Please forgive me, but I’m going to start this GoPro Hero8 Black review with a discussion of microphones. One microphone in particular—the Shure SM58. Why? Well, Shure introduced the SM58 in 1966. Technology has made a stride or two since. But today, it’s still the best-selling vocal microphone on Amazon (with the exception of a ten-dollar karaoke mic).
GoPro HERO8 Black Brief Overview
The GoPro Hero8 Black is a well-specified camera. It can shoot video in 4K, has a 12 MP sensor for stills, and is waterproof down to 33 feet (10 m) without an external housing. Automatic backup to the cloud is included, as well as voice control and face/smile recognition. You can livestream in 1080p. So the content you upload to your YouTube channel should have great image quality.
All of this is housed in the familiar GoPro shape. The HERO8 was the first GoPro to include the “fingers” necessary for attaching the camera to a whole range of mounts. Originally, you needed a waterproof housing for this feature. From the HERO5 onwards, you needed a separate frame. Now the GoPro Hero8 Black offers out-of-the-box mounting and waterproofing capabilities.
If you’re puzzled by the “Black” name, it seems to be leftover from previous models. In the past, “Silver” and “White” were part of the GoPro stable and identified different specification levels. Now, only Black remains and doesn’t seem to mean much. A bit like the human appendix. It’s there, but we’re not really sure why.
Who is the GoPro Hero8 Black For?
An action camera has some obvious users. They tend to be active. This means that if you participate in sports, you might find a use for an action camera. For example, I recently watched some videos on a cricket YouTube channel. The footage came from GoPro HERO mounted on the batter’s helmet. There was another video shot from the umpire’s position. The more obvious users are climbers, kayakers, skiers, and windsurfers.
You’ll also find the action camera market includes musicians. If you want to put a video of your sick guitar lick on your YouTube channel, clip a GoPro to your headstock and hit record. You simply can’t do that with other cameras. They’re too big. They’re also too big to put on the brim of your hat, the top of your bike helmet, or your dog. Yes, you can buy a special harness to get that pooch-eye-view of your daily walk. A GoPro Hero8 only weighs 4.13 oz (117 g). That’s less than a baseball, or two Mars bars.
Basically, if you need a camera that is small and light, get an action cam. If you want to film where the camera might get wet, get an action cam. If you want to live stream to your YouTube channel while doing something daring…you get the message.
They can go into the stratosphere and to the depths. I taught a student who literally sent two GoPros into the stratosphere on a weather balloon. They will survive knocks and bumps. And as this GoPro Hero8 Black review will show you, they can do all of that while taking high-quality video. GoPro’s video stabilization and other wizardry make engaging footage that people will love to watch.
So, have you decided that your masterful cricket shots or first skydive need to be recorded for posterity? Then continue reading this GoPro Hero8 Black review to find out if it’s game over for the darling of 2019 action cams.
What Does the GoPro Hero8 Black do Well?
The GoPro Hero8 Black is a rugged, well-made camera. It builds on years of GoPro innovation and expertise. The HERO8 found the sweet spot for ease of mounting and waterproofing. It now seems so yesterday to have to clamp your GoPro HERO in an external housing to take it in the water.
Like the HERO7 before it, the GoPro Hero8 Black has a front-facing screen that shows status information. The mode, recording status, and remaining battery life are easily visible. On the downside, it doesn’t work as a monitor. Many of its competitors and every GoPro since come with a front-facing screen.
This might not be important to you. But for filming yourself for vlogging or live streaming to your YouTube channel, it could be significant. Bear in mind that the battery will only give you about 50 minutes of recording time. So some activities will need a spare battery.
The vlogging world was definitely in GoPro’s sights with the GoPro Hero8 Black. They introduced the Media Mod to appeal to vloggers and content creators. The Media Mod adds a lot of functionality to the GoPro Hero8 Black.
It is a frame that clamps around the camera body. It adds an external directional microphone and cold-shoe mounts. This means you can connect external monitors like the GoPro Display Mod. Or you can connect microphones with its 3.5 mm socket.
There are also HDMI and USB-C ports for easy connectivity. The USB-C port allows you to power accessories such as the GoPro Light Mod. But the Media Mod can only be used on dry land.
The use of three microphones improved audio quality. This isn’t just to capture the stereo sound, but also to counter wind noise. It’s fair to say that you’ll never get great audio on an action camera. For that, you’ll need an external mic. But the improvement over the GoPro HERO was noticeable. Compared to its rivals, audio quality is one area where the GoPro Hero8 Black consistently impresses.
