We use a lot of GoPros here at Gizmodo. We use them to shoot timelapse battery tests for phones and 360 degree videos of multibillion dollar transit hubs and test runs of quarter million dollar cars on a dirt track. So a new GoPro action camera with a lower price tag and badass features has us pumped. We’d love for this to be the camera we choose to update our own fleet of GoPros—more on that in a second—but the Hero5 is definitely the one we’d recommend to a bike nut friend who wants to get into the action cam game.
GoPro has become the de facto action camera because it’s simple enough for anyone to use and small enough to go anywhere. It’s just a supremely good value for the price. Sony, Olympus, and even Xioami have been nipping at GoPro’s heels with cheaper cameras that often have more features. But now, two years after the last big Hero camera, GoPro is back with a significant update that packs in more features, retails for cheaper, and sacrifices only a minute amount of battery in the process.
The GoPro Hero5 is the second action camera from GoPro, after the Hero4 Silver, to feature a touch screen on the back. The Hero4 came in two variants, Silver and Black. The Silver had fewer cool video modes but included that user-friendly touchscreen. The Black had all the great video modes, like shooting at 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 120fps, but lacked a touchscreen.
The Hero5 merges the best features of both variants and adds-on a few more like image stabilization, which is useful when trying to get a smooth shot on the back of a dune buggy or a sick tracking shot while perched on your CitiBike. The Hero5 is also the first GoPro with GPS built in, which is great if you’re travelling a lot and want to know where exactly you shot that last great video.
The other big change between the Hero4 and Hero5 is the introduction of voice commands. You can tell the Hero5 to start and stop recording, which is useful for anyone engaged in some extreme sporting. Bombing down a hill on a mountain bike looks cool on a GoPro, but you do not look cool when you stop the epic run to press a record button.
A “secret” feature is the Hero5's ability to instantly bookmark choice moments in your video when you shout “oh shit” or “that’s sick.” Unfortunately, you can only utilize the bookmarked moments when you’re editing with the GoPro editing suite. If you’re using Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro or other video editing software you’ll miss out, as we learned when we got back to the office to edit the video above
Adding these new features also provides additional drain on the Hero5's battery and when we pitted it against a Hero4 Black we use daily we found that it actually died 15 minutes faster. But it still lasted two hours and fifteen minutes. So it’s not exactly like a 15 minute loss of battery life is a deal breaker. And if you turn off the GPS and use the touch screen infrequently, you should be able to get even better battery life. Which is fantastic, because any old Hero4 batteries you have lying around won’t work with the Hero5. (Luckily, the new batteries are just $20 a pop.)
While the Hero4 and Hero5 largely look similar, the new action cam features a significant durability improvement: it’s completely waterproof. GoPro had to adjust the gadget’s design to make way for all the seals necessary for this waterproofing. That’s why the battery isn’t the same, and why the USB-C and micro HDMI ports are hidden behind a finicky little door that’s extremely difficult to open. It’s a wonderful trade-off, though, because the Hero4 required a case to be waterproof, which made the camera bulky and obnoxious to interact with. The Hero5 can take a dunk as deep as 33 feet without a case, so fiddling with little doors is a small price to pay for less heft.
The best feature of the Hero5, however, is its price. All the other features seem like natural upgrades that have existed, in some form or fashion, on devices from nearly all of GoPro’s competitors and even GoPro’s own Hero4 line. But the Hero5 is the first to combine all those features with a really nice price: $400. The Hero4 retailed for $500, when it launched back in 2014.
If you have the Hero4 Black and want a touchscreen or the Hero4 Silver and want expanded shooting modes—0r if you’re still clinging to your old Hero3 and feel the need to upgrade—then the Hero5 is a no brainer. It’s everything that was great about the Hero4 Black and Silver, but bundled up into one tiny, waterproof device.
As for us: We’ve got a fleet of Hero4 Blacks that suit us just fine. The new features are fantastic, and we’ll be suggesting the Hero5 to all our friends. But the new features are not enough to warrant the upgrade of an entire fleet of cameras that already shoot gorgeous video. For now we’re waiting for the eventual Hero6 to wow the hell out of us.
- Built-in GPS and image stabilization drain the battery faster but add features many videographers will find crucial
- Shoots in 4K up to 30fps
- Lasts about two hours and fifteen minutes on a charge. The Hero4 Black lasted thirty minutes longer.
- Waterproof up to 33 feet without the need of additional housing