Nikon KeyMission 170 vs GoPro HERO5 Black

Nikon has launched a new action cam, the KeyMission 170. Here's how it stacks up against the new GoPro HERO5 Black.
Nikon KeyMission 170 vs GoPro HERO5 Black
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Nikon’s foray into the action camera market didn’t last long and was decidedly disappointing on several fronts. The KeyMission 170 was quickly discontinued. I’m leaving this review up for reference.

Nikon has finally launched into the action camera market with two cameras: the Nikon KeyMission 360 that creates spherical panoramas and the Nikon KeyMission 170 with a 170° field of view.

GoPro HERO10 Deals

GoPro has released the HERO10 Black. The MSRP is $499, but GoPro is currently running some great deals:

And with the new model out, it's a great time to pick up a deal on the HERO9 Black. You can get it for $349 with a free spare battery, a 32GB SD card, and a 1-year GoPro subscription. More details here.

I’ve been looking forward to these for some time. As a long-time Nikon user, I’ve hoped for good things. We’ve had to wait, though, because their release was repeatedly delayed. But they’re now out, and I’ve had a chance to put it through its paces and see how it compares with the GoPro HERO5 Black (editorial note: this was the flagship GoPro model at the time of the KeyMission 170’s release).

They’re both 4K cameras, are similar sizes, have LCD screens on the back, and let you shoot photo and time-lapse as well as video. And they both have companion mobile apps for remote control. But when you dive down below the surface, there are quite a few differences.

Video

Both cameras take still photos, of course, but their real bread and butter is video. They both create 4K30 video, and under good lighting, at least, the video quality is very good. Here’s an example from a fixed position:

[youtube=https://youtu.be/wm0hYFxuwEc&w=678&rel=0]

These are with the GoPro’s default settings, with Protune options disabled. By default, the GoPro’s footage is sharper and has more contrast, although both of those aspects can be changed with Protune settings.

The Nikon doesn’t really have any equivalent to the Protune settings aside from exposure compensation and white balance.

Video Modes. The KeyMission 170 has far fewer video modes available. I won’t reproduce the full list of the GoPro HERO5 Black’s video modes here–it’s a long list. But the list of video modes of the KeyMission 170 is quite a lot shorter: – 2160/30p – 2160/25p – 1080/60p – 1080/50p – 1080/30p – 1080/25p – High Speed movie options: – HS 1080/ 4x – HS 720/ 8x

Both record with a maximum video bitrate of 60 Mpbs in their highest modes, so the level of compression is very similar. It also means they have basically the memory card requirements.

Pro Settings. GoPro also has their Protune options, which open up more controls over things like sharpening, color grading and white balance, ISO limits, and RAW audio settings. The KeyMission 170 has exposure compensation and some white balance options, but that’s about it.

Fields of View. The GoPro has four different perspectives, from an ultra wide view to a narrow view. Which FOVs are available depend on the specific framerate and resolution settings you’re using.

The Keymission 170 has one FOV: a standard wide view that is, well, 170° (a bit less when the stabilization option is used).

Stabilization. In this area, I’ve found the KeyMission 170 to have the edge. Neither is by any means perfect, and the in-camera software approach is simply not as a good as an external gyro stabilizer can accomplish, but the Nikon’s algorithm is applied a bit more aggressively and therefore results in smoother footage (though, as you can see, not without some major bumps). Both have some of the tell-tale jello effects, though. Here’s an example with the cameras sharing a mount on a bicycle:

[youtube=https://youtu.be/y_nY2jRgw8c&w=678&rel=0]

White Balance. You’ll also notice in that clip that the default white balance is a lot warmer (more yellow and orange) with the KeyMission 170 than with the HERO5 Black. Part of that is that because GoPros have always favored an automatic white balance that’s cool, although that’s been improved somewhat in the latest model and isn’t as strong as it used to be. Both cameras offer the option of manually overriding the white balance. The GoPro offers a lot more control, with more available settings.

Low-Light Video. I found the Nikon’s low-light video performance to be quite underwhelming. There’s a lot of room to improve for the GoPro too, but I do find it better than the Nikon in this.

