When it first launched, the GoPro HERO 8 Black had some very big shoes to fill. Could it improve on its groundbreaking predecessor? Well, we spent some quality time with the HERO 8 Black, using it both on the dirt track and in the ocean, and we're happy to report that the answer is 'yes'. Despite not being the latest and greatest model, the HERO 8 Black remains an absolutely excellent action cam. And it still sits amongst the best action cameras on the market.
While overall we love this action cam, there's also one very obvious frustration: the absence of the integrated front-facing screen that was rumoured before launch. While vloggers and anyone else wanting to be able to frame themselves in shot can add this functionality to the HERO 8 Black by purchasing one of the GoPro 'Mods' range that launched with this camera, they'd have to wait until the HERO 9 onwards to see that extra screen built-in.
That annoyance aside, there are still plenty of big wins here. The new frameless design is a major upgrade, and GoPro also introduced new easy-to-use video modes, a slicker, more powerful version of the brand's vaunted HyperSmooth image stabilising software, together with a raft of other functionalities and enhancements with this camera. Let's take a closer look – read on for our full GoPro HERO 8 Black review.
GoPro HERO 8 Black review: price and release date
The GoPro HERO 8 Black action camera launched in October 2019. At time of writing, it is part of the current GoPro lineup, so is available to buy direct from the brand or via retail partners around the world. Like all the HEROs, it's much cheaper if you purchase it with a 1-year GoPro subscription (here's more on if a GoPro subscription is worth it). Here is the GoPro HERO 8 Black pricing:
- UK: £259.98 (with subscription) or £329.98
- US: $279.98 (with subscription) or $349.98
- AU: A$419.95 (with subscription) or A$499.94
GoPro HERO 8 Black review: design and setup
At first glance, the HERO 8 Black looks pretty similar to its predecessor, but its body appears sleeker, has cleaner lines and a lens that’s not quite as prominent, despite being marginally larger in size than the Hero 7 Black. The GoPro HERO 8 Black measures 62.3 x 44.9 x 33mm (WxHxD), while the HERO 7 Black measures 66.3 x 48.6 x 28.4mm (WxHxD).
Crucially, the HERO 8 Black does away with the faff of having to seat the camera in an additional frame to mount the camera. Instead, two folding fingers hinge out from the base of the GoPro and fit directly to a mount or whatever accessory you choose to use. These fingers are magnetically held flat against the base when not required. It's a neat new addition.
A quality rubberised finish covers much of the face and edges of the rear of the camera, helping to prevent potential slippage from your hands. And though lighter than its predecessor, the new GoPro's metal construction still feels pleasingly weighty.
The camera feels bombproof, and essentially it is. We inadvertently discovered this during a mountain bike ride during testing – we crashed and the rear drop-out mounted HERO 8 Black went through our rear wheel upon impact. Spokes were bent and the rim was buckled, but the GoPro came away unscathed and carried on recording video throughout the ordeal. The HERO 8 Black also survived bumping off roots, being whipped by brambles, and getting churned and bashed about while surfing, all without sustaining a scratch.
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GoPro HERO 8 Black review: Mods
The HERO 8 Black introduced a dedicated system of accessories called 'Mods', designed for use with GoPro's frameless HERO cameras. These are:
- Media Mod – boosts audio with a shotgun mic (read our GoPro Media Mod review)
- Display Mod – flip-up screen that connects via Media Mod
- Light Mod – adds 200 lumens and 200 lux 1m to optimise lighting during shoots (read our GoPro Light mod review)
While not massively practical for the HERO 8 Black's chief function as an action camera, these Mods are funky and should boost the GoPro's appeal to vloggers and anyone else looking for a premium compact and lightweight video production tool. (If you do pick up any of these mods, make sure you opt for one that's compatible with the HERO 8 – there are slightly different versions for newer HEROs.)
GoPro HERO 8 Black review: features and usability
Pleasingly, and as expected from action camera royalty, the HERO 8 Black is super-simple to get to grips with straight out of the box. Charge it using the supplied USB-C cable, fire it up, choose from video, photo or time-lapse mode and away you go.
