From a new 23.6-megapixel sensor for 5K video recording to a dual-screen design and bigger-capacity battery, the GoPro Hero 9 Black features that most GoPro enthusiasts had long been waiting for. Bigger than any of its previous iterations, this action camera might require some tweaking in your existing mount set-up. For example, I had to redo the J-mount set-up on the helmet to get the right point-of-view (PoV). Though changing the mount set-up to fit the GoPro Hero 9 Black can be a bit of a hassle, the upgrades and new features justify the changes in dimension. Moreover, it has built-in mounting rings which GoPro introduced with the Hero 8 Black; they do away with the need for a camera cage to mount the camera. So, even as the camera dimensions and weight have increased, these feel like a marginal change in real-life usage.
The dual-screen design is another major change that is apparent on the GoPro Hero 9 Black. The action camera has a 2.27-inch rear touch screen with a touch zoom function on the back that shows relevant information and doubles up as a digital viewfinder, and a tiny 1.4-inch square colour screen on the front that is not information rich but covers the basics and shows live preview. The dual-screen design makes the Hero 9 Black a suitable imaging accessory fit for vloggers and social media enthusiasts, besides adventurers.
Design details aside, the Hero 9 Black brings a new 23.6-megapixel sensor capable of recording up to 5K resolution videos and capturing 20MP stills. It is a major upgrade over the predecessor’s 12MP sensor capable of recording 4K videos. The 5K resolution video might seem absurd, considering the devices we use max out at 4K resolution. However, the additional resolution here would be appreciated by content creators as they get extra pixels to play around with during production. One thing that pinches here, however, is the 30-frame-per-second (fps) limit on 5K recording; adventurers might prefer to stick to the 4K resolution as the fps goes up to 60, which is a better fit for fast-paced action recording.
Complementing the Hero 9 Black pixel-rich video recording capabilities is the HyperSmooth 3.0 stabilisation, which lets the sensor record smooth video footage without being deterred by accidental shakes, body rolls, jolts and even deep bumps. It is one of the finest iterations of electronic image stabilisation available on any action camera yet.
I am not sure how many people use action cameras for still photography, but if you care, the Hero 9 Black is capable of capturing 20MP still images. Surprisingly, the output is phenomenal and the images look solid with good amount of detail and dynamic range. For professionals, the Hero 9 Black also has the provision to save images in RAW file format, which takes more storage space than JPEG images but makes the job of photo editing easier without compromising on quality.
As for value-added features, the GoPro Hero 9 Black is stuffed all the way to the top. It features slow motion videos, TimeWarp, Timelapse, HindSight, LiveBurst, duration capture, scheduled capture, and much more. Of these, the duration capture and scheduled capture are my favourites. Duration capture lets you set video recording duration so that you can focus more on what you are doing and less on managing video recording. Similarly, the scheduled capture lets you schedule the video recording time. This comes in handy while recording timelapse videos like that of sunrise and sunset without having to personally attend to the camera.
Powering the GoPro Hero 9 Black is a 1,720 mAh removable battery, which works for around an hour on a single charge. This is mediocre on-battery time but even worse is the time it takes to charge the battery (around 2 hours). On-battery time and slow charging are things that affect the action camera’s overall utility. Moreover, with the camera, the battery’s dimension has also changed. Therefore, the batteries of older-generation GoPro cameras do not fit in the Hero 9 Black and vice-versa. It is one thing that you should consider before investing in this new action camera, especially if you are using an older-generation GoPro camera.
Priced at Rs 49,500, the Hero 9 Black is certainly the biggest action camera upgrade that GoPro has released in a long time. It covers most of the features that GoPro enthusiasts have long been waiting for, and even some more. Besides the features detailed in the review, the GoPro Hero 9 also supports live streaming on Facebook and YouTube through real-time messaging protocol (RTMP). It also doubles up as a webcam, which makes it useful even when you are not out on adventure. That said, the GoPro Hero 9 Black has something in store for everyone; it is as good for amateurs as it is for professionals. It makes a brilliant upgrade but not without considering its on-battery time and charging speed caveats.