GoPro HERO5 Black vs HERO4 Black

If you’re trying to decide whether to upgrade to the new GoPro HERO5 Black or trying to choose between the two, here’s a detailed breakdown of their similarities and differences.

GoPro HERO5 Black vs HERO4 Black With Housing
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If you’re trying to decide whether to upgrade to the new GoPro HERO 5 Black from the previous model or have found a good deal on the HERO 4 Black and are trying to decide which to get, here’s a rundown of how the two models are different and how they’re similar.

Overall, the HERO 5 takes the best features of the HERO 4 Black and Silver and combines them in a single camera. There’s 4K video recording and fine-grained controls available with Protune settings. There’s also a built-in touchscreen that can be used for live view, changing settings, and navigating the menu system. And it also adds some interesting new features like voice control, video stabilization, a RAW photo format, automatic GPS tagging, and automatic uploading to the new GoPro Plus cloud service. And one of the most significant differences is that the camera itself is now waterproof without the need for an external housing. There are also a lot of smaller tweaks, additions, and improvements that will appeal to certain users.

Size and Weight

The HERO 5 Black’s casing is waterproof on its own, and that extra reinforcement adds some bulk to the basic camera. So the HERO5 Black is slightly larger than a naked HERO 4 Black without a housing. But it’s significantly smaller than a HERO 4 in a Standard waterproof housing. Here are some examples:

GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 4 Black Side Panel
On the HERO5 Black, at left, the ports are under the panel at the bottom.
GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 4 Black Top View
GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 4 Black Right Side

It’s also worth noting that if the size is a critical issue, the HERO 5 Session might be worth a look. It’s significantly smaller and cube-shaped. It doesn’t have all the features of the Black, but it is small.

Weight. With a battery and memory card installed, the HERO 5 Black weighs 4.2 oz (118 grams). The HERO 4 Black without a housing weighs 3.1 oz (87 grams) and with the standard housing weighs about 5.3 oz (150 grams).

Dimensions. GoPro doesn’t seem to have published their official measurements for the new model, but my digital calipers measure the main body as 2.4in (61.7mm) wide, 1.7in (44.4mm) tall, and 0.9in (24mm) deep. As you can see from the photos, the lens port protrudes a little from the body, and the depth of that portion is 1.3in (32.3mm).

Built-In Touch Display LCD Screen

GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 4 Black Back Panel

A built-in touchscreen display was one of the defining differences between the HERO 4 Black and Silver—the Silver had it, the Black didn’t.

The new HERO 5 Black has a built-in screen on its back panel. And it’s better than the one on the HERO 4 Silver. It’s still small–there’s only so much space on the back of such a small camera, after all–but the resolution is better, and it’s brighter and sharper. The menu system is also improved, and because there’s not the extra layer of a housing’s back door, it’s more responsive and easier to use.

GoPro HERO 5 Black Back

The built-in display is excellent for seeing what you’re shooting, playing back footage, and navigating menus. But it also enables another new feature: exposure control. It replaces the GoPro spot meter that has been a staple on these cameras from the beginning with a new version that gives you control over which part of the image to use to calculate the exposure.

Controls and Interface

The controls for the two models are roughly similar. There are three buttons with which you can change settings and control the camera, all of which can be used with the small monochrome LCD on the front of the camera (which has been improved on the new model).

GoPro HERO 5 Black Shutter Top
GoPro HERO 5 Black Mode Button

But the most significant on-camera usability improvement is thanks for the addition of the touchscreen on the back. That’s often a much easier and quicker way to access the camera’s settings and controls. In the same way that the HERO 4 Silver’s settings were easier to navigate on-camera thanks to the screen, I’ve found it to make a big difference in making the HERO 5 Black much more user-friendly. The new voice controls add another element, as well (see below).

You can also control both cameras with a Smart Remote (sold separately) and the GoPro Mobile App (now renamed Capture).

Housing

GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 4 Black With Housing
The HERO 4 Black, at right, is in its standard housing.

GoPro has mostly eliminated the need for the standard housing, the clear case that many of the previous GoPros have had to provide waterproofing and general protection from the elements. The built-in casing on the new models is waterproof down to 33 feet and protects against dust and sand. So for many uses, you no longer have to worry about using a separate housing.

That means two things: it’s one less thing to be hassling with while you’re trying to shoot, and the overall package of the HERO 5 Black comes in smaller than the combination of a HERO 4 Black and the Standard Housing.

So the new model is waterproof without a housing. It’s not a direct replacement, however. The old Standard Housing was rated down to 131 feet (40m). The new cameras are rated down to 33 feet (10m) without a separate housing. So if you’re looking to dive below 33 feet or so you’ll be wanting to add a new and improved version of the dive housing that GoPro is now calling the Super Suit housing.

The new model doesn’t come with a housing, as such, but it does come with a frame that wraps around the sides. It doesn’t provide much in the way of extra protection, but it does add a GoPro mounting point on the bottom.

