GoPro has now released a new camera called the HERO, bringing the current lineup to five cameras and continuing a confusing naming system. In the current range, there's the HERO, HERO Session, HERO5 Session, HERO6 Black, and Fusion. To make things even more confusing, you can also still find the HERO5 Black available (and I have a detailed comparison between the HERO and HERO5 Black here).
The HERO and the HERO6 Black also happen to represent the extreme ends of GoPro's standard lineup.1 The HERO is their new entry-level camera and has a stripped-down feature set. The HERO6 Black is the flagship model with all the bells and whistles.
They use the same case, so from the outside, they look identical aside from the subtle model number printed on the side. They're the same size and weight, and they have the same buttons and screens and controls.
Waterproof. They're both waterproof, rated down to 10 meters (33 feet).
Back Screen. They both have an LCD screen on the back that gives you touch control as well as being used for playback and live view. There are some very minor tweaks to the look of the menu system, but they're fundamentally the same.
HERO (2018) vs HERO6 Black: Video
Shooting video is the area where there are the biggest differences between these models. The HERO6 Black has an extensive range of resolutions and framerates available, all the way up to high-end video modes like 4K60 and 1080p240.
The HERO has a much, much-reduced range of video modes. There's no 4K or 2.7K option; you're restricted only to 1080p or 1440p.
Here's the full chart comparing the available video modes.
|Mode||FPS||Dimensions||HERO6 Black||HERO (2018)|
Stabilization. Both cameras have the option to enable the built-in software stabilization to get smoother footage. Also known as EIS, you can see some examples of it in action here.
The HERO uses an older version (same as in the HERO5 models) that works quite well but not as well as the newer version used in the HERO6 Black. You can see some side-by-side examples here.
Fields of Vision / FOV. The HERO offers three fields of vision, or FOV, when shooting video, although they're not all available in all shooting modes. The default is the distinctive Wide look with fisheye distortion that provides that immersive look we're used to. When shooting in 1080p, you can also choose a Medium or Narrow FOV. Depending on how you look at it, these are crops of digital zooms (not optical zooms). You can see some examples here.
The FOVs available on the HERO6 Black are different. The Wide mode is basically the same, but there's also a SuperView mode (even wider) and a Linear FOV, which mostly corrects for the fisheye distortion to convert it to a more natural perspective. The Linear FOV is different to the Medium and Narrow FOVs on the HERO in that it's a calculated correction rather than a simple crop.
Video Formats. The HERO produces H.264 MP4 video files exclusively.
Most of the video modes on the HERO6 Black also produce H.264 MP4 files, but some of the very high-end video modes on that camera use the newer and more efficient H.265 codec, which is also sometimes known as HEVC (for High-Efficiency Video Coding).
Zoom. The HERO6 Black has a digital zoom feature that you can control from the back screen. It's not an optical zoom, so there are limits to how useful it is, but it's there. The HERO doesn't have the zoom feature.
Looping. The HERO6 Black has a looping feature that records for an interval and lets you select which section to keep. The HERO doesn't have looping.
Video + Photo. One of the odd omissions from the HERO6 Black was the ability to take still photos while shooting video. It was something the HERO5 Black could do, but it's replacement couldn't. It still can't do it, but the HERO can. It's one of the only areas where the HERO can do something the HERO6 Black can't.
HERO (2018) vs. HERO6 Black: Photos
The photo modes of the two models are quite similar. I have a more in-depth post on the photo modes on the GoPro HERO6 Black here.
[caption id="attachment_21388" align="aligncenter" width="678"] GoPro HERO6 Black.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_21389" align="aligncenter" width="678"] GoPro HERO (2018).[/caption]
Resolution. The photos from the HERO are a little smaller (10 MP vs. 12 MP). In practical terms, that comes to:
HERO (2018): 3648 x 2736 pixels
HERO6 Black: 4000 x 3000 pixels
Here's a visual representation of how those resolutions compare. You can click on the image to see it full-size.
Image Formats. Both models capture images in the standard JPG format. The HERO6 Black also lets you capture still images in GoPro's RAW format that have the file extension of .gpr (and is based on Adobe's DNG format). By making available much more of the information captured by the sensor, the RAW format allows for potentially higher image quality, but the files aren't easily shareable directly and need to be processed through an image editing app first.
Fields of View. By default, the images are captured in that distinctive fisheye look. On both cameras, that's known as the Wide FOV. You can also choose to mitigate that fisheye look with different FOVs that look less distorted. It's important to note, though, that these corrections are applied in camera by software algorithms; they're not applied optically through the lens.
