There was a point not so long ago when GoPro action cameras were everywhere. Every run, every extreme sports event seemed to heavily feature the head- or chest-mounted cameras. You couldn’t even attend a tech event without seeing someone with a GoPro strapped to their chest, taking it all in from a first-person point of view. It was like that brief period when Google Glass was new and interesting (although we all know how that one ended). Everyone had them.
But is the hankering for action cams still there? GoPro is facing a lot more competition in the sector, and with new developments such as 360 cameras aimed at virtual-reality enthusiasts, things were always going to get interesting. Last year was not a great one for the company, which recalled its Karma drone shortly after it went on sale. But camera sales appear to have been steady, and the Hero5 is a bright spot for the firm.
Why? The Hero5 Black provides a few key improvements over its Hero4 predecessor. The Hero5 comes with a built-in touchscreen – the Hero4 Silver version also did, but the Black version did not, meaning you had to buy an accessory if you wanted to see a preview of your shots. The other option was hooking it up to your smartphone, which wasn’t always practical, so the inclusion of the touchscreen on the Hero5 is a nice addition. In addition, its screen is brighter than the Hero4 Silver’s, and has higher resolution.
The Hero5 is for sale on GoPro’s website for €429.99 but is available from other retailers for €399.99.
It’s easier to get to the controls too, although it’s still a small screen, so don’t expect miracles if you have larger hands.
More importantly, the new camera is waterproof without the bulky housing. Yes, the Hero5 Black is bigger than the Hero4, but only when you remove the plastic housing that made the older camera waterproof. That means no more bulky extras – unless you want to dive to serious depths, say more than 10m – and no more panicked checking of all the seals to make sure something hasn’t got stuck in one, rendering it useless. That’s more likely than you’d think if you are using the GoPro outdoors.
The key thing about GoPro cameras has always been simplicity. The Hero5 doesn’t change that: it has one-button operation that makes it very easy to get started. The quality remains the same too. You can take 12-megapixel still photos, time-lapse videos and burst shots, with video going up to 4K quality.
That one-button control is still difficult at times, which is where the new voice controls will come in handy. You can instruct the camera to start recording or stop with a few simple commands, freeing your hands up for hanging off cliffs or hanging on to a hang glider for dear life.
The new GoPro switches to the USB C standard, so hang on to that cable tightly. Although the new connections are appearing on phones these days, they’re still difficult to find in an emergency.
If you are looking at buying a GoPro, the reasons to go for the Hero5 over the Hero4 – which will inevitably be cheaper – are clear. The touch screen makes it far easier to control. The voice commands, while you might feel like a bit of an idiot talking to your camera – a common reaction with most voice-controlled devices that we’re still willing to take the risk on – take that another step along, especially if you’re filming in a place where you need to wear gloves or use both hands.
The not so good:
Unless you are a committed runner, extreme-sport enthusiast or are determined to document every second of your life, the Hero5 is expensive. And while the camera is waterproof, that’s only to 10m; anything deeper and you’ll need to shell out for the “super suit” housing.
The GoPro Hero5 is a little bulkier than its predecessor if you’re using it above water, but the built-in water resistance puts it a cut above. You can safely use it outdoors in bad weather or take a dip or two without having to encase it in a waterproof housing, unlike previous versions of the Hero.
If you are an extreme-sports fans, the GoPro is still a solid choice. The improvements on the Hero5 Black make it just good enough to justify spending extra for the new model. Four stars.