GoPros are really convenient little cameras. With just the tiny rectangular camera and a few spare batteries, you can capture all the action of any adventure. Runners, however, found the image was always just too shaky without using external stabilizers like a gimbal. While that certainly works, it’s bulky and cumbersome to carry, especially for any long runs.
The new GoPro Hero 9 Black has more of that gimbal-like stabilization inside the camera, even more than the previous version, solving much of this problem. They also made a number of improvements from user feedback to make this a more significant update than just slapping a new number on the body.
The Hero 7 introduced the first version of GoPro’s Hypersmooth stabilization. It used an algorithm to smooth out bumps in the camera’s path. This worked pretty well for most sports, like mountain biking, and skiing, where the general motion is flowy and smooth. For running, a naturally higher impact sport, you still saw some jitters in the image on every stride unless you were using an external gimbal stabilizer.
The Hero 8 was thought to be a gimbal killer. GoPro improved the algorithm with Boost mode to even better predict those motions, and for the most part, it worked pretty well. Footage is fairly smooth, even while running, though it does still take some practice to control the natural bobbing that comes with the arm swing and vertical oscillation of running.
The Hero 9 Black actually expands on that Boost mode to work in all camera settings, something the 8 couldn’t do because of its size. The physically larger camera allowed them to give it a larger battery, which enables the extra processing power required. They also took the horizon leveling feature from the GoPro app, and put it into the camera. This small bullet point is the biggest improvement for runners, since the horizon leveling is what helps the Hero 9 Black achieve that remarkable gimbal-like stability during running movements.
The only caveat there, is the leveling only works in linear view, which while it’s a little narrow for filming yourself selfie-style, it works wonders when you’re running in front of or behind your friends, and want to capture them in action.
The Replaceable Lens Returns!
GoPros are of course known for durability. The Hero 8 got a sleeker design than previous GoPro models, but the outer lens was incorporated into the body. If you somehow cracked or smashed that lens in a fall, you had to replace the whole camera. With the 9, GoPro brought back the replaceable lens, a welcome step back for anyone heading out on more adventurous runs with the camera,
Improved Battery Life
The Hero 9 also gets a 30 percent increase in battery life. While the power wasn’t terrible on previous models—about 45 minutes to an hour depending on settings—getting more than that is great! The larger battery, in addition to powering the improved stabilization, increases overall run time, especially in less than ideal weather, like snow.
The last couple models could record at 4K, which is becoming the standard. While most online platforms like YouTube can play back the higher resolution, many people watching on mobile devices are likely viewing in 1080, so those extra pixels give you more room to get creative when editing the footage. And, when it scales down, you see a sharper image. The Hero 9 gets bumped up to 5K resolution, which gives you even more flexibility, and a new 23.6 megapixel sensor enables you to grab better still images from your videos. But you’re going to need a larger microSD card to store all that footage.