The FOV options are a bit different on each camera. On the HERO, you can choose from Wide, Medium, and Narrow FOVs. Those are essentially crops rather than corrections.
On the HERO6 Black, you can choose from Wide and Linear; Linear FOV uses software to correct the distortion (you can see some practical examples here). This mode can be especially useful when using the camera mounted on a drone.
Night Photo. The HERO6 Black has a special photo mode that's designed for low-light shooting such as at night. It leaves the shutter open longer to allow more light in. The HERO doesn't have this night mode.
Wide Dynamic Range vs. High Dynamic Range. Both models have a mode that is designed to compensate for high dynamic range images and to bring out details in the highlights and shadows. But the modes are not the same.
The HERO uses what GoPro calls WDR, or wide dynamic range. It's the older method that was used on the HERO5 models. The HERO6 Black uses a newer version that they refer to as the High Dynamic Range (or HDR) mode. I've found the newer HDR mode to work better than the older WDR mode, but both offer some degree of highlight and shadow detail recovery. You can find some side-by-side comparisons here.
Zoom. The HERO6 Black has a digital zoom feature. It's not a true optical zoom--it's more like a glorified crop--so its a bit limited in its usefulness. The HERO doesn't have the zoom at all.
Protune. Protune is GoPro's name for extra settings that amount to an expert mode that lets you override or fine-tune parameters for various settings.
The HERO doesn't have any Protune options. You mostly have to stick to fully automatic mode.
The HERO6 Black has several Protune settings for still images. They include options for exerting some manual control over the shutter, exposure compensation, setting maximum and minimum ISO, and adjusting white balance, sharpness, and color mode. You can find a more in-depth post on the Protune options of the GoPro HERO6 Black here.
Timelapse. Both cameras have timelapse modes, and on both, you can choose timelapse photo mode (which shoots a series of still images that you can compile into a video later using software) or timelapse video mode (where the compiling is done in the camera itself).
But the HERO's timelapse options are much more limited. There's no control over one of the crucial elements of a timelapse, the interval--it's a standard 0.5 second interval. And in the timelapse video mode, you're limited to 1080p output.
With the HERO6 Black, you have much more granular control over the timelapse settings. You can choose from 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, and 60 second intervals. You can also specify the field of view, image format (in timelapse photo mode), and Protune options.
The HERO6 Black also has a special night lapse mode that leaves the shutter open longer to let more light in when shooting in low-light situations. The HERO doesn't have night lapse mode.
Burst Mode. Burst mode is a special still images mode that captures a high-speed sequence of images. It can be especially useful for capturing fast action and gives you more chances to get the shot you want when the timing is critical.
Both cameras have burst mode, but the HERO's options are limited to 10 photos in 1 second. With the HERO6 Black, you get more options, including, faster, slower, and longer sequences as well as an auto burst mode.
HERO (2018) vs. HERO6 Black: Other Key Features
Wireless. Both cameras have built-in wireless features, so you can control the camera remotely (with the smartphone app or a remote) as well as download photos and videos to use in Smartphone apps like GoPro's Quik app.
Voice Control. Both of these cameras offer voice control. When it's enabled, you can speak some basic command to do things like start and stop recording or change the shooting mode.
One area where they're different, though, is that the HERO6 Black offers Wake on Voice. Just like it sounds, it can turn the camera on with a voice command when the camera is powered off. It's not available on the HERO.
Audio. Both cameras have built-in microphones. You can also plug in an external microphone (or another audio accessory) into the HERO6 Black (using a mic adapter), but you can't do that with the HERO.
The HERO6 Black can also record a higher quality WAV audio file separately from the video file. The HERO's audio is standard compressed audio embedded in the video file.
GPS. The HERO6 Black has GPS and other metadata that can be used for telemetry. The HERO doesn't.
HERO (2018) vs. HERO6 Black: Batteries & Battery Life
Both take the same batteries. It's also the same type of battery used by the HERO5 Black.
When you're using the same settings, the battery life is much the same between them, give or take. But the HERO doesn't have the high-end video modes that drain the battery more quickly, so in day-to-day shooting, you're more likely to get slightly better battery life out of the HERO simply because you're limited to video modes that don't use quite so much juice. But neither of them have what you'd call stellar battery life, and the battery life is highly dependent on what settings you're using and how you're using the camera (i.e. whether you're using the back screen a lot), and even environmental factors like temperature (lithium batteries don't work well in very cold conditions). So I always make sure to have spare batteries on hand.
