GoPro may have been in turmoil as a business, firing lots of staff, but it hasn’t stop pushing the boundaries of what the form factor of its Hero action cameras can do.
Thanks to a new processor in the Hero6 Black, dubbed GP1, the new camera can manage new levels of frame rates previously thought impossible in such a small form factor.
After the Hero5 Black added waterproofing without a case the Hero6 Black continues that legacy down to 10 metres of water. It’s tough too, we dropped it minus a case, onto stone from ten feet and it carried on fine.
A new Wi-Fi bandwidth of 5GHz also means faster transfer of these new higher quality video files.
But while all that sounds good written down, does it perform that well? And does it stand up to the competition with the likes of the Garmin Virb XE that offers accelerometer data too or the similarly spec’d TomTom Bandit?
GoPro Hero6 Black design
The GoPro Hero6 Black is a GoPro. You know, largely what that means. The usual shape with minimalist controls to allow for maximum simplicity when in use mid-action. But it also offers more complex controls for calmer situations. That means a full-colour 2-inch touchscreen with sensitivity that actually works well, when not in gloves at least. It’s more responsive and colours are punchier than the Hero5, noticeably.
It also means toughness. We first put down our phone and picked up the GoPro with similar care then remembered these cameras a whole different breed to phones, these are tough. From the rubberised finished to the rugged lined edging everything about the GoPro Hero6 Black says, go see if you can break me. We lost that challenge.
We also had use of the new Shorty Mini Extension Pole + Tripod. This was great in that it fits in your pocket even with the GoPro attached in its case. This then expands out enough for good selfie angled shots but also props out into a tripod. This is nearly all perfect, balanced well between strong and light. But when in tripod mode at full height there’s no way to lock this out so if you press down on the shutter button the tripod shrinks up again, a small gripe fixed by using thumb and forefinger but something easily to improve on.
GoPro Hero6 Black features
Voice controls are back on the Hero6 Black meaning you can tell it to start a recording or power down without your busy hands getting distracted. In reality this works well indoors but can struggle if you’re outside with wind, something most sports cause through movement anyway. There is an optional mic you can clip on for more accurate voice controls but we felt it was more of a fun extra for some situations and wouldn’t rely on it for all sports.
That waterproofing to 10 metres is a nice touch. While you’re not realistically going swimming without a case and mount to hold the camera, it’s nice to know if you’ve not closed the case well enough you don’t need to worry.
Shooting is now possible in 4K with up to 60fps meaning you can push YouTube to its limits. You’ve also got the option of slow-motion 120fps at 2.7K resolution or super slow-motion 240fps at 1080p. This is also all recorded using the latest HEVC (h.265) codec (as featured in the iPhone X), which is great for smaller files and faster transfers but does mean some not-that-old devices struggle to play it back.
GoPro Hero6 Black performance
A GoPro with 4K resolution and a framerate of 60fps, we’ve reached peak camera, right? Almost. While this is great quality, if you dip into the menu you’ll notice that image stabilisation can’t work at this quality. You’ll have to drop to 4K and 30fps to get image stabilisation. That or shell out on a GoPro Karma Grip for physical stabilisation.
The touchscreen is super responsive now and, despite that 2-inch size, is plenty easy to use. This allows for on-the-fly access to quality of video changes that work really well plus the ability to delve deeper for options like pro tuning of ISO, EV comp, shutter speed, white balance and more. There is also a similar mode for audio although that’s limited to “wind only” or “stereo only”.
GoPro Hero6 Black usability
While the Quik editor integration within the GoPro app is a nice way of quickly creating edited videos of your footage, don’t expect them in a hurry. If you’ve been shooting 4K and 60fps or slow-motion at 240fps some devices will struggle to render the result. Ours showed a jerky, glitchy version of the video on the phone and we needed to do a final render and download to actually see it running smoothly. Even then it didn’t work well and the render of a three minute video took, get this, over an hour.
Essentially, until HEVC is more common you’re going to struggle to edit your video if shot at this higher quality. We ended up downloading to a MacBook then uploading to a conversion site (which limited us to 100MB files), which still didn’t look great. So unless you’re planning to upgrade all your kit, getting footage off this thing at full power (the thing you’re paying the extra money for in this model) is going to be a hassle.
While the addition of 5GHz Wi-Fi connectivity is great for faster transfers it can struggle to connect to some phones. We tested with a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge and the only way to transfer was using the slower 2.4GHz.
The battery life on the Hero6 Black was excellent. We used it in every way and messed with every setting for a good two hours and only chewed through less than half the battery. Although if we’d stayed at the higher quality more continuously you’d expect to get around 45 minutes before the battery gives up. Then you need a USB-C cable to charge it again.
The GoPro Hero6 Black is undoubtedly the most powerful action camera the company has created yet, but it’s also the most expensive and still has a few areas, like compatibility, price and stabilisation, left to improve on. The new frame rates for 4K 60fps and 1080p 240fps slow-motion are brilliant additions, as is the faster 5GHz Wi-Fi transfers. But with editing issues and lack of stabilisation on some settings it’s not quite perfect.