Review: With plenty of upgrades, GoPro’s Hero 9 is a very different camera

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Chris Schulz

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GoPro’s flagship camera gets a major overhaul that makes improvements in all the right places.

So what’s new? Lots. GoPro has made many updates and improvements for the latest release of its flagship camera, the Hero 9, but the main one is the inclusion of a front-facing colour screen for the very first time. That’s not all. For those obsessed with numbers, there’s 5K video, 20 megapixel photos and 30 per cent more battery life to savor, plus improved stabilization and Hypersmooth mode. All in all, they amount to the biggest improvements GoPro has made to its camera in years, and it shows. This is a stunner.

How does it work? Brilliantly. We put the camera through its paces in three ways. First, the kids and I took it onto the trampoline, which seems like the toughest possible test a handheld camera can have. It passed with flying colours. Despite an adult and two kids clamoring for screen time in diminishing light, the Hero 9 captured all of us in brilliantly fluid, silky smooth motion. It was as if Peter Jackson had a full rig set up around us. Secondly, we attached it to the handlebars of a mountain bike, and sailed off through local parks, up and down hills and along beaches. It proved that GoPro’s Hypersmooth boasts are worth making with footage so stable and still it felt like it couldn’t have come from us. Third, I attached a chest mount to a six-year-old and told her to go crazy in the backyard. She kicked balls, picked flowers, chased a butterfly and wrestled with her brother, with the camera capturing everything. The resulting film was brilliant, a true point-of-view experience worth keeping to play at her 21st. Her brother might have a few bruises though.

GoPro Hero 9

Hero 9 is GoPro’s best camera so far, with many improvements over the Hero 8.

What do they say? “Hero 9 Black reflects our commitment to delivering what our customers have been asking for, including more value for their money,” says GoPro founder and CEO Nicholas Woodman. “Hero 9 Black is a beast of a product.”

What do we say? Despite plenty of challenges in the portable video camera market, including the consistently increasing quality of smartphone cameras, GoPro remains the leader of the pack, and Hero 9 packs plenty of punch. It’s a major leap forward, one so good it might even persuade those who bought the Hero 8 just a year ago to upgrade. Hopefully it helps GoPro’s sliding share prices too.

What’s the best bit? The dual screens, for sure. Let’s face it, everyone’s using their cameras for selfies these days, and not knowing if you’re in the frame when you point it at yourself has always been GoPro’s weak spot. That’s no longer the case with the inclusion of a front-facing colour screen that lets you know immediately if your best side is showing. It’s a GoPro first, and it’s a game-changing improvement. I found myself using it constantly, and became far more attached to this camera than any previous Hero release.

And the worst? The camera’s battery power may have improved by 30 per cent, but it still seems to run out fairly quickly. You’ll want to keep a second one on hand, and possibly a third – especially if you’re going on longer treks and can’t charge it for a while. They’re not a big expense, but all those accessories can add up, so bear it in mind when you’re thinking of purchasing one.

GoPro Hero 9


Okay, so how much is it? The GoPro Hero 9 retails for $799.99 but you can bring that price down to $639.99 with a one-year GoPro subscription ($79.99). Do the math and you’ll find that’s a bargain worth taking GoPro up on. Camera nerds also might want to invest in the Max Lens Mod ($179.99). Due out next month, it attaches to the front of the GoPro and promises an even smoother, brighter, wide-screen shot. All-in-all, from casual adventurers to those that regularly jump out of planes or off of bridges for fun, the Hero 9 is the best camera on the market. Now I just need to get my kids to give mine back to me.

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Chris Schulz

Chris Schulz has 20 years experience writing about New Zealand's technology and entertainment industries. He lives in Auckland.

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