The GoPro Hero5 Black Edition is a previous generation device but offers the benefit of being cheaper than the top of the line GoPro Hero6. This is the larger variant of the GoPro, there is also a smaller version without the touchscreen known as the GoPro Hero5 session. Interested readers can check out our review of the GoPro Hero5 session here.
It is a very simple to use camera, but with advanced features packed under the hood. The signature wide angle lens is sure to spice up your social media feeds. We spent a month with the action camera as well as a couple of accessories, including the Quik Key, the Karma Grip and the Head Strap. Here is what we found:
Build and Design: 8.5/10
The build quality of the GoPro Hero 5 Black edition is excellent. It is a rugged piece of equipment that can take plenty of abuse. On the top is the power button, which doubles as the shutter. The right side has the turn off button, which can also be used to change the modes. The left side has the USB-C and Micro HDMI connectors, with a cover. The bottom of the camera also has a cover that can be opened up to access the battery and the memory card slot.
The front has the protruding lens housing, as well as an LCD display that shows the status of the camera, what mode it is in, how much space is left in the SD card and whether or not it is recording. This screen is useful when the camera is turned towards the user, or to check on the camera quickly when it is mounted somewhere.
Most of the back is taken up by the touchscreen display, with an indicator light that turns on when the camera is recording. Although the camera is rugged, the material covering the camera is pretty soft and is liable to get scratched, especially when frequently used with the various grip and mount accessories. However, these are relatively slight scratches and only add more character to the action camera.
The best thing is that the GoPro Hero 5 Black edition is waterproof up to 10 meters without the need for a waterproof case. This is pretty convenient, especially in the monsoon season in India, where you do not have to scramble for cover or dive into your backpack for the waterproof case if it suddenly starts raining. If you are using the GoPro with the Karma grip though, it is better to remove the camera and cover up the slot for the USB, and stop using the Karma grip. The Karma grip is not waterproof.
One of the problems is that the camera heats up after about 20 minutes of continuous shooting, especially if it is a hot day. Users can de-link the camera from the smartphone app, and tweak some other settings to prevent the heat up. The camera did get hot to touch, but never reached a point where it automatically shut down. The camera tends to heat up more when shooting in the video mode, especially in the higher frame rates.
GoPro has an exhaustive list of accessories and mounts available to get more from your camera. There are a number of handheld grips, housings, mounts, chargers, harnesses and dongles. There is even a dog harness. We tried out the Head Strap, the Karma grip and the Quik Key for the iPhone.
Pairing a GoPro with the phone is an elaborate process, and does not always work. The Quik Key is your friend here that allows users to plug the key into a phone and then instantly access the memory card on the camera through the GoPro app on the smartphone. The speed of transfer of the files is significantly faster than the regular pairing, which is also hungry on resources as it needs to connect through both wireless and Bluetooth. The Quik Key has a carabiner and a weather resistant casing, so you can hang it at an easily accessible location, when not plugged in to the device.
The Head Strap is almost a must-have accessory as it allows you to take videos in the first person perspective. This is one of the most useful accessories for the GoPro. The Head Strap comes with a detachable QuickClip, which can be used to mount the camera on shoulder straps of bags, belts or other headgear, such as caps. It is best to use videos captured from the Head Strap for short duration in edited videos, as the footage captured is jerky and can be disorienting for long periods of time. It is however, the best way to put the viewer in the heart of the action.
The strap is comfortable for the most part, but can get itchy after heavy perspiration. The moisture does not accumulate on the Head Strap, because of a lining that draws away the perspiration. It is easy to clean and the straps are adjustable so that they can fit anywhere. It is best to check that the camera is absolutely vertical with a selfie, or your content may be tilted. Once mounted, users can either trigger the shutter manually or use the voice commands, which are really convenient. The camera beeps to indicate that it is recording.
The Karma grip is a piece of gear which will activate your salivary glands. This thing really brings out the best in a GoPro, allowing users to take smooth videos and timelapses by eliminating the jerks. Using the grip is really intuitive, you can manually adjust the harness to the orientation you want, and it maintains it as you move along. The Karma Grip is also surprisingly good at handling turns and changes in elevation, and seems to understand where you want the camera to look. At times, it might stick to looking at one side when you want it to look ahead, but these occurrences are very rare.
The Karma Grip has a button on the handle itself, which allows users to operate the camera through the grip. Users can start and stop shooting from the button on the handle. It is also possible to use the same cable to charge the Karma Grip and the GoPro at the same time, which is a really convenient feature, and leaves a plug point free for other purposes. The same USB-C connector can be used to transfer your photos and videos from the camera to a computer.
The three-axis stabiliser on the Karma Grip can easily tackle all sorts of extreme jerks, with the resulting footage having a smooth, dreamlike quality. You can even hold the Karma Grip upside down for low angle shots. Here is a side by side comparison of footage shot with the Head Strap and using the Karma Grip.