Voice Controls

Pushing the shutter button is simple enough much of the time, but there are many times you mount the camera in a place it’s simply not easy to reach. If you’re hurtling down a mountain on a snowboard with selfie-stick, have your camera mounted on the front of your surfboard, are driving, or any number of other situations where you’re using both hands or don’t otherwise have the camera in easy reach, you don’t want to be fiddling with buttons. So with the two HERO 5 models, you can now control the camera with your voice. The commands are pretty simple–things like “GoPro start recording” or “GoPro take a photo”–but they cover the basics.

The feature works best if you’re close to the camera in a low-noise environment. And some users have found early iterations to be a bit buggy, but some of that might be able to be addressed with future firmware updates. You can find the current list of voice commands that are supported here.

It’s a neat feature, but how useful to you it will be in practice very much depends on your preferences, where you’re shooting, and how inclined you are to talk out loud to your camera. There are certainly situations where it can be a very useful feature.

GoPro is also releasing a new remote that lets you use voice controls from afar, the Remo. It’s not yet available but appears only to be compatible with HERO 5 models.

Video

There’s a lot of overlap between the video modes of the HERO 5 Black and its predecessor. They share top-end video modes of 4K30, 1080p120, and 720p240. There’s no 8K video, 3D video, or 60fps 4K video that some early rumors had suggested. I personally would have liked to see a sensor with better low-light performance and dynamic range, but based on the footage that’s coming out of the cameras, they seem to be using the same sensor.

That’s not to say that the footage out of the new camera isn’t better. But the quality improvements–or potential improvements, since it relies on features that can be turned on or off–have to do with features to enable smoother and less-distorted footage rather than an improved sensor.

Video Stabilization. This is one of the headline features of both the HERO 5 Black and the HERO 5 Session. It’s designed to smooth out the jerkiness you can get with unstabilized footage.

I’ve found it to work pretty well in many cases and very well in others. So long as you’re realistic about it, of course. It’s a software solution that does in-camera something similar to the Stabilization feature in Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier’s Warp Stabilizer. Which is to say that it’s not going to offer the kind of magically smooth glide a good-quality gyro gimbal can.

Even if the standalone Karma gimbal will undoubtedly offer much better performance, I’ve found that the built-in stabilization function can quite dramatically improve some footage and is a very useful addition.

Here’s one side-by-side example of unstabilized vs stabilized footage from the HERO 5 Black:

[youtube=https://youtu.be/4B-lODwfVDc&w=678&rel=0]

I have more examples of the stabilization function here, along with details on which video modes it is and isn’t available (i.e., not 4K or high-FPS modes).

Resolutions. The two models offer the same options for video resolution. These:

gopro-hero5-black-video-resolutions

Frames per second. There are only minor framerate differences at some resolutions.

Fields of View. Where there are some differences is in the fields of view, or FOV, offered. The most significant difference is that the HERO 5s offer a new Linear FOV that removes fisheye distortion in-camera. I have more on that here. (UPDATE: Linear FOV is now available on the HERO 4 Black and HERO 4 Silver after you update the firmware on those cameras to V.05.00.00.)

Protune. Both offer Protune options for video. The HERO 5 adds three new Protune options that can be very useful:

  • manual exposure where you can set the shutter speed
  • a raw audio track option that creates a higher-quality WAV file separate to but alongside the video file
  • an auto mode option that gives you the option of putting it in a mode that reduces the effects of wind noise

Bitrates. They’re essentially the same between the two models, with the highest bitrate of 60 megabits per second for the high-end video modes.

Video Format. Both shoot in NTSC or PAL formats.

File Format. Both produce H.264 MP4 videos.

Still Photos

Size. Both models have a maximum image size of 12MP (4000 x 3000 pixels).

With the HERO 4 you had a choice of smaller sizes–the HERO 5 only does 12MP, although you can choose different fields of view, with the options being Wide, Medium, and Narrow, as before, with the addition of a new Linear FOV that corrects fisheye distortion in-camera.

Quality. The quality of the JPGs is essentially identical. The images from the new model do seem slightly sharper when viewed at 100%, which could be due to a number of things—perhaps an optically sharper lens or more aggressive sharpening in the in-camera processing. The in-camera processing has also been tweaked to improve the automatic white balance, with the images from the new model being less cool (i.e., not as blue) and more natural-looking.


HERO 5 12MP Standard vs HERO 4 Black

HERO4 Still

HDR. The new high dynamic range option is one of two significant new additions to the still photo features. GoPro calls it WDR for Wide Dynamic Range. It aims to capture extra details in shadows and highlights.

RAW. The other is a new RAW image format. It has the file extension GPR. Shooting in RAW mode has both advantages and disadvantages. The main reason to do it is for the potential for better image quality, and for that reason, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the addition of a RAW format to GoPros. But to realize that potential quality improvement you need to be processing the images in something like Lightroom or another RAW processing app. The downside of shooting in the GoPro’s RAW format is that the images need processing and converting to JPG before sharing. Counterintuitively, the GPR images have a smaller file size than the JPGs, but they do take noticeably longer to write to the card (both likely due to the compression algorithm).

Timelapse

Like the previous models, the HERO 5 Black offers two ways of creating a timelapse.