In video mode, the rear touchscreen enables you to scroll through four presets, each designed to suit a range of scenarios. These presets are called Standard, Activity, Cinematic and Slo-Mo. Each of them can be customised to suit your needs, and you also have the ability to create an extra six custom presets and add them to an easy-access list.
The default video presets are:
- Standard: records at 1080 and is ideal for shooting slower moving subjects
- Activity: with a resolution of 2.7k and a frame-rate of 60fps, this is the one for capturing intense activities and fast moving subjects
- Cinematic: Records at the maximum 4K video resolution with a 16:9 – rather than the standard 4:3
- Slo-Mo: Creates HD video with a frame rate of 240FPS and is ace for high speed action
Similarly, in photo mode you have four customisable options to choose from: Photo, LiveBurst, Burst and Night, plus the ability to create and store your own custom settings here.
The default photo presets are:
- Photo: captures a single, unprocessed image
- LiveBurst: records the moments 1.5 seconds before and after your shot, allowing you to choose the best frame
- Burst: records a rapid succession of images at 30FPS when you depress the shutter
- Night: automatically uses slower shutter speeds allowing you to record images in very low light
Time Lapse video mode enables you to easily create static, time-lapse sequences. Or, using the updated TimeWarp 2.0 function, you can create moving, handheld sequences ideal for travelling over a distance, or for conveying the passage of time. A nifty new feature enables you to switch between real-time and time-lapse recording with a tap of the touchscreen – a facility that we felt actively encouraged us to get creative and inject more fun into our videos.
Recording in low light conditions including at night? Try out the Night Lapse video mode, or play around with Slo-Mo (8x) to highlight the juicy parts of your action edits.
Like the HERO 7 Black, the HERO 8 Black responds to a range of voice commands, which can be handy when doing an activity that requires both hands. GoPro reckons the camera can handle 14 commands in 11 languages and 6 accents. However, when moving at speed or doing any activity with background noise, we found that the GoPro did not always pick up our instructions – frustratingly, we had issues when mountain biking and surfing.
While you can edit your images and videos using the camera, you get a far greater range of options and applications when using the GoPro App. Once synced via Bluetooth with your HERO 8 Black, the app enables you to control your new GoPro via your device. It also enables you to stream to YouTube and Facebook Live, to offload your content locally or to GoPro’s cloud service (subscription fees apply). And with it you can edit your clips and instantly create cool looking videos using Quik and its in-built themes.
GoPro HERO 8 Black review: video and stills
The GoPro HERO 8 Black’s stills and video are incredibly rich and detailed. This is particularly apparent when filming at 4K60. While the video resolution may be the same as its predecessor, a superior bit rate at 100Mbps (compared to the HERO 7 Black’s 78Mbps) improves data transmission and produces an even better, studio-quality image as a result.
GoPro’s massively impressive image stabilisation software, HyperSmooth, dominated headlines when the HERO 7 Black landed, so it’s little surprise that HyperSmooth 2.0 takes centre stage on this new flagship camera. The most significant update is that HyperSmooth 2.0 stabilisation is now available across all video modes and resolutions, which is BIG news. In addition, you also now have the luxury of increasing the level of stabilisation further by running HyperSmooth 2.0 in High or Boost setting.
While the differences between unstabilised and HyperSmooth-stabilised footage are impressive, the additional gains from High and Boost mode are marginal – not a massive problem when HyperSmooth is already the most impressive action camera image stabilisation available.
The options for photo processing are pretty similar to those on the HERO 7 Black but with a few additions. SuperPhoto automatically selects the best image processing for your shot, while HDR uses processing best suited for use in well-lit conditions with slower moving subjects/surroundings. Also, you now have the option to save your images as unprocessed raw files as well as in jpeg format.
While the HERO 8 Black's 12MP still image resolution was as good as it got for an action camera back in October 2019, the HERO 9 Black sports a 20MP resolution that's increasingly common on more recent cameras. (The H10 bumps that right up to 23MP.)
