(Pocket-lint) - With the rise of image stabilisation in smartphones, the importance of the action camera market has reduced somewhat in recent years. After all, your phone is likely water-resistant and something you already carry around with you. But that said, there are still situations where an action camera is preferable, particularly if you want to mount it easily to your bike, helmet, drone or chest. And there's one company that does action cameras better than the others: GoPro.
While there's more competition now, GoPro still has arguably the best all-around ecosystem of action cameras. And thanks to some product lines refreshing over the past couple of years, the sheer number of options has reduced to make choosing one much easier. So which GoPro should you buy?
What GoPro offers
GoPro's entire lineup has gone through something of a streamlining process and complete refresh over the past couple of years. Whereas prior years saw various models, including a budget model and a tiny Session camera, the company now only offers versions of the flagship Hero series and the 360-degree Max.
In 2018, it moved around its product line quite a bit to achieve this streamlining, and further slimmed it down in 2019 with the launch of the Hero 8 and Max. In 2020 and 2021, that process was refined further. Although, older models are available from third party retailers.
GoPro also offers an array of accessories, from small handheld mounts that act as tripods, to floating cases and handles. It also has a great, easy to use mobile app for editing. As an ecosystem goes, it's pretty unbeatable.
Our pick of the best action cameras from GoPro
GoPro Hero 10 Black
After such a drastic redesign in 2020, it didn't make sense for GoPro to completely rip it up and start again. From the outside - apart from the bright blue branding - there's no real difference between the Hero 10 and the Hero 9 that came before it. But the internals have been given an impressive power boost.
The camera is powered by a second-generation custom processor called the GP2 and that has enabled a host of improved video capture and stills capabilities. With this additional power, the camera can shoot up to 5.3K at 60fps, 4K up to 120fps or 2.7K up to 240fps, essentially doubling the frame rate of its predecessor.
That's not all though. Along with a new sensor, the camera has improved low light capabilities so that dim scenery has a lot less noise than before, while also enhancing HyperSmooth stabilisation so that it works in more modes with higher resolutions and frame rates.
It works with all the same Mods as the Hero 9, is built to the same water-resistant (10m) standards and has the mounting feet built into the bottom of the camera for convenience.
GoPro Hero 9 Black
GoPro's 2020 Hero is the culmination of years of improving stabilisation algorithms. HyperSmooth 3.0 builds on the Hero 8's capabilities by automatically stabilising shakes and judders from your footage and making it impossibly smooth. Change direction suddenly and it'll smoothly pan, using a smart algorithm.
There were two key improvements on previous cameras, however, which make it very appealing for any buyer. One of those is undoubtedly the larger battery which lasts much longer than its predecessors. The other is that there's an actually useful screen on the front that you can use to frame yourself when facing the lens. It's no longer just a black and white screen with basic information.
GoPro improved the audio too, putting a better microphone at the front of the camera as well as building in a water expelling channel to further improve its waterproofing versus the older models.
Video capabilities include 5K recording at 30fps, 4K up to 60fps, 1080p live-streaming as well as slow-motion 240fps and a number of timelapse and hyper-lapse capture modes, including a Night Lapse photo option.
It's arguably one of the best value flagship Hero cameras to date as well, with a starting price well below some of its predecessors if you buy it with a GoPro subscription.
GoPro Hero 10 Bones
For those seeking something completely different, we have the GoPro Hero 10 Bones. This is designed pretty much exclusively for FPV drone users, and unless you're comfortable wielding a soldering iron, you'll want to steer well clear.
Specs-wise it's identical to the flagship Hero 10, only all the parts unnecessary for use when strapped to a drone are stripped away. That means no screen, no battery and a massive 100-gram weight reduction. As there's no screen, the camera is configured entirely in the Quik app and since there's no battery, buyers are expected to solder a custom power lead to their drone's PCB - it's not for the faint of heart.
So, why go to all of this trouble? Well, one of the best examples is presented in this video from Red Bull. A lightweight and small FPV drone can capture shots like nothing ever before - and the Hero 10 Bones makes it easier than ever to fly a high-quality camera on a tiny rig.
