Insta360 and DJI may be trying their hardest but head out into the outdoors and the word GoPro still remains eponymous for the action camera category.
If you look beyond its core cliff-jumping, BMX-riding, white water-rafting audience, GoPros are a favorite among holidayers and amateur vloggers alike, for their ability to be small enough to stay out of the way yet deliver top-notch video quality. Last year’s Hero 11 Black saw one of the biggest upgrades in recent times, with a new 27-megapixel, 8:7 ratio, almost-square-format sensor that enabled several new creative shooting scenarios.
For the new Hero 12 Black, GoPro has taken a more evolutionary approach, adding subtle upgrades across the board that will open up doors to a whole new audience. GoPro’s marketing slogan for the Hero 12 Black is ‘The Official Camera of Fun’. It couldn’t be more apt.
No, the design team at GoPro didn’t paint the new Hero 12 Black a bright shade of yellow, instead splashing the exterior with subtle blue specks that set the Hero 12 apart from the previous generation. Otherwise, the dimensions remain unchanged, which means any cases and accessories you may have for previous GoPros remain unchanged. While you continue to get the flip-down mount for mounting the camera to GoPro-ready mounts, GoPro has made a tiny addition that was long-overdue – a standard tripod screw mount. No more having to carry proprietary adapters to attach to threaded tripod mounts – this is a serious consumer friendly move.
As is the updated ‘easy mode’, which presents a simplified menu for changing shooting modes/video quality - particularly handy if you’re handing the GoPro to a child or an elderly parent and just want them to be able to operate it without having to know what 5.3K or FPS is. I’m rather familiar with GoPros myself but even I liked the reduced cognitive load of the easy mode from time to time.
The Hero 11 Black and its larger sensor meant that you could use the square-ish video output and do something cool like punch out different aspect ratios in 4K – 9:16 vertical or 16:9 horizontal for Instagram or YouTube, or an 8:7 if that’s what you needed – from the same source material, after you were done recording. With the Hero 12 and the same lens and sensor, the 8:7 is now available across all recording modes, including Night Effects, TimeLapse and TimeWarp, bringing that shoot-once-use-anywhere versatility to any content you shoot on the Hero 12. For all the folks buying this to shoot vertical video for their social media, there’s even a dedicated vertical capture mode that lets you shoot portrait orientation videos directly without having to reorient the camera or convert it later.
Otherwise, movie modes and frame rates remain the same – up to a maximum of 5.3K 60 frames per second (FPS) video and slowed down 2.7K 240 FPS video. There’s a new Max Lens Mod 2.0 accessory, which lets you shoot a super-wide 177-degree field of view at 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. The biggest improvements to video, by far, is the introduction of a dedicated high dynamic range (HDR) that brings out the details in shadow areas and reigning in blowouts in bright areas, particularly when the backlighting is tricky or rapidly changing. HDR is available in 4K 60 FPS and 5.3K 30 FPS resolutions, and works as advertised, handling shots like when you’re emerging from a tunnel or driving on a tree-covered road and the light keeps changing.
As impressive as the video quality gets, it’s expectedly better in good lighting outdoors than when shooting in dimly lit indoors, where details are a little soft but still very usable. Hypersmooth, GoPro’s in-camera stabilization, is solid as ever. This year it adds in horizon levelling with 360 Horizon Lock – translated, that means you can spin the camera a full 360 degrees and it will keep the perspective locked on in the same position.
Audio capture gets a big boost, with the ability to connect Apple AirPods or any other pair of Bluetooth earbuds as a wireless microphone. Not only do you get cleaner audio if you’re being filmed from a distance, but you can also operate the GoPro via voice commands (start/stop recording) through your earbuds. Yet, this GoPro hasn’t forsaken the ‘Pro’ in its name, and video professionals will enjoy the GP-Log encoding capabilities which, coupled with the 10-bit color capture introduced in the Hero 11, will give advanced users more control over color and dynamic range.
Something practically all GoPro users will appreciate is extended runtimes with the GoPro Hero 12 Black, with GoPro claiming a doubling of battery performance using the exact same battery as the Hero 11. Essentially, the camera can run a lot longer at high power drain modes like slow-motion video before it hits its thermal limit and has to stop – so the doubling of runtime is at its most demanding of settings.
If you’re shooting 1080p resolution at 30 FPS, you should see a more moderate bump up in actual recording time. Do note that the improved battery life comes at the expense of GPS logging, which the Hero 12 no longer supports.
If you’re currently using a Hero 11, there are only incremental upgrades in this generation, so you may as well hold on for some more time, particularly if you’re one of the few users who love the GPS capabilities. Any older, and the benefits for pros and social media content creators will make the Hero 12 Black an absolutely worthwhile upgrade.
Does the GoPro Hero 12 Black, justify the ₹45,000-price tag? Absolutely. As a do-it-all action camera, the Hero 12 Black is a beast of a device, and I don’t think I even scratched the surface of the extreme capabilities of this device - the wild outdoors, deep underwater scenarios where GoPros reign. That said, the heavily rumored 1-inch sensor GoPro can’t come soon enough, if for no other reason that the competition is getting better with each passing year.
Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, posts @2shar.