The camera is really simple to use and allows photographers to manually select the settings. However, it is very easy to just shoot everything on the default settings, as unless you go through the manual, you might not even be aware of the latent power of the camera. The main feature of the camera is the shooting of 4K videos, the SuperView field of view and being able to shoot 120 fps in 1080p resolution.
The frame rates, field of view, and resolution may all seem a little daunting at first, but eventually you get an understanding of what kind of settings to use considering the activity being captured. The SuperView field of view option is the real winner here, and is sure to spice up your social media feeds.
The GoPro 4K videos are large and can stutter while playing back on lower power machines. I found it better to just shoot 2k videos, and then edit them as necessary. Archival of 4k footage also takes up a lot of memory.
Another great feature for those who edit videos is the ability to tag clips as they happen. The feature is known as a HiLight tab, and this pulls up the relevant portions of the clip in GoPro video editing software, and marks the clips on the timelines. There are many ways to do this, the side button also acts as a HiLite tagger or users can give the voice commands “GoPro HiLight” or “That Was Sick!”. If using the Karma Grip, there is a dedicated button for HiLight tagging as well. The GoPro app also has a button for the HiLight tag. The HiLight tagging has the potential to speed up your video editing and post production work flow, as you get mark the most exciting moments while capturing the video itself.
One of the best things about the Hero 5 Black edition is the voice commands. You can just talk to your camera to get it to do what you need. There are over ten variations of language and accents available (for example English is supported in US, UK and Australian accents). We found that any of the English accents worked perfectly fine for voice commands.
The voice commands can be used to change the modes, start capturing in the current mode, or capture instantly in a different mode without needing to switch to that mode first, and turning off the camera. So you can just say “GoPro Shoot Burst” and the camera instantly shoot upto 30 photos at the rate of 10 photos per second.
The camera beeps twice to indicate that it has understood the command, and operating the camera through voice commands makes it much easier, even with the support for a touchscreen display and pairing with a mobile phone. The best thing is that apart from turning on the camera, or granular manipulation of the settings for each mode, there is no need to touch the camera at all while using voice commands. The voice commands work perfectly in noisy and windy environments as well.
A handy little feature is the ability to shoot photos and videos at the same time. The feature however, works only at certain resolutions and at the lower FPS ranges.
There are two displays on the camera, one on the front and one at the back. The front display is useful when the camera is mounted, or while taking selfies. It is an LCD display, and the fonts are clear to show at a glance the mode and settings that the camera is using, as well as how much space is available on the memory card.
The main display on the back allows for a wide range of operations through a single screen. It seems like an impossibly large amount of functionality has been packed into the tiny 2 inch touchscreen. The screen supports direct taps as well as gestures. It is possible to lock the screen by swiping down.
The main display is a bright LCD screen that is clearly visible from most viewing angles from all viewing angles. Only in the brightest lighting conditions do you need to put some shade on the display to manipulate it. Even in such circumstances, the voice control features allow for the camera to be operated even without using the touchscreen.
The highest resolution supported by the GoPro for videos is 4K, while still photos are captured at 12 MP. Now there are five field of view options, narrow, linear, medium, wide and SuperView. The SuperView is the immersive signature field of view, which is only available for the 16:9 aspect ratio. 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios are supported, for a number of video resolutions from 1080p all the way to 4K. 4K videos can be shot at a maximum of 30 fps, but the camera does allow you to capture more fps at lower resolutions. 60 fps is possible at 2K resolution, and at 1080p, users can capture videos at 120 fps.
Up to 30 photos can be captured in one second in the burst mode. The available rates are 30 photos in 1,2, 3 or 6 seconds, 10 photos in 1,2 or 3 seconds, and 5 or 3 photos in one second. Video stabilization is available for most resolutions, but not supported for 4K videos, or videos captured at frame rates higher than 60 fps. Time lapse photos and videos are also supported, but time lapse videos are only available in some resolutions and aspect ratios. The default interval is 0.5 seconds, and the available intervals are 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 and 60 seconds. The shorter intervals are ideal for sports or action, the longer ones for capturing outdoor scenes.
At times there was a memory card error, but this was relatively rare, and never happened with the SanDisk Extreme 64 GB card that is available for purchase on the GoPro website.
I was initially not happy with the content that I had captured in the time lapse mode. This was because of a lack of familiarity with the options, and it is best to do a trial run before committing to the mode. For example, I went ahead and shot a time lapse while trekking up a hill, but the interval was too long so the movement was too fast and jerky. Another time, I was capturing images of butterflies but did so with a field of view that was too wide. It is necessary to get familiar with the controls offered, as well as the kind of content being shot, before you can use the camera to the fullest.
