Overall, the HERO5 takes the best features of the HERO4 Black and Silver and combines them in a single camera while adding some interesting new features like voice control, video stabilization, a RAW photo format, GPS tagging, and direct uploading to the new GoPro Plus cloud service. There are also a lot of smaller tweaks, additions, and improvements that will appeal to certain users.
There’s a lot of overlap in features and modes between the HERO4 Silver and HERO4 Black, so there’s quite a lot of overlap between this comparison and my separate comparison of the HERO5 Black vs HERO4 Black. But the HERO4 Silver also has some of its own distinctive features, so here’s a direct comparison.
A built-in touch display was one of the things that distinguished the HERO4 Silver from the HERO4 Black. The new model also includes a built-in touchscreen display, and it’s a much better one–it’s brighter, has more contrast, is sharper, and has better touch sensitivity.
It provides the features you’d expect: a live view of what the lens sees to help with composing the shot, a screen to play back recorded video and photos, and a way to interact with the camera’s settings.
In practice, the new touchscreen is easier to use because it’s less likely to have the extra layer of a separate housing’s backdoor.
One of the headline features of the new models is that 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. That means that for many uses, you no longer have to worry about using a separate housing.
It translates as one less thing to be hassling with while you’re trying to shoot, and the overall package of the HERO5 Black comes in smaller than the combination of a HERO4 Silver in a Standard Housing.
Even though the new model is waterproof without a housing, it’s not a direct replacement in some situations. The old Standard Housing was rated down to 131 feet (40m), which is plenty deep enough to cover most recreational Scuba diving (with an optional extra diving housing if you planned to go deeper). The new cameras are rated down to 33 feet (10m) without a separate housing. So if you’re looking to take the camera deeper, you’ll be wanting to add a new and improved version of the dive housing that GoPro is now calling the Super Suit housing.
So the new model doesn’t come with a separate housing, as such. But by itself, it has no way to use the GoPro mounting system. So it comes with a Frame that doesn’t provide much in the way of extra protection, but it does add the mounting point on the bottom.
GoPro doesn’t appear to have upgraded the sensor in the new models, so the video quality is fundamentally the same. I would have loved to have seen a better sensor, especially with better low-light capabilities, but we’ll have to wait until at least the HERO6 (or whatever it’s going to be called) for that.
First, here’s a side-by-side example:
But just because the sensor hasn’t been updated doesn’t mean that you can’t get better footage out of the HERO5 Black than a HERO4 Silver. There are other non-sensor improvements that can help give much smoother and better footage.
Tweaked Processing Algorithms. First, there have been some tweaks to the software processing algorithm in the camera. They seem to be quite subtle, but they are improvements. As you can see, there’s a slight hue shift in the blue sky at the start–it’s a good indicator that the onboard processing has been tweaked. But beyond that and a slightly contrastier look to the HERO5 Black’s footage, they’re essentially the same–the same detail (or lack of it) in shadows and highlight, the same auto exposure choices, and the same exposure transitions when moving through bright and dark conditions.
Video Stabilization. Second, is the addition of in-camera video stabilization. This is one of the headline features of both the HERO5 Black and the HERO5 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 HERO5 Black. The comparison footage is shot with a HERO4 Black, but it’s the same result as if it had been shot with a HERO4 Silver.
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. Both have the same options for resolution, or video size, although not every resolution shares the same framerate options. Here’s an illustration of the video resolutions available:
Fields of View. Where there are some differences is in the fields of view, or FOV, offered. The most significant difference is that the HERO5s 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 HERO4 Black and HERO4 Silver after you update the firmware on those cameras to V.05.00.00.)
Protune. Both offer Protune options for video, and for the most part they’re identical. But the HERO5 adds two new Protune options relating to audio that can be very useful:
- 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
Here’s a detailed comparison:
|Protune Option||HERO5 Black||HERO4 Silver|
|Exposure Compensation||-2 to +2||-2 to +2|
|Raw Audio Track||Off|
Bitrates. The HERO5 Black’s maximum bitrate is 60 Mbps, whereas the HERO4 Silver tops out at 45 Mbps. That has practical implications: all else being equal, a higher bitrate offers the potential of higher-quality video because it’s less compressed, and it also makes the choice of memory card more important because you need one that’s fast enough to keep up with the stream of data.
Video Format. Both shoot in NTSC or PAL formats.
File Format. Both produce H.264 MP4 videos.
Video Modes. Overall, the HERO5 Black has a much wider selection of video modes than the HERO4 Silver. Here’s a detailed comparison.
|Resolution||FPS||FOV||Dimensions||Aspect Ratio||HERO5 Black||HERO4 Silver|
Note that some of the HERO4 Silver video modes include the new Linear FOV. to enable that feature, upgrade the camera’s firmware to the latest version (i.e.,. at least v.05.00).
The still photos you get out of each are going to be pretty similar. They both produce 12MP images that are 4000 pixels wide by 3000 pixels high. There are, however, some areas where the still photo features differ between the two cameras.
New Features. The HERO5 Black adds two new photo modes that previous models haven’t had
- Wide Dynamic Range option for JPGs that brings out details in shadows and highlights, and the option to save images in a new GoPro
- RAW image format (with a file extension of .gpr) that offers the potential of squeezing out better quality in post-processing. The HERO4 Silver doesn’t have those options–only standard JPG is available.
In-Camera Processing. The image fundamentals appear to be identical, although the in-camera processing engine has been tweaked a bit. A result of that is immediately visible in the improved white balance–the HERO4 models always tended towards being too cool (i.e.,. a blue tint).
