GoPro HERO 9 Black In-Depth Review

In September 2020, GoPro presented the new HERO 9 Black. The new GoPro HERO 9 Black comes with a second display on the front, a larger battery, a higher resolution, and optimized image stabilization. 

The ninth generation of the popular HERO camera comes with more easy handling and improved video recording possibilities. We have taken a closer look at the new GoPro HERO 9 Black and explain the features, innovations, advantages, and disadvantages in the test report.

GoPro HERO 9 Black: Test / Comparison / Evaluation

With the GoPro HERO 9 Black, California industry leader GoPro has introduced the most advanced action camera to date. At first look, the ninth generation of the popular action camera doesn’t look like much. 

The design is still rectangular and primarily in dark black. The GoPro HERO 9 Black dimensions are 71 x 55 x 33.6 millimeters (W x H x D). So the new GoPro HERO 9 Black has grown slightly in all sizes compared to the GoPro HERO 8 Black (66.3 x 48.6 x 28.4 millimeters). But the GoPro HERO 9 is not only slightly larger than its predecessor but also slightly heavier. The GoPro HERO 9 weighs 158 grams and thus has compared to the GoPro HERO 8 Black, almost 30 grams more fat on the hips.

In addition to a similar design, the GoPro HERO 9 Black also has the bottom’s integrated holders or attachments. The brackets are integrated into the case with the corresponding fastening eyes. The action camera can also be attached to helmets or handlebars without an optional heavy “cage.” 

The slightly higher weight is not only explained by the better technology, but also by the higher battery capacity. The GoPro HERO 9 Black has a battery capacity of 1,720 mAh instead of the previous 1,220 mAh. However, due to the higher resolution and the additional color display, the operating time’s effects are small in practice. According to the manufacturer, the working time should be about 30% higher.

Features and functions:

  • frameless mounting through integrated eyelets
  • new color display on the front
  • detachable lens
  • optional extensions (mods) available
  • improved image stabilization with HyperSmooth 3.0
  • waterproof up to 10 meters without an extra case
  • improved time-lapse function with TimeWarp 3.0
  • four digital lenses (narrow, linear, wide, and SuperView)
  • Customizable presets
  • with new LiveBurst function
  • SuperFoto function with improved HDR option
  • 4K at up to 60 fps or 1080p at up to 240 fps
  • up to 100 Mbps video bitrate
  • RAW recording in all photo modes (also for time-lapse or serial photos)
  • Voice control and app control
  • many accessories available directly from the manufacturer

The exchangeable lens cover is back.

An essential innovation of the GoPro HERO 9 Black compared to the GoPro HERO 8 Black is the longer battery life and the replaceable lens cover. In case of damage, you can easily replace the camera cover. GoPro HERO 9 Black package does not come with a mounting frame. And even without additional protection, the GoPro HERO 9 Black is waterproof up to ten meters and, of course, dustproof, if you want to use the action camera on off-road terrain.

GoPro HERO 9 Black: Buttons and switches

The GoPro HERO 9 Black has various switches and buttons used to operate and adjust the camera. On the top of the GoPro HERO 9 Black, for example, is the shutter release. On the right side of the camera is the flap with the typical GoPro flap closure, under which the slot for microSD cards, the GoPro battery, and the USB-C port is located. On the opposite left side, the GoPro HERO 9 Black has a mode button and a microphone. 

Attention: The microphone of the GoPro HERO 9 is located behind a cover that is used to drain water. The body cannot be opened or flipped open. In the GoPro HERO 9 Black manual, there are all kinds of tips and tricks about the operation, control, and settings to achieve the best possible sound quality.

You will find an additional microphone on the front, directly under the camera lens. Directly above the colored status screen, there is also a small status light, which informs the loading process. 

The new status screen on the front not only provides information about the currently selected recording mode, recording resolution, recording time, battery status, and remaining recording capacity, but now also has a practical Live View function. 

This function helps with framing the camera, making vlogging, and alignment easier, for example, when you want to record yourself. This is where GoPro comes in with the DJI Osmo Action, which also has such a front monitor. The GoPro HERO 9 Black bottom is characterized by the new retractable mounting eyes and a speaker underneath.

Conveniently, the modest yet extremely useful mounting eyelets for accessories have been adapted. The GoPro HERO 9 Black, like the GoPro HERO 8 Black, now has the attachment eyelets integrated into the camera’s body. 

