The GoPro Hero 10 Black: a Reliable, Improved Adventure Cam
As a professional photographer, I was disappointed in GoPro’s cameras until the brand’s newest iteration
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I spent the first two-plus years of my professional photography career shooting on a Canon 6D Mark 1, a camera that those in the know would label “prosumer” at best. That single body helped me make a livable wage not because I’m a photo savant, but because I paired it with premium lenses. One of the long-held yet rarely written rules of photography is this: quality glass rules all.
But as camera technology becomes more advanced and use cases become more extreme, that paradigm is shifting. Full-frame cameras still hold the upper hand in resolution and editability (RAW files have no equal), but the delta between the two has shrunk considerably. While Apple deserves a tip of the hat for clever algorithms that replicate a short depth of field, your smartphone isn’t the best pocket-size adventure camera, in my opinion. I think that award goes to the new GoPro Hero 10 Black ($500).
GoPro has built a reputation as a maker of waterproof and durable action cameras—with capable photo and video engines to boot. But the Hero 10 improves on the performance chops of its predecessors. It incorporates a noticeably faster processor and new video stabilization, among other upgrades, which have earned it a permanent place in my camera bag.
The Ideal User
The true calling card of the Hero 10 is its durability—that’s what the line has always been based on. At just 5.6 ounces, with a burly waterproof casing and lens (down to 33 feet, according to the company), the 10 is able to tackle jobs that even the smallest mirrorless camera can’t. It’s ideal for ultrarunners, mountain bikers, surfers, kayakers, scuba divers, dirt bikers, and climbers who want to dip their toes in pro-level photo and video editing, without dropping thousands to get their feet in the door.
Among professional shooters, though, GoPros have long been a punchline. Their promise was good in theory, but in practice the footage rarely, if ever, was useful: video was often shaky, blurry, and, until the last couple iterations, relatively low-resolution for pro videographers. The Hero 10 Black is different. It’s a great tool for immersive point-of-view video clips and a capable still-photography camera too, thanks to high-enough resolution and RAW formatting, which improve postproduction editing.
The biggest improvements start with the new GP2 processor, which delivers double the frame rate of the Hero 9, up to 5.3K at 60 frames and 4K at 120. With the 10, you can now capture photos at 23 megapixels—that’s three megapixels more than my trusty Canon 6D. It can capture 8x slo-mo and allows users to grab 19.6-megapixel stills from footage. These specs make the Hero 10 Black a worthy upgrade from the Hero 9.
Cruising on flowy singletrack (Video: Andy Cochrane)
After a few weeks of testing, those stats are far from the full story. GoPro rolled out HyperSmooth 4.0, a video stabilization and horizon-leveling software that helps make my mountain-biking footage look like I almost know what I’m doing. Even for bikers who over-brake in rough, rutty, and technical sections of trail, the footage won’t make anyone nauseated. (Outside covered the brand’s impressive HyperSmooth 3.0 technology before, but the 4.0 makes video look even silkier.) There is better in-camera preview functionality as well, so you can see clips out on the trail instead of waiting until you get home. The 10 also has 50 percent faster file transfers that streamline the download process. The touch interface is more responsive and easier to use, despite the same size screen.
What Could Be Improved
GoPro’s Achilles heel—poor battery life in cold conditions—persists. The Hero 10 uses the same battery as the Hero 9 (still a 30 percent boost over older versions) but has the same, if not worse, battery life due to higher frame rates and a larger demand from the upgraded processor. Although I haven’t tested it extensively in winter, on early-morning runs with temperatures floating near freezing, the battery life was subpar. Skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers should bring hand warmers to keep spare batteries warm, especially if they plan on shooting all day.
The Hero 10 Black comes with a few nice additional upgrades worth mentioning. The new lens cover is removable, splashproof, and scratch-resistant. The 10 can be used as a webcam with 1080p video and a wide field of view. It can also be used for livestreaming, time-lapses, and scheduled shooting. While I didn’t test any of these extensively for this first look, I do see them as viable tools in the future.
GoPro also improved its noise reduction in its video, which is especially useful in low light. While it’s still far from my go-to camera at dawn and dusk, it did capture an evening trail run without feeling like The Blair Witch Project. Like previous versions of the action cam, the Hero 10 offers a handful of unique mounts and accessories that can expand the field of view and provide a directional mic, a light, and a flippable screen.
If you’re still on the fence about upgrading to the Hero 10 Black in preference to the Hero 9, another action cam, or your smartphone, the decision will come down to how—and how much—you plan to use it. The price could feel fairly steep if you plan to use it as an occasional tool for capturing fun clips for friends and family. However, if you’re looking to frequently record and produce pro-level images and videos with lots of motion, the noticeably improved processor, stabilization software, and photo capabilities make it a worthy addition to the tool bag.