September 21, 2020 – Review – 5 minute read

GoPro Hero 9 Review – Is Incredible Stabilization Enough?

September 21, 2020 – Review – 5 minute read

GoPro Hero 9 Review – Is Incredible Stabilization Enough?

GoPro decided to go big with the Hero 9. Instead of using the same frame as Hero 8, the GoPro Hero 9 is larger: wider, taller, heaver. But what excites peope the most is the larger battery with more juice to film moments this sport camera is destined to. Lets take a closer look into this amazing little camera!

What we really like about GoPro is that they try to upgrade their cameras and that they do listen to their customers even if the customers aren’t happy with the direction GoPro takes. This year they’ve made the GoPro Hero 9 bigger in every way. The case is bigger, the battery (life) is bigger, the screen is bigger and the stabilization is really out of this world. So does Hero 9 bring to the table: bigger battery, upgraded senor and a 5k video capture. But is all that enough to buy it at $449 or is it better to buy the now cheaper Hero 8?

Last year’s Hero 8 introduced a new cage less design with built in mounting rings and a more compact front lens whitch unfortunately wasn’t replaceable. So if you broke or scratched the covering glass, the GoPro Hero 8 it was useless. This year the Hero 9 is larger in every way, but is only slightly heavier. They brought back lens cover replacement and improved on the Hero 8.

So what’s new this year in GoPro Hero 9? Well it is now possible to add alternative lenses but at this moment the only one available is the GoPro Max Lens Mod (priced at $100 it is sold separately). This mod basically enables the half of field view like the one in GoPro 360 degree Max Camera. Hero 9 also has a new front screen which is now full color that will most likely be a great addition to people filming in selfie mode or for vlogging. Another cool feature is that you can get 14 megapixel stills from video, so you always can work on that sweet thumbnail for your next Youtube video.

New design

GoPro has changed visually over the years, with the more prominent change happening with the Hero 5. This year however the Hero 9 has a slightly new design in which the camera is bigger and heavier, while also sporting a new 1.4 inch front full color display. While it isn’t that much heavier, it is still a noticeable difference with Hero 9 weighting at 158g which is 30g heavier than the Hero 8.

The good news is that GoPro Hero 9 got removable lens cover back (so you can change filters), a Max Mod that gives it some of those 360 camera wide shot goodies, color screen in front, a slightly larger rear display and finally, a larger battery.

Video and photo

The new GoPro Hero 9 has a 23.6-megapixel sensor, compared to the Hero 8 that has a 12-megapixel sensor. It is a big increase which enables Hero 9 to shoot 5k video and snap 20 megapixel still images. However adding more pixels to a small 1/2.3 inch sensor isn’t a good for image quality. GoPro solution for this is to use their own GP1 processor that improves performance while also bringing image stabilization to the next level. Not only do we have HyperSmooth stabilization, there is also in camera horizon leveling that is a great thing to have while filming handheld.

This larger sensor enables GoPro Hero 9 to make 20 megapixel pictures, including HDR and raw image. It captures video at 5k (5,120×2,880 pixels) at 30 frames per second along with 4K60, 2.7K120, 1,440p120, 1,080p240.

The addition of 5k isn’t just for shooting purposes but for stabilization. The bigger 5k resolution enables Hero 9 to have a much larger area that can be used to to stabilize footage by cropping the video. The extra pixels in 5k also allow you to crop your video and export 4K footage. The ability to zoom in on your video is a really neat thing to have and combined with the huge field of view that GoPro Hero 9 has, this is a very welcome addition.

Shooting in 5k does have it’s disadvantages. The most obvious is that mobile devices aren’t capable of playing it, so you can preview it or edit it in the mobile app. This also mean shooting in 5k will require you to have a decent editing computer (or use proxies to ease editing). As for the Hero 9, shooting in 5k means you can only do 30 frames per second, while 4k can shoot 60 fps (meaning you can do slow motion). If you are planning on using Hero 9 for action scenes, it’s better to use modes that enable slow motion, such as 4k at 60 fps, or 2.7 at 120 fps (super slow motion).

What about photos, you say? Well the 20 megapixel pictures are better than in Hero 8 with better dynamic range, so it doesn’t overblown bright areas or completely ignore dark areas. Hero 9 makes very color balanced, eye pleasing images. Raw images are sharper, but need to be edited in programs such as Lightroom to properly edit and enhance them. A good thing about Hero 9 is that you can also get 14.7 MP stills from videos which is great for captures moments from videos.

What many are happy to see in the new Hero 9 is the full color front screen, which works the same time as the back screen. The front screen does have a slight delay but it is still good enough to see how you look if you’re shooting in selfie mode. The front screen can be turned off in the settings, if you have no need for it.

Max mod

One of the reasons the Hero 9 Black is larger is because the removable lens cover returned, after being omitted from Hero 8. Many people really weren’t have the non removable lens cover move from GoPro, since it offer a lot of positives such as replacing the cover if it is scratched, or using filters.