Timelapse Photo. The first is the old-fashioned way of shooting a sequence of still images, downloading those images from the memory card, and stitching them together on your computer using a separate app like GoPro Studio. Like previous models, the available intervals in-camera (without using an external intervalometer) are 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, and 60 seconds.

Timelapse Video. You can also have the camera compile the video on the fly to create a finished mp4 timelapse video. This saves a lot of extra steps and time, although you end up with less flexibility. It offers the same intervals as the timelapse photo method. The previous model can output 4K and 2.7K 4:3 resolution timelapse videos. The new model adds a new option, and somewhat counterintuitively it’s a lower resolution: 1080p. The reason for that has been added is to make it easier to share the resulting timelapse video without downsampling or dealing with the massive files from 2.7K or 4K video. With the smaller 1080p video, it’s much easier and quicker to take the footage from your camera directly to your phone and then upload straight to social media.

Night Lapse Photo. Both the old and new models have the Night Lapse Photo mode that provides extra interval and shutter speed options better suited to low-light shooting.

Audio

On paper, the new model has several improvements in its audio handling. The HERO 5 can record stereo audio directly. It can also general a separate audio WAV file alongside the video file. It’s a raw audio feature available under the video Protune options, and it potentially offers a significant improvement when the audio is an essential part of what you’re capturing, and you’re planning post-processing in a video editing app.

Like the model it replaces, the HERO 5 Black can also take external microphones, although you’ll need the new USB-C mic adapter.

But–and this is important–the sound quality of the onboard microphones is poor on the HERO 5 compared with the HERO 4 Black–it often comes out muffled. It’s not the only issue with the HERO 5 Black’s sound, and this is one area where the improved feature set of the new model doesn’t make up for the better performance of the old model in real-world shooting.

Battery Life

GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 4 Battery
At left is the new battery for the HERO 5 Black. At right is the battery for the HERO 4 Black and HERO 4 Silver.

GoPro’s have never had impressive battery life. But the HERO 5 Black uses a new, slightly higher-capacity battery (1220mAh vs. 1160mAh). Combined with more power-efficient operation, you can get better performance. Not necessarily a lot better, but still an improvement.

Of course, that’s very much relative. Up to two hours of battery life isn’t very impressive at all compared to smartphones or most other cameras, but it’s a good deal better than the one hour or so we’ve become accustomed to with previous models of GoPros.

So the HERO 5 Black has noticeably better battery performance than the models it replaces, even if there’s still a lot of room to improve in this area.

One benefit of the [new USB-C connection](GoPro has now released a new camera called the HERO, bringing the current lineup to five cameras and continuing a confusing naming system. Because this isn’t the first time there’s been a GoPro HERO. There was an earlier one released in 2014. And well before that, there was the HD HERO and another HERO that’s now usually referred to as the Standard Def. HERO. And let’s not forget the HERO+ and the HERO+ LCD. With all of those HEROs, you’ll often see the newest version called the HERO (2018) to make it clear which version is being referred to, and that’s the model I’m focusing on here.

The HERO (2018) is the latest addition to GoPro’s current lineup, which also includes the HERO Session, HERO5 Session, HERO6 Black, and Fusion. I’ve previously posted a detailed side-by-side comparison between the HERO (2018) and the HERO6 Black.

But there’s also another model that’s remarkably similar and some key respects. It’s the older HERO5 Black. The HERO5 Black has been superseded by the newer HERO6 Black, but since it’s readily available and you can find some good deals on it that brings it into the same ballpark as the HERO, I thought it might be useful to provide a detailed side-by-side comparison in case anyone is trying to choose between them.

The HERO and the HERO5 Black look identical on the outside. And they share quite a lot of similarities under the hood too. But there are also key differences. In broad strokes, the HERO5 Black can do everything the HERO can do, and quite a lot more besides.

The HERO (2018) is designed as the simplified, entry-level camera. The HERO5 Black was, before the HERO6 Black came along, GoPro’s flagship camera, and it’s packed with the kinds of bells and whistles that comes with that territory. But there’s quite a lot about the HERO to suggest that it’s fundamentally a repurposed and rebadged HERO5 Black with a feature set that’s artificially limited by the firmware.

After I originally posted this, some users figured out ways to hack the firmware of their HERO (2018) camera to turn it into a fully functional HERO5 Black. Which confirms my original suspicion that the only difference is in the camera’s firmware, which on the HERO (2018) provides a more limited set of features. It’s something GoPro disapproves of, and it’s not something I’m going to explain how to do here, but you can find instructions elsewhere on the web.

Design and Build

They use the same case, so from the outside, they look identical. You have to look very closely to see the subtle model name printed on the side. They’re the same size and weight. They have the same buttons and screens and controls.

GoPro HERO vs HERO6 Black vs HERO5 Black
From left to right: GoPro HERO, HERO6 Black, HERO5 Black.
GoPro HERO vs HERO6 Black vs HERO5 Black
From left to right: GoPro HERO, HERO6 Black, HERO5 Black.

