GoPro Hero9 Black review: more features than you'll probably ever need | CNN Underscored  09/16/2020 14:01:40   Jason Cipriani

GoPro is back with another camera  this time its the GoPro Hero9 Black. Its slightly bigger than last years Hero8 Black, has longer battery life, and will soon have a new accessory: The Max Lens Mod that improves stabilization and delivers an ultra-wide field of view.

You wont have to wait long to get the new GoPro in your hands, either. Its available starting today, for $449.99. Or if you pay $49.99 for a year of GoPros online service, you can get the camera for $349.98. Formerly called GoPro Plus, the GoPro subscription service will back up your photos and videos to the cloud with unlimited storage space, offer replacements for a broken GoPro, and get you a discount up to 50% off of GoPro accessories.

The Max Lens Mod will cost $99.99, and starts shipping in October. So unfortunately we werent able to test out the new Mod, but we have been using the Hero9 Black for the last week.

Theres a lot to unpack here, so lets jump right in.

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

The GoPro Hero9 Black is the first GoPro to feature a 1.4-inch front-facing color LCD screen that acts as a viewfinder. The main display on the back of the Hero9 Black wasnt left out when it came to improvements either. GoPro is increasing its size by 16%, now measuring 2.27 inches, compared with 1.95 inches on previous models.

The front display is incredibly useful as a viewfinder to line up your shot, or just as a means to see what settings youre currently using. Its a very welcome addition to the GoPro line.

On the right side of the housing is a cover that opens to reveal a USB-C port, the battery compartment and microSD card slot. The back of the camera is nearly all display, with an indicator light in the top left corner that helps you keep tabs on when its powered on, charging or actively being used.

The left side of the housing is where youll find the power/mode button. Long-press it to turn the camera on or off, or use it to switch between shooting modes or go back when navigating the cameras menus. On top of the GoPro is a capture button that you press to start or stop recording, or capture a quick photo. Pretty simple.

You can control the camera, its shooting modes, and adjust settings or use the live preview feature with the GoPro mobile app on your phone. Its available for Android and iOS.

Alternatively, you can navigate the cameras menu using the rear display that doubles as a touchscreen. Theres a slight learning curve to getting around the interface, and its not as responsive as your smartphone or tablets screen, but not having to take out your phone every time you want to make an adjustment is convenient.

Like the Hero8 Black, the Hero9 Black also has mounts that fold out of the bottom of the housing to quickly attach the camera to any GoPro compatible mount. The mounts eliminate the need for an extra housing, as older model GoPros used, which was then mounted to a tripod or another accessory. Think of it as removing the middleman, to a degree.

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

This is the first GoPro model weve tested with the foldable mounts, or fingers as GoPro refers to them, and its brilliant. Not having to worry about an extra accessory just so you can place the camera on a tripod is a small, but useful feature.

With a larger display and battery, the overall size of the Hero9 Black also increased. It measures 71 x 55 x 33.6 millimeters and weighs 158 grams. Compare those dimensions to the Hero8 Black, which measures 66.3 x 48.6 x 28.4 millimeters and weighs 126 grams, and you can see that the size increase isnt drastic, but it is noticeable.

Fancy new color displays aside, where the GoPro Hero9 Black really shines is in its overall performance. It boasts a 23.6-megapixel sensor, can record 5K video, can capture 20-megapixel still photos and has a 1,720mAh battery to extend your recording session.

Theres so much more to the Hero9 Black than its specs, though. Most of what makes the Hero9 Black appealing is a series of software features, each one aimed at helping you capture the best shot or video possible.

For example, HyperSmooth 3.0 with Boost ensures that your videos are captured as if you are using a gimbal to provide a stable shot. So if you strap a Hero9 Black to your chest and wear it as you ride your bike down a rocky trail, instead of the resulting clip showing every bump and movement, HyperSmooth 3.0 will remove most of the movement. While we didnt have a chance to ride a mountain bike over rough terrain, we did test HyperSmooth by running around the yard, and it does what GoPro promises.

You lose about 10% of the shot due to cropping when smoothing is used, but thats a small price to pay for usable footage.

Another feature keeps the horizon of your shots level, which you can see in the time-lapse video captured during a drive in the mountains. You can see the car lean as it goes through each corner, but the video itself stays straight and never leans with the car. Its pretty cool.

There are, of course, more software features, like TimeWarp 3.0, that make it easy to get creative with time-lapse shots, adjusting speeds and adding audio. Or HindSight helps you keep the amount of recorded footage to a minimum. When you use HindSight mode, the camera will stay on and capture video but wont save the last 30 seconds unless you press the record button.

This is handy for when youre trying to capture yourself hitting a trickshot, but dont want to record 45 minutes worth of attempts. Instead, you turn on HindSight, then after you hit the shot and celebrate, press the record button of the camera to tell it to save the clip.

Theres also a scheduling feature that lets you schedule a time for the camera to turn on and take a photo, video or start a time-lapse. We tested it on several occasions and it worked without issue  that is, until we scheduled a night time-lapse to start in the middle of the night. For whatever reason, anytime we scheduled it to start recording around midnight, it simply didnt turn on. Wed wake up the next morning, and nothing was captured. Weve been working with GoPro to figure out why were seeing such a weird issue and will update this review with what we learn.

Nonetheless, whether it was a still photo we captured or a 5K video we shot of kids playing in a car on a long road trip, the photo and video quality from the GoPro Hero9 Black looks great.

We dont have a Hero8 Black to compare battery life between the two cameras, but we were able to record over an hour of video on a full battery.

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

Perhaps our favorite feature over the last week or so of testing is the fact that you can use the Hero9 Black as a webcam. Currently, the software to make this happen only works on a Mac, but GoPro is working on a Windows app that enables the came capabilities.

We used the Hero9 Black as a webcam for a long list of Zoom and Google Meet calls over the last week, and found it to be a huge upgrade over the webcam built into an older 27-inch Apple iMac. Not only was the shot clearer and not as grainy, but the wide-angle lens allows more of your surroundings into the shot, and it just looks cool. The software allows you to switch from wide-angle, narrow or linear views.

To be clear, its not worth buying the GoPro Hero9 Black solely to use as a webcam. For those who buy one and are looking for more ways to get use out of it, though, theres the added bonus of being able to use it for a Zoom call, which is one we cannot praise enough.

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

The GoPro Hero9 Black is far more camera than well ever need, and thats kind of what makes it so fun and exciting. Sure, its marketed toward people who are jumping off of cliffs and out or airplanes, and those people will be more than happy with the wide range of features the Hero9 Black has to offer.

But for someone who doesnt do all of that, and who instead wants a dedicated camera with features that will help capture moments of their life  be it catching a fish or getting creative with time-lapse videos  and then turning around and using it as a webcam for a conference call, the Hero9 Black is worth spoiling yourself with.

You can order the Hero9 Black today for $449.98, or sign up for GoPros subscription service and save yourself $50 in the process by getting the Hero9 Black for $349.98.

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