There is a whole ecosystem of accessories available for the GoPro Hero8 Black. A couple of the most notable OEM ones are the “floaty” and the “roll cage.” The Floaty is pretty handy if you’re in deep water and you drop your GoPro Hero8 Black. In normal circumstances, gravity is not your friend in this situation. But the floaty keeps your precious camera afloat. And it also has a tethering point to help you avoid dropping it in the first place.
The roll cage is a soft silicon housing that helps to protect the camera from knocks. Perhaps more importantly, it covers the lens and has a replaceable lens protector. This is useful if you’re dirt biking or doing other gritty activities. But it won’t work underwater.
Compared to previous GoPro cameras, the GoPro Hero8 Black made some notable improvements. GoPro improved image stabilization, known as HyperSmooth, and upgraded it to version 2.0. This had a beneficial effect on TimeWarp, the GoPro name for hyperlapse photography. Hyperlapse is a time-lapse video mode where the camera moves along with the subject. Night time-lapse was also improved by upgrading the low light capabilities. Time-lapse is one of the most popular features of any GoPro HERO.
HyperSmooth 2.0 improved on the already impressive image stabilization of the GoPro HERO7. Image stabilization like HyperSmooth is a processing solution to the problem of excessive camera shake. The software keeps the central area of the frame stable by allowing the larger full frame around it to move. This is only possible by cropping the image. This means that video quality will be slightly compromised.
With typical action camera usage, this video stabilization makes a big difference. And the difference is usually between usable and unusable video footage. Because of this, the slight drop in image size is rarely a problem.
The GoPro Hero8 Black significantly improved the HyperSmooth performance. It introduced different levels of stabilization. With the HERO7, it was on or off. The HERO8 offers three levels, including a boost mode. In boost mode, it irons out even extreme movement caused by running or cycling. It’s more effective with side-to-side movement than up-and-down. But it’s remarkably effective.
Slow-motion performance was also improved, with 8x slo-mo possible at up to 2.7K. This is one of the strengths of the GoPro Hero8 Black. Capturing eye-catching slow-motion video is one of the main attractions of action cameras. The GoPro Hero8 Black doesn’t disappoint.
Is the HERO8 as Good Today as It Was When It Came Out?
There are two main things to consider for this GoPro Hero8 Black review for 2022.
1. Does it still offer good value for money?
2. Are there better alternatives from GoPro or other manufacturers?
Does It Still Offer Value For Money?
GoPro usually introduces new models in the fall, so the new GoPro HERO (I guess 11?) is probably only a few months away. I’m thinking the answer to the question, “Is the GoPro Hero8 Black still worth it in 2022?” is that it probably isn’t.
The GoPro Hero9 Black seems to make no sense now unless you can get a huge discount. If you can afford the extra money, get the GoPro Hero12. It will be outdated soon, but it still outperforms the HERO8 in almost every metric. It has all the same options for a Media Mod, Display Mod, and Light Mod. But these are also updated. If you’re in the market for a GoPro but aren’t sure which one is for you, I recommend the HERO12.
The HERO12 boasts 27 MP still images. It can also take 24.7 MP still images from your video. That outperforms the HERO8 by some margin. The stills from videos are bigger and better than the HERO8’s dedicated still photos. And the video is now 5.3K at 60 fps, and it can capture 5.3K at 100 mbps.
Compared with the HERO8, the new processing parameters in the HERO12 make the footage look less typically “GoPro.” So the blacks are less compressed and there’s even more contrast. This is not a bad thing to my mind (and my eye). It gives a better response to high dynamic range situations and a more natural look.
The HERO12 also offers extra fields of view from the fixed lens. So the GoPro HERO doesn’t have to produce that GoPro HERO look.
Like I said above, HyperSmooth 2.0 is an improvement on the original. The HERO12 has version 6.0 (3.0 was on the HERO9). The results are impressive across a whole range of settings.
The HERO12 has an even bigger trick up its sleeve. The GoPro Hero8 Black offered horizon leveling via the GoPro app. The HERO12 provides it in-camera and up to 45 degrees of tilt. And the results are fantastic.
HyperSmooth 4.0 is also applied to livestream videos. This could make a big difference for your YouTube channel. And like the HERO8, you can add the Display Mod for extra versatility.
The GoPro Hero8 Black, as we have seen, is limited to a front status screen. The HERO12 has a color front-facing monitor. It’s perfect for selfies or for checking how things look during a livestream. The rear touchscreen is much improved. It is faster and more responsive than the HERO8 or HERO9. This and improved front screen quality is down to the upgraded processor, unique to the HERO12.
Are There Better GoPro Alternatives?
GoPro really started something with their first action camera. There is now a bewildering array of alternatives. And it’s not always easy to pick out the best. However, I have waded through the options and have come up with five possible alternatives.
