Photo Modes of the GoPro HERO7 Black

Here's a rundown of the photo features and options available on the GoPro HERO7 Black, the flagship camera in the new HERO7 lineup.

GoPro cameras are best known for shooting video, but they can be surprisingly good at taking photos too. So long as you’re willing to work with their quirks and limitations rather than fighting against them, you can get some awesome photos out of them that will be quite different from what you’d get from a smartphone or “normal” camera.

GoPros don’t do everything the same way as other cameras. That can be both a plus and a negative. All GoPros work by default in fully automatic mode; some let you take some–but not full–manual control. The ultra-wide fisheye lens isn’t a good fit for traditional people photos because it makes their features look distorted, but it can be super effective if you’re in close to action or are looking for a dramatic wide look. The battery life on GoPro’s isn’t as good as many compact cameras, and there’s no control over focus or (real) zoom. But they’re also tiny, rugged, and waterproof, and those features mean you can shoot photos in many places where other cameras would give up the ghost.

Get the GoPro HERO8 Black for $299.98

With the new HERO9 Black just released, GoPro is running a great deal on the previous model, the HERO8 Black. You can get it for $299.98, and that includes a 1-year subscription to GoPro as well as a 32GB SD card.

The subscription to GoPro gives you unlimited cloud storage, discounted no-questions-asked camera replacement, and up to 50% off GoPro accessories.

You can find the deal at GoPro.com.

GoPro model names can be confusing, and they’re not always consistent generation to generation. There are three cameras in the HERO7 lineup: the Black, Silver, and White. The Black is the flagship (best) flagship model and has the best options for taking photos. It’s that model I’m focusing on here. The Silver and White models have smaller sensors and more limited options–I have a separate post on their photo features and specs.

The still photos modes available on the new GoPro HERO7 Black are very similar to its predecessor, the HERO6 Black. It’s still a 12MP sensor that produces images at 4000×3000 pixels. There’s still the option to use JPG or GoPro’s RAW photo format. And there’s still that distinctive super wide-angle field of view as well as the option to reduce the lens distortion into a linear field of view.

But there’s also a handful of new features. So here’s a rundown of the photo modes available on the HERO7 Black.

12MP Image Sensor

The HERO7 Black has a 12 megapixel sensor for still photos, producing 4:3 aspect ratio images that are 4000×3000 pixels. While 12MP is on the smaller end compared to many other current cameras, including compact cameras, it’s still comfortably big enough to print at full resolution at larger than 8×10 prints. And it’s more than big enough for sharing on social media or online. For comparison, some of the leading smartphones in the current crop, like Pixel 3 and iPhone XS, also produce images around 12MP.

Some earlier models of GoPro had the option to save smaller images of, say, 7MP or 5MP. There’s no option for that on the HERO7 Black.

File Formats: RAW & JPG

GoPro introduced their own RAW image format back with the HERO5 Black. It’s based on Adobe’s DNG format and has a file extension of .gpr.

These make available more of the information that was captured by the camera’s sensor. With all that extra image data available, it’s possible to produce better image quality. At least in theory. In practice, I’ve found that the in-camera processing does a pretty good job in creating the JPG versions and that the RAW data doesn’t preserve as much extra dynamic range in the shadows and highlights as you might hope or expect compared to some other cameras.

There are also two catches in using the RAW files. The first is that you really need to process RAW files and export them in another format such as JPG before you can do much with them. That’s partly to make them look better–unprocessed RAW data doesn’t look very good–and partly to put them in a file format that other people, labs, and online services can actually use. Which is where the second catch comes in: even though .gpr are based on Adobe’s dng format, there aren’t many imaging apps that can work with them. Lightroom is a notable exception. If you don’t use Lightroom, I’ve posted a workaround that uses a free app to convert GPR files to DNG.

The folks at GoPro also built in a safety net: when you shoot in RAW, it also saves a JPG version automatically alongside it. So you can use that if you’re stuck; it’s also what the GoPro app uses. So selecting the RAW image option is the same as choosing RAW + JPG on other cameras.

