GoPro HERO9 Black Review: Raising the Bar on What’s Expected of an Action Camera

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The Lowdown

If you are new to action cameras and don’t know where to start, I can comfortably say the GoPro HERO9 Black is where you want to be. It has all of the features you’d want (either built-in or through accessories), comes complete with the two displays, and you’re future-proofing yourself with 5K compatibility and the new Hypersmooth 3.0 stabilization.

Overall
4

Pros

  • Dual screen displays come in handy for all situations, including live vlogging
  • 20MP photography better than most phones
  • 5K compatibility future proofs this camera
  • Slow-Mo and cinematography mode are fantastic
  • Webcam and live stream features

Cons

  • Battery Life could be better
  • SD card slot is hard to reach
  • Touch screen can be hit or miss
GoPro HERO9 Black Review: Raising the Bar on What's Expected of an Action Camera Listen to this article

GoPro’s latest flagship action camera, the GoPro HERO9 Black is the first I’ve ever personally had the chance to check out from the brand, so I wanted to see if their slogan “More Everything” actually holds true. 

GoPro HERO9 Black

The iconic action camera by GoPro adds some much-desired features from the GoPro community including a full-color front screen display, 5K compatibility, but most importantly, improved battery life.

I was actually pretty intrigued by the stabilization of the camera, and although I do not have prior experience with GoPros specifically, I can certainly tell you that if you start with the GoPro HERO9 Black, you might just have your hands on the best action camera on the market. 

GoPro HERO9 Black

The GoPro HERO9 Black came out during the height of COVID-19, while many of us were stuck indoors over the course of many months. But luckily GoPro took the time to reflect and work on not just features but improvements that immediately are presented in the plastic-free unboxing experience.

GoPro HERO9 Black

They slimmed down the experience by opting to go with a black carrying case that houses the GoPro HERO9 Black Camera, a rechargeable battery, an adhesive for mounting along with a mounting buckle, USB-C charging cable, and a floating hand grip.  The rechargeable battery that comes bundled is a 1720mAh lithium-ion battery, and you might want to consider picking up a few spares (they normally retail for $19.99 on GoPro’s site). 

GoPro HERO9 Black

In terms of build quality, the GoPro HERO9 Black feels very lightweight in the hand, yet it also seems durable enough to withstand a drop or two. I would invest in some screen protectors from Amazon to protect your investment while you’re at it, just to be safe. In the hand, the HERO9 feels like a mixture of rubber and aluminum that’s textured so you get a bit of grip if you’re holding it for action shots which I think is a great touch as well. 

GoPro HERO9 Black

One thing I immediately swapped out on the GoPro is the removable side door. I noticed when using the standard door that I couldn’t shoot content from the GoPro while charging it, so I settled on a third-party solution that allowed me that ability. Note that using something like this does NOT allow you the ability to use the waterproof functions of the GoPro because it leaves ports like the memory card slot vulnerable, so I only use this option for when I go biking or hiking. When I go to the beach in the coming weeks, I fully intend on putting the original lens back. 

Sidenote: I wanted to mention that inserting and removing the SD card is an unnecessary level of difficulty. I don’t have long nails by any means, but since the card sits somewhat flush with the side of the HERO9, it will take a try or two. 

GoPro HERO9 Black

Aside from the battery door, there are other features that GoPro brought to the HERO9 that are removable with the intent to customize the experience, including the lens protector. Made of Corning Gorilla glass, the lens protector is built to withstand the elements, or even road gravel being flung at it. This also means that if you choose to use another lens with the HERO9 you can.

GoPro HERO9 Black

There are three on-board microphones placed strategically around the HERO9 (two included underneath the metal clasp that folds as shown in the photo above) that in my testing work fine, but it’s not the greatest I’ve ever heard. It will pick up everything it can, so on windy bike rides, it’ll capture that, passing cars, and even my struggles to get up slanted hills on my bike. 

GoPro HERO9 Black

In terms of displays, I’m very satisfied with both of the HERO9 Black’s screens. The rear features a touchscreen LCD display that measures diagonally at 2.7”. 

GoPro HERO9 Black

The front-facing camera is a newer addition to the GoPro lineup. It also has a 1.4″ color display that is great for selfie videos where you can see yourself live, perfect for vlogging. It has a built-in timer that can be changed as well, so if after 15 seconds you don’t want to see yourself on the front display but would still like to record or take photos you can.

Just remember if you are recording a video that it still is recording, even though there’s no clear indicator that you are recording with the front display being off. Even better, the front display also shows you the modes and settings you have, which comes in handy if you tend to switch from video to photo capture often. 