With the eyelets, you can quickly and easily attach the action camera to brackets or exchange holders in no time at all. Therefore, you don’t necessarily have to buy and carry an extra case to attach the camera to a handlebar or helmet, for example. Also practical: If the eyelets are damaged or lost, GoPro offers appropriate replacement. Replacement eyelets for the GoPro HERO 9 Black cost $19.99. A pretty high price for such a small piece of plastic.

Like the GoPro HERO 8 Black, the GoPro HERO 9 Black has a single flap behind the battery, microSD card slot, and USB-C port. The latter is used for charging the battery on the one hand and for data transfer or video output on the other. A micro-HDMI port is no longer standard on the GoPro HERO 9 Black. If you absolutely need a micro HDMI connection, you can use the optional Media Mod for $90. 

The media expansion makes the GoPro HERO 9 Black a connection powerhouse: It has an integrated microphone, two accessory sockets for connecting LED light or LCD screen, and a 3.5-millimeter jack connector, which connects to an external microphone. Because the GoPro HERO 9 Black dimensions and controls have changed from previous versions, all previous cases are no longer compatible. The same applies to the mods – even these cannot be used by the GoPro HERO 8 Black for the GoPro HERO 9 Black.

GoPro HERO 9: Mods – practical extensions for vlogging

The GoPro HERO 9 Black can also be equipped with the optional expansion modules – the so-called Mods.

From the market launch, GoPro offers a total of four different mods for the GoPro HERO 9. With the Media Mod for the GoPro HERO 9 Black $79.99, various accessories can be connected directly to the camera thanks to the 3.5-millimeter jack connection, two additional accessory sockets, or HDMI output. This is incredibly practical since you can dispense with a bulky microphone and an HDMI adapter.

Also, GoPro offers a display mod $79.99 for the GoPro HERO 9. This is a flip-up screen with Live View, which enables the selfie perspective and simplifies Vlogging. Thirdly, the manufacturer offers a Light Mod for the GoPro HERO 9 Black ($49.99). The powerful LED lighting provides better illumination of the subject and thus enables better image results. 

Attention: To attach the Display Mod or the Light Mod to the GoPro HERO 9, the MediaMod is necessary. Finally, GoPro offers the new GoPro HERO 9 Black for the first time a Max Lens Mod ($99,99). 

The Max Lens Mod complements the action camera with the unshakable Max HyperSmooth video stabilization and the ultra-wide Max SuperView field of view with low distortion at a resolution of up to 2.7K and 60 fps. With the Max Lens Mod, horizon locking is possible even when the camera is rotated a full 360°. This opens up even more creative possibilities for content creators in social media, film and television professionals, and athletes.

Tip: GoPro HERO 9 Black protective housing

The optional protective housing for the GoPro HERO 9 Black costs $49.99 and offers a water resistance of up to 60 meters. Without housing, the action camera is waterproof only up to 10 meters in depth.

The GoPro HERO 9 Black offers a water resistance of up to 10 meters even without extra housing. Still, with the optional protective housing (Super Suit), the camera can be protected even better when diving or snorkeling. The solid protective housing provides higher water resistance of up to 60 meters depth. It protects the GoPro camera against blows, falls, mud, and dirt. The protective housing package also includes a so-called “skeleton” housing cover. This ensures a better quality of the audio recording (but then the protective housing does not provide waterproofness). 

GoPro HERO 9 Black: microSD card

To store videos and photos of the GoPro HERO 9 Black, you need a corresponding MicroSD card. For this, GoPro provides a 32-gigabyte microSDHC memory card of the brand SanDisk Extreme. Alternatively, you can, of course, also purchase additional memory cards. The memory card should be either microSD, microSDHC, or microSDXC and meet the memory card classification Class 10 or UHS-I. 

GoPro specifies the maximum capacity of the memory card with up to 256 Gigabyte. GoPro recommends a wide range of memory card manufacturers and memory card brands. For example, the memory card compatibility list includes SanDisk Extreme, SanDisk Extreme Plus, and SanDisk Extreme Pro. However, the Samsung Evo Select or the Samsung Evo Plus are also recommended.

Tip: GoPro HERO 9 Black: Camera Battery

The replacement, exchange, and accessory battery for the GoPro HERO 9 Black costs $19.99 and is available in the official GoPro online store.

