GoPro HERO 4 Silver vs HERO 4 Black

Here's a detailed comparison of how the GoPro HERO4 Black and the HERO4 Silver compare in terms of features, capabilities, and performance.

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The GoPro HERO 4 Silver and HERO 4 Black both offer significant improvements over their predecessors in the HERO 3 and HERO 3+ lineups. They have better video quality, more video and photo modes, and extra features like Bluetooth connectivity. One thing that hasn’t improved is the relatively short battery life, which, even in a best-case scenario, is going to come in under 2 hours of shooting without adding an external batteries.

There’s a lot of overlap between the two models, but there are also some key differences. With one important exception and a few minor ones, the Black has all the features of the Silver; it also has quite a lot more.

I have both models and find that each has its advantages that make me reach for one over another depending on what I’m shooting.

So here’s a detailed breakdown of how the HERO 4 Black compares with the HERO 4 Silver.

Built-In Touch Display LCD Screen

From the front, they look very similar. The most obvious difference is one you can see when you turn the camera around. The GoPro HERO 4 Silver is the first GoPro to come with a built-in touch display LCD screen. With previous models–and with the HERO 4 Black–you could add a screen on the back as an optional extra accessory. The Silver builds that screen into the camera body itself.

Like most cameras that have an LCD screen on the back, it gives you a live view of what the camera sees as well as provides touch controls for controlling the camera’s menu items. It’s very handy for framing your shots and for playing back and reviewing your video footage and photos. There’s a virtue to the convenience of having the screen built into the camera itself. For one thing you don’t have the extra size and bulk that comes with adding a separate screen accessory like the LCD Touch Bacpac onto the back of the camera (and the need to change the housing door).

The downside of an LCD screen is that it drains the battery more quickly. So if you want to maximize battery life you’ll want to turn the LCD screen off or use it sparingly.

The Black, on the other hand, doesn’t come with a built-in LCD screen; it’s the last of the Black editions not to have one. So if you’re using the camera standalone, you point the camera in the direction you want it and hope for the best. Because of the ultra wide-angle lens, that often works well enough.

But you also have other options with the Black if you want to compose the shot more precisely or add playback capabilities. You can use the free GoPro mobile app to get a live view wirelessly on your phone or tablet (this also works for the Silver, as well as the 3 and 3+ series). You can also buy an LCD screen as an optional accessory that attaches on the back of the camera and provides the same functionality as the touchscreen on the Silver edition (it’s known as the GoPro LCD BacPac. If you decide to buy the extra screen, it won’t fit in the standard waterproof housing because it creates a bulkier package, so you’ll need to use an extended back (they just clip on and off), and it’s going to drain your battery while using it.

So the built-in screen on the Silver edition is convenient for shooting but comes with a cost in terms of reduced battery life while you’re using it.

HERO 4 Black vs HERO 4 Silver: Video Resolutions and Framerates

Both of these cameras shoot 4K. They also have faster framerates at lower resolutions that’s useful for shooting slow-motion footage.

But the Black can do higher quality video at the top end. The Black allows for recording 4K video at 30 frames per second, whereas the maximum framerate on the Silver at 4K is 15fps. At 1080p, the Black can shoot at up to 120fps, while the Silver maxes out at 60fps. And there’s also a difference in the video compression. The Black can record its video up to a 60MB/s bitrate, compared to an upper limit of 45Mb/s with the Silver.

Tip: GoPros don’t come with a memory card as standard. So unless you get one of the retailer bundles that includes an SD card, you’ll probably have to pick one up separately. But not every card will work well with the high-bitrate video modes of the HERO 4 Black and Silver. Here are some recommendations for SD cards that work well in these models.

Here’s a split-screen from both cameras shot simultaneously with the same settings (1080p30, Protune off). There’s a slight misalignment in the original footage due to the mounting frame. But the examples illustrate that because the cameras are using the same sensor, there’s no functional difference in the results when using the video modes they have in common.

In uploading to Youtube the file is compressed. If you’d like to download the original raw footage as it came out of the camera, here it is: Black | Silver (right-click to download).

Here’s another test sample. The blank line at the top of the Black is the result of realigning the slightly misaligned footage.

And here are the original raw files: Black | Silver (right-click to download). (In case you’re wondering what the event is in the background, it’s a group of Army recruits doing their regular dawn training down on the plaza in front of the Lincoln Memorial and on the steps.)