GoPro HERO9 Black

With GoPro’s rear on-screen interface, not much has changed from previous models, but the screen being a tad larger means that menus are easily more identifiable and slightly easier to touch. In my experience, however, I noticed sometimes my gestures have a delayed reaction; I’ll occasionally press too long causing a menu that I don’t want to pop up.

I removed the third-party screen protector I was using on the HERO9 and noticed that the issue persisted, so I can confirm this isn’t just isolated to screen protectors. I haven’t hit the beach or the pool so far this season to test how gestures would work in that environment, but I can only imagine that it would be a bit harder. 

The internals combined with the stock lens itself is something I’ve truly been delighted with from the GoPro HERO9 Black. In the video of me biking with my GoPro, the HERO9 Black produces some very crisp exposures that highlight colors and range better than you’d expect from any other action camera. When biking down on a trail you can notice how it captures its surroundings in great detail.

Paired with the internal leveler, the video footage is sensational and I’ve started actually carrying the GoPro HERO9 Black to work with me, capturing footage and photos on my lunch break of DC’s architecture that manages to show more detail than I would have expected. 

Images captured with GoPro HERO9 Black

Image captured with the GoPro HERO9 Black

You can take photos up to 20MP, which is a bit better than most smartphones these days, and it comes in handy occasionally. I don’t always have a point-and-shoot with me, so being able to shoot in JPEG or raw formats means I can get that perfect shot, then take the image to my computer and edit it in Darkroom later. I almost exclusively take photos in Linear or wide shots on the GoPro, but the Narrow option is there if you’d like. 

There’s a 5K video mode that GoPro has hyped up since the announcement of the HERO9 Black, but my main gripe with it is outside of the slight difference in detail in the footage, some of the best quality 5K has to happen outdoors on a sunny day to maximize the quality. I typically shoot in 4K, mainly due to compatibility with apps, and it’s easier to convert so I tend to stick to that.

GoPro HERO9 Black

As someone who’s a regular cyclist, my biggest like on the GoPro HERO9 Black is the Horizon Leveling 3.0 when going around turns, potholes, hills, uneven pavement, you name it. Another welcome feature, Hypersmooth 3.0 somehow manages to stabilize my videos.

As someone with a shaky camera shutter finger, when Hypersmooth 3.0 is active on my images, I’ve noticed there are fewer “moving” images where there may be a slight shake causing what could’ve been a perfect photo-op to look blurry. 

GoPro HERO9 Black

Battery life on the GoPro HERO9 Black could be a bit better. When I stated that the removable battery was 1720mAh and you might need to carry a spare, I meant that. While recording for 35-40 minutes and alternating from various modes, the battery went from 100 to 68 percent in the blink of an eye. The majority of my footage was shot in either 1080 or 4K which obviously can contribute to the drain, but I can only imagine if you’re shooting in 5K that this could make your battery’s life dip.  

One feature that GoPro announced would be possible is using the HERO9 as a webcam. As someone who has a MacBook Pro with a terrible EyeSight camera, I’ve been using the Logitech Brio as my main webcam, but can comfortably say that the GoPro HERO9 Black is neck and neck with that in terms of quality. You’ll obviously need accessories in order to set it up the way you’d like as a webcam, but I can guarantee it’ll make you look better on Zoom calls using this.

GoPro Plus users also can live stream to social platforms like YouTube using the HERO9, but that comes with its own subscription. If you chose to go with that, you’ll get unlimited original resolution cloud storage, and discounts on the GoPro Store for accessories. 

GoPro HERO9 Black

If you are new to action cameras and don’t know where to start, I can comfortably say the GoPro HERO9 Black is where you want to be. It has all of the features you’d want (either built-in or through accessories), comes complete with the two displays, and you’re future-proofing yourself with 5K compatibility and the new Hypersmooth 3.0 stabilization.

You should take GoPro up on their bundle discounts, so you can avoid buying the items later separately. Right now for $349.98 you can get the GoPro HERO9 Black Bundle complete with a spare battery, a magnetic swivel slip, a 32GB SD card, floating hand grip, a camera case, and a year subscription to GoPro’s app subscription.

The GoPro HERO9 Black Bundle sells for $349.98; it is available directly from the manufacturer.

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

What I Like: Dual screen displays come in handy for all situations, including live vlogging; 20MP photography better than most phones; 5K compatibility future proofs this camera; Slow-Mo and cinematography mode are fantastic; Webcam and live stream features

What Needs Improvement: Battery Life could be better; SD card slot is hard to reach; Touch screen can be hit or miss

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About the Author

Greg Alston
Diehard Apple fanboy, and lover of all things tech. Born and raised in Washington, DC, Greg enjoys spending time with his wife, family, and friends, live sporting events, good bourbon, Tetris, and pizza. In that order.