I’ve been using my GoPro for travel for a long time now and the new GoPro Hero 9 has built on the features and specs that each new generation has brought to the table.
So how does the GoPro 9 handle in real life? What new upgrades should you be stoked for and most importantly is the GoPro Hero 9 worth the upgrade?
Read on for my full hands on GoPro Hero 9 review…
REVIEW: GoPro Hero 9 – Should You Upgrade?
What’s New With The Hero 9?
Lets cut right to the chase here and run through the main upgrades and extra features that the new GoPro Hero 9 is offering;
- 5K resolution (limited to 30FPS)
- Front facing screen
- Extended battery life (up to 30% more)
- Removable lens
- 20MP stills
- Changed form factor
- Hypersmooth and Timewarp 3.0
- Horizon levelling
- Compatibility with the MAX Lens Media Mod
- Upgraded photos, HDR and Superphoto
- New modes – including scheduled capture, duration capture, hindsight mode and webcam/streaming mode
Is 5K A Big Deal?
One of the biggest things GoPro is pushing with the Hero 9 is that it’s the first GoPro to offer 5K. So is this a big deal for the average GoPro user and what does it mean?
Well to be honest for 99% of GoPro users actually filming in 5K won’t be something you’ll actually do. Not only are the file sizes pretty big, but only high end laptops and computers will actually be able to edit the footage – especially if you’re putting together a longer edit!
That being said though, the 5K sensor does allow a few solid upgrades that everyone can take advantage of.
Firstly shooting on 5K allows you to pull out high resolution, 14MP still – which will be super useful for those shooting action sports. Just film in 5K and pull out any pics you want, scrolling through frame by frame, using the GoPro app on your phone. Easy as.
Not only that but the larger, more powerful sensor is also going to give added advantages to all other modes in the GoPro too – including more dynamic range (colours and clarity for those no techy people reading this!) as well as a huge boost to all the still photo modes, making the GoPro Hero 9 the best GoPro for still photography by a long way.
Front Facing Screen = Perfect GoPro Selfies!
One of the biggest upgrades for most GoPro users is going to be the front facing screen.
Essentially this allows you to perfectly frame your GoPro selfie shots and is also going to be a huge advantage for anyone wanting to use a GoPro for vlogging.
Although you can’t adjust any setting using the front facing screen (use the back one or the app for that) you do have the option to either view it as a full screen or cropped screen view. Full screen gives you a preview of the whole scene the GoPro is capturing, or cropped screen gives you a bigger image (it fills the whole LCD screen) but you then obviously loose some of the stuff on the sides.
Something I do want to flag up though is I have noticed quite a bit of lag on the front facing screen – which I’m sure is going to prove to be a bit of an annoyance! That being said though I’ve got my fingers crossed that GoPro can fix this pretty easily and quickly with a firmware or software update.
Overall though, whether you’re shooting video or pictures this is a really awesome upgrade for anyone using their GoPro for travel and will certainly result in better footage.
Removable Lens & MAX Lens Mod
One of my biggest gripes with the GoPro Hero 8 was the fact the lens formed part of the body – in fact this was one of the most widely complained about issues with the GoPro Hero 8. Essentially it meant if you scratched the lens (which if you’re putting a GoPro through its paces is pretty common) it wasn’t easily fixed and you had to send it back to GoPro.
Luckily GoPro have listened and the removable lens has made a return on the GoPro Hero 9!
Alongside this change comes the new GoPro MAX Lens Mod – a 155° lens (super wide angle) that mimics the MAX Hero Mode on the GoPro MAX.
This is a really awesome add on for anyone shooting action sports and vloggers too as it allows you to capture even more of a scene and is great for talking to camera pieces too. It does however come at a price and the MAX Lens Media Mod upgrade (scheduled for an October launch) will set you back US$99.99 / £89.99 / AU$159.95
One other added advantage it has though (and is the main reason I’ll be grabbing one) is the horizon levelling mode.
Another feature of the GoPro MAX that the new GoPro Hero 9 has borrowed is the Horizon Levelling feature.
It does exactly what it says on the tin and automatically levels the horizon of your shot – providing even more stability than Hypersmooth 3.0!
The trade off though is a slightly more cropped image – roughly 10% – so you do loose a bit more of your shot. The MAX Lens Media Mod though allows you to take full advantage of this awesome tool, without loosing any of your shot – so I can see it being the go to combo for vloggers and those using a GoPro for travel photos and video.
Alongside all the main stand out upgrades, the GoPro Hero 9 has also introduced some new modes into the mix too, which make it even more useful for travel:
Want to capture a sunrise but don’t fancy getting up at 4am? Well you can now use schedule capture mode to automatically wake up your GoPro Hero 9 and start shooting!
Duration capture allows you to automatically shoot for a set period of time – from 30 seconds to 3 hours.
Tired of running out of space on your memory card? Hindsight mode continuously films in the background and then once you hit record it’ll automatically store the last 30 seconds of footage plus everything moving forward. Awesome for those spontaneous moments and action shots! Be aware though it’ll still chew through your battery at the same rate as normal recording, so use it at the right moments!