Waterproof. They’re both waterproof without the need for a separate housing, rated down to 33 feet (10 meters). If you need to go deeper than that, both are compatible with the same Super Suit dive housing.

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.

HERO5 Black vs HERO (2018): Video

Shooting video is the area where there are the biggest differences between these models. The HERO5 Black has an extensive range of video resolutions and framerates available, all the way up to high-end video modes like 4K30 and 1080p120.

The HERO (2018)’s video options are much slimmer. You can shoot in either 1080p or 1440p up to a maximum of 60 fps. The HERO doesn’t shoot 4K or 2.7K video.

Here’s the full chart comparing the available video modes.

ResolutionFPSFOVDimensionsGoPro HERO5 BlackGoPro HERO (2018)
4K30Wide3840x2160
25Wide3840x2160
24Wide3840x2160
SuperView3840x2160
2.7K60Wide2704x1520
Medium2704x1520
Linear2704x1520
50Wide2704x1520
Medium2704x1520
Linear2704x1520
48Wide2704x1520
Medium2704x1520
Linear2704x1520
30SuperView2704x1520
Wide2704x1520
Medium2704x1520
Linear2704x1520
25SuperView2704x1520
Wide2704x1520
Medium2704x1520
Linear2704x1520
24Wide2704x1520
Medium2704x1520
Linear2704x1520
2.7K 4:330Wide2704x2028
25Wide2704x2028
1440p80Wide1920x1440
60Wide1920x1440
50Wide1920x1440
48Wide1920x1440
30Wide1920x1440
25Wide1920x1440
24Wide1920x1440
1080p120Wide1920x1080
Narrow1920x1080
90Wide1920x1080
80SuperView1920x1080
60SuperView1920x1080
Wide1920x1080
Medium1920x1080
Linear1920x1080
Narrow1920x1080
50SuperView1920x1080
Wide1920x1080
Medium1920x1080
Linear1920x1080
Narrow1920x1080
48SuperView1920x1080
Wide1920x1080
Medium1920x1080
Linear1920x1080
Narrow1920x1080
30SuperView1920x1080
Wide1920x1080
Medium1920x1080
Linear1920x1080
Narrow1920x1080
25SuperView1920x1080
Wide1920x1080
Medium1920x1080
Linear1920x1080
Narrow1920x1080
24SuperView1920x1080
Wide1920x1080
Medium1920x1080
Linear1920x1080
Narrow1920x1080
960p120Wide1280x960
60Wide1280x960
50Wide1280x960
720p240Narrow*1280x720
120SuperView1280x720
Wide1280x720
Medium1280x720
Narrow1280x720
100SuperView1280x720
60SuperView1280x720
Wide1280x720
Medium1280x720
Narrow1280x720
50SuperView1280x720
Wide1280x720
Medium1280x720
Narrow1280x720
30Wide1280x720
Medium1280x720
Narrow1280x720
25Wide1280x720
Medium1280x720
Narrow1280x720
480p240Wide848x480

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 practical examples of it in action here.

Stabilization isn’t available in all the video modes of the HERO5 Black. You can see which modes it’s available in here. On the HERO, the stabilization is available in all of its video modes.

When using the stabilization option, you do get a very slight cropping of the available view.

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 HERO5 Black overlap, but there are also some extra options. It also has Wide, Medium, and Narrow FOVs, 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 (particularly useful when filming from drones). The Linear FOV is different to the Medium and Narrow FOVs in that it’s a calculated correction applied by the camera’s software rather than a simple crop.

Bitrates. The maximum bitrate used (currently) on the HERO (2018) is 45 Mbps.1 The maximum bitrate on the HERO5 Black is 60 Mbps. Both are high enough to warrant some care in choosing an SD card that’s fast enough.

Video Formats. Both cameras produce MP4 video files encoded with the widely used H.264 codec.

Looping. The HERO5 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. The HERO5 Black has the ability to capture still images while simultaneously recording video. The HERO (2018) doesn’t.

HERO (2018) vs. HERO5 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 HERO5 Black here.

GoPro HERO (2018)
GoPro HERO (2018).
GoPro HERO5 Black
GoPro HERO5 Black.


Resolution. At 10MP (megapixels), the photos taken with the HERO are a little smaller than the 12MP images from the HERO5 Black. In pixel dimensions, that comes to:

HERO (2018): 3648 x 2736 pixels
HERO5 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 HERO5 Black also lets you capture still images in GoPro’s RAW format that have the file extension of .gpr. 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. Or, put another way, the result is like a digital zoom (not an optical zoom).

On the HERO5 Black, you also have Wide, Medium, and Narrow FOVs, but there’s also an extra one: Linear. The Linear FOV uses software to correct the distortion that you can see when straight lines get that strong curve. You can see some practical examples here. This mode can be especially useful when using the camera mounted on a drone, but it’s also useful if you just don’t want that bulging fisheye look.

Night Photo. The HERO5 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. Both models have a mode that is designed to bring out details in the highlights and shadows.

GoPro calls it WDR, for wide dynamic range. I’m a bit ambivalent on the results it gives, and it doesn’t work as well as the better HDR mode in the HERO6 models, but it does recover some detail in shadows and highlights. You can find some side-by-side comparisons here.

