The new GoPro Hero 9 Black is finally available in India, but at a higher price of Rs. 49,500, compared to GoPro’s previous flagship model. However, instead of just a recurring upgrade, GoPro has made some major changes to its 2020 model. There’s a new sensor, color display on the front and back, and the ability to shoot up to 5K video – all of which sound great.
Should you upgrade to GoPro Hero 9 Black? Let’s find out in this review.
GoPro Hero 9 black design
I’ve already talked about the design changes and how the Hero 9 Black compares to its predecessor in my first impression in September, so we won’t spend too much time on it. The downside is that it is larger and heavier than the Hero 8 Black, but still relatively compact so it can be easily mounted in tight space. The larger body allows GoPro to use a larger rear LCD display, but more importantly, the Hero 9 Black has a colorful front-facing display for the first time.
The GoPro Hero 9 Black has a foldable mounting prong, which debuted with the Hero 8 Black. There is a mode button and a power button and a single water-sealed bogie for microSD card and battery. Speaking of which, the Hero 9 Black uses a larger battery, which is good news, but it does mean that your old GoPro batteries won’t work on this new model. The lens cover is removable again (it was fixed on Hero 8 Black), which allows you to use the compatible lens mode.
Overall, the Hero 9 Black is not too far from GoPro’s tried and tested formula. Large display and battery are all welcome additions. Hero 9 Black is compatible with all previous GoPro mounts and most accessories. The company is shipping the camera in a reusable hard shell case, which I’m glad to see.
GoPro Hero 9 Black performance and battery life
Using the GoPro Hero 9 Black is a very familiar experience, especially if you are using a previous generation model. You can switch between timelaps, video and photo shooting modes by swiping left or right in the viewfinder. A swipe-down gesture brings toggle switches to enable voice commands etc. and also the settings menu. A swipe-up from the bottom of the screen lets you view media in GoPro.
The interface was quite backward when I first started using Hero 9 Black a few months ago, and it didn’t go away completely after receiving a bunch of firmware updates. Touch response is still a bit slow when it comes to changing shooting mode or opening menus. This becomes really frustrating when the camera is mounted in a tight spot and the screen refuses to respond to your input, forcing you to use the GoPro app instead.
The new 23.6-megapixel sensor lets you capture 20-megapixel photos, a major upgrade from previous GoPros 12-megapixel photos. The Hero 9 Black has a narrow f / 2.8 aperture that makes images look decent if you give the sensor enough light. There is an option to take HDR photos and Night Photo mode produces good quality stills in low light because the shutter can be kept open for up to 30 seconds. There are also blast and live blast capture modes, the latter allowing you to extract a frame from a short video clip.
The main new feature of Hero 9 Black is the ability to record 5K (5120×2880 pixels) video. Video quality is very good when shooting during the day and HyperSmooth 3.0 stabilization works very well. The Hero 9 Black can automatically flatten the horizon within the camera, even if it is accidentally mounted at an angle. This only works if you choose the ‘linear + horizon leveling’ approach. With other perspectives like ‘Wide’, you’ll still be able to adjust the horizon level through the app. HyperSmooth now allows you to halve the speed of any hyperlapse clip (for slow-motion effects) as well as real-time speeds like the Hero 8 Black.
Video quality is a bit poor in low light, which is to be expected. There is quite a bit of noise, and the stability introduces a lot of shaking. Low-light recording has never been GoPro’s strongest suite, and it continues to be an area where we want to see some big improvements in the future.
There are a few more useful features that can be enabled in most major shooting modes. Scheduled Capture lets you set the start and end time of when Hero 9 Black will start and stop recording. This is very effective if you plan to capture time-sensitive events like sunrise or sunset. Duration Capture lets you set a time frame for your video clips, so you can start recording and not have to bother manually stopping. Finally, you can activate Hindsight in video mode before you hit the shutter button to buffer the last 15 or 30 seconds of continuous footage.
GoPro claims that a larger 1,720mAh battery than the Hero 8 Black will provide up to 30 percent better battery life. While shooting with similar settings for Hero 9 Black and Hero 8 Black, I noticed that the new model usually lasts about 15-20 minutes longer, which is nice. It is difficult to measure the absolute battery life of a GoPro because it is affected by many factors such as shooting mode, Wi-Fi and GPS enabled. However, in general you should expect to get a longer recording time per charge with the Hero 9 Black than the Hero 8 Black.
Every year, GoPro’s flagship Hero line changes and improves, and the Hero 9 Black is definitely one of its biggest upgrades yet. The front color display, large battery, and improved recording resolution all make it a little easier and prettier to use. However, these changes come at a steep premium in India. Hero 9 Black has an MRP of Rs. 49,500, but you’ll be able to find it a little less online. Hero 8 Black owners don’t need to rush to upgrade in my opinion, unless of course you need a second color display or 5K recording.
Some of the things I really want to see next generation improvements are low light performance and touch response for the interface. Apart from these deals, the GoPro Hero 9 Black is one of the best action cameras on the market, if you are right with the premium price.