TimeLapse Video. Both cameras can make timelapse videos, compiling the individual shots in the camera to produce an mp4 movie file. Overall, their options are very similar, but the GoPro has some extra intervals, including 0.5 seconds and 60 seconds, neither of which the Nikon has. Both have a night timelapse setting that keeps the shutter open for longer to let me light in.

In-Camera Video Editing. The Nikon has some basic video editing functions that you can do on the camera itself. And when I say basic, it’s really just trimming and saving the trimmed extract as a new view file. ## Photos The photo quality of both is pretty good. The HERO5 Black’s photos are larger–12 MP, or 4000 x 3000 pixels–compared to the 8.3MP, or 3840 x 2160 pixels. They’re also very different shapes, with the GoPro’s a standard 4:3 photo aspect ratio, whereas the Nikon’s still photos use a more rectangular 16:9 aspect ratio that’s more familiar for videos than photos.

[caption id="attachment_16753" align="aligncenter" width="678"]GoPro HERO5 Black [/caption] Nikon KeyMission 170
[caption id="attachment_16756" align="aligncenter" width="678"]GoPro HERO5 Black [/caption] Nikon KeyMission 170
[caption id="attachment_16785" align="aligncenter" width="678"]GoPro HERO5 Black [/caption] Nikon KeyMission 170
[caption id="attachment_16786" align="aligncenter" width="678"]GoPro HERO5 Black [/caption] Nikon KeyMission 170

These images also illustrate the difference in white balance. GoPro’s have always tended to favor cooler (bluer) white balance, whereas the Nikon’s is more natural.

Battery Life

The battery life of GoPros is something I’ve complained about many times, but on this score the new HERO5 Black beats the KeyMission 170 handily.

The rechargeable lithium-ion battery in the KeyMission 170 powers about 60 minutes of video shooting. That significantly less than the GoPro’s–depending on the settings you use you can get up to about 2 hours.

Size & Weight

Both of these cameras are quite similar in size and weight, although the Nikon is a bit larger.

Nikon KeyMission 170 vs GoPro HERO5 Black Nikon KeyMission 170 vs GoPro HERO5 Black

Controls and Interface

One of the things I like about the KeyMission 170 is that it has two shutter buttons, one for video and one for still photos. I regularly use both video and photos modes, and it’s just one less step of menu fiddling.

The GoPro has just the one shutter button, and switching between photo and video modes involves using the menus (or voice commands, if you have that feature enabled).

Nikon KeyMission 170 Top View with Shutter Releases

Both have an LCD screen on the back that’s used for menus, playback, and as a live-view viewfinder. The one on the GoPro is larger, brighter, and sharper. The Nikon’s is basically like the one on an old flip-phone, whereas the one on the HERO5 Black has the sharpness and brightness we’ve come to expect thanks to modern smartphones.

GoPro HERO5 Black vs Nikon KeyMission 170 LCD Screen

The back screen on the GoPro is also a touchscreen. The Nikon’s isn’t. And the GoPro has a smaller menu screen on the front that can be used for showing status and navigating menus without using the extra battery power of the larger LCD.

Nikon KeyMission 170 vs GoPro HERO5 Black

So which is better? Which should you buy?

I’m a long-time Nikon user, having used them as my primary cameras for over 25 years. And I was very much looking forward to Nikon’s entry into the action cam market. But the KeyMission 170 feels to me to be both half-baked and missing the mark. Basically, it feels like it’s at least a generation behind. The image and video quality is good and very similar to that of the GoPro HERO5 Black. But on things like the LCD screen, video modes, and menus, the GoPro wins comfortably. The universe of GoPro accessories is much larger.

And then there’s Nikon’s SnapBridge software, which is very buggy to an inexcusable degree. GoPro’s expanding range of mobile apps certainly aren’t perfect, but I’ve found them to work much better than the SnapBridge app. That, thankfully, though, is something that Nikon can continue improving incrementally.

The Nikon does come standard with a good remote, which is a plus but not really a compelling selling point. It also has the edge in the built-in stabilization.

Both the HERO5 Black and the Nikon KeyMission 170 have the same suggested retailed price of $399. And that’s really where the problem is. Dollar for dollar, the GoPro is a much better camera; it does nearly everything the Nikon does and quite a lot more besides.