I generally use the RAW option when it’s available, but it isn’t available in every photo shooting mode on the HERO7 Black. It’s not available for any modes that involve in-camera processing such as SuperPhoto, the digital zoom, or the Linear FOV. You can use it for Time-lapse Photo, but only if the interval is at least 5 seconds. In Night Photo mode, your shutter has to be set to at least 5 seconds. It’s not available in the Continuous mode.

One downside to using the RAW setting is that it’s slower to save the files than when using just JPG (oddly, though, the filesizes often end up smaller). After all, it’s crunching the RAW and saving a JPG version.

Manual Exposure Controls / Exposure Control

GoPros are designed to work well on automatic everything right out of the box. If you want more control over the exposure when shooting photos, you can control two of the three sides of the exposure triangle.

Using the Protune options (more on those below), you can manually set the ISO and shutter speed. The one you can’t control is the aperture; GoPros have a fixed-aperture lens that’s rated at ƒ/2.8.

There’s also another option that gives you some control over the exposure that’s kind of semi-manual. That’s a feature called Exposure Control. Other modern cameras have this too–it’s when you can touch the back screen to choose a specific area within the frame that is used to calculate the automatic exposure. An example might be if you’re photographing a person on the snow but it’s exposing for the whole scene and therefore their face is dark. You can select the face as the area to expose for so that it brightens that up (and will probably overexpose the background at the same time).

Focus

Like every other GoPro, the HERO7 Black has a fixed-focus lens. So you can’t adjust the focus. But the upside is that it has an extraordinarily deep focus. It’s very hard to take a photo with a GoPro that’s out of focus (motion blur is a different issue), even if the subject is right up close to the camera.

SuperPhoto

One of the important considerations when shooting photos with a GoPro is that their sensors don’t have particularly wide dynamic range. That’s not a problem in brightly and evenly lit scenes, but if you have a lot of shadows and highlights you can end up with some less than ideal exposures.

To help with that, in the past few flagship models GoPro has been offering in-camera photo processing. With each iteration it has been getting better. With the HERO5 Black, they introduced a kind of high dynamic range called WDR for wide dynamic range. The results were okay–not great. The HERO6 Black improved on it with what they now called HDR. Both work on the principle of taking multiple exposures, picking the best-exposed parts of each, and then combining them into a single image. The HERO7 Black also includes HDR, which you can use either as a standalone feature or as part of a broader suite of enhancements they’re calling SuperPhoto.

SuperPhoto is a small collection of tools rather than a single image enhancement technique. Alongside the HDR element are local tone mapping and multi-frame noise reduction. The camera analyzes the scene and decides which of the tools to use, if any. Aside from using just HDR or turning the whole thing on or off, you don’t have any other control over the tools in SuperPhoto.

The results aren’t always dramatic, but they’re usually an improvement. The contrast tends to be better and the colors richer. But there’s something important to know: SuperPhoto isn’t compatible with the RAW format. I generally shoot RAW when possible, and while the benefits of SuperPhoto do often result in a somewhat better image, they’re not really anything that you can’t do in an imaging editing app worth its salt (such as Lightroom). If you’re sharing your photos straight out of the camera, it’s a nice feature to have, but if you’re already planning to process your photos an another desktop imaging app (or something like SnapSeed on mobile), it’s less compelling.

One important consideration with using SuperPhoto is that it’s slow. So you’ll likely be waiting for at least a few seconds before you can take the next shot.

I have a more detailed post on SuperPhoto here which includes several more examples.

Digital Zoom

The lens on GoPros is fixed. While it’s technically possible to attach an external lens, I’ve yet to come across one that actually works well. So for the most part, you have to work with a fixed ultra-wide focal length.

Like the HERO6 Black before it, the HERO7 Black does have a zoom. But that’s not as exciting as it might sound at first, because it’s a digital zoom, not an optical zoom. That means it’s basically a glorified crop.