GoPro offers compatible accessories or replacement batteries for the GoPro HERO 9 Black in its accessories program. The lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 1,720 mAh and costs $19.99. So if you need a replacement battery for the road, have lost your GoPro battery, or need a spare battery, you will find it in the official GoPro online store.

The GoPro HERO 9 Black battery is not identical to the GoPro HERO 8 Black, GoPro HERO 7 Black, GoPro HERO 6 Black, and GoPro HERO 5 Black and GoPro HERO (2018). We recommend that you always use the original GoPro battery and avoid using third-party batteries.

The microSD card of the GoPro HERO 9 Black can be formatted in the settings menu of the camera if desired. To do this, you have to swipe down to access the dashboard. Then open the menu item Settings > Reset > Format SD card. In the menu Settings > Info > Battery Info, you can also check the battery’s status.

GoPro HERO 9 Black: Setup

Before using the GoPro HERO 9 Black for the first time, you must insert the memory card and battery. To do so, unlock the lateral flap lock and open the flap. Then, with the camera switched off, insert the microSD card into the card slot. The label of the memory card must point towards the battery compartment. You can remove the memory card by pressing it into the card slot with your fingernail. 

There is the MicroSD slot under the flap on the camera’s side, the battery compartment, and the USB-C port. Once you have inserted the battery, you can charge the GoPro HERO 9 Black with the included USB-C cable and a USB charger for a PC / Mac. 

The complete charging process of the GoPro HERO 9 Black takes about three hours. The status lights will turn off when charging is complete. The side flap’s closing mechanism, which has already been adopted from the GoPro HERO 8 Black, convinces with its easy opening and closing.

If desired, the side flap of the GoPro HERO 9 Black can also be removed entirely. When closing the flap, you should make sure that the flap is locked. Only then the waterproofness of the GoPro HERO 9 Black is guaranteed.

Using and operating the GoPro HERO 9 Black

The use and operation of the GoPro HERO 9 Black are intuitive and understandable even for beginners and novices. To turn it on, you have to press the mode button on the side. If you want to switch off the camera, you have to press the mode button for about three seconds.

Otherwise, the operation and control are primarily carried out with the touch display’s help on the back. For example, you can select an element or activate or deactivate a setting by tapping. If you swipe left or right, you can switch between photo, video, and time-lapse mode. To open the GoPro HERO 9 Black dashboard, swipe from the top of the screen to the bottom in landscape mode. And suppose you want to view the most recently taken photos or videos or access the media gallery. In that case, all you have to do is swipe from the bottom of the screen to the top. 

By pressing and holding down the recording screen, you can activate and adjust the exposure control. By pressing and holding down the back arrow, you can also jump back to the capture screen, media gallery, or dashboard. And if you want to adjust the exposure control, all you have to do is press and hold down the recording screen. The GoPro HERO 9 Black’s capacitive touch screen makes operation and control extremely fast, accurate, and convenient.

Three main recording modes: video, photo and time-lapse

With the GoPro HERO 9 Black, everything revolves around the three main recording modes videophoto, and time-lapse. 

In video mode, there are corresponding presets for standard, activity, cinema, and slow-motion recording. 

The Photo mode includes corresponding presets for photo, live burst, continuous shooting, and night shooting. 

And in Timelapse mode, there are presets for time-warp video, time-lapse video, and time-lapse photos at night. Each recording mode on the GoPro HERO 9 Black has its own set of presets for the ideal shot.

Of course, the default settings can be changed and now also adapted to individual requirements. The “customizing” of the presets should surely make the action camera interesting for professionals, too. Since personal settings for ISO, white balance, or exposure can be saved and quickly at hand. All you have to do is tap on the presets and adjust them according to your wishes. 

As already mentioned, the main shooting modes can be selected by wiping to the right or left. Alternatively, the respective mode can be selected by pressing the mode button while the camera is switched on. To start recording, you only have to press the shutter button on the top of the camera. If you press the shutter button again, you can stop recording (only in video and time-lapse mode and live streaming).

5K at 30 fps or 4K at 60 fps

Even though the GoPro HERO 9 Black does not differ too much from previous cameras from a purely optical perspective, there are many noteworthy technical innovations and optimizations. One of them is that the well-known 12-megapixel image sensor had to make way for a 20-megapixel image sensor. In this context, the detailed image quality and the higher 5K video resolution at frame rates of 30 fps should be mentioned. The 4K recording at a maximum of 60 frames per second or FullHD recording at a maximum of 240 frames per second will remain and should meet the requirements of today’s video and film editors.

