The baddest action camera on the block is about to get even better. We just got an exclusive look at the first GoPro camera to capture silky smooth 240fps slow motion in glorious high definition. We've got the very first footage from a GoPro Hero4 equipped with a hot new firmware update that will bring that and much more. And I scored that footage at the Winter X Games this weekend while strapped to a snowboard.
Basically, if you have one of these cameras, you're going to be psyched.
Everything looks better in slow motion. But until now, the Hero4 Black couldn't do super smooth slow-mo and HD at the same time. When it launched, it was limited to 1080p video at 120 frames per second, 720p video at 120fps (as it was with the Hero3), or 480p at 240fps. This firmware update remedies that. The video above was all shot at 240 frames per second, and then slowed down to 24fps for the cinematic feel I like. You can slow things down even further than you can with 30fps playback. In this case, it's playing back at one-tenth speed.
In general, the action is extremely smooth. Even with my shaky hand and out-of-practice-feets, I look pretty good when you slow me down that much! One gripe is that when shooting at that speed you're limited a narrow field of view, roughly 65 degrees. That's fine when you're shooting someone/something else, but if you're trying to point the camera at yourself, you're not going to get much—it's just too close for selfie sticks. (I was using GoPro's 3-Way mount, which gives you about 22-inches of reach). I think there's some loss of detail, too, but it's an awesome feature. Do keep in mind that it's for the Hero4 Black only.
GoPro has had a time lapse feature on its cameras for forever, but the problem is that compiling hundreds of shots into a video required a computer, and some basic video editing chops. No longer. Time Lapse Video mode shoots the stills and automatically cuts them together right inside the camera, no post-production required. This means you can shoot a time lapse while you're on the trail, transfer it to your phone, and upload it right away.
On the camera, you just select the interval at which you want the shots taken (from one every half-second to one every 30 seconds), choose whether you want the resulting video to be in 2.7K (in a 4:3 ratio) or lossless 4K, hit the record button, and that's it. It's way more convenient. The only thing you lose is that it doesn't save the photos as individual files; it's just a single video. I actually think that's a blessing, because it keeps my SD cards a lot cleaner, and of course, you can always shoot regular time lapse mode if you want. This feature applies to the Hero4 Black and Silver editions.
[Note: YouTube does not currently support 2.7K video when played back at 60fps, so I reduced the speed to 40 percent to get smooth 2.7K at 24fps playback. Sorry we can't show the real-speed version. Click the gear and make sure you watch in 1440p, though!]
For those of you who don't know, 2.7K video is the middle child, right between your normal 1080p HD and your 4K UHD. A lot of videographers like it because it gives you some wiggle-room for cropping and/or using stabilization software in post production (which generally crops the edges). At launch the Hero4 Black could only shoot 2.7K at 48 fps, which isn't bad, but 60fps is much, much better.
Due to YouTube's (and Vimeo's) limitations, we couldn't show you the full-speed version of the above video (they can't do 2.7K at 60fps), but when viewing it on my laptop the action is very detailed and really smooth. It's just killer picture quality. What you see in the video above is the footage slowed down to 40 percent of its original speed, to make it 24 frames per second. It's not the super-slow-mo you get in 720p mode, but it's enough to have a really nice effect, and that's without using any aftereffects like Twixtor (which I don't care for, incidentally). This feature's also for Hero4 Black only.
Auto Rotate. Did you know the GoPro Hero4 Black and Silver have an accelerometer inside? Now you can put them to use. Now, even if you flip your camera upside down (which is sometimes the most convenient way to mount it!) it'll automatically flip the video right side up so you don't have to manually flip in post. You've always been able to manually change the orientation, but it was buried deep in the settings and was a major pain to use.
Auto rotate does lock out while recording so it doesn't accidentally flip over in the middle of your video, but when you're in between shots, you just flip it over and it does its thing. You can see I shot both ways in the 2.7K video above, and all it took was a second to stop recording, enable auto-rotate, and start capturing footage again.
Both the Black and the Silver are also getting a 30/6 Burst Photo mode. It captures a burst of 30 photos spread out over six seconds. That's not a feature I've found myself yearning for, but hey, if that day comes, you're covered.
Lastly, the Hero4 Silver (and the Black, if you have the LCD Touch BacPac) have set it up so you can add highlight tags during playback so you can easily tag timestamps in your footage you'd like to revisit. Previously, you could only add them during recording, meaning you'd have to be constantly tapping the side button on the camera while you're trying to film. Now you can focus on what you're doing and tag things later as you're flipping through the day's highlights.
So yeah, this is a pretty sizable firmware update, and it's just in time, too. Sony is just about to launch its Action Camera X100V, a $500 4K-shooting cam aimed squarely at the Hero4 Black (and it shoots 720p at 240, too). We'll be playing with that one very soon, but for now, this update gives the reigning king of the hill a few more jewels for its crown. The update's coming February. Keep an eye out.