Video Modes: HERO 4 Silver vs HERO 4 Black

Here’s a complete list of all the video modes available on the GoPro HERO 4 Silver and Black editions. Some are only available on the Black edition. A much smaller number are only available on the Silver edition.

ModeFPSBitrate (Megabits/s) - Protune / + ProtuneAspect RatioResolutionHERO4 BlackHERO4 Silver
2.7K SuperView3045/6016:92704x1520
2.7K 4:33045/604:32704x2028
1080p SuperView8060/6016:91920x1080
720p SuperView12030/4516:91280x720

Video Resolutions

For comparison, here’s a visualization of the video resolutions that the GoPro HERO 4 produces. Click on the graphic to open a full-size version.

Protune Video Options

This table shows the various Protune options available when shooting video with these cameras.

Protune OptionHERO4 BlackHERO4 Silver
ColorGoPro Color
GoPro Color
White BalanceAuto
Shutter / Manual ExposureAuto
ISO Limit6400
Exposure Compensation-2 to +2-2 to +2

HERO 4 Silver vs HERO 4 Black: Still Photos

When shooting still photos, both offer the same features and capabilities. Both are using the same sensor that produces up to 12MP images with an aspect ratio of 4:3 with dimensions 4000 by 3000 pixels. They also have 7MP (3000 by 2250px) and 5MP (2560 by 1920px) modes. The 12MP and 7MP resolutions offer the Wide FOV, while the 7MP and the 5MP resolutions offer medium resolution.

The lens is rated as a 3mm lens, equivalent to 15mm in the 35mm/full-frame format. The light meter reacts identically, producing identical photos in each. Both handle shadows and highlights the same.

As you can see in these side-by-side photos, there’s no difference (aside from the minor misalignment made more noticeable thanks to the ultra-wide field of view). In both, the image to the left of the slider (the Before image) is from the GoPro HERO4 Black, while the left is the GoPro HERO4 Silver. For this first one, I’ve deliberately chosen a scene that’s tricky for cameras to deal with so that any differences that exist will be more obvious. It has both very bright highlights (the sun) as well as dark shadows. And the white balance is tricky, because the camera has to try to decide whether to choose the warm light of the sun or the cooler light in the shadows.

[before-after viewer_position=”center” orientation=”horizontal” label_position=”one” overlay_color=”#ffffff”  label_color=”#000000″ label_one=”Before” label_two=”After”]


If you’d like to see the original full-size images, you can download them here: Black | Silver.

And here’s another example:

[before-after viewer_position=”center” orientation=”horizontal” label_position=”one” overlay_color=”#ffffff”  label_color=”#000000″ label_one=”Before” label_two=”After”]


And here are the full-size originals: Black | Silver.

While both record exactly the same exposure settings in their EXIF, in my cameras, the Silver tends to expose ever-so-slightly under the Black, but it’s such a tiny difference that it’s most likely just natural manufacturing variation.

HERO 4 Black vs HERO 4 Silver: Audio & Sound

In many respects, the Black and Silver have the same specs when it comes to audio. Both record at 48kHz with AAC compression. Both have automatic gain control and use an internal multi-band compressor to improve the sound. Both have a mono internal microphone (which of course works best when not sealed inside the standard waterproof housing). And you can plug an external stereo microphone into both, although to do so you’ll need to buy a separate 3.5mm to mini USB adapter.

There is a key difference for high-end audio, though. The Black has a high-quality analog to digital converter (ADC) built-in, which allows you to use high-end, studio-quality microphones that won’t work on the Silver. If you need this feature, you’ll probably already know you need it; it’s most commonly needed for broadcast recordings or live music recordings, although those users will often use separate, dedicated sound gear.

I have a much more detailed post on external microphones for GoPros here.

Design, Dimensions, Weight, and Size

Both are exactly the same dimensions. Both fit inside the same standard waterproof housing. The Black edition is marginally heavier, but there’s very little in it–5 grams, to be precise, or under 0.2 of an ounce.

Other Features

Both models shoot still photos, can do time-lapse, have night photo and night time-lapse modes, have Protune mode (now available for both video and still photos), can shoot bursts of still photos at 30 shots a second, shoot 12 megapixel still photos, and have built-in wifi and Bluetooth capabilities. Both take the same kinds of microSD cards (see recommendations). Both have about the same battery life expectations and use the same batteries (which are different to the batteries in previous and later models).