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 HERO5 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.

Timelapse. Both cameras have time lapse modes, and on both, you can choose time lapse photo mode (which shoots a series of still images that you can compile into a video later using software) or time lapse video mode (where the compiling is done in the camera itself).

But the HERO’s time lapse options are much more limited. There’s no control over one of the crucial elements of a time lapse, the interval–it’s a standard 0.5-second interval. And in the time lapse video mode, you’re limited to 1080p output.

With the HERO5 Black, you have much more granular control over the time lapse 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 time lapse photo mode), and Protune options.

The HERO5 Black also has a special variation on the time lapse photo mode that’s known as night lapse mode. It 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 HERO5 Black, you get more options, including, faster, slower, and longer sequences (30/1 (30 photos in 1 second), 30/2, 30/3, 30/6, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3, 5/1, and 3/1).

Continuous Photo. The HERO5 Black has a continuous photo mode; the HERO doesn’t. This is similar to burst mode in that it takes a quick series of shots, but it functions a little differently. In burst mode, you first switch to that shooting mode and then hit the shutter once. It will then shoot the full sequence that you’ve designated. Continuous photo mode works in the regular photo mode. You hold down the shutter, and it will keep shooting until you release the shutter. In continuous photo mode, the HERO5 Black takes four photos per second up to a maximum of 30 photos.

HERO (2018) vs. HERO5 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. When set up with a GoPro Plus Subscription, both cameras can automatically upload to the cloud.

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.

Audio. Both cameras have three built-in microphones. You can also plug in an external microphone (or another audio accessory) into the HERO5 Black (using a mic adapter), but you can’t do that with the HERO.

The HERO5 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 HERO5 Black has GPS and other metadata that can be used for telemetry. The HERO doesn’t.

HERO (2018) vs. HERO5 Black: Batteries & Battery Life

Both take the same batteries. It’s also the same type of battery used by the HERO6 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 the battery life on both of them is likely to leave you underwhelmed, which is why I always make sure to have spare batteries on hand.

Both have a USB-C connection, so they’re compatible with the SuperCharger for fast charging.

Accessories

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 important exceptions, however.

  • External mics.The HERO5 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 HERO5 Black: Which Is Better?

The HERO5 Black is a better camera. It can do everything the HERO can do and quite a lot more. So if you can find a good deal on the HERO5 Black that brings it within striking distance price-wise of the HERO, it’s hard to think of a good reason not to go with that.

The HERO can’t do anything the HERO5 Black doesn’t also do, but it does have the virtue of simplicity. If you just want to keep things simple and don’t need 4K video or any of the other higher-end features of the Black range, then the HERO can be appealing.

Where to Find Them

I buy most of my gear at Amazon and B&H Photo.

GoPro HERO (2018): Amazon | B&H Photo

GoPro HERO5 Black: Amazon | B&H Photo

Since these are both now technically discontinued models, they’ll become harder to find new. But 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.


  1. GoPro’s own comparison chart says that the maximum bitrate on the HERO (2018) is 60 Mbps, but in my tests, I’ve not seen anything higher than 45 Mbps come out of it. It’s possible they might increase it later with a firmware update. 

     

) is that it allows for rapid charging (with a Supercharger that’s sold separately, that is), that GoPro claims will charge the battery 20 to 70% quicker.

Ports and Connections

Both models have USB for power and data transfer, but they use different connectors. The HERO 5 Black uses the new USB-C connector (and a cable is included with the camera) while the HERO 4 Black uses the much older mini-USB connector.

Oddly, though, the new USB-C port isn’t USB 3.0–it still uses the older and much slower USB 2.0 for data transfer.

If you’re using an external microphone, you’ll need a new mic adapter (more details here).

They both also have a micro HDMI (Type D) socket to connect to a TV or display device.

Another change, and one I’m not a big fan of, involves the two trap-doors that go over the ports and the battery compartment. They’re a variation on the one first used on the HERO 4 Session.

GoPro HERO 5 Ports

Because the casing is designed to be waterproof, the trap-doors have a waterproof seal built on their inner side. But the trap-doors themselves are tedious to open–you push down on a button and slide. They’re also pretty flimsy, which is why GoPro has released replacement doors. They’re ridiculously overpriced at $20, but I’ve grudgingly bought some to carry as spares, because without a properly fitting door the camera isn’t waterproof and I don’t want to be caught out with an unusable camera when out shooting.

GPS & Telemetry

The HERO 5 Black adds GPS location tags to the EXIF metadata of still images and video. That automatic geolocation function will be very useful to anyone trying to place the images on a map or sort by location.

In a post-release update, GoPro also unveiled new capabilities that tap into the GPS data. With the Quik desktop app you can now add graphic overlays that display things like speed, elevation gain, g-force, direction, etc. Like this:

quikdesktop_telemetry_module

When activated, the GPS function does detract slightly from battery life. The HERO 4 Black doesn’t have the GPS feature.

