Just when I thought there were no more meaningful ways to improve an action camera, GoPro goes and releases the new Hero 7 Black. I've been using the Hero 7 Black for nearly a month and, hands-down, it's the best action camera GoPro has ever made. And that's not just because it's the newest one (I felt the Hero 6 Black was pretty skippable). Instead of cramming in more resolutions for video or more megapixels for photos, GoPro asked themselves a simple question: What do people really want from a GoPro? The answers were no-brainers: gimbal-quality stabilized video, a touchscreen interface that's easier to use, better app integration, especially for sharing footage to platforms like Instagram Stories, improved audio, and live streaming.
That means the fall is coming, and with it, new action cameras. GoPro--aka the Band-Aid/Kleenex/Q-Tips of action cameras--is here with the latest entry in its category-defining camera platform, the Hero7 Black. I've spent the last few weeks banging around (and getting banged up) with it, and while it feels more like an iterative upgrade than a sea change, it's gotten noticeably better in a few key ways. First, you'll note that the Hero7 Black looks almost identical to the Hero6 Black, aside from a slightly different-looking mic and a darker finish. It's still waterproof to 33 feet without a housing, and it works with all the same GoPro mounts and accessories you've been using for years.
GoPro hopes it can tempt film-makers to try its latest camera with the promise of smooth videos without the need for stabilisation equipment. Its Hero 7 Black records "Hypersmooth" steadied clips in real-time. GoPro has posted a loss in all but one of its past 11 quarters, leading to speculation it might be taken over. The company's founder told the BBC he hoped the latest camera line-up would help turn around its fortunes but did not rule out a sale. "I have a responsibility as GoPro's [chief executive] to be looking for the best return in value creation for our investors and also to realise the best product experience for our customers," Nick Woodman said.
Ever wondered why GoPro's flagship camera is called "the Black" but has always been silver or gray? Well, with the Hero 7, the company has righted that wrong. Cognitive dissonance aside, there are a few other things fixed with this year's update, but the big question is: Are they the issues that matter to you? If your frustrations center around shaky footage or wrangling your videos onto social media, then yes. If you were hoping for a laundry list of new video modes then, maybe not so much (4K/60fps is still the max).
Instead of taking photos with your smartphone during your next vacation, maybe it's time to upgrade and grab a GoPro. Luckily, the GoPro Hero 7 Black is now on sale for $349, or $50 off its retail price at Walmart. Normally going for $399, the GoPro Hero 7 Black is one of the few action cameras out there that can film super-smooth HD and 4K footage without the use of a gimbal, thanks to its "HyperSmooth" stabilization settings. It also features GoPro's Intelligent Photo Mode to capture detailed and rich images using its 12-megapixel shooter. The durable and rugged action cam is even waterproof, so you can film in the ocean without worrying that it will short circuit and die on you.