The GoPro HERO6 Black has now been released, and amongst its features is one that's not well explained in the instruction manual. It relates to the Burst Mode for taking a rapid sequence of photos.
For the most part, the Burst mode options on the HERO6 Black are identical to the HERO5 Black. They both have these options:
- 30 photos spanning 1, 2, 3, or 6 seconds
- 10 photos spanning 1, 2, or 3 seconds
- 5 photos in 1 second
- 3 photos in 1 second
But there's one new setting available on the HERO6 Black: Auto.
If you read the manual (p.59) you'll find this explanation for the setting:
Auto (up to 30 photos in 1 second).
That's it. That's not especially helpful, and it wasn't clear to me at first what that meant. So I did some experimenting to figure it out.
Basically, it works like this. Most of the time, you'll get the same results using the 30/1 setting or the Auto setting. The Auto only comes into play if the shutter speed drops below 1/30 second.
It's conceptually similar to the low-light option when shooting video. It's a fallback that priorities exposure quality over slavishly hitting a prescribed number of frames.
Here's an illustration of what I mean. These burst mode sequences were shot simultaneously on two cameras.
The first example is the result from using the 30/1 setting. Sure enough, it took 30 photos. Each had a shutter speed of 1/30s, the slowest that was possible to still fit in 30 photos in one second. But because of the low light where a shutter speed slower than 1/30 was really needed, they're all under exposed.
Here's a sequence shot simultaneously on a HERO6 Black with the Burst Mode: Auto setting turned on instead.
This time, the camera put a priority on taking properly exposed images. That required slowing the shutter speed to 1/12s. That, of course, meant that there was no way to take more than 12 photos within a second.
So what the Burst Mode: Auto setting did was prioritize a better exposure, even if that means slowing the shutter speed below 1/30s and therefore not being able to take the full 30 photos within the time limit.
There are a couple of related things worth mentioning.
Because the aperture of the GoPro lens remains constant at f/2.8, it means that only the other two sides of the exposure triangle can be changed to adjust for proper exposure: ISO and shutter speed.
In Burst Mode, the exposure isn't calculated for each individual shot. It's calculated up front and the same exposure settings are applied to all the following photos in the sequence.
So, in short, the Burst Mode: Auto setting takes as many photos as it can in 1 second while still using correct exposure, even if that means using a slower shutter speed than 1/30 second and therefore taking fewer than 30 frames in that second.
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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.