Black Power Tools for the GoPro HERO 9 Black

New in the GoPro HERO 9 Black is the so-called Black Power Tools. These are functions such as HindSightLiveBurst, scheduled recording or recording time. The Black Power Tools are, therefore, intelligent recording settings that open up correspondingly creative possibilities that go far beyond simply pressing the shutter release button.

With HindSight, for example, you can record up to 30 seconds of video before the actual trigger is pressed. So you can capture important moments before you pressed the shutter button. Important: The HindSight function must be activated in the settings first – you can choose between 15 seconds or a maximum of 30 seconds. Logically, HindSight only works by recording a video during the whole time – of course only when the camera is switched on. Therefore, if the HindSight function is activated, you can expect a lower battery life.

The Black Power Tools also include the LiveBurst feature already introduced with the GoPro HERO 8 Black. The LiveBurst function reminds a little bit of the Live Photo function, which is already known from the iOS operating system and the Apple iPhone. With the LiveBurst function, the GoPro HERO 9 Black shoots several photos in a row 1.5 seconds before and 1.5 seconds after the shot. This means that a total of up to 90 individual photos are taken over three seconds in a photo series. This gives you the opportunity to select the best photo, especially with moving subjects. Alternatively, you can also use the LiveBurst function to record a three-second 4K video clip.

In addition to HindSight and LiveBurst, the GoPro HERO 9 Black also offers a “scheduled capture” feature. Scheduled Capture allows you to set GoPro to turn on automatically and take recordings up to 24 hours in advance. A time setting allows you to specify when the GoPro HERO 9 Black should automatically begin recording. This feature is available for all presets. After setting the time, you can turn off the GoPro or simply continue using the other camera presets.

Last but not least, the “recording time” function should be mentioned. This function allows you to specify how long the GoPro HERO 9 Black should record before recording is automatically stopped. The recording time is available in the recording modes Video, TimeWarp, Time Lapse, and Time Lapse at Night in steps of 15 seconds to 3 hours. If you select “No Limit,” the recording is done accordingly without any time limit.

HyperSmooth 3.0 with integrated horizon alignment

The new image stabilization of the GoPro HERO 9 Black is now called “HyperSmooth 3.0” and not only works even more precisely but now also with integrated horizon alignment. Meaning: The horizon alignment is now integrated into the hardware and can be done directly in the camera. With the GoPro HERO 8 Black, however, horizon alignment could only be used with the GoPro app. Amazingly, the GoPro HERO 9 Black’s horizon orientation can provide a stable or straight horizon even when turning 360 degrees.

HyperSmooth 3.0 provides extremely smooth shots and corrects camera shake. While recording, videos are trimmed and buffered to cut out bumps and shakes. This is perfect for recreational activities such as cycling and mountain biking, skating, skiing, or hand-held shooting. A mechanical gimbal is obsolete thanks to electronic image stabilization. The GoPro HERO 9 Black has four HyperSmooth settings: Boost, High, On, and Off. In Boost mode, the image field is slightly cropped, but more severe camera shake is certainly corrected. Note: The Boost function only works at a maximum of 4K and 30 fps.

App control and live streaming

The new GoPro HERO 9 Black can, of course, also be operated via smartphone. Within the GoPro app for iOS and Android, the media can also be edited. What’s new is that the app now supports editing of recordings from both GoPro and the smartphone. Also, filters can be applied to individual clips or live streams that can be made in FullHD resolution on Facebook, Instagram, and so on.

Conclusion and evaluation

The GoPro HERO 9 Black takes it all one step further with a convenient front panel display for easier framing, higher image and video resolution, and numerous improvements to recording modes and features. 

The new Black Power Tools prove to be especially useful and practical when you need them. Compared to previous generations, the recordings score points with better sharpness, a higher dynamic range, and better image stabilization. 

The intuitive and precise operation via touch display is fun and should also give beginners and newcomers a lot of pleasure. The new GoPro HERO 9 Black convinces with the integrated fastening eyes in the housing or the optionally available expansion modules. The new GoPro extras provide an extended purpose and makes the action camera still especially attractive for vloggers. 

Another positive feature is that the lens cover can be removed wich will increase the battery’s life. It is a pity because accessory compatibility with previous generations is not guaranteed, and extra accessories are comparatively expensive.

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