Accessories

Some accessories for the HERO 4 will work on the HERO 5 Black, but many won’t. For example, the back data port has been removed, so any accessories that clipped on to that back port won’t work. That includes things like extended batteries, BacPac LCD screens, and some gimbals.

And there’s going to be a bit of a lag as third-party accessory makers get up to speed in releasing their HERO 5-compatible models. I’ve put together a separate post on which HERO 4 accessories will work with the HERO 5.

The Little Things

There are a bunch of smaller things that have been tweaked and improved. They include:

  • It automatically detects which way is up, so you don’t have to manually set it anymore if you’re mounting the camera upside down. The HERO 5 Black still does this, but a firmware update to the HERO 4 Black has since added the feature to that model too.
  • You can turn off the LEDs selectively. If you turn them off (as well as the beeps), you end up with a similar stealth effect as the HERO 4 Black’s Blackout housing. I have a more detailed post specifically on [GoPro stealth modes]https://havecamerawilltravel.com/gopro/gopro-stealth-modes-lights-beeps/.
  • Battery level indicator now includes a percentage. It gives a more precise idea than the old three-bars display.
  • The longest auto-off setting is now 30 minutes rather than 5 minutes.

Which to Buy?

The HERO 5 Black, then, does everything the HERO 4 Black and HERO 4 Silver do and then quite a lot more. The HERO 4 Black is a very good camera indeed, but in pretty much every respect the new model is a better one. So in many cases, it’s not really a hard decision.

But it seems to me there are two reasons where the HERO 4 Black might be an attractive option:

  • Price. Now that newer models are out, there are some good deals to be had on the previous model. Stocks won’t last forever, of course, as the HERO 4s become harder to find. But there are some compelling deals to be had.
  • Accessories. For now, third-party accessory support is very limited for the new model. That will improve over time, but it’s going to take quite a while for the pool of third-party accessories to catch up to the enormous pool of accessories available for the previous models.

Price and Availability

One of the best things about the HERO 5 Black is that GoPro reduced the MSRP to $399.99, where the HERO 4 Black’s MSRP started at $499. And that is a pretty compelling feature in itself. The upshot is that you get a better camera for a lower price.

The HERO 5 Black was released in early October 2016. They’re available at Amazon and B&H Photo.

Both now discontinued models, so they’re becoming harder to find new. But 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.

David Coleman / Photographer
by David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. I've been shooting with GoPros for years, starting with the HD HERO, and have owned and used every model since. More »

50 thoughts on “GoPro HERO5 Black vs HERO4 Black”

    • The HERO5 Black has slightly better video quality, while the HERO4 Black has better sound quality from the on-camera microphones. For both, you’ll get much better sound quality using an external microphone–they both accept them, and here are some ideas.

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  1. Just wondering how big of a deference the audio is between the Hero4B and the Hero5B, My Hero 3 plus was great recording live music, In your opinion, which is better for recording live music, the 4b or 5b

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  2. There’s one huge thing you’ve missed in this comparison, you can plug a second battery into the socket on the back of the Hero 4. I plug a Limefuel battery into that socket then the complete camera with extra battery fit into a water proof case with extended back and I can go out cycling literally for hours allegedly it will keep the camera going up to 8 hours. With the Hero 5, you’d have to use a rechargeable battery connected with a cable which would compromise the waterproof properties of the Hero 5 then you’d have to find somewhere to put the extra battery. If you want battery life go for the Hero 4 with and extra battery….

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  3. I’m wanting to use the GoPro on my Kayak while fishing and hooking it up to a 12V Battery via USB. Will either the 4 or 5 run continually off the USB? It is a hassle changing batteries every 1-2 hours while paddling and/or fishing. The camera will be mounted on a camera pole with usb port. Any help or suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

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    • Actually, I just got back from a kayaking trip myself where I was using a GoPro. And yes, changing batteries is a pain…. They will both run continuously off a standard external USB powerbank. The trick is in finding a way to make the whole bundle waterproof because accessing the USB port on the camera means exposing the ports. On the 5 that means opening the on-camera sealed door. On the 4 it means using one of the open frame housings or a DIY solution of drilling a hole in a waterproof housing and sealing it somehow yourself. There aren’t yet any waterproof extended batteries for the 5 that I know of (but there should be one soon). For the 4, a waterproof extended battery does exist that clips on to the housing, but it’s hard to find now and some users have found them to be a bit glitchy.

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  4. I am so torn to which GoPro (4 or 5) to buy. All the rewiews that I have read are really good for both of them. I would only really be using the GoPro for travelling, so which one should I get? I have a ‘professional’ camera, some would say, to take photos, so do you think there is really any point in buying a GoPro? Thanks in advanced.

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    • Both are excellent. For using it as a general purpose backup travel camera, the HERO5 Black does have some advantages, especially if you’re used to using high-end DSLR/professional cameras and are used to the quality they offer. And having just come back from a long trip across several different types of environments, where I was using the Black for that kind of use, I found some features particularly useful. The first is the screen on the camera. It really does make a difference if you’re using it like a regular camera. Both the HERO4 Silver and HERO5 Black have that. Another advantage with the new model (HERO5 Black) that I like for still photos is that it has a RAW photo mode which offers significantly better image quality (still not the same level as a DSLR or good mirrorless, but better than not having it). You might also find this post on using GoPros as everyday cameras useful.