Recommendations: GoPro HERO 4 Silver vs HERO 4 Black

Overall, there are a lot of similarities between the two models. Both are capable of shooting great footage and taking great photos.

  • If you want a built-in live view screen, go with the Silver. It adds convenience, although it sucks battery power.
  • If you want the top end video modes like 4K at 30fps or 1080p at 120fps, go with the Black.
  • If cost is a deciding factor, the Silver provides excellent quality and features but is priced significantly lower than the Black.
  • If you’re buying one for a gift, the Silver is probably the safer bet–especially with a gift receipt as backup.
  • And if both of these models are out of your price range, there are two less expensive models below these, the entry-level GoPro HERO (2014) and the HERO+ LCD, both of which are also very capable cameras. I have a post comparing the HERO (2014) and HERO4 Silver here and comparing the HERO+LCD with the HERO4 Silver here.

Where to Find Them

Both of these models are older models now and becoming harder to find in stores and online. GoPro has removed them from their online store, but you still might be able to find new ones at retailers like B&H Photo and Amazon.

Alternatively, there’s a good chance of picking up used copies. I buy most of my used gear from KEH; you can check their current GoPro inventory here. B&H Photo also has an extensive range of used gear.

More GoPro Tips & Tricks:

This post was last modified on January 10, 2021 8:26 am

View Comments

  • Hi David. Am I able to switch between video and still shots while the camera is in the super suit housing? Thats the only thing im concerned about. I will be using it for scuba diving. I currently own a hero(2014) and i love its simplicity..but I feel like I need the ability to switch out the battery between dives. There are SO many options..any suggestions? Not looking for top of thr line..thanks

    • Yes, you can do that with the front button. If you just push it quickly, it cycles through the shooting modes. If you hold it in, it works as the power button.

      You might already have your eye on a HERO4 used copy, but if not, an option might be trade in your HERO (2014) for the newer HERO7 Black to get $100 off (bringing it to $299.99 / more info here). You can also still find good deals on the HERO5 Black and HERO6 Black around the place. The newer models tend to have better low-light performance, which I've found useful when Scuba diving.

  • Hi David,
    Thank you for this very thorough comparison.
    I realize this is an old post, but it is still very relevant for me, and I hope you still monitor this.
    I have an audio related question.
    You mention the Hero4 black has better compatibility with higher quality microphones due to a better ADC. I am using this with a Sena GP-10
    The Sena GP-10 works with a Sena bluetooth headset that I have installed in my helmet and it transfers the audio directly from the helmet mic to the Gopro via bluetooth while recording. It saves a lot of time in post. No need to sync the video and audio
    I have been using the silver thus far and I need to replace it due to a usb port malfunction.
    My question is, due to the better ADC, do you think I will benefit from the black?
    The hero4 is the camera I use for selfie shots (I have hero7 black for other angles) while motorcycle vlogging and I shoot in 1080 60fps and my main reason for using the hero4 is the audio capture from my helmet via bluetooth.
    Thanks in advance,

    • Good question, but I don't really know the answer. I haven't used the Sena GP-10, but from the product info at that link, I gather it attaches to the back port of the camera. I don't know whether the signal going through there passes through the ADC, bypasses it, or whether the conversion happens in the Sena before being passed on to the camera. My guess is the latter, but I just don't know, it's purely a guess, and there's a good chance I'm misunderstanding how the Sena works.

      • Hi,
        Thanks for the quick reply.
        I couldn't reply for some reason until recently.
        The comment didn't show up here.
        Anyway, I am not sure either about where the conversion happens. But, the Sena GP10 connects to the USB port on the Gopro, not to the port in the back, basically acting as the mic adaptor does to send the audio to the camera.
        Additional info you might find helpful, is that with sena headset updates the audio quality has gradually improved so maybe the actual bluetooth headset might have something to do with the processing.
        I hope that helps you understand it a bit better.

  • Hi, Excellent article. I need to be sure before I hit pull the trigger on the Hero4 Black. I need to do a kick-butt time-lapse video over a 2-4 day period for a kick-starter/indiegogo campaign. I have an external power supply than can provide unlimited power via USB. I have only 2 questions: 1) Is the time-lapse thing fairly easy and straight forward? 2) Is the memory card going to be a problem? I appreciate your answer in advance.

