Hero5 Black is only capable of shooting at 30fps.
That’s not all. Fancy shooting some breathtaking slow-mo footage? The Hero6 Black can capture 1080p Full HD footage at an impressive 240fps. In between those two extremes it’s possible to shoot 2.7K footage at 120fps.
GoPro hasn’t just concentrated on boosting the frame rate of the Hero6 Black over its predecessor, also tinkering with the image stabilization system.
Thanks to the GP1 processing engine, it’s possible to have image stabilization active while shooting 4K footage. Stabilization is capped at 30fps, but it’s a marked improvement over the Hero5 Black, which could only offer this on Full HD footage, while stabilization is also possible at up to 120fps at Full HD.
Want to capture stills as well? The Hero6 Black, like the Hero5 Black, can capture 12MP images in single, burst and timelapse modes. What’s new is a built-in HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode for high-contrast scenes.
This new mode replaces the Wide Dynamic Range mode on the Hero5 Black, and, again thanks to the GP1 processing engine, it captures images with greater detail in both the shadows and highlights. And, if you’re in the habit of venturing out after dark, Night mode is here for more accomplished low-light shooting.
Build quality and handling
- Waterproof up to 10m/33ft
- Design unchanged from Hero5 Black
- Wide range of accessories available
While there was quite a design shift from the Hero4 Black to the Hero5 Black, the Hero6 Black doesn’t look any different from its predecessor, and that’s a good thing. This action camera is as discreet as ever, with a very small logo on the front of the otherwise black-on-dark-gray device – you can’t even see the logo when the camera is wearing its frame.
It’s compact too, feels extremely durable (something that some more affordable rivals struggle with), and is waterproof (down to 33ft or 10m) without the need for a housing. As we experienced with the Hero5 Black, the absence of a housing also means that with no casing getting in the way of the built-in microphone, audio quality is that much better. Should you want to take the Hero6 Black deeper underwater, the optional Super Suit housing offers protection down to 196ft or 60m.
It comes with a sturdy plastic frame that allows for all sorts of fun camera mounts, while the entire design is incredibly tight, snuggly fitting the microSD card right up against the user-swappable battery (confirmed to be the same battery as in the Hero5 Black, which is nice for cross-compatibility). GoPro packed a lot of camera into this design with the Hero5 Black, and we’re even more impressed with it here.
It has a 2-inch touchscreen on the back for reviewing video and photos and adjusting settings, and it uses what seems like the world’s tiniest touch-based user interface.
You’d think this might be fiddly to use, but it’s actually not too bad, with simple swipes and taps enough to access the Hero6 Black’s settings and make changes quickly. The screen itself also looks to be an improvement over the Hero5 Black’s, with that bit more clarity evident.
If using the touchscreen is too much effort, the Hero6 Black also offers voice control. This isn’t enabled by default, but it’s easy to activate in the preferences menu, and you can then simply shout “GoPro start recording”, or “GoPro take a photo” and the Hero6 Black will spring into action. There are 12 simple voice commands, covering pretty much everything you’re likely to want to do with the camera.
While voice control was present on the Hero5 Black, the Hero6 Black has a new Wake On Voice function. Turn the camera off with a voice command and your Hero6 Black with switch off and run a low-power listening mode, waiting for the command “GoPro turn on”. Leave it longer than eight hours and the Hero6 Black shuts down completely.
Video and photo quality
- ProTune offers advanced control
- Impressive video footage
- Good image stabilization
This is where the GoPro Hero6 sets new benchmarks. We were able to shoot 4K video at 60fps, and dial the slow motion back to 120fps at 2.7K resolution and 240fps at 1080p.
The GoPro Hero6 Black is built for catching action incredibly fast.
The two videos above were shot in 4K at 25fps, while the below video was captured at 1080p Full HD, again at 25fps. All three videos have the built-in image stabilization active.
You’ll benefit from the enhanced performance of the GoPro Hero 6 Black if want to record video at ‘normal’ frame rates too. The image stabilization has been beefed up, with footage slightly cropped to reduce shakiness. The effect is noticeable, but don’t throw away your GoPro Karma Grip, as software-based stabilization can only correct so much.
Low light performance has always been a GoPro shortcoming, but the Hero6 Black delivers improved dynamic range courtesy of the new processor, resulting in better image quality both indoors and out.
Raw support is certainly welcome for still images, although because of the sensor’s small size don’t expect image quality to be any better than from a decent point-and-shoot compact. Nonetheless, it’s still a handy feature to have when you want to capture decent-quality images, but don’t want to risk your smartphone or main camera getting damaged.
Editing and apps
- New 5GHz wireless frequency
- New HVEC video codec
- Refined QuikStories app
The Hero6 Black takes uncompromised video, but offloading that raw GoPro footage has increasingly been a pain due to large file sizes, especially with older phones. GoPro is tackling this issue with a three-pronged approach.
First, this new camera, and updated mobile operating systems like iOS 11, support a new video codec: High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). It can halve file sizes, and that’s going to save both your iPhone’s internal storage and camera-to-phone transfer time.
Second, the Hero6 Black utilizes the 5GHz wireless frequency, which can offer transfer speeds three times faster than the Hero5 Black could manage. We found transfer times were faster in our early testing.
Third, QuikStories returns as a way to transfer and compile your footage into an automatic video collage, adding transitions and even music. The best part is that videos are fully editable if you want to make changes.
Shooting video with your GoPro isn’t the hard part. Transferring hours of 4K 60fps video and 240 fps super-slow motion-movies, though, can feel like a chore.
The Hero6 Black does a good job at chipping away at the workload. But we still find that offloading and editing action camera footage takes practice and discipline; there’s a reason why these devices have such a dedicated fan base.
The GoPro Hero6 Black instantly becomes the best action camera you can buy based on the specs. 4K at 60fps and super-slow-motion 240fps at 1080p footage in such a small, versatile action camera make it a cinematic marvel.
At $500 / £500 / AU$750, though, the Hero6 Black is $100 / £100 more than its now reduced-in-price predecessor, the Hero5 Black. And that’s before you factor in all of the mount accessories you’ll want to buy.
Is slow-motion video worth the extra money? No, not for most people. But everyone will be able to take advantage of the improved image stabilization, wider dynamic range and better low-light performance, while the faster transfer speeds and small file sizes are a good universal perk as well. Those things are worth the step up in price, even if everything looks the same on the outside.
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