You access it with a slider on the back screen.

Zoomed in, the camera will still create images that 4000 by 3000 pixels, but they don’t have any more detail than you’d get by cropping a non-zoomed image. You can find more details on GoPro zoom and examples here.

Fields of View: Wide and Linear

That distinctive fisheye look is the default again with the Wide field of view. But there’s also an option to use Linear FOV that greatly reduces the lens distortion. It will straighten lines so that you can deal with bow-legged building walls or massively curved horizons.

The Linear FOV is a software solution, not an optical one, so it cannibalizes the stretches the original image according to an algorithm to reduce the distortion. You can get a similar effect in post-production using shots taken in the Wide FOV. And the Linear FOV is only available when shooting JPG, not RAW (but here’s a workaround if you’re using Lightroom).

Here’s a practical example:

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

Wide FOV

Linear FOV

[/before-after]

Burst Mode and Continuous Shooting

The HERO7 Black has two ways to capture rapid sequences of images.

The first is the Burst mode. It captures a predefined number of images over a predefined length of time. The fastest is 30 images in 1 second. The slowest is 3 images in 1 second. The options are: 30/1, 30/2, 30/3, 30/6, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3, 5/1, and 3/1. There’s also an Auto option, which works slightly differently in that it will capture as many images as it can while still prioritizing exposure. I have a more detailed explanation and examples here.

A similar feature is Continuous photo. Rather than capturing a predetermined number of photos, the Continuous capture feature will keep shooting while you hold down the shutter button. It can shoot at either 3 or 30 photos per second, depending on the lighting conditions.

ISO Range

The HERO7 Black doesn’t break any new ground over its predecessor regarding ISO. The range is still 100 to 3200. It’s still working within the confines of a small sensor, though, so the image quality at high ISOs is decent but not great.

Protune

The HERO7 Black has Protune options available when shooting photos (as well as video). These are useful for controlling things like manually assigning ISO, shutter speed, exposure compensation. You can also set white balance, sharpness, and color mode–these three only affect JPGs, not RAW.

Here’s the full list of photo Protune options available:

Protune OptionHERO9 BlackHERO8 BlackHERO7 BlackHERO6 BlackHERO5 Black
ColorGoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
White BalanceAuto
2300K
2800K
3200K
4000K
4500K
5000K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
2300K
2800K
3200K
4000K
4500K
5000K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
2300K
2800K
3200K
4000K
4500K
5000K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
2300K
2800K
3200K
4000K
4500K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
3000K
4000K
4800K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
ShutterAuto
1/125
1/250
1/500
1/1000
1/2000
Auto
1/125
1/250
1/500
1/1000
1/2000
Auto
1/125
1/250
1/500
1/1000
1/2000
Auto
1/125
1/250
1/500
1/1000
1/2000
Auto
1/125
1/250
1/500
1/1000
1/2000
ISO Min3200
1600
800
400
200
100
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
1600
800
400
200
100
ISO Max3200
1600
800
400
200
100
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
1600
800
400
200
100
SharpnessHigh
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
Exposure Compensation-2 to +2-2 to +2-2 to +2-2 to +2-2 to +2
* The shutter settings were added to the HERO5 Black with a firmware update in April 2017 (v.02.00).

Responsiveness

One of the things I don’t like about using GoPros for still photos is that they’re sluggish. They’re great at taking rapid bursts of photos in preset sequences in the burst and continuous modes, but if you’re shooting individual photos, the shutter is sluggish and it takes quite long to process and save the image files. The camera also takes too long to power on–much longer than most other cameras. One other consideration is that there’s a single button that’s used as both the shutter button and to start/stop video recording. That means you have to switch the mode in the camera, which can be a pain if you’re trying to switch between videos and photos. There are two ways to streamline it: you can set the default mode to the photo mode and then use the QuikCapture feature if you want to quickly begin filming video or time-lapse.

For the most responsive shooting, you want the simplest settings. Specifically, you’ll want it to be in JPG-only mode. Several other features slow things down, most notably SuperPhoto and RAW.

