A lot of action camera enthusiasts patiently waited for GoPro’s next big flagship and back in September 2014, GoPro dropped the bomb. The GoPro HERO4 Black came out swinging with 4K video recording support at an adequate 30 fps. This cutting edge technology, however, is responsible for the steep $499 price tag. Those who don’t need that kind of power aren’t willing to spend so much on GoPro’s new crown jewel. But like the HERO3 and HERO3+ series, the HERO4 name is a family of action cameras. The GoPro HERO4 Silver edition now gets the $399 price tag and while it no longer has the spotlight, it is still a nice improvement over any of the HERO3 models.
About the GoPro HERO4 Silver
The GoPro HERO4 Silver is the new mid-tier GoPro camera but it shares a lot of qualities with GoPro’s previous flagship model – the GoPro HERO3+ Black. That model launched at a $399, too, so the GoPro HERO4 Silver essentially targets the same prosumer audience, leaving the HERO4 Black to the folks who want the bleeding edge (4K). It looks pretty similar to its predecessor and you still need to put it in the included housing to make the camera waterproof up to 40m. But the HERO4 Silver looks to be a sign that GoPro family of action cameras are going through a paradigm shift of sorts. This Silver edition has a lot in common with the HERO4 Black edition and it has something you can’t find in any other GoPro HERO camera.
Comparison with the GoPro HERO3+ Silver
The biggest feature that the GoPro HERO4 Silver brings to the table is a small 1.5-inch touchscreen on its rear side. The screen might be small compared to the average point-and-shoot camera but it is actually pretty nice and surprisingly responsive. When turned on, the screen defaults to the live view, allowing you to quickly frame your shot. There are status bars on the top and bottom showing you the battery life, time information and current modes. A single tap or swipe on the screen brings up the lock screen which has an unlock gesture that is pretty similar to smartphones. Once unlocked, you can swipe from the right to bring up a grid menu where you can select a mode. Accessing the mode’s settings is a simple swipe from the bottom. The screen also doubles as a preview video, allowing you to conveniently play back videos and photos stored in the memory card. The waterproof casing has a special bubble-like covering so you can actually use the touchscreen with the casing on providing you press a bit harder.
Overall, the menu system is very basic and intuitive. Since it is only found on the HERO4 Silver, this action camera ends up being the best one to get for first-time GoPro adopters. Just be sure to turn off this display when you don’t need it because it drains the battery a lot faster.
The battery itself has been redesigned and is easier to install. The downside is that you can’t use older GoPro batteries with the GoPro HERO4 Silver. Plus, the battery’s capacity isn’t much better either.
The Silver edition models are particularly known for not being as good as previous generation Black edition models but the HERO4 Silver breaks this trend a bit. The specs and price of the GoPro HERO4 Silver show that it is actually more of a successor to the GoPro HERO3+ Black while the HERO4 Black carves its own niche. For instance, the HERO3 Silver can only record at 1080p resolutions or smaller while the HERO4 Silver reaches out to 4K albeit at a max frame rate of just 15 fps. This puts it in line with the HERO3+ Black and it isn’t very appealing considering the fact that the GoPro HERO4 Black records 4K at a more acceptable frame rate. It also has the same 12-megapixel sensor as the HERO3+ Black which is a healthy improvement over the 10-megapixel sensor found on the HERO3+ Silver. Burst rates have been improved from 10 shots per second to 30.
The GoPro HERO4 Silver also comes with Protune which lets you record very high quality 45 Mbps videos. No matter what resolution you pick, you have the option to use GoPro’s standard color profile or a special “Flat” profile which makes the colors less vivid but far more post-production friendly. You have better control over things like white balance and ISO sensitivity. Proper post-production editing could lead to far superior results over GoPro’s default settings.
Using the HERO4 Silver at night is far better than its predecessors. It has a new Night Photo and Night Lapse modes for taking low-light shots and time lapses. This mode is surprisingly useful when recording underwater. You don’t have to worry so much about frame rate settings and the like either because the Auto Low Light mode automatically picks the optimal settings.
Once you have some recorded videos to work with, you can use the new HiLight Tag feature to mark any key moments of your videos for later reference. The GoPro and GoPro Studio apps also support this feature if ever you don’t feel like doing it from the camera itself.
The dynamic range of the GoPro HERO4 Silver’s microphone has nearly been doubled from the older Silver model, resulting to better audio quality. The 3.5mm jack is still available in case you want to use an external mic.
The most surprising thing about the video quality of the HERO4 Silver is how close it is to the quality of the HERO4 Black. After recording the same scene with both cameras on 1080p settings, the end result is that is pretty hard to tell which looks better. It is noticeably better than any of the HERO3+ models and the Protune adds a nice degree of flexibility.
• Added touchscreen makes it more beginner-friendly.
• $100 cheaper than the GoPro HERO4 Black edition but shares many of the new features.
• Nice night time modes.
• Fantastic 1080p quality.
• Poor battery life; does not accept HERO3 batteries.
• Slow startup time.
The GoPro HERO4 Silver edition is essentially a cheaper GoPro HERO4 Black edition with a weaker processor but has a touchscreen. That’s a pretty sweet trade off as long as you don’t care about 4K recording.
Update: There is a newer model > GoPro HERO6 Black