    Thank you kindly, Keith

    • Yes, the timelapse function is very straightforward. There's actually two ways to do it: timelapse video, where it creates the video in the camera, and timelapse photo, where it shoots the sequence as JPGs and you'll have to use them to compile the video on a computer. I have a basic guide here that gives an overview of what you can expect from the timelapse photos option and stitching it together with GoPro Studio (of course, since they're just JPGs, you can use any other timelapse software you like instead). For something like you describe, I would generally shoot it in the timelapse photo mode. It's more work and takes more memory card space, but it's also more flexible and is safer if something goes wrong part way through. Depending on what exactly you're shooting there are also options for external intervalometers that can stop the shooting when it's not needed, etc. I have more on them here. In general, the timelapse function isn't going to tax the memory card too much, but I'd still recommend sticking with one of the ones recommended here.

  • hola yo tengo la gopro hero 3 y estoy pensando en adquirir la hero 4 silver. cuales serian las ventajas de una con respecto a la otra,

  • Hi David. Brilliant & v useful review. Thank you!

    I have read somewhere that he silver LCD can be turned off, and the camera operated fully via the phone app. Is this correct?

    I want to mount it remotely on a sailboat and capture stuff via Bluetooth or wifi, whilst also maximising battery life. As I don't need super-hires video I'm guessing the silver 4 is the way to go?

    Thanks again for your advice.

    • Yes, you can run it from the phone app. The catch in terms of battery life is that controlling it via the app also causes quite a drain on battery. If you don't need to see what the camera is seeing, the Smart Remote offers control and better battery life thank using the app (but not as good as having the wifi switched off completely).

  • Excellent article. Learnt heaps. Concise, clear and the examples worked for me. Thank you.
    A note on using the Go Pro App (I have 'Capture' on my Iphone) and I have a Hero 4 Black: Iphones (or at least mine) do not do too well in cold places and therefore, difficult to team up with Hero 4 Black to view shots. It is my experience and it may not be yours. Just been to Antarctica and that is one problem I had and other passengers on the boat.

  • I'm looking for a video camera to record gigs I attend, could you advise on whether the black or silver 4 would be better for the low light and sound quality please
    Many thanks

    • Both give same low-light performance. An external microphone will improve the sound quality markedly on both--more on that here. The HERO5 Black is potentially even better for this use because you can save the soundtrack as a separate WAV file.

  • Question. Why do you have the bitrate in the chart as one number, and then a number next to it in parenthesis? IE: 60 Mb/s (7.5 MB/s)?

    • It's two different ways to write the speed. Mb/s, with a small "b", is megabits per second. It's the unit usually used for video bitrates. MB/s, with a capital "B", is megabytes per second. It's the unit we're probably more used to in other contexts. There are eight megabits in a megabyte (or eight bits in a byte, for that matter).

      • Oh sweet, thanks. I'm exporting some GoPro video on Premiere Pro and for the last 15 or so video I notice that YouTube recommended bitrate of 12 for 60FPS video loses a lot of quality. I'm going to export at the same bitrate as the camera shoots and see how that looks.

  • Thank you so much for putting all this information in one location! It is so helpful. We want a GoPro of some sort, but debating on which one to get. I love taking pics and videos, but just average in doing it. I wish I had the time to learn more about photography because I love doing it. Mainly this GoPro will be used by the kids and on family vacations. We are just trying to find a good one, but also not break the bank. I am going back and forth between an older model and the new version. I know the older models are less expensive now that the 4 has come out, but I also know how fast technology changes and things get "outdated" quickly. What would your recommendation be for our family? Again thank you for all of your wonderful insight!!!

    • The HERO4 Silver is probably the best all-around in the current range, in large part because it has the built-in screen. But if you're less concerned with high-end video modes, the HERO+ LCD is not technically in the current range but still has good video and image quality as well as a built-in screen, and it's significantly cheaper.

  • Hello David

    I will be going on Safari with my family and want a camera to make VDO's. have been looking at camcorders, but the ones with 4K capability are very expensive. is Go Pro Hero 4 silver a good alternate to a camcorder. my biggest concern is the fish eye lens, how much does it distort the image. i also understand that Go Pro does not have zoom capabilities.

    look forward to hearing from you.

    • I have some examples of the field of view here as well as some examples of how to remove the fisheye effect from videos and photos that show how much distortion there is. The very wide field of view isn't ideal for going on safari because the animals will be very small in the frame and you'll also end up with parts of the vehicle in the frame in many shots.