The OCLU does not look like a GoPro Hero8 Black. Not even remotely. While some manufacturers seek to copy the original GoPro HERO, OCLU has gone down a different path.
The OCLU action camera won design awards for its new approach. Highlights include a magnetic charging cable and a shape that makes it easier to hold in some circumstances. It’s roughly 2/3 the price of the GoPro Hero8 Black. For this, you get the same 12 MP photo resolution and 4K video at 30 fps. The maximum frame rate is lower at 120 fps.
The OCLU does not have the standalone waterproof qualities of the HERO8. It has an external housing that will protect it down to 160 feet (50 m). This is less than the 190 feet (60 m) offered by the GoPro Hero8 Black in its waterproof housing.
If you were looking to be a little different and wanted to spend less money than a HERO8, then the OCLU is worth looking at. I think it might come down to how much you like its layout and handling.
SJCAM is nowhere near as well-known as GoPro. But their SJ10PRO Dual-Screen is worth a look. It has, of course, two screens. This is an advantage over the HERO8. In other specifications, it’s win-some, lose-some between the two. The SJ10PRO is slightly cheaper. The image sensor is the same at 12 MP. But video resolution does not match the GoPro, with 4K only at 30 fps.
Waterproofing is slightly below the GoPro Hero8 Black capabilities. It’s waterproof down to 16 feet (5 m) as it is or 98 feet (30 m) with the housing. Those figures are exactly half the GoPro’s specifications. On the other hand, the SJ10PRO comes complete with the waterproof housing and some other mounting options.
The Insta360 is another camera that takes a different approach to GoPro HERO alternatives. It is a modular action cam. You can choose from a 4K lens module, a 5.7K 360-degree lens, or a 5.3K 1-inch lens. This last lens is made by Leica, so it has some genuine pedigree.
This is a genuine contender as an alternative to the GoPro Hero8 Black. It has a 48 MP sensor and offers 200 fps shooting at HD quality. It also has an IS system that rivals that of the GoPro HERO12 Black. I would seriously consider the Insta360 ONE as an alternative if I was thinking about a GoPro Hero8 Black.
4. DJI Action 2
This is another different take on action cameras. Interchangeable modules let you adapt the camera to your needs. More battery power or a front screen? No problem. And these all swap out and connect magnetically. The DJI Action 2 also uses magnets to offer a number of mounting solutions.
It outperforms the GoPro Hero8 Black in video specifications. Image stabilization competes with the HERO8, but the HERO12’s IS is better than the DJI.
If I had to choose between this and the GoPro Hero8 Black, I would probably choose this one. But as this sits between the HERO8 and the HERO12 in terms of price, it’s a serious contender.
If you thought the other different action cameras broke the mold, think again. The Insta360 Go 2 doesn’t even know there was a mold. This underperforms compared with the GoPro Hero8 Black on almost every metric. Except for portability and versatility.
It’s here because you should at least consider it. It won’t be for you if you’re looking for a direct alternative to the GoPro. But the Insta360 Go 2 is the kind of camera that is the answer to a question you hadn’t even thought of.
There is a simple and short answer to the question, “Is the GoPro Hero8 Black still worth it in 2022?”
After writing this GoPro Hero8 Black review—it isn’t.
This is not a criticism of the GoPro Hero8 Black. It is a fine camera. When it was released, it was among the best available. It was quite a step up from the HERO7. The HERO9 was more of an evolutionary step, partly because the HERO8 was such a good camera.
But GoPro only offers three HERO cameras on their website, and I suspect that the HERO8 will slip away quietly when the HERO11 is launched. Now, that might lead to some discounting. At which point, it might be worth considering. And you might be able to get it with a comprehensive accessory bundle. But at the moment, it’s not your best option.
This leaves you with the question of what action camera is best for you. As I sit here and contemplate this question, I confess that the answer is “It all depends on your needs.” I think the GoPro Hero12 Black is great value for money. There’s no doubt that GoPro has put together a powerful package of features in a user-friendly camera. And there is a whole ecosystem and community of GoPro users out there. If you have a GoPro question, there is almost certainly a YouTube channel with the answer.
But I do like the very versatile DJI Action 2. I think it gives the GoPro a good run for its money across a range of functions. And if it were any cheaper in comparison to the GoPro HERO12 Black, it would have been an easier choice.
As I’ve said several times now, as it stands, the GoPro Hero8 Black is not a camera I would encourage you to buy. That isn’t the fault of the HERO8. I hope this GoPro Hero8 Black review has shown clearly that it remains a fine camera. It’s simple economics. At the current prices of each camera, the HERO12 wins.