Both have a USB-C connection, so they're compatible with the SuperCharger.
For the most part, they're compatible with the same accessories. They use the same standard GoPro mounting system, are the same size and shape so can use the same housings and frames, and they have the same ports.
There are some exceptions, however. The HERO6 Black will take external microphones, while the HERO won't. And the HERO is not compatible with the controls on the Karma drone or grip.
There are some important exceptions, however.
- External mics.The HERO6 Black will take external microphones, while the HERO won't.
- Karma Drone and Karma Grip. The HERO is not compatible with the controls on the Karma drone or grip.
- GoPro Remotes. The HERO is not compatible with any of GoPro's remotes, including the REMO or the Smart Remote.
HERO (2018) vs HERO6 Black: Which Is Better?
The HERO6 Black is a better camera. It has many more features. But it's also priced considerably higher, which is itself a deciding factor in many cases. Because, let's face it, budget is usually an important issue in deciding which to buy.
Taking price out of it, the HERO is designed as a simplified, entry-level camera. It's a good option for people who want a rugged, waterproof camera to capture video and photos to share online but aren't looking to dive deeply into video editing or overly concerned about getting the best possible quality. If you're looking for a camera to take with you on family holidays or to share clips on Youtube, the HERO is probably more than enough for what you need.
The HERO6 Black is a more serious camera, with a price to match. It's a better option for people who need things like 4K video, looking to do serious slow motion, want better sound quality by adding an external microphone, plan to do a lot of shooting in low light, or just want more control over the shooting options. Used properly, those extra features and settings can result in better quality. But they're also features that, if you're not using them, can also be overkill.
So there's no one-size-fits-all answer as to which is best. At such different price points, it's really an apples-to-oranges comparison. It really depends on what you plan to use it for and which features are important to you.
I buy most of my gear at Amazon and B&H Photo.
- 2-Inch Touch Screen - Quickly switch between modes, frame the perfect shot and check out your footage on...
- Waterproof + Durable - Built tough and waterproof down to 33ft (10m), HERO goes where your smartphone...
- HERO6 Black automatically sends your footage to your phone where the app turns it into a QuikStory-an...
- With 4K60 and 1080p240 video,HERO6 Black delivers 2x the performance compared to HERO5 BlackWith an...
- There's also the GoPro Fusion, but that's quite a different kind of camera. ↩
Images and product information from Amazon Product Advertising API were last updated on 2018-09-18 at 09:37.
Common GoPro Questions
Here are some common questions I get from GoPro users.
How to Maximize a GoPro's battery life
There are several factors that influence how long the GoPro's battery life lasts. Among them include what mode you're recording in (4K uses more power than 1080p30, for instance), the health of the battery, and even the environmental temperature (lithium batteries don't perform well in very cold temperatures). But there are some things you can do to maximize battery life. Not every GoPro has all of these features, but start with these:
- Minimize use of the back screen
- Turn off wireless
- Turn off voice commands
- Turn off GPS
- Turn off Protune
- Use QuickCapture mode
Is it normal for GoPro cameras to get hot?
Yes. Depending on the model and the shooting mode you're using, it's normal for GoPros to get quite warm while shooting. They can get hot enough to be uncomfortable to touch. It's especially noticeable when shooting high-resolution and high-framerate video. Some newer models have an overheating protection mechanism that will shut the camera down if it gets too hot. I have more details on GoPros getting hot, here.
How can I control a GoPro remotely?
GoPro makes a range of wireless remote controls. They don't all work with all GoPros--for example, the HERO (2018) isn't compatible with this type of remote control. Many of the newer models also work with the GoPro mobile app. Not every model can be controlled remotely, but most of the newer models have wireless compatibility that can be used for at least some methods of remote control.
Can you take pictures with a GoPro?
If you've been using a GoPro for a while, this might seem pretty obvious, but if you've never used one, it's not quite so self-evident. GoPros are best known for dramatic action videos, but they can most certainly take still photos too. In fact, they can be a very interesting alternative to a traditional camera so long as you work within its limitations. I have more more details here.
Do GoPro wireless controls work underwater?
No. You can't use the mobile app or a wireless remote control if the camera is fully submerged in water. They will normally work just fine in rain and spray--just not submerged. I have a more detailed explanation here.
Do GoPro touchscreens work underwater?
No. If they're just wet above water, they can work to some extent, although often less reliably. But the touchscreens won't work underwater.