GoPro doesn't want you to think of the Max as a reboot of the Fusion, but in a lot of ways, it is. Likewise, in a lot of ways, it isn't. It's a 360-degree camera, that's true, but it's more than that and GoPro has completely changed the way you edit video from it.
You can shoot using either of the two 180-degree cameras on its own, and it features even better stabilisation than the Hero8. As well as using the HyperSmooth technology of the more standard camera, it uses its ultra-wide lenses to automatically level the horizons, so not only does it make all your footage smooth, but it's also always level.
It has a better mic than the Hero8 too, in fact, offering similar performance to the shotgun mic mod that you can buy for the Hero8. It has six mics in total, offering that 360-degree audio.
Of course, you can shoot in 360 too, using both cameras, and then you simply use the GoPro mobile app to reframe any of the footage you capture in a way that's much more user friendly than the method offered by the Fusion. You can also use a TimeWarp feature that lets you speed up and slow down footage while panning around the 360-degree footage.
Like the Hero, it has built-in mounting arms, so you'll never need a case for it to mount it to any of your handles. What's more, it's only $100 more than the single-camera device.
GoPro Hero 8 Black
GoPro didn't just enhance the action camera's capabilities when it launched the Hero 8 Black, it also brought with it a new, more practical design. It's slightly bigger and heavier than its predecessor, but that extra size and weight means there's now space for built-in mounting arms, and that means no more additional clip-on frames. It'll mount to anything all by itself.
As you'd expect, it's waterproof and can shoot up to 4K resolution, with a huge number of frame rates and resolutions available depending on what kind of footage you're wanting to shoot. The big news in video performance is the enhancement of the company's HyperSmooth stabilisation algorithms. It's called HyperSmooth 2.0 and is available across all resolutions and frame rates, so it doesn't matter what you shoot, it'll be buttery smooth.
- 4K Wide - 60, 30, 24 fps
- 4K SuperView - 30, 24 fps
- 4K Linear - 60, 30, 24fps
- 4K (4:3) Wide - 30, 24 fps
- 2.7K Wide - 120, 60, 30, 24 fps
- 2.7K SuperView - 60, 30, 24 fps
- 2.7K Linear - 60, 30, 24 fps
- 2.7K Narrow - 60, 30, 24 fps
- 2.7K (4:3) Wide - 60, 30, 24 fps
- 2.7K (4:3) Linear - 60, 30, 24 fps
- 2.7K (4:3) Narrow - 60, 30, 24 fps
- 1440p Wide - 120, 60, 30, 24 fps
- 1440p Linear - 60, 30, 24 fps
- 1440p Narrow - 60, 30, 24 fps
- 1080p Wide - 240, 120, 60, 30, 24 fps
- 1080p SuperView + Linear - 120, 60, 30, 24 fps
- 1080p Narrow - 60, 30, 24 fps
One of the biggest enhancements to the Hero 8 Black is down to the redesigned exterior and port layout: mods. GoPro has introduced three new mod add-ons that enable a more professional vlogging experience. Simply: you can now connect a shotgun microphone, LED light and display mod so that you can light yourself in darker environments, get better audio recording and see yourself when shooting to the camera.
It's for sure the most accomplished standard GoPro action camera to date. Check out more in our review below.
Read the full review: GoPro Hero 8 Black review
Which GoPro should you buy?
If you want the best of the best, the Hero 10 Black is the easiest recommendation. It doesn't just film 5.3K resolution at 60fps, it's waterproof, can do 240fps slow-mo at 2.7k resolution, and has really impressive digital stabilisation during shooting. Overall image quality is great too.
With that said, the GoPro Max also makes a solid case for itself by not only offering high-end Hero performance, but also more advanced stabilisation and horizon levelling, plus 360-degree capture.
And, we can't forget about the Hero 9 Black. It may be a little long in the tooth, but it still packs admirable specs and is available at a better price than ever before.
Ultimately it comes down to weighing up what's important to you in an action camera. To read up more on GoPro and its products be sure to check out our GoPro Hub.