Photos Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black

Here are a few sample general travel-style photos I’ve shot with a HERO7 Black. I have more photos taken with a HERO7 Black separately.

Some of these were shot in RAW and some in JPG. Many have been lightly processed, in part because I find that the camera tends to underexpose a little for my tastes, so I’ve often had to nudge up the exposure and contrast slightly. I haven’t used any lens profile corrections to fix the fisheye distortion, although that’s certainly an option available.

You can click on each image to open a full-size version.

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 151 and ¹⁄₂₄₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8. This is an example of leaning in to the fisheye distortion rather than fighting it. It’s inside the dome of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC.

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 100 and ¹⁄₂₈₀₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8. This is an example of the extremely deep focus. The camera was sitting on a wooden bench.

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 264 and ¹⁄₂₄₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8. Another example of the deep focus.

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 100 and ¹⁄₁₅₀₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8.

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 100 and ¹⁄₃₅₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8.

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 164 and ¹⁄₈₀₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8. I took this shot as an example of pretty extreme shadows and highlights to see how it went.

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 100 and ¹⁄₁₈₀₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8.

HERO7 Black / Baltimore, Maryland

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 100 and ¹⁄₂₀₀₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8. I sometimes get asked with shots like this why the horizon isn’t bent. It’s because it’s close to the middle of the frame. The bending distortion is most exaggerated at the edges of the frame, as you can see in the steps at the bottom.

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 399 and ¹⁄₂₄₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8.

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 101 and ¹⁄₉₅₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8.

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 145 and ¹⁄₈₀₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8. Like other GoPros, the HERO7 Black struggles with bright highlights and dark shadows in the same frame. This was shot using the SuperPhoto feature, so it has more detail in the highlights than the version that was shot without it. But it’s still quite blown out, and I’ve had to brighten the whole thing from the version that came out of the camera. I’ve also toned down the saturation a little.

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 100 and ¹⁄₁₂₀₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8. GoPros are in their element in bright, clear conditions. I haven’t ramped up the color or contrast in this–it’s basically straight out of camera.

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 227 and ¹⁄₃₂₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8. This was quite underexposed in the original–the automatic exposure didn’t quite know what to do with the very bright light coming from the background. So I’ve lightened it up, but there’s limited detail in the shadows.

Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black at ISO 118 and ¹⁄₅₄₀ sec at ƒ / 2.8.

Where to Find Them

You can find the GoPro HERO7 Black at good camera retailers like B&H Photo and Amazon, where it’s available in various bundles. You can also get them directly from GoPro.com, where they’re throwing in a memory card and free 2-day shipping.

GoPro Hero7 Black — Waterproof Action Camera with Touch Screen 4K Ultra...
  • HyperSmooth: Get gimbal‑like stabilization—without the gimbal. HERO7 Black corrects for camera shake...
  • TimeWarp: Capture super stabilized time lapse videos while you move about a scene. Increase the speed up...

GoPro HERO7 Cameras Compared

HERO7 BlackHERO7 SilverHERO7 White
MSRP$399.99$299.99$199.99
Buy AtAmazon
B&H Photo
GoPro.com
Adorama
Walmart
Amazon
B&H Photo
GoPro.com
Adorama
Walmart
Amazon
B&H Photo
GoPro.com
Adorama
Walmart

VIDEO SPECS

Resolution / Max fps4K / 60
4K (4:3) / 30
2.7K / 120
2.7K (4:3) / 60
1440p / 120
1080p / 240
960p / 240
720p / 240
4K / 30
1440p / 60
1080p / 60
1440p / 60
1080p / 60
StabilizationHyperSmoothStandardStandard
Max Bitrate78 Mb/s60 Mb/s40 Mb/s
FOVsWide
Medium
Linear
SuperView
WideWide
File Format (Codec)MP4 (HEVC / H.265)
MP4 (H.264 / AVC)
MP4 (H.264 / AVC)MP4 (H.264 / AVC)
Protune--
Digital Zoom
Looping--
Audio TrackWAV + AACAACAAC
External Mic Compatibility--
HDMI Video Out--
Live Streaming--

