The most remarkable thing about GoPro’s new Hero 10 Black might be that it exists at all. Somehow, in the midst of a chip shortage that has trucks piling up in lots and supply chains breaking down across the industry, GoPro has managed to release a new camera in which the principle upgrade is a new processor.
Also impressive is the extra performance GoPro has squeezed out of its existing image sensor with that beefier processor. The Hero 10 offers faster video—4K footage can now be shot at 120 frames per second, and 5.3K footage at 60 fps. The user interface is also snappier, the start-up time is shorter, and the onscreen menus are more responsive. The new processor is also capable of pulling higher-resolution still images out of your videos.
All of your Hero 9 accessories will work with the Hero 10.
The Hero 10 Black is outwardly indistinguishable from its predecessor, other than the new blue logo. The enclosure, screens, lens, and image sensor are unchanged. It is marginally lighter (3 percent), which is nice. On paper, the Hero 10 might look a little disappointing, but GoPro’s new processor, dubbed the GP2, brings some impressive enhancements to the Hero 10 that make it well worth the upgrade.
The GP2 is the first upgrade to the GoPro’s processor since the Hero 6 launched over four years ago. GoPro has put the extra processing power to work, making the Hero 10 do more with the same image sensor as the Hero 9. In addition to the improved frame rates for 5.3K and 4K footage, the Hero 10 can also shoot 1080 video at 270 fps, which produces some very impressive slow-motion video.
The new processor is also driving the latest version of GoPro’s software video stabilization system, Hypersmooth 4. The electronic video stabilization of Hypersmooth is one of the key things that sets GoPro apart from its competitors, and it’s a big part of why the Hero series has long been our favorite action camera.
Due to the way it crops into the frame to produce a stabilized video, Hypersmooth was not previously available when shooting 5.3K footage. But in the Hero 10, the feature can be used while shooting 5.3K, 30-fps video. That means you can shoot high-resolution video in 5.3K, smooth out any shakiness, and get a cropped 4K video as output. This reason alone is enough to make the Hero 10 worth the upgrade for pro photographers who rely on POV action scenes in their work. Hypersmooth also now works on 4K 60-fps footage and 1080p 120-fps footage.
The other headlining improvement to Hypersmooth is horizon leveling. The Hero 10 can correct your shot to keep the horizon level from a full 45 degree tilt (up from 27 degree tilt in the Hero 9). Unfortunately, this trick is not available when shooting 5.3K, but it does work with 4K 60-fps footage.
Nice as the Hypersmooth 4 improvements are, what I found far more useful is the new local tone mapping algorithm, which is now available in video as well as photos. Local tone mapping enhances the contrast in areas of low detail, which improves the impression of detail. The classic examples here are hair and grass, both of which tend to wash out and look muddy in videos. Shooting with the Hero 10 with local tone mapping revealed significantly more “texture” in the video of moving grass when compared to the same video shot with the Hero 9.
Another place the Hero 10 gets a boost is the video noise reduction. In previous GoPro models, you were able to remove graininess and clarity to improve videos shot in heavy contrast situations or in low light. That system is advanced thanks to a new algorithm running on the new chip. The results are most noticeable in low-light videos, sunsets, and nighttime city shots, but I also found that combining the noise reduction with the HDR tone mapping footage made trickier daytime shots—like footage captured while walking though a sun dappled forest—look noticeably better than what I got from the Hero 9 in the same situation.
The last standout new feature in my view is the new lens cover, which is “hydrophobic,” meaning it sheds water. I was skeptical of this until I used the camera in some water, and it really does work. In fact, if you use your GoPro around water, this might be the best feature of all, since nothing ruins footage like water droplets on your lens obscuring the action.
Still Image Improvements
The lens cover is hydrophobic, which is a boon for surfing and snow sports. Water and slush run right off the camera so you won’t end up with stray droplets obscuring your shot.
While GoPros are probably best known as video cameras, they make pretty good still cameras as well. The image sensor in the Hero 10 is the same 23.6-megapixel sensor found in the Hero 9. But the image resolution on the Hero 9 topped out at 20 megapixels. The faster processor in the Hero 10 has enabled GoPro to bump the megapixel output to the full 23 megapixels available on the sensor. Side by side in a RAW photo editor, the change wasn’t hugely noticeable, but it does mean you can crop a bit tighter and still end up with the same pixel dimensions. Which is another way of saying, if you’re printing posters from your GoPro images, your results with the Hero 10 will look better than the Hero 9.
I should also note that this megapixel upgrade applies to all photo modes: Burst, Super Photo, and Night Photo, not just RAW images.
Much more exciting, in my view, is the ability to pull 19.6-megapixel JPG stills from your 5.3K video. For most of us—possibly even pro photographers—this is large enough to easily print 8 x 10 images, and it will certainly look great on the ‘gram, if that’s your thing. This ends up being the main way I use a GoPro. I shoot video of a scene and then pull out the best still images later. While I don’t get a RAW file this way, I do end up getting the actual image I wanted more often than not.
There are a handful of other improvements in this release that are nice to have, including a higher frame rate on the front screen, which is particularly helpful for the selfie crowd, as the preview mode doesn’t lag like it did in the Hero 9. Another nice feature is automatic cloud backup for those with a GoPro subscription. When you plug in the Hero 10 to charge, it will automatically connect to your network and start uploading. Wireless transfers from GoPro to your phone are also faster. New in this release is the ability to dump images and video to your phone via a wired connection.
Should You Upgrade?
That depends on what you’re doing with your GoPro. The Hero 10 is the fastest and most powerful Hero camera I’ve tested, but if you already have the Hero 9 … that’s still a very capable camera. If you’ve got an even older Hero and are looking to upgrade, the Hero 10 is definitely worth it. Those of you with a Hero 8 will find the jump to a Hero 10 to be a significant upgrade.
All the accessories that work with the Hero 9 will also work here, so there’s no waiting for your favorite third-party accessory makers to catch up to the new model. Also note that with a GoPro subscription ($50 per year) the camera is only $399, which is a hundred bucks off the full list price.
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