doddleREVIEWS: GoPro HERO6

gopro-hero6By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

When I was invited to attend the GoPro press event in San Francisco, I fully expected the next generation HERO6 to be one of the major announcements coming my way. And I wasn’t disappointed. Although we were expecting a standard dot upgrade, what we got was above and beyond that.

First let’s take a walk around the HERO6. On its face, it doesn’t look much different from the previous model, the GoPro HERO5. In fact, it’s about the same size, responds to the same voice controls, and has a similar 2 inch touch screen LCD. But GoPro has beefed up the color and image quality coming from the LCD, so it’s more vibrant, especially in bright, ambient light, making it the first upgrade in the new model.

Going inside, well, that’s where things really start to pay off. Going beyond a modest sensor upgrade to boost 4K recording capability to 60 fps, GoPro has designed a new image sensor from the ground up that takes this next generation action camera to a whole new level, boosting recording up to 240 fps at 1080p, making it a great slow motion option for capturing that action without losing that much in the way of resolution.

Known as the GP1, this new sensor has been designed from the ground up to to offer expanded dynamic range and HDR color for better low light performance, and some pretty great image stabilization that GoPro says is “Karma grade.” This new technique emulates the mechanical stabilization of the Karma Grip’s three axis gimbal design to smooth out the handheld shots by a selfie stick or the new floating hand grip. That’s quite a boast, to be sure.

gopro-hero6-action-shot
GoPro HERO6 Golden Gate Bridge Image: James DeRuvo

The GP1 is also smarter, too, utilizing machine learning to automatically dial in the best settings for any given situation and lighting conditions. You no longer have to futz with the tiny LCD screen and button controls to select the best frame rate and format, the HERO6 GP1 sensor does it all for you, coupling those controls with sensor data from the GPS, accelerometer gyroscope and microphones to get the best possible video and audio for the image. The GP1 also makes the sky jump out into a brilliant blue, rather than being washed out like in older models, and it really makes those landscape shots more appealing.

The idea behind making the HERO6 so smart not only has to do with getting a better quality image, but also to translate all that data to editing decisions through the GoPro Quik app. GoPro really wants users to tell those stories and share then instantly, and Quik can be used to select the clips you want and then use that data to select the best moments in each clip. It then puts together a short edit of your day’s events and offers a slick video clip that you can share via social media.

But first you have to get the clips to your mobile device in order for the app to work on them, and that’s where GoPro’s new 5GHz WiFi connection comes in. Promising download speeds that are three times faster than the HERO5, the file transfer rate screams down to your phone for access by the Quik app. But that kind of speed could take a hit on your battery power. But while I was shooting around San Francisco during the day, I didn’t seem to run into low power levels until the end of the day. In fact, because I was transfering to my iPhone, editing in Quik and sharing to Twitter and via email, I was left looking for an external battery to keep my phone charged before the HERO6.

Other specs of the HERO6 include:

  • Powered by GoPro’s Custom-Designed GP1 Processor
  • 4K60 and 1080p240 Video
  • QuikStories Enabled, GoPro App Compatible
  • Most Advanced Stabilization of any HERO camera
  • All-New Touch Zoom
  • 3x Faster Offload Speeds via 5GHz Wi-Fi
  • Waterproof to 33 Feet (10m)
  • Compatible with Karma and Existing GoPro Mounts
  • Improved Dynamic Range and Low-Light Performance
  • RAW and HDR Photo Modes
  • Control in 10 Languages
  • GPS, Accelerometer and Gyroscope
  • WiFi + Bluetooth

How does the GoPro HERO6 perform? Well, for the first time with a GoPro camera, I didn’t have to fiddle around with the menu, trying to remind myself which button to push to get the WiFi on or how to to switch from stills to video. I also didn’t have to worry about running out of space on the microSD card, or having to remove the fisheye from the videos once I had them on my device. And through Quik, I also didn’t have to run the video through a middle man like GoPro Studio in order to share a clip to my friends and family during the moment. I could just do it. And the old saying may sound cliché, but “it just works.”

The HDR color is bold and stunning, too. Far more vivid than the HERO5, as the colors leap out at you. Take a look at this brief video clip which was shot an the event, specficially to highlight the HERO6’s HDR capability:

I did feel though, that the options available in the GoPro Quik app are a bit limited. But the music choices are bouncy and open source, so you don’t have to worry about running afoul of any copyright issues publishing your videos on the Internet. But that also means that other users will be enjoying the same music choices. Hopefully, GoPro will add more musical options down the road. I thought it was interesting that the Quik software can take the GPS data and use it to create a title including where the video clip was shot. That’s kinda cool, but sometimes you aren’t thrilled with the titles. That’s OK, you can go into the clip settings and rewrite the title to your liking.

The Quikstory also gets outputted 480p, not 1080p or 4k. That was a bit disappointing. But looking in Quik’s output settings you can enable 1080p/60 at the final destination, but I’m surprised it isn’t set by default. But Quik does have an Instagram like vibe to it, so that may have been the thinking. But even at that lower end quality, the color and dynamic range boost is pretty evident. That’s what recording video in RAW and HDR buys you.

All in all, I consider the GoPro HERO6 a great update. If I was in the market to get a new action camera, I would’ve been glad to have waited until now to get my feet wet. But there is one down side. For some reason, GoPro has upped the price of the HERO6 to $499, a hundred dollars more than the previous model. Now, it is worth that extra $100? I think so, though I wish GoPro had kept the pricing the same. But the GP1 isn’t one of those new technologies that you want to keep your powder dry on until they shake out all the bugs. It’s solid, from my point of view, and when you look at all the added features … HDR, 60fps, improved image stabilization, faster wifi downloads. It’s easy to see where that extra C note is going.

Pros:
HDR
Image Stabilization
Faster Wifi transfers
Brighter, more responsive touch screen

Cons:
Cost

5/5 stars

About Heath McKnight 15 Articles
Former Editor-in-Chief and Writer at doddleNEWS, from April 2012 to December 2017. Heath helped grow doddleNEWS into an industry-leading filmmaking news, reviews, and education site. He's been a news editor and writer for over 15 years, and a producer/director/editor in film and video for over 24 years. He's written for TopTenREVIEWS, Digital Media Net, Videomaker, MovieMaker, MacWorld, and other sites and magazines.

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