Purely on features, a better comparison is between GoPro’s entry-level HERO Session and the KeyMission 170. They’re not exactly the same–the Nikon has things like higher resolution/framerate video combinations, a removable battery, and built-in video stabilization, but in many ways it’s a closer comparison than putting it against the HERO5 Black. But here’s the problem: GoPro has priced the HERO Session $199, half the price of the KeyMission 170.

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16 Responses

  1. Thanks for the review, and very honest, as a Nikon user you could have been bias. That said I would really like to hear about their after sales service. My experience of GoPro is shocking!!! I really would consider a slightly inferior product if the after sales was up to scratch. A point worth pursuing for the frustrated GoPro owners.

    1. I really haven’t had need to trouble the after-sales service people of GoPro or Nikon, even after owning dozens of cameras from both brands, so can’t really speak to that. I have dealt with Nikon’s service for pros, which has been excellent, but that’s a different premium category.

  2. I’ve seen The Nikon 170 at 50% off, and it’s fairly compelling at that price, i.e. half the price of the gopro 5.

    I’m just wondering if it’s possible to take a still photo while the video is recording? Haven’t been able to find anything online.

    Thanks :)

  3. For these comparisons I’d really also like to see some discussion of workflow and software. I’ve been pretty disgusted with GoPro software changes that require internet connectivity and cloud login to use the apps. It basically means for most actual action cam uses you’re going to end up using other apps, so GoPro software adds zero value to the camera (for me).

    1. Yes, GoPro for a while was off on their “content channel” kick, but I tend to prefer to work with the photos and videos in other apps on a computer. And my early tries with Nikon’s Snapbridge were not happy, although I should go back and try it again now that they’ve had plenty of opportunity to iron out the kinks. But thanks for the suggestion–it’s a good one that I’ll look to incorporate.

  4. Just got the hero 5 black. DOA just after set up of time date ect the LCD screen went black and everything I have tried will not fix it. Updates ect. Also unless you remove the battery after use it will be drained even when camera is off. Had to charge twice in two days even though all I was doing was trying to fix the LCD. Researched the web and found that these two issues are all over the place. I don’t know a ton about these camera’s but having to spend 3 hours trying to fix it just out of the box says a lot. Also tried chat several times on gopro web page. No one answers. Tried calling and no one answers. Yes these were normal business hours. SO gopro is being shipped back for refund and just purchased the Nikon. Got the camera package that includes all mounts. extra battery. 64GB memory card, remote, selfie stick and more for $419 I could care less about extra setting I will never use. First and last experience with gopro

  5. Hi there.
    Your review and information supplied has helped me a lot.
    It is simple and to the point… then… with much added detail.
    The nikons will not be replacing my gopros, just as the gopros will not be replacing my nikons !
    I have worked in photo/video/cine all of my life so I know my stuff fairly well.
    Your review and info saved me buying one to evaluate and not keeping it.
    Thank you.

    Shane Sparkes

  6. Great review. I was going to go with the Nikon170…but with the comparisons…I think I will be going with the GoPro…

  7. Best comparison I’ve seen so far, well done for the effort. However the only hesitation on the Nikon is that I’ve heard a few people having issues with SnapBridge. Any one else had issues.

    1. I have very little good to say about SnapBridge when it comes to using it with the KeyMission 170. I found it almost totally unusable. It is entirely possible that’s been corrected since I was using it shortly after the camera came available–I certainly hope so. But that issue really put me off what is otherwise a good and interesting camera.

  8. Good review. I got the Nikon on ‘points’ just in case it was not good enough. I have an old GoPro initial release and my daughter has has the GoPro 5 black. This Nikon falls somewhere in between in output but it is quite neat non the less. If I break it on my bile, motorcycle, car or while hiking etc… I won’t feel too bad. Like the r]two button feature for photo and video and the remote.

  9. The field of view of the Nikon seems to be wider than GoPro’s, even in GoPro’s Wide mode.

    Any chance of a comparison between the Nikon and GoPro in Superview mode?

  10. Nice comparison of the two! I’ve been looking at such reviews and yours is the most understandable and comprehensive.
    Thanks!

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