PHOTO SPECS

Max Photo Size12MP10MP10MP
FOVsWide
Linear
WideWide
File FormatRAW (.gpr)
JPG
JPGJPG
Protune--
In-Camera Image EnhancementSuperPhotoWDR-
Top Burst Mode30 / 115 / 115 / 1
Continuous Photo
Night Photo--
Photo Timer

TIME-LAPSE SPECS

Timelapse Photo--
Timelapse Video
Nightlapse--
TimeWarp Video--

INTERFACE SPECS

Built-in Touchscreen
Front Screen--
Voice Control
WiFi / Bluetooth
USB Port TypeUSB-CUSB-CUSB-C

DESIGN & BUILD SPECS

Waterproof Body
Dimensions62.3 x 44.9 x 33 mm62.3 x 44.9 x 28.3 mm62.3 x 44.9 x 28.3 mm
Weight4.1 oz / 116 g3.3 oz / 94.4 g3.26 / 92.4 g

OTHER SPECS

Battery Type1220 mAh1220 mAh (non-removable)1220 mAh (non-removable)
QuikCapture
GPS-
Memory CardRecommendationsRecommendationsRecommendations
* Not every feature is available in every shooting mode. As examples, video stabilization is not available in every resolution/framerate combination and the option to save RAW images is not available in burst mode.

Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2020-10-25 at 09:59. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

More GoPro Tips & Tricks:

This post was last modified on October 9, 2020 4:07 pm

View Comments

    • No, not in any practical sense. The Fusion is GoPro's current 360-degree model. It is technically possible to shoot a series of photos with a HERO7 Black and stitch them together, but the results aren't especially good and it's quite tedious and time-consuming to do.

  • Hi, great article. I was wondering, can the Hero 7 Black record video and time lapse photos simultaneously? I would like to be able to record video at 1080/60p, while at the same time capturing time lapse photos at 0.5 secs.

    • No, it can't do that, unfortunately. Two alternatives come to mind, but neither of them is exactly what you're after. An older model, the HERO5 Black has a Video + Photo mode that can shoot video and record interval photos, but it's more limited than that--the shortest interval is 5 seconds, for instance. And the DJI Osmo Action lets you shoot time-lapse video (but not regular video) simultaneously with saving the individual JPG images.

  • Hi, this is an excellent article! Just a comment on the following: "Get $100 off HERO7 Black or Fusion with TradeUp deal. GoPro currently has a trade up deal for the HERO7 Black and Fusion cameras where you get $100 by trading in any old GoPro or digital camera in any condition, whether it's working or not. They cover shipping for your old camera as well as throw in an SD card and 2-day shipping with the new camera." I just did the TradeUp deal, and it does not come with a microSD card as I too had thought. I called, and they said that the TradeUp deal cannot be combined with other offers. That felt a little misleading to me because on the GoPro website, it says, "Free SD card with all cameras." I still love my GoPro HERO7 Black, but I just wanted to clarify that the TradeUp deal does NOT include a microSD card.

    • Thanks for the clarification--I've corrected. I thought their "Free SD card with all cameras" applied, but I guess it doesn't.

  • Just got a new HERO7 Black after years with an old Hero2 that finally died. One thing that I am wondering about - it seems you are only able to shoot video & pictures in a narrower / square view. I am a terminology novice but with the HERO2 the footage is much wider - both video and photo. I am played in the settings and cant figure out if its a setting issue. Is this just the way the footage is?

    • By default, you should have that same wide-angle view. There are a few settings that might be causing it, including the Linear FOV setting or using the digital zoom. One option is to reset the camera back to its factory settings. That of course will also wipe any other settings you're using (but won't wipe the memory card).

      • Change the aspect from 4:3 to 16:9 in Video Settings-then RES | FPS, then top right of touch screen

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