The camera does a pretty decent job of determining the exposure level on its own. However, if there are lots of lighting changes, such as walking through thick forests, with a moving cloud cover, in the middle of a bright day, then the exposure can change frequently, especially in time lapses. There is an option to lock the exposure in this scenario. Users can press and hold to specify a point in the frame that is underexposed or overexposed. The camera then adjusts the exposure so that the selected area is clearly visible.
Was not really happy with the colours in the videos as well, but with a little nudging from a professional video editor, figured out that the videos and photos allow for a lot of room for creative tweaking in post. This is the kind of stuff that provides the output that you see in the GoPro videos on YouTube. The GoPro suite of apps also do a good job of making the captured content suitable for social media sharing.
GoPro also offers ProTune controls, which are access to deeper settings within the camera for professionals. There is a flat colour profile, which just looks bland to the regular user, but the colours can be more easily adjusted in post-production to reflect the actual colours in the scene, or make areas pop. The flat colour profile captures more details in the highlights and shadows. There are advanced options available for white balance, ISO, sharpness and exposure. Here is a gallery of images captured using the GoPro Hero5 Black.
GoPro provides a number of software to manage and edit the videos. For the desktop, there is the GoPro Quik and the GoPro Studio. For mobile platforms, there are three apps, Quik, Splice and GoPro. The GoPro app is essentially to pair your camera with your device, and works with the Quik Key. The app can be used to transfer content from the camera to the device. This is time consuming, and resource hungry if your videos are on the higher side.
The more advanced software is known as GoPro Slice. Slice allows users to set a music track, add titles, edit the video on a timeline, and provides most, if not all the features that one would expect from a full fledged video editing application. The interface is easy to use with controls for effects, adjusting the speed, adding text, cropping and editing the audio available along a bar at the bottom.
There are a number of video filters that can be added to the rushes. Trimming videos is trivially easy with an interface based on drags and taps. There is a vast library of music available to add as background music, and the app even pulls tracks from your Apple Music subscription on an iOS device. However, there might be licensing restrictions if the final output has to be shared on a public platform. There are a number of fonts available to add titles, with the colour palette starting with GoPro colours, but others available as you scroll further into the list. To maintain the look and feel of a GoPro video, it is best to use one of the initial colours, and end the video with the GoPro Splice title card.
Apart from the music, Splice also allows users to provide their own commentary in the form of an additional audio track. Tapping between clips on the timeline allows users to choose from a number of transitions. Splice is a capable video editing application, with plenty of controls for granular control over how users want their videos to look.
Quik is also a video editing application, but it is fun to use as it does most of the heavy lifting for you. Quik is so easy to use that it does not even require users to pick and choose the videos and photos to be used in a Quik Story. The app automatically pulls content on the device and processes it into a video that is shareable on social media. The titles of the videos are derived from the time, date and location of the captured videos.
Users of course have the freedom of choosing particular images and videos to be used in a Quik Story. The app then automatically lines up the content, adds transitions, applies graphical effects, and even gives background music. Users can still dive into the story and fine tune the title cards, or select from a range of video styles. The saved stories can be instantly shared on social media or saved to the device. Users can come back to a Quik story and edit it further at any time. Exporting can take a bit of time, so Quik Stories has even included a mini game in the export field, which makes you match tiles pulled from the story itself. It is a well thought out user interface touch.
Any videos on the device can be edited using either Quik or Splice, and unlike the desktop version, users do not need to login to their GoPro accounts. This Quik Story has been compressed for consumption on mobile devices, but the out output is at 1280p, at 30 frames per second, with a bitrate of 130 kbps.
Knowing how long the battery lasts is important while planning trips. Users can get about an hour and a half worth of 4K video footage, or about two and a half hours worth of 1080p video on a single charge. There are steps that can be taken to increase the battery life, including turning off the stabilization, turning off the GPS capabilities, not pairing with the smartphone, using a lower framerate, or a lower resolution. It is better to capture the most intense moments in short bursts rather than just keep the device running. Also, for longer duration shots, TimeLapses are better than video. An easy way out for users who want to get the most out of their purchases is to buy as many additional batteries from GoPro as required.
The GoPro Hero 5 is a very capable action camera. High FPS videos, the signature wide angle lense, the voice control, and accessories such as the Karma Grip together allows users to capture incredible moments from their outdoor adventures. One of the best things about GoPro is the community, that always steps up to help out a user in need. If there is an obscure or particular procedure not documented in the official GoPro user manuals, users are sure to find a how to video from the detailed tutorials put up by the community. While there are cheaper options available in the market, but these do not have the thriving and vibrant community, or the wide range of signature accessories that GoPro provides for its action camera users. The camera has a listed price of Rs 38,000 but can be found online for less than Rs 30,000.