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  5. One clarification, with the new firmware update, the HERO4 Black now has auto orientation detect, and allows you to control the LEDs. You can turn on none, 2, or 4. That said, I just popped for a HERO 5 Black (for a number of reasons) but mainly because they have the tradeup deal for alimited time so they took my old HERO 2 (still a very good camera) and knocked $100 off the price of the 5 Black. I got it for $299!! Now that is a big win. They will take any camera from HERO 1 up, working or not, and discount all of their HERO 5’s.

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    • Good point–thanks. Have updated above. And yes, the trade-in deal can work out to be a very good deal, especially if you have a much older model.

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  6. I use my GoPro 4 black for climbing and I like the fact the unit is protected from scraping against the rock. The fact the GoPro 5 is naked unless I buy what appears to be an expensive casing makes it less attractive.

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    • Yes, I agree that’s a negative. I’ve taken to using a silicone skin. It still doesn’t offer the same level of protection, it doesn’t work with the frame mount or many other mounts, and the lens port and back LCD is still exposed, but it does help a little.

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  7. I have both cameras and there are two significant factors not mentioned. I’m capturing drone video and love the linear mode at 2.7K because it both saves me post processing time and gives me additional real estate around the final HD footage for additional stabilization. Both cameras have it now, but my Hero4 Black is limited to 30fps. The Hero5 Black does up to 60fps at that same resolution/setting and gives me more options for smoothing out or time remapping the footage. The second factor is the extreme shortage (other than the Karma drone) of aerial gimbals for the Hero5 Black. You can use a larger gimbal or, with effort, hack Hero4/3 gimbals, but as of March 2017, there are currently no drop-in options.

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  8. I want to get a GoPro and I want to take it underwater but I still don’t know which one to get for sure. Which one do you think would be best? I am also planning on taking professional pictures could I take them with the GoPro or would i have to buy another camera?

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    • The HERO5 Black is more versatile, and the back screen comes in very handy for seeing what you’re shooting underwater.

      For professional underwater photography you really need something a bit more high end and will often need things like underwater lights, etc. If you’re serious about getting into underwater photography, I’d recommend taking a look at some of the articles by Backscatter and this book.

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  9. You forgot that they took out the back dataport from the 3 and 4 to make room for the screen… that back dataport was useful for certain applications. For example, I fly a drone and bought a gimbal for it that uses a gopro. It hooks into that back dataport as well as the HDMI out, and allows you to control the gopro with the drone controller. The company doesn’t support this particular drone line anymore (I know, part of the risk in buying it) and will not be making a gimbal compatable with the 5. Quite disappointing.

    This is only one small usecase, but I am sure there are more. But most likely, anything that was using that back dataport is making a new product for the gopro 5… just not my drone company :(

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  10. Hi! I’m almost decided to buy Gopro Hero 5. There’s only one thing I’m not happy about Hero 5- audio.
    From what I’ve heard and read mics are too sensitive and you can here a lot of scratching while keeping in hand. And you can forget about keeping Hero 5 in gimbal. But… If there were some kind of foam windslayer compatible with Hero 5, however I can’t find any. Do you know are there any windslayers compatible with Hero 5?

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  11. I’ve had a few ‘waterproof” cameras for taking underwater pics while snorkelling. With my first one, I had to learn the hard way that “waterproof” did not mean exactly that… Reading the fine prints (after complete failure of my camera), it stated that one could not go underwater with the camera for more than 30-minute periods. Well, most of my snorkelling excursions were lasting approximately 45 to 60 minutes!
    I have read extensively about the GoPro Hero5 Black, especially on its “waterproof down to 10m” feature… but could not find if there was a time limitation for every time one uses it underwater.
    Any information on that? Thank you…

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    • There are technical waterproof ratings, known as IP ratings where submersion time is a primary factor. I don’t recall GoPros claiming an official IP rating for their recent cameras–they essentially make their own ratings. But there’s no problem for any practical amount of time you’d be doing it with snorkeling–I’ve used them for much longer than that under water without any issues. Days, weeks, or months will be a different matter, and I’ve not tested those. Of course, you need to make sure that there’s no sand or grit interfering with the seal on the two trap doors.

      If you want to be very safe, adding a dive housing adds a lot more protection and peace of mind and lets you go deeper. It’s also helps protect the camera’s lens against scratches from sand and coral. If you do use a dive housing there’s some risk of fogging, so anti-fog inserts are a good idea.

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      • Thank you! So, the GoPro Hero5 is able to go underwater, let’s say for periods of 4 to 5 hours at a time without any problems? (without the special underwater housing)…

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        • So long as the doors are properly sealed and you don’t go below about 33 feet, you should have no problem.

  12. I’m more of a photographer than a video-grapher. But i might shoot videos on a rare basis. So what would you recommend between GoPro H5, H5 session and H4 along with standard accessories that are compatible.

