While I wish my life was cooler in the past few weeks, I did my best to use this GoPro for as much video and photo taking as possible between evacuating from a recent firestorm and the messy clean up after returning home.
User Interface and Experience:
GoPro has been making incremental chances to both their camera and app UI’s to improve ease of use and ease of content sharing. The Hero7 gets menu tweaks and interface changes that make it feel familiar and more like your smart phone.
The full sized touch screen makes it easy to change settings and see what you are recording. GoPro’s app also has the same setting functions, so you can use whatever works best for you. I found that the GoPro screen was a little small to use, so I’d grab my phone and make changes there. The app also lets you update your camera software quickly and easily. It’s always nice to have options, especially when the camera is mounted on a chest mount or some other rig and the screen isn’t accessible. The settings are easy to locate and understand.
I love the voice command feature. It’s great for times when you’re riding and don’t want to reach down and mess with the camera. Simply say, “GoPro take a burst photo” or “GoPro capture video” and you’ll never miss the shot again! Sure the voice commands aren’t perfect when you’re riding at speed, but we only had the camera ignore us a hand full of times. It’ll even tag highlights in your videos if you say, “That was sick!” or other similar phrases. Be warned however, as turning on the voice activation does hurt battery life on this camera. With lots of additional features and processing functions, yet the same battery size as the previous GoPro’s, this camera doesn’t have the best battery life.
While most people are buying this camera for its video capabilities, this thing is a solid little tool for photos. All the images in this review are unedited and taken straight from the GoPro Hero7. The Hero7 Black can shoot in burst, time lapse or long exposure and lets you control everything you’d control on a normal camera in the Pro Tune section of the menu. While the image sensor is unchanged from the 6 (it wasn’t bad to begin with) the changes to the camera’s ability to compose multiple images into a single well exposed one is awesome and really helpful.
Shooting landscapes where the ground is darker than the sky results in way better images that keep more detail from each section compared to older Heros. The HDR function doesn’t work as well for action or portrait shots, but for landscapes it’s a huge help. Because it combines multiple images, there can’t be large movements. So no action shots and no shooting from a moving vehicle with HDR on. However, Hero7 also lets you shoot in RAW file formats if you plan to edit the photos in a program like Photoshop, and there’s great dynamic range preservation so you can easily get the perfectly exposed scene.
These shots are samples with and without the HDR Super Photo settings turned on. It’s hard to tell them apart, but the HDR photo definitely has brighter shadows. The first photo is with HDR on, the second is with it off. This thing gives my IphoneX a run for its money, and I think shoots better quality photos overall. It also fits right on my chest or helmet, and takes photos with voice commands, which is a huge benefit. Not to mention it puts up with a serious beating.
After spending more time than I’d like to admit staring at and editing Hero5 and Hero6 footage, I’ve got a good handle on what’s what. That said, the digital image stabilization on the Hero7 is not only impressive, but game changing. There I said it, and here’s why. Nothing is worse than pushing yourself only to find out your gear failed and you missed a shot. By eliminating the gimbal, you’re able to simplify your set up and get the shots more often. No more charging a gimbal, dealing with complex motors that balance your camera, or having things bump the gimbal and ruin your shot. With the Hero7 you get similar stability without any of the complication. It works just as well in the narrow fields of view as it does in 4k Super View too. The best part is that it’s continually getting better. Since it’s software-based performance and not hardware-based stabilization, GoPro can continue to tweak and improve performance. We’ve already had two updates since owning this camera.
Though I don’t think most people will bother, the magic of video on this camera really happens when you go and turn on the Pro Tune settings. These settings let you manually adjust the camera’s white balance, shutter speed and ISO. If you really get tricky and combine that with the use of ND filters, you can get footage that looks just as good as the GoPro commercials. They aren’t using special tricks or faking footage, they just have good color grading people and use ProTune. Even without ProTune on, this camera performs right out of the box. During challenging lighting conditions like dappled forest light, the Hero7 still leaves with usable footage and captures the scene just like you saw it.
Another big area of improvement is audio. While audio on a GoPro will always be hindered by the water proof membrane that covers the mic, this generation makes a big leap forward especially in heavy wind. Voices are clear, and ambient noise isn’t overwhelming.