Price (RRP): $599.95
There have been small-ish video cameras for a very long time. There have been robust video cameras for a very long time. But it was GoPro that brought them together in a way which has defined the genre. The latest and, of course, best is the GoPro Hero 7 Black.
GoPro Hero 7 features
The GoPro Hero 7 Black is of course entirely digital. But, fun fact, did you know that the first GoPro was a 35mm still camera? That was back in 2005, when digital sensors were still quite primitive. Only in the following year did a digital one appear. Video capabilities? 320 by 240 pixels for all of 10 seconds on its internal 32MB of storage.
Well, the current unit – the GoPro Hero 7 Black – can manage 3,840 by 2,160 pixels at up to 60 frames per second for as long as you can provide power and the storage media lasts. For fixed installations with external power, that can be hours. When relying on the included 1,220mAh, 4.4 volt battery, it depends on resolution and frame rate. At best it’s rated up to 90 minutes (at 1080p60 or 2160p30), at worst up to 50 minutes (at 2160p60). Spare batteries are available for $35.95, or $79.95 with a dual battery charger. Enthusiasts are going to have a handful of charged batteries in their kit.
The camera is tiny, of course. The official measurements are 62.3mm wide by 44.9mm tall by 33mm deep, including the lens housing. On the specifications page for the GoPro Hero 7 Black a paper clip is pictured as a size reference. The camera with card and battery installed weighs 115.7 grams. That makes it a little lighter than some of the main competition, although a difference of less than ten grams is unlikely to make much difference.
On the back is a 50mm touch-sensitive colour display. At the front is a monochrome LCD display. The back one shows menus and, of course, what the lens is seeing. It’s your main centre of control – apart from the record button and the power/mode selection button. The front display shows current video setting, battery state, recording time remaining on the card and length of the current recording.
Of course, the GoPro Hero 7 Black is super portable. Apart from anything else, it’s rated to cope with immersion – and use – at depths of up to ten metres.
The standard for action cameras
GoPro has so dominated the action camera market that its two/three-lug mount has become standard. Indeed, certain other brands are provided with compatible frames. Of course, there are a wealth of attachments available for the GoPro Hero 7 Black from the company. Perusing the GoPro website, some of them look rather pricey. The “Pro Handlebar/Seatpost/Pole Mount” attachment, for example, costs $94.95.
But because they’ve become the industry standard, you can go third party. I already have a low-cost accessory-mounts pack so I was able to use its contents.
Included with the GoPro Hero 7 Black are two adhesive mounts – one gently curved – and a clip-in mount with lugs atop it. Also provided with the GoPro Hero 7 Black is a frame mount – it’s a tight fit getting the camera in and out, but it’s doable – and a USB Type-C cable for charging and file transfer. Apparently, you also get a free SD card with all GoPro Hero cameras. The one included with the review unit was a 32GB SanDisk Extreme UHS-1 card with a read speed of up to 100MB/s.
As is the way of these things: Documentation? Almost zero. Well, a brief promo card for “Plus”, the GoPro damage replacement, cloud backup and discount program. On the other side of that are a dozen graphics illustrating things. There’s a card pointing you at gopro.com/answers for everything else. Plus, the obligatory GoPro brand sticker (two of them!) and the substantial “Important Product + Safety Instructions” booklet. I presume that’s required by laws which are, of course, years behind the times.
Don’t worry. There is a quite decent PDF manual online.
Of course, the GoPro Hero 7 Black does more than just the “Insanely smooth 4K” touted on the promotional material. But that 4K really is remarkably smooth, as we’ll see. In part that’s due to the ability to record 4K at up to 60 frames per second. Remember, almost all cinema is shot at just 24 frames per second. The video 60p video from this camera is like looking at high quality content on a modern TV with motion smoothing switched on, except that there’s no distortion. There’s also a stabilisation system called “HyperSmooth”.
That 2160p60 is only available with the standard wide field of view and 16:9 aspect ratio. Both 4:3 and “SuperView” are limited to 24 or 30 fps at UHD resolution. However, you can use the 2.7K resolution imaging at up to 60p in both formats. And at up to 120fps as well.
You can produce ultra-smooth 1080p video at up to 240 frames per second or go for 8x slow motion. 960p and 720p are also available.
Also, in the main settings you can set the camera to NTSC or PAL. Those terms don’t really apply. They are merely shorthand for 60fps (and its multiples) and 50fps (and its multiples). If you’re creating footage intended for Australian TV you’ll want to choose the latter. Stuff shot at 30fps and 60fps does not translate smoothly to our frame rates.