Best GoPro Cameras for 2019


March 8, 2019    Electronics Gifts Travel 
(Image Credit: iStock)

Let's Go, PRO!

For action cameras we chose GoPro, the brand that invented it all. Although there have been a number of imitators over the years, this amazing company has stayed one foot ahead of the competition and today offers a wide range of models covering everyone from first time "cam heads" to seasoned pros (you can read more about GoPro's amazing story here). We've reviewed some of the most popular models from budget to performance oriented...

  • OUR TAKE
    PROS
    CONS

  • OUR TAKE
    • The predecessor to our top pick, the Hero5 Black has a touch screen interface, video stabilization and the ability to shoot 4K video at 30fps. All these features and a competitive price make this great unit our "performance" runner up!
    PROS
    • Films 4K video at 30fps.
    • Maximum bitrate of 60MB/s.
    • In-camera video stabilization (not quite as good as HyperSmooth).
    • Removable battery and front LCD screen.
    • Competitive price point (under $250).
    CONS
    • Model has been discontinued in favor of the HERO7 series (this being said, it is still widely available and a potential reason for the competitive price point).
    • Battery life is rather short (comparable to HERO7 but slightly longer).

  • OUR TAKE
    • A pared down version of our top pick, the HERO7 Black. Although it "only" has HD recording capability, this great unit is competitively priced and perfect for those new to action cameras, making it our "budget" runner up!
    PROS
    • Films HD video at 60fps.
    • In-camera video stabilization (not quite as good as HyperSmooth).
    • Easy-to-use touch screen interface.
    • Lowest price point at the time of our comparison (under $200).
    CONS
    • Does not film 4K video.
    • Built-in battery limits recording time to between 107 and 146 minutes.
    • Maximum bitrate of 40MB/s.
    • Lacks HDMI video out capability and GPS.
    • 10MP camera (as opposed to 12MP for other top picks).

  • OUR TAKE
    • A solid unit with similar features to the HERO5 Black. Ultimately, we rank it just behind the HERO5 (the two are similarly priced) because it lacks a removable battery as well as a front LCD screen and has a 10MP—as opposed to a 12MP—camera.
    PROS
    • Films 4K video at 30fps.
    • Maximum bitrate of 60 MB/s.
    • In camera video stabilization (not quite as good as HyperSmooth).
    • Touch screen user interface.
    • Competitive price point (similar to HERO5 Black at under $250).
    CONS
    • Built-in battery limits recording time to between 106 and 146 minutes.
    • Lacks HDMI video out capability.
    • No front LCD screen.
    • 10MP camera (as opposed to 12MP for HERO5 and HERO7 Black).

How We Chose...

(Image Credit: iStock)

Lights, Camera, Action!

As mentioned in the introduction to today's review, we have a strong preference for action cameras made by GoPro. This is because GoPro is not only the brand that first introduced action cameras to the market, but also because we feel it offers the best all around experience for users. Specifically, GoPro has taken the right mix of features, durability and optional extras for its cameras and parred them with easy-to-use mobile and desktop editing apps. While other manufacturers may offer action cameras with certain standout features, such as higher resolutions or longer battery life, they tend to have clunky software and confusing user interfaces. In short, we think GoPro offers the best all around package in the action camera market.

Having honed in on GoPro, we next set out to parse through the features found in its various models to determine what will work best for different users. Since all of the options in today's comparison have rear touch screens and are waterproof down to 10m/33ft, the selection process came down to features such as 4K capability, frames per second, front LCD screens, removable batteries and maximum bitrate (more on all these later).

We chose the HERO7 Black as our top overall pick because it is a feature packed device with GoPro's new "HyperSmooth" video stabilization. The HERO7 Black is also the only member of the HERO7 line with removable batteries and the ability to shoot 4K video at 60fps, meaning you can capture video slowed down 2X at this very high resolution (it can shoot Full HD video at a maximum 240fps allowing for 8X slowed down footage). It is also has voice control, live stream capability and is HDMI video out capable, meaning you can connect the camera directly to your TV with a micro HDMI cable (purchased separately) for instant big screen viewing. In short, the HERO7 Black has all the bells and whistles.

