Editor's Choice 2019, Reviews, Video

HyperSmooth makes GoPro’s Hero 7 Black a clear winner

gopro hero 7 review

The GoPro HERO 7 Black looks more or less the same as a HERO 6 and a HERO 5, but the difference between the latter two and the HERO 7 is rather spectacular, in that it has a highly effective digital stabilisation system built-in. That is the new GoPro’s USP (unique selling point) from which also the smooth time-lapse video (Timewarp video in GoPro-talk) is derived. Other novelties include the ability to create HDR shots and a vastly better menu system.

Let’s start with the latter. The menu system is efficient, clear and user-friendly. It’s better than the previous HERO action cameras and much better than what Sony and other camera manufacturers have come up with. But you won’t buy a HERO 7 just for its menu, now, will you?

No, you’ll probably want one because of its silky-smooth digital “HyperSmooth” stabilisation. And it is silky smooth, I promise you. I compared the HERO 7’s video stabilisation to the HERO 6 mounted on a GoPro Karma Grip and found it pretty impressive. There’s almost no difference between the two except on the practical side of things.

The Karma Grip is very easy to use but sometimes you’ll accidentally press the wrong button and the camera will wildly start living its own life – it will point anywhere. It’s also quite heavy. On the other hand, it has the added benefit of powering the camera.

The HERO 7 Black is as light as it gets and you can just hold it any way you want, pointed exactly where you want it – no buttons you can accidentally press. However, you’ll have to do with the built-in battery or an external battery pack that you’ll need to plug in using a cable.

Also, the stabilisation of the Karma Grip is optical, not digital. Actually, it’s physical and not really optical because there’s nothing moving inside the lens, but the results are the same as a very good optical system. The stabilisation of the HERO 7 is digital, meaning there’s a clever algorithm working in real-time to smoothen out the bumps. But as it is not physical or optical, the algorithm sometimes needs to cut into the sensor’s full frame size while slightly “zooming in/out” of the scene in order to make it look perfect.

That’s why the HERO 7 crops videos 5% on each side (10% total) during capture. This allows it to buffer your footage and eliminate camera jitters during recording. But the sensor is big enough to accommodate for this amount of “cropping” as you can use HyperSmooth with most 16:9 and some 4:3 resolutions, except for 4K/24fps – which is probably too slow for the algorithm to apply the smoothness needed – and the high-speed modes, which are probably too fast. Of course, you won’t have to worry about any of these limitations with a Karma Grip.

Nevertheless, that same stabilised smoothness is available with Timewarp video, even as you move through a scene, and that’s something even a Karma Grip won’t help with. Timewarp video looks incredibly well.

Other new features include the ability to capture 8x slo-mo videos, but personally, I find that only useful if you don’t know how to edit footage in an NLE.

On the photo side of things, there are HDR JPEGs with automatic local tone mapping and noise reduction all done in-camera. The results I got were good but when the dynamic range is huge as in a picture of trees in bright daylight taken from inside a dark room, there’s too much noise in the dark areas to be very useful. HDR images aren’t available with the GoPro RAW picture format.

With regards to the latter, GoPro really should try to force the arm of Apple, DxO and other RAW image editor developers to include the format on their list of supported RAW formats because almost none of them do – Adobe does, however.

Finally, you can directly stream to Facebook Live, YouTube and others immediately after shooting through a connection with the GoPro app.

The HERO 7 Black costs €429.99.

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