What can (and can't) you do with a GoPro?

GoPro action cameras are powerful tools in tough little packages. We all know about their video shooting skills, but what else can you do with them?

GoPro guide
(Image credit: GoPro/Jim McCauley)

GoPro's HEROs are widely considered the best action cameras on the market – and
that has been the case for some time. In fact, the name GoPro has become synonymous with the action camera itself. But while most of us are aware that GoPros, such as the incredible GoPro HERO 10 Black (current flagship at time of writing), or it's predecessor the also-awesome HERO 9 Black, can produce jaw-dropping video content at the touch of a button, many of these cameras' lesser-known facilities remain mysterious. 

This article aims to give you everything you ever wanted to know about what a GoPro can do and what it can't, hopefully answering all your questions before you go in search of the best GoPro for you. We'll be focusing mainly on the HERO line here, but you'll also hear mention of the brand's 360 offering, the GoPro Max (our GoPro HERO vs GoPro Max explainer outlines the differences between the two, if you're unsure). So without further ado, let's get stuck in…

Can GoPros take pictures?

GoPro Hero 7 Silver

(Image credit: GoPro)

All of the HERO cameras currently available, along with the 360-degree GoPro Max, can take excellent stills as well as shooting top quality video. GoPro has put almost as much emphasis on ensuring that the HERO cameras can produce highly detailed and rich looking still photographs as they have on its camera’s awesome video capabilities.

GoPro’s latest offering, the HERO 10 Black, is equipped with a 23-megapixel camera, while the H9 tops out at 20MP. Both offer SuperPhoto mode, which can be used to merge multiple images and uses software processing to give you the best possible results. The HERO 8 and HERO 7 Black cameras can both take 12MP photos and also feature earlier versions of SuperPhoto mode.

Can GoPros live stream?

HERO cameras 10 Black through to 7 Black and the GoPro Max can all live stream via the GoPro app. Both the H9 and H10 will enable you to broadcast in full 1080p HD, and the latter also lets you apply HyperSmooth 4.0 on your streams – useful if you want to broadcast action.

At time of writing, live steaming facility is only available for streaming directly onto Facebook profiles and page, Twitch and YouTube. For other platforms, such as Vimeo, you'll need to go via an RTMP URL, and live streaming to Instagram is unfortunately still not supported. GoPro subscribers can also set up private links to stream to whomever they choose.

To set up a live stream, open your GoPro app and connect to your camera. Once connected, swipe across to ‘Live’ from the preview mode, choose Facebook or YouTube and away you go. For more information and RTMP URL set-up instructions, head to the GoPro website.

Can I use a GoPro for vlogging?

GoPro Media Mod

The GoPro Media mod accessory

(Image credit: Mark Mayne)

With a built-in front facing viewscreen as well as a rear touchscreen, the HERO 9 Black and HERO 10 Black are the best GoPros for vlogging as you can see exactly what's in shot while you’re in front of the camera – the latter being the preferable of the two, thanks to the upgraded chipset powering a smoother live preview. Similarly, with lenses front and rear, the GoPro Max is also a great camera for vloggers. Shoot with the rear-facing lens only and you’ll be able to frame yourself in shot via the touchscreen.

While the HERO 8 Black doesn't come with a front-facing screen as standard, you can add one by purchasing the Media Mod accessory. Our GoPro Media Mod review has all the details, but essentially this gadget attaches to your GoPro and allows you to fit an additional viewscreen called the GoPro Display Mod. The Media Mod also comes with a directional microphone which will massively improve your GoPro’s audio recording quality – to be honest, we'd recommended this even with the newest H10.

Can I use a GoPro as a webcam?

It’s easy to set up the HERO 10 Black, H9 Black or H8 Black as a webcam. Simply download the GoPro Webcam software to your desktop computer, connect your GoPro to your computer via the camera’s USB-C cable and it will default to webcam mode when switched on.

You can also use older HERO models, but set-up is a little more complex and you’ll need to shell out for a HDMI to Micro HDMI cable and a HDMI to USB converter. You can find full instructions on exactly how to do this over on GoPro’s site.

Are GoPros waterproof?

Two women taking a selfie with a GoPro Hero7 White in a lake

(Image credit: GoPro)

HERO cameras from the HERO 5 onwards (with the exception of the HERO 7 White) are all completely waterproof to depths up 10m (33ft) without the need for an additional housing. Add a dive housing though and most models can operate at depths up to 60m (197ft).

Make sure you keep a tight hold (or better still, ensure your GoPro is securely mounted to something) when in the water though, otherwise your camera will sink like a stone. Fortunately, you can buy an accessory called Floaty, which attaches to GoPro frames and housings to act as a buoyancy aid for your camera. As well as being highly buoyant, the Floaty accessory is also bright orange to make it much easier to spot in the water.

Do GoPros record sound?

All GoPros record sound, but while their in-built mics are fine for picking up ambient sound to accompany your video footage, the quality isn’t that all that great. If you’ve got a HERO 8 Black or newer, the simplest way to boost your audio recording facilities is to add the dedicated GoPro Media Mod accessory which comes with a built-in directional microphone and an input for an external 3.5mm mic.

For the HERO Black 7 through the 5 Black, or HERO 5 Session, you’ll need GoPro’s Pro 3.5mm Mic Adaptor which allows you to connect an external mic via the camera’s USB-C port. For older cameras, you’ll have to try and get hold of the mini-USB version. Unfortunately, you cannot add an external mic to the HERO 7 Silver or White, HERO 4 Session, 2018 HERO, 2014 HERO, or HERO+ LCD.

Do GoPros have night vision?

GoPros don’t have night vision of the kind you'll find in today's best night vision goggles, but the HERO 7 Black and newer have a dedicated Night mode that alters the camera's settings to allow you easily get optimal results in when shooting in conditions with minimal light. 

All if those cameras also have Night Lapse mode which allows you to create fixed position, time-lapse sequences at night. Even on GoPros without a dedicated Night mode, you can achieve similar results by manually adjusting the camera’s shutter speed, frame rate, ISO setting and white balance. 

Rich Owen

Rich Owen has been frantically riding mountain bikes since the early 90s and is a former editor of What Mountain Bike magazine. He’s also a surfer with over 20 years’ experience and lives near North Devon’s best beach breaks.