You can now hook up your GoPro to your computer as a wide angle, high definition webcam as well as improved streaming experiences on the likes of Facebook and Instagram.
Can I Use My Old Mounts?
As the GoPro Hero 9 uses the same folding fingers as the Hero 8, and these are also backwards compatible with all the previous GoPro mounts, yes the GoPro Hero 9 will fit your existing mounts.
Well nearly all of them!
The changed form factor and size increase (yes the GoPro Hero 9 is slightly larger than the Hero 8) anything involving the cage style mount will need to be upgraded.
Two noteable things you’ll need to re-buy are the Media Mod and the Supersuit/Dive Housing. Yup the original GoPro Media Mod (which most people have only been able to buy for the last 6 months) doesn’t fit the Hero 9, so you’ll need to shell out another US$79.99 / £79.99 / AU$129.95 to get a new one.
Not a game changer for most GoPro users, but for those who want to use external microphones it’s something you’ll need to factor into your budget.
Ok, so I’ve touched on a couple of GoPro Hero 9 negatives – but lets lay out my main gripes with it;
- Need to upgrade Media Mod already
- Lag on the front facing screen
- Touchscreen responsiveness
- Lack of availability at launch for Media Mods
I’ve already run through my issues with the Media Mod upgrades, but the other thing that has puzzled me is the fact that both the Media Mod and MAX Lens Mod aren’t readily available at launch.
I might be slightly impatient here but given the HUGE delay in the Media Mods with the Hero 8 launch I’m slightly dubious about how soon I’ll be able to take advantage of the full feature set the Hero 9 promises. So that’s something to keep in mind, especially if you’ve already kitted out a Hero 8 with the Mods you want.
From a user stand point the lag on the front facing screen is certainly an annoyance and an imperfection I’m surprised it wasn’t fixed before launch.
The same goes for the responsiveness of the touch screen too, which seems to be very hit and miss. I’m yet to figure out if GoPro have changed the way you’re supposed to use them (holding over touching) but that’s pretty frustrating. Weirdly though when using the GoPro in water it’s actually more reponsive than previous GoPros…go figure that one out!
However, I’m hoping that both can be (and more importantly, WILL be) resolved relatively quickly with a software/firmware update.
Hero 9 Pricing
So what does the GoPro Hero 9 cost?
Well the launch price of the Hero 9 is slightly higher than the Hero 8, with it costing $449.99 / £429.99 / AU$699.95.
That being said though, GoPro have also got a pretty epic launch deal if you bundle it in with GoPro subscription (which used to be known as GoPro Plus) and it’ll then only cost you US$349.99 / £329.99 / AU$559.95 – so a pretty sizeable saving.
However, this is only available as a deal directly through GoPro.
Not only will you save a chunk on the camera, but the inclusion of GoPro Subscription (usually US$50/ £50 / AU$69.99) also gives you up to 50% off accessories (including the new Media Mod and MAX Lens Mod) for the year, unlimited Cloud storage and up to 2 camera replacements a year too!
A pretty sweet deal all round.
Should You Upgrade?
From Hero 6 and Below – YES
If you’re still rocking a GoPro Hero 6 or below you’ll notice a HUGE difference upgrading to the GoPro Hero 9. Hypersmooth alone is well worth it and the new front facing screen is going to make using your GoPro that much easier too.
That being said though, if you’re on a budget then the lower price points of both the Hero 7 and Hero 8 are also worth considering.
From Hero 7 – Probably
Got a Hero 7 – well things start getting a bit tougher! Hypersmooth 3.0 takes all the stable goodness of the Hero 7 to a next level and allows you to use it in all resolutions and frame rates, which for a lot of people is a big deal and the main reason a lot of people upgraded to the Hero 8.
And the front facing screen is also the other big thing to consider – if you want to vlog with your GoPro that paired with the Media Mod is a solid reason to upgrade.
From Hero 8 – Maybe
Hmmm this is where it really gets tight! If you’ve already got the GoPro Hero 8 and the front facing screen isn’t a game changer for you then I’d probably sit tight.
If however shooting in 5K, the front facing screen or horizon levelling are tools you really want to be able to take advantage of then yes get your Hero 9 upgrade ordered!
Would I Recommend The Hero 9?
Even though the GoPro Hero 9 isn’t the perfect GoPro (I was really hoping for 4K @ 120FPS or maybe an inbuilt 3.5mm mic jack) it’s still easily the best GoPro they’ve ever built.
Not only does it bring some awesome new features and specs, but the switch back to a removable lens shows that GoPro are learning from their mistakes and also what customers want. Yes admittedly this is probably due to the MAX Lens Mod add on and forcing Hero 8 users to upgrade to take advantage of this, but we’d like to think they’re listening too!
It’s also pretty awesome that they’re adapting some of the powerful features of the GoPro MAX (both the front facing screen and the Horizon Levelling feature) into the standard GoPro range too.
Overall the GoPro Hero 9 is easily the best GoPro for travel at the moment and a huge powerhouse for a lot of videographers, vloggers and photographers out there.
The same rugged, reliable GoPro you know and love, with some epic new additions!
Are you upgrading to the GoPro Hero 9?
What features are you most stoked about?