GoPro HERO 8 Black review: specs
- Weight: 126g (no frame required)
- Dimensions: 66.3W x 48.6H x 28.4D (mm)
- Video: 4K60, 2.7K120, 1080P240
- Photo: 12MP
- Max video bit rate: 100Mbps (4K)
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
- App: GoPro App integrated with Quik
- SoC: GP1 Chip
- Digital lenses: SuperView, Wide, Linear, Narrow
- Burst: 12MP 3, 5, 10 and 30fps with burst options of 1, 3, 6 and 10 seconds
- Time Lapse: 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30-second and 1, 2, 5 and 30-minute intervals
- TimeWarp 2.0: 2x, 5x,10x 15x and 30x recording speeds
- Night Lapse: 4, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30-second and 1, 2, 5 and 30-minute intervals
- Touchscreen: Intuitive 2-inch LCD
- Waterproofing: 10m (33ft) without a case
- GPS: Yes
- Voice control: Yes
- Microphones: three
- Battery: removable 1220mAh lithium-ion
- Stabilisation: HyperSmooth 2.0 with High and Boost options
- HDR: SuperPhoto, auto HDR processing
- Live Streaming: Yes, via app
- Other: Portrait mode, auto orientation
- Memory storage: microSD with at least class 10 or UHS-I rating
GoPro HERO8 Black review: alternatives to consider
The first thing to consider is whether it's worthwhile paying a bit more for the model up instead. We run down all the big differences in our GoPro HERO 8 Black vs HERO 9 Black comparison, and you can read about the latter on its own in our dedicated GoPro HERO 9 Black review. The main difference is that the latter adds a front-facing screen that'll be a huge boon for vloggers who want to be able to frame themselves effectively in shot. You can add this capability to the HERO 8 but adding a Media Mod and Display Mod, but obviously you'll need to factor in the extra cost of those accessories. The 9 also has a better battery and a better sensor. In short, it's solidly a better camera, if you can afford it.
Of course, the even newer version also improves on the 9. You still get that additional front-facing screen, and GoPro has also upgraded the chipset for the first time in several years. You can read about that model in our HERO 10 Black review.
If budget is key, the 8 is more likely to attract a GoPro deal, especially when the HERO 11 gets released. Or if you want something even cheaper and are willing to sacrifice some features, you'll find plenty more budget friendly alternatives in our best budget action camera ranking.
You might also be wondering if you could get away with going for the previous model. As you'll see in our GoPro HERO 7 Black vs HERO 8 Black face-off (and standalone GoPro HERO 7 Black review), there isn't loads separating these two cameras in terms of basic video and photo quality, usability and ruggedness. However, you can't upgrade the 7 with GoPro's excellent Mods, and you don't get the bunny ears design with that earlier, so you'll need to add a case before you can mount it. These factors are slightly moot when you discover that a 7 Black tends to actually come with a higher price tag than the 8 Black these days... if you can find one to buy at all.
Of course, you don't have to go for a GoPro at all – other brands are available, offering slightly different things. If you want to see what your options are outside the GoPro ecosystem, check out our pick of the best GoPro alternatives around. When the HERO 7 launched, its biggest competition came in the form of the DJI Osmo Action; mainly because it added a front-facing screen. It has since been replaced by the DJI Action 2, which is really quite a different proposition, and front-facing screens are much more widely available, so it's not such a big deal any more.
GoPro HERO8 Black review: verdict
Incredibly easy to use, all while yielding seriously stunning results, the GoPro HERO 8 Black action camera is a very impressive piece of kit. Boasting HyperSmooth 2.0 image stabilisation and a host of other enhanced features, this is an extremely feature-rich action cam. The frameless design and range of compatible Mods enable you to expand the HERO 8 Black’s huge capabilities beyond pure action shooting.
For those of you who are vloggers first and action photographers/videographers second, the H8 is perhaps not the best choice, because you'll have to pay extra to add a flip-up display to the HERO 8 Black via the Display Mod. A better option, as discussed above, would be either the H9 and H10, both of which include that handy front facing live preview screen. Similarly, because image resolution remains essentially the same as the H7 Black, if you already own that cam it's not such an essential upgrade.
For pro-action photographers though, the HERO 8 Black is a strong recommendation, and arguably delivers the most bang for your buck within the GoPro range. Ultimately, when it comes to the true nature of an action camera – a compact, rugged cam that can handle whatever you throw at it and still live to tell the tale – the HERO 8 Black is still very much a serious contender.