Sharpness. When zoomed in at 100 percent, the photos out of the HERO5 Black appear ever-so-slightly sharper. There could a few things causing that, including an optically sharper lens or more aggressive sharpening algorithm in the in-camera processing software. But if there’s a difference at all, it’s hardly noticeable.
Lens. Both use a lens rated as a 3mm lens, equivalent to 15mm in the 35mm/full-frame format.
Resolution. Both cameras have a maximum image size of 12MP that comes out at 4000 x 3000 pixels. The HERO4 Silver also offers 7MP (3000 x 2250 px) and 5MP (2560 x 1920 px) modes, although shooting in those sizes is limited to the cropped medium field of view.
Here are several side-by-side examples:
Both models offer two ways to creating a timelapse.
Timelapse Photo. The first is the tradition method that involves shooting a sequence of still images, downloading those images from the memory card, and stitching them together on your computer using software. The available intervals are the same in both cameras: 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.
As for resolution, the HERO4 Silver can output 4K and 2.7K 4:3 resolution timelapse videos. The new model does those and adds a new option: 1080p. The reason for adding the smaller size is that it’s easier to share it quickly without going through the extra step of downsizing it or dealing with the massive files from 2.7K or 4K video.
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.
Both models can also take external microphones, although you’ll need the new USB-C mic adapter with the HERO5 Black.
The new model has several improvements in its audio handling. The HERO5 Black can record stereo audio directly. It can also generate a separate audio WAV file alongside the video file. It’s a raw audio feature available under the video Protune options, and it’s a big improvement when the audio is an important part of what you’re capturing, and you’re planning post-processing in a video editing app. The new model also has a Protune option to reduce wind noise.
Controls and Interface
Both can be controlled with the three buttons on the body combined with the small LCD screen on the front, by using the large touchscreen on the back, or with the GoPro mobile app (now known as Capture).
The menu system has been improved with the new model. I find it a bit easier to navigate and more logically laid out. The back touchscreen is also much clearer, and the way you interact with it to change settings has been improved.
Ports and Connections
Both models have USB for power and data transfer, but they use different connectors. The HERO5 Black uses the new USB-C connector (and a cable is included with the camera) while the HERO4 Silver uses the much older mini-USB connector.
The new USB-C port isn’t USB 3.0–it still uses the older and much slower USB 2.0 for data transfer.
Both have a micro HDMI (Type D) socket to connect to a TV or display device.
Pushing the shutter button is easy enough much of the time, but there are times you might 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 HERO5 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.
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. And I can also imagine it being a target for mischief with people around you hijacking your camera by speaking their own commands (you can disable the 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 HERO5 models.
GPS & Telemetry
The HERO5 models add 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. When activated, the GPS function does detract slightly from battery life.
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:
The HERO4 Silver doesn’t have GPS functionality.
GoPro Karma Drone Compatibility
Plus is a new cloud-based subscription service that GoPro has launched designed to make storing and sharing your video and photos easier. It has been designed particularly with the HERO5 models in mind, and there are some features that are exclusive to those models such as automatically uploading from the camera to the cloud.
Size and Weight
Weight. With a battery and memory card installed, the HERO5 Black weighs 4.2 oz (118 grams). The HERO4 Silver without a housing weighs 2.9 oz (82 grams) and with the standard housing weighs about 5.1 oz (145 grams).
Dimensions. The HERO5 Black is a bit bigger than the HERO4 Silver naked. That’s largely due to the extra reinforcement of the waterproof housing now encasing the camera itself.
I measure the main body of the HERO5 Black 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).
Both cameras have removable batteries, so you can carry spares. But they’re different batteries, so you can’t use HERO4 Silver batteries in a HERO5 Black.
Some accessories for the HERO4 will work on the new model, but many won’t. And there’s going to be a bit of a lag as third-party accessory makers get up to speed in releasing their HERO5-compatible models. I’ve put together a separate post on which HERO4 accessories will work with the HERO5 models.
Is it Worth Upgrading?
Overall, the HERO5 Black is a better camera than the HERO4 Silver. It essentially takes the best parts of the HERO4 Black and HERO4 Silver and combines them into a single camera and then adds some major new features. So the new model does everything the older model does, and quite a lot more.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an easy decision on whether to upgrade—it’s not a slam dunk. The HERO4 Silver is a very good camera and capable of capturing fantastic footage. And not everything has been improved or updated. At the same framerates and resolutions, the video quality is fundamentally the same. And for basic JPGs, the picture quality is pretty much identical.
So it really comes down to whether you want the new features. And, to be clear, they can meaningfully help get better footage. Video stabilization can make a big difference in smoothing out jumpy footage. Voice commands can be handy to have in the right circumstances. And the new RAW photo file format and wide dynamic range photos can result in better photo quality. GPS functionality is a second-tier feature, but for some users it will have a lot of appeal, particularly when traveling.
The other big change—having the waterproof protection baked into the main body of the camera—is a bit more of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s one less moving part, and it results in an overall package that’s just that bit smaller and lighter. On the other hand, the new protection isn’t as waterproof as the Standard Housing and it removes a consumable layer of protection standing between bad things and the camera itself—it’s much cheaper to replace just a housing than to replace the whole camera.
Price and Availability
And, finally, there’s the issue of price. One of the most appealing aspects of the HERO5 Black is that GoPro has set the suggested retail price at the same price as the HERO4 Silver’s original price–that is, it’s $100 less than the HERO4 Black’s launch price.