But the bigger GoPro Hero 9 now enables the use of Max lens mod which costs $100. Max lens mod reproduces GoPro Max camera lens view, giving you an expansive picture with some distortion and amazing video stabilization up to 2.7K resolution at 60 frames per second. What you get with Max Lens Mod is the ability to use Max HyperSmooth stabilization with ultra-wide 155˚ FOV digital lens. According to GoPro’s official website, Max Mod offers:

  • Max HyperSmooth video stabilization up to 2.7K60
  • Ultra-wide angle 155˚ FOV for improved depth of field
  • Horizon lock keeps your videos on the horizontal or vertical axis, even if your camera is mounted off-center or rotates a full 360°
  • Max Timewarp for smooth TimeWarp video.

Software

Hero 9 didn’t receive only a hardware upgrade, but software as well. Hero 9 has HyperSmooth 3 which pretty much eliminates camera shake in almost any situation. This is the feature that surprised us the most since it eliminates the need for a gimbal, because the stabilization is so very well done. Even if nothing else about this camera phases you, the stabilization alone is worth buying it, the video is just that smooth.

Another cool new feature is called Scheduled Capture. It enables you to set Hero 9 to start recorded at scheduled time, like for instance to time lapse a sunrise without the need to actually be there and start it yourself. If you hate getting up early and love doing time lapses this might be a good feature for you, but since the best time lapses are usually in cool location, scheduled recording will most likely be used to capture specific events at specific time.

Battery life

Another very welcoming information is that the battery in the new Hero 9 has been improved to allow for more time recording. The bigger 1720mAh battery (upgraded from 1220mAh on Hero 8) will allow you to shoot 5k at 30 minutes, while 4k will last you about 2 hours.

The downside to this is that older GoPro batteries are not compatible with Hero 9 so owners of the older models will need to buy new ones. While the battery does indeed last longer from the Hero 8, it is still worth noting that it isn’t good enough to shoot for entire day. With continuous usage at 4k, battery goes quickly so a few extras will be needed if you plan on shooting with it a lot.

There is currently no after market suppliers so the only choice is buying official batteries that are priced at $19.99. GoPro also said the newer batteries perform better in cold weather, which is is estimated to be 30% better.

List of whats new

To recap what’s new in GoPro Hero 9, we included a list of new stuff in our review. While we have mentioned some of these already, it is still handy to see all of the changes condensed:

– Front live preview screen
– 5K/30 Video Resolution
– 23.6MP Photos
– Increased to 30% longer battery life (on average)
– Improved cold weather battery performance
– Reintroduced removable lens
– Increased rear screen size by 16%
– HyperSmooth 3.0
– Horizon Leveling for Linear mode (now in-camera)
– TimeWarp 3.0 with new RealTime option
– New livestream outlets including Twitch
– Webcam support for both PC & Mac
– Hindsight
– Scheduled Capture to have camera wake-up and capture a sunrise
– Duration Capture to have camera record for specified period of time
– New water drain for side microphone to drain water faster
– Larger battery, not backwards compatible
– Increased camera weight from 125g to 159g
– Launching new GoPro Max SuperView Lens Mod with Horizon Lock (lets you rotate camera 360° and lock horizon)
– Hero 9 box is a travel case for the camera
– Increased price from $399 to $449 if you don’t have a GoPro Subscription (formerly GoPro Plus)
– Decreased price from $399 to $349 if you have a GoPro Subscription (formerly GoPro Plus)

The subscription discount thing

So the pricing is a bit strange because GoPro is offering bundle options at lunch that discount the camera quite a bit. For $449 you can get the new Hero 9 and you can also get a $100 discount if you sign up for a one-year subscription to GoPro’s service, bringing the price down to $349.

So what’s the catch. Well there is none, at least for now. If you pick the subscription bundle, you get a year of service to use cloud hosting and a free camera replacement if you destroy it, access to GoPro live streaming platform and 50% off on gear and accessories. If you don’t like the subscription, you can just cancel it before the year ends without additional costs.

Hero 7, Hero 8 and the Max can be currently bought at reduced price so if you feel like the Hero 9 is expensive, you can still buy the other GoPro’s.

Verdict

There really isn’t much to say about the Hero 9, other than the fact it is an amazing action cam. It’s amazing stabilization really is mind blowing, enabling you to use it without a gimbal, which is really liberating. We would advise this camera to anyone who needs an action cam, like bikers often do. But it isn’t without fault. Video quality can be bad without enough light and it is quite expensive. If you’re upgrading from Hero 8 and you’re not using it quite often, then perhaps you don’t need to upgrade it. But if you use your GoPro often, then this camera is a great investment to make.

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GoPro Hero 9 Review - Is Incredible Stabilization Enough?

GoPro Hero 9 is a really cool camera. But is it worth buying or upgrading from the older versions? We're going in depth to answer that.

Product Brand: GoPro Hero 9

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