We chose the HERO5 Black as our "performance" runner up because it has many of the key features found in our top pick but is available for much less. Specifically, the HERO5 Black has a front LCD screen and rear touch screen, video stabilization and the ability to capture 4K video at 30fps (it can still go to 240fps at 720p resolution for super slow motion video).  Although the HERO7 Silver is technically the replacement for the HERO5 Black (the two are similarly priced), we feel the HERO5 Black offers superior value as it has a front LCD screen, 12MP camera, removable batteries and HDMI video out capability—all features that are missing from the HERO7 Silver.

We chose the HERO7 White as our "budget" runner up because it is an affordable unit with a large rear touch screen and video stabilization. Although it does not have removable batteries, GPS, HMDI video out or 4K recording capability, it still captures high quality HD video (1080p) at 60fps  (allowing for 2x slow motion) and comes with other useful features such as voice control. In short, we feel it offers great value for a camera with a sticker price of under $200.

As alluded to above, we would skip over the HERO7 Silver, in favor of the HERO5 Black or the cheaper HERO7 White. Specifically, this camera seems to be in somewhat of a "no-man's" land as it doesn't have removable batteries (a must for hardcore "cam heads"), a front LCD screen or HDMI out capability—all features found in the similarly priced HERO5 Black. Conversely, if these aren't features you really care about, then you can save money by going with the HERO7 White (albeit without 4K video). In short, we would only go with this option if you must have 4K recording capability and cannot get your hands on a HERO5 Black.

GoPros In A Nutshell

(Image Credit: iStock)

The Basics

What Are They? – GoPro's are a well known brand of action cameras. Action cameras, are a durable subset of cameras that are generally water, shock and dust proof (to varying degrees). They have gained tremendous popularity by allowing wearers to capture stunning "point of view" action video in settings simply not suitable for more fragile cellphones and other "traditional" cameras—whether it be surfing, hiking, big game fishing, sky diving, scuba diving, biking or anything else you can think of.

Why GoPro? – GoPro is is the inventor of the action camera genre. It makes a range of high quality units that are easy to use and compatible with a wide range of display devices. Although there are other action cameras with one or two standout specs, we feel that GoPro does the best job putting everything together in a complete package. And other's agree! While initially a side project for the founder's surfing hobby, GoPro is now a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

A Little More Advanced

What’s With The Models? – The HERO line of action cameras is GoPro's most popular (it has sold over 30 million of these devices). GoPro's most recent release for its HERO line is the HERO7, which comes in Black, Silver and White models. As can be gleaned from our comparison grid above, the color designation is not only about styling, but also about features and price; Black being the top-end, the Silver the mid-range and the White the budget model.

Many avid GoPro users point to the transition from the HERO4 to the HERO5 Black as being the watershed moment for the HERO line, with subsequent iterations (i.e. the 6 and 7) representing slight tweaks. This is because the HERO5 Black is the first GoPro with 4K recording capability, video stabilization, a built-in touch screen (ok, if we are splitting hairs the HERO4 Silver came with a touch screen) and an integrated waterproof housing (for the sake of accuracy, the HERO5 Session also had many, but not all of these features).

The HERO6 Black (the successor to the HERO5 Black) is viewed by many as something of a stop gap on the way to the complete HERO7 line.  Specifically, the HERO6 Black has features that are quite similar to the HERO7 Black, excepting HyperSmooth, and is almost as pricey.

In October of 2018 GoPro released the entire HERO7 line (Black, Silver and White). As you will see above, although the HERO7 Black is our top overall pick, the HERO5 Black still outperforms the newer Silver and White HERO7's in many important respects (i.e. removable batteries, front LCD screen, HDMI video out and 12MP camera). Although the HERO5 Black is being phased out, it is still widely available and continues to represent a great buy while it lasts.

(Image Credit: iStock)

Specific Considerations To Guide Your Selection

(Image Credit: iStock)

Features to Consider

Removable Batteries One aspect about GoPro cameras that many first time buyers are surprised to find is that the batteries do not last all day like those in a cellphone. Instead, recording time typically varies from 45 minutes to 90 minutes for the HERO7 Black and HERO5 Black and from 106 minutes to 146 minutes for the HERO7 Silver and White models (dependent upon settings and environment). What this means is that if you are a serious "cam head" or will be using your GoPro in locations where it is not possible to recharge, then you will likely want to go with the HERO7 Black or HERO5 Black. These models will allow you to purchase extra batteries that you can charge ahead of your extreme outings.

