GoPro is on the top of the action camera ladder and it is reaping more benefits than its highly ambitious competitors. On one side, many of today’s drones and quadcopters support GoPro HERO cameras and on another, GoPro is helping Google build the perfect solution for recording videos for virtual reality. GoPro is using their success to build a quadcopter of its own and really dominate. But that isn’t stopping big competitors like Sony from getting a slice of the pie. It is always important even for leaders like GoPro to feel the pressure so they can innovate and that is what GoPro has done with the GoPro HERO4 Black.
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About the GoPro HERO4 Black
The GoPro HERO4 Black is the successor of the GoPro HERO3+ Black, effectively being GoPro’s new flagship action camera. The GoPro HERO3+ already downsized the original GoPro HERO3 by about 20 percent and it appears GoPro couldn’t make the HERO4 Black any smaller.
Physically, it resembles the HERO3+ in many ways from the body to the slim case which provides waterproofing up to 40m. GoPro primarily focused on a huge number of internal improvements and features that make the HERO3+ feel a bit dated and incomplete. It is also the most expensive GoPro flagship with a $499 price tag.
Comparison with the GoPro HERO3+ Black
The HERO4 Black is the first and currently only GoPro action camera that supports recording at 4K at 30 fps. It is worth noting that the HERO3+ Black had a 4K recording feature as well but it was hardly usable at a measly 15 fps. The GoPro HERO4 Black has a nice boost to the 2.7K recording feature as well as it is now capable of 50 fps recording. Even the standard 1080p Full HD recording mode has an extra reason to exist as it can now record slow motion video at a cool 120 fps. Stepping down to the Silver Edition of the HERO4 only limits 120 fps to 720p. GoPro didn’t improve the 12-megapixel sensor found in the previous model but the HERO4’s superior processor made these improvements all possible. However, the camera still takes a bit of time to power on before you are ready to shoot video.
Video quality has dramatically improved with the HERO4 Black, thanks to these internal improvements. The GoPro setting remains as the default option but there is another option called “Flat”. The Flat option may make the color look less vibrant compared to the standard mode but it gives video editors greater flexibility when it comes to editing. In fact, with the proper post-processing, the video can look much better than the GoPro mode. Sharpness controls have been added to the GoPro HERO4 Black and the best part is that the lowest sharpness setting is considerably sharper than sharpness of the HERO3.
Night photography enthusiasts will also like the new Night Photo mode which takes better detailed photos at very low light settings. A complementary Night Lapse mode is available, too, giving you more possibilities with time lapses.
Like its predecessors, the GoPro HERO4 Black has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth onboard so you can use your smartphone as a remote viewfinder to assist with framing. The wireless connectivity of the HERO4 Black is a bit more improved, resulting to better refresh rates on the remote device.
Those that are into recording very long videos should appreciate the new HiLight Tag option which simply lets you tag key parts of your recording for later reviewing. You can either do it by pressing the dedicated button found on the camera or through the GoPro or GoPro Studio apps.
Minor improvements have been made to the audio quality as well. It has a new analog-to-digital converter and the microphone has far better dynamic range than the mic used by the HERO3.
While the HERO4 Black doesn’t have a touchscreen on the back like the Silver edition does, the basic front screen menu is easier to navigate as you can scroll through the options vertically rather than horizontally. It is also a little bit easier to insert the battery into the HERO4.
The GoPro app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone remains the heart of the GoPro HERO4 Black controls. The app provides the link between your smartphone and GoPro device through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and provides a live video remote interface that helps you frame your shot. All of the settings and functions are accessible from the app as well. If you are not comfortable using your smartphone or tablet, you can alternatively purchase the Smart Remote accessory for $79.99.
Video quality is simply excellent on the HERO4 Black although some folks might find the HERO4 Silver edition just as appealing as it has similar features and video quality. The upgraded 4K recording capabilities serve as the main reason to consider this model over any other GoPro camera. Results look fantastic even on the cheapest and smallest 4K TVs and those that don’t have these pricey displays still have the added flexibility of cropping to create good 1080p videos. This makes up for the lack of zooming capabilities.
Advanced users can take advantage of the ProTune editing options which unlock a vast array of manual controls to improve both videos and photos. This includes full control of the white balance, sharpness, ISO limit, color and exposure.
• Can finally record 4K video at 30 fps.
• Nice frame rate improvements across all other video recording modes.
• Much better action camera for low-light.
• Better onscreen user interface and Wi-Fi connectivity.
• No rear touchscreen unlike the Silver edition.
• Takes some time to fully startup.
$499 is a bit much for an action camera but you are primarily paying for the 4K support. Without the 4K support, the GoPro HERO4 Black can be considered more of a HERO3++ Black which is great because the HERO3+ Black was a class-leading action camera. These nice refinements make the HERO4 Black a far more formidable opponent to the competition.
Update: There is a newer model > GoPro HERO5 Black