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    • Of those, I’d recommend either the HERO4 Silver or the HERO5 Black, mostly because of the back screen to help with framing the photos. I have a more detailed post related to using GoPros as an everyday camera here.

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  13. I’m shopping now and it’s the extra charges that are turning me off from the 5. $50 for dive case. $20 for a stupid extra lid. $70 for a remote, more for an extra battery. Taking a $400 camera and really upping it to $550….

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    • All of these “extra” charges existed with ALL of the previous GoPro cameras as well, especially since things like batteries and cases were not compatible between versions either. Unless you actually NEED these extras, you’re actually saving money buying a HERO5. Unless you’re going deeper than 33ft/10m, you don’t need the dive housing ($50 saved). Extra doors were always a thing with the older ones too and were just as expensive. The Wifi Remote is just as expensive as the new Smart Remote ($0 saved). You can control the HERO5 with the free Capture app out of the box ($80 saved over the HERO4 Silver). Extra batteries were pretty much always needed (saving $0). The 5 doesn’t need the LCD Touch BacPac ($90 saved over the HERO4 Black) and doesn’t need extended doors for a dive case ($20 saved). Side-by-side, you’re saving money with a HERO5 Black over the HERO4 Silver/Black (incl. packages such as the Surf Package) out of the package. The H4B was $500, the H5B is $400, the H4S was $400, same as the H5B and does everything both models of the H4 did, out of the box.

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  14. I struggeling with the decision which one to buy, I was sure the Hero 5 would be the right one, but I also can have the Hero4 Silver for 299€ (~316$) or the Hero4 Black for 369€ (~390$). The Hero5 Black costs 415€ (~438$). Now I am not sure if it is worth to pay more for the Hero5, when the Hero4 Black (Silver) is cheaper, and comes with nearly the same technical dates.
    A big minus is that the Hero5 Black doesnt have a housing cover, like the Hero4 have. I guess when I drop it, it will be heavily damaged or scratched (especialy the lense and display), while the Hero4 just get some scratches on the cover.
    I dont know how to decide :(

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    • The Hero 4 silver is only 15 FPS in 4KHD mode if I recall. The Hero 4 Black has an extra video processor for true 30 FPS in 4KHD mode.

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    • Yes. Some video modes offer framerates up to 240fps or 120fps, which gives you the ability to slow them down in editing to, say, 30fps.

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  15. Thank you for the great article. For my uses, the 4 blacks are better than the 5 blacks. 5 black will be better for some people. I do tree work, I even attach my 4 blacks to the tree tops and let them fall to the ground with the camera running and they survive and keep the video content. I like the external case on the 4 blacks, cause occasionally I damage them and no big deal. I wouldn’t want a built in rear LCD screen either; just another delicate part to break. When I go on vacation, I take my gopro 3 black and 4 blacks and take them scuba diving with their case on. I’d have to buy a special case for the black. Voice commands would be no help in my loud work environment, even if it did work correctly; I friend said it’s difficult. I’m glad it still has a replaceable battery though. If gopro makes these cameras with a built in battery like the session ones, I’ll never buy another one again, unless they start selling them at a disposable price.

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    • Excellent points. Plus the Hero4 Black can make use of a battery backpack to get more battery life too or use a LCD add on if it is a must. I have been considering a second GoPro camera and after reading this I guess it comes down to which one is the least expensive when I pull the trigger on the purchase.

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    • Here’s a master list of the video resolutions with the different fields of view. With still photos, the output resolution on the HERO5 Black stays constant at 12MP regardless of the FOV–there’s obviously some upsizing going on since the narrow fields of view only use part of the sensor.

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  16. Was out using my Hero5 today and a few features I initially loved are starting to not look so great.
    – The voice control. Buggy! Doesn’t work 1/3rd of the time.
    – Auto which-way-is-up, makes the wrong decision mounted on my hat sometimes, flipping video I didn’t want flipped.
    – Battery life is worse without a BacPac
    – I dislike the new frame. Hard to open that clip. Hard to get the GoPro out. The old frame was designed better.
    – I HATE the SD in the battery compartment. Where I once could pop it out the side while IN the frame, I have to remove GoPro from frame, open battery door THEN get the card. Forget transfer over USB-C, its sloooooooooow.
    Haven’t sold my Hero4 yet. Debating. I like having a screen on the back I guess.

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  17. Sorry but the low light performance from the Hero 4 Black is terrible, especially in high ISO. This should have been a priority for the Hero 5. There are a lot of film crews that do action filming at night, and would have bought dozens of of the new Hero 5 Black if the low light performance had been better. Also I would have preferred they kept the same size as the Hero 4, and kept it inside the clear plastic case. I have seen a Hero 4 fly off a car at 200 MPH and still work, due to the impact case. The Hero 5 would be destroyed in such an incident.

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    • Agreed on the sensor. I personally would have preferred an improved sensor with better low-light performance rather than some of the other features like voice controls. For the case, you can still get a dive case for the HERO5 Black that serves basically the same purpose (but is more expensive). And it wouldn’t surprise me if third-party accessory makers come out with a new version of the standard case before too long.

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