Front LCD Screen – If you will be using your GoPro for applications where you will be looking at the front of the camera (e.g. set on a tripod, on your bike's handlebars or the front of your surfboard), then go with either the HERO5 Black or HERO7 Black, as these are the only models with front facing LCD screens in this comparison. This screen will make it easy to keep tabs on your battery life, camera mode and other important settings.

More Features

Video Stabilization – If you will be using your GoPro for very bumpy applications, you may want to consider going with the HERO7 Black. While all of the models in today's comparison come with in-camera video stabilization, only the HERO7 Black has GoPro's new "HyperSmooth" stabilization. HyperSmooth offers a marked improvement over GoPro's standard video stabilization technology and is one of the reasons we recommend splurging on the HERO7 Black.

Compatibility with GoPro Accessories – If you plan on using your GoPro for scuba diving applications or with GoPro's (discountinued) Karma Drone, go with the HERO7 Black or HERO5 Black. Specifically, these are the only models in today's comparison that work with GoPro's "Super Suit" for underwater applications below 10M/33ft.  They are also the only models in today's comparison compatible with the Karma Drone (even though the Karma Drone has been discontinued, GoPro still recently updated the drone's firmware to accept the new HERO7 Black).

(Image Credit: iStock)
(Image Credit: iStock)

Technical Stuff

Bitrate Video bitrate is the number of "bits" processed by a camera in a second. Bitrate corresponds to video quality and file size and—without getting too technical—higher bitrates generally go hand-in-hand with higher image quality. Among the options in today's comparison, the HERO7 Black has a maximum bitrate of 78MB/s (i.e. 78 megabits per second, with one megabit equaling 1,000,000 bits) while the HERO5 Black and HERO7 Silver have maximum bitrates of 60MB/s and the HERO7 White has a maximum bitrate of 40MB/s.

While the HERO7 Black's high bitrate will translate into better looking video, taking advantage of bitrates above 60MB/s will require buying a newer SD card able to record at this speed (older SD card may record too slowly and result in video errors).

Video Codec  A video codec is a type of software that compresses (or decompresses) digital video files. Video codecs are related to bitrate in that newer codecs can transfer higher quality video at a given bitrate. All of the cameras in today's comparison capture video in the commonly found H.264 codec, while the HERO7 Black also allows for the option of using the newer H.265 codec (which reduces file size by approximately 50% when filming in the highest resolutions). If you are into video editing and the like, the HERO7's H.265 codec and 78MB/s bitrate allow for the capture of extremely high quality video and should make your choice relatively straightforward.

Why ReviewDecide?

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Seriously...

We started ReviewDecide on the premise that a great deal of the information required to properly evaluate a given product is already right in front of your (and our) eyes. In fact there is too much information! A crucial skill necessary to picking the best products is instead the ability to cull through the available information, focusing on what should really drive a purchase decision.

To make those crucial determinations as to what matters and what doesn’t, we begin by thinking through what really matters to us when we use a particular product. We then use the that type of product to further refine the features we care about and that we think you will care about too. Next we search the web, looking to manufacturer’s websites, product specifications, consumer reports, expert blogs, research reports and the like to obtain crucial insights and the facts.

Finally, we distill the results of our research and combine it with our own experiences as consumers, professionals, techies, mothers, fathers, hobbyists, designers, software engineers, attorneys (sorry) and more. Ultimately, this process results in the reviews we present to you. We hope you enjoy!

CREDITS:

  • Photo of action camera against background from iStock.
  • Photo of man on surf board from iStock.
  • Photo of man taking break during mountain bike ride from iStock.
  • Photo of action camera on bike handlebars from iStock.
  • Photo of man taking selfie with snorkel mask on from iStock.
  • Photo of scuba diver with action camera from iStock.
  • Photo of man surfing from iStock.
  • Photo of group jumping in office from iStock.

*Images have been cropped and/or resized.