While we keep harping about the impact of smartphones on photography, we seem to underestimate the impact GoPro has had on action photography. You can pretty much say that GoPro created this segment, democratised it and now owns it. But for me the bigger success of GoPro has been in making its ecosystem of accessories and apps popular among its users. That is why I decided to test the GoPro Hero 5 Black, along with its entire paraphernalia.
GoPro Hero 5 Black
The GoPro Hero 5 Black is the latest in the series of action cameras and stands out for offering water proofing without an extra case and voice controls. I have used GoPro cameras before, but the combination of the touchscreen and LED panel up front showing key numbers make this one much easier to handle even it I was not peering into the GoPro app on the phone to see what was happening.
It is a bit confusing between the shutter and power buttons as I kept clicking the first to get the camera started. The on/off functionality is actually in the mode button on the side. That takes some getting used to as the shutter button has a big red round that kept giving me the impression that this was the power button. But, frankly, it can’t get simpler than this. Click the shutter button for a still, long press to start rolling video. Mode buttons lets you shift from video to photo to burst and so on. Easy is an understatement. And it gets better now as there is touch functionality on the 2-inch screen and you can use it to review what you have shot or adjust video quality or other parameters. The GoPro has unyoked itself from the smartphone and successfully so.
The video quality is really good, especially since there is the 4K Ultra HD option too. Even in low light the camera does really well. As the millions of videos on YouTube will testify, video quality has never been an issues for GoPro. In fact, with 4K it has only gone a notch higher. However, where the Hero 5 Black really stands out is with image stabilisation. Given the kind of uses cases for this camera, this added feature takes care of the shaky footage issues rather well. In fact, most of the stuff I tried ended as really smooth video.
Interestingly, while most people use GoPro as an action camera, it is also a good camera to have for family occasions as they are easy to switch on and roll. I used it to film my son’s birthday party and everything from the overall angles to the final results were really fun. Also, we tend to forget that this is a pretty neat still camera too, giving wide, sharp frames all the time. If I had one complaint, that would be about battery life, especially when it is shooting in 4K. But then we have to look at the size of this camera.
Overall, the GoPro Hero 5 Black is easily the best action camera around. In fact, I would say this is the most democratised camera system we have now. That is because there is hardly any learning involved, there is no compromise on image quality and this small little box can go pretty much anywhere.
The GoPro cameras come with a bunch of accessories that make it easy to mount this camera anywhere from your head to the front of your car or bicycle. That is the real fun element of this camera. It is a bit like Snowy in Tintin comics, it is pretty much there in every frame. I particularly like the clip-on that makes it almost a part of your attire and does not make you stick out because you have a camera on your head.
GoPro Karma Grip
I really loved the DJI Osmo Mobile stabiliser. The GoPro Karma is brings the same stability for GoPros with some adds on. The GoPro Hero 5 black fits into the Karma Grip camera harness once you take out the flap covering the HDMI port. The grip has an HDMI pin that goes into the camera, which means you don’t have to unmount the camera to transfer files. Also, this means when you charge the Grip, the camera is also charged. Plus, you can control most of the camera stuff from on/off to changing modes from the grip itself, though it does not let you adjust settings.
The best bit about the Osmo Mobile is the follow subject option where the camera just locks on the subject and stays there whatever you do with the camera. I initially thought the Karma Grip did not have that function and was a bit disappointed. But it does and it works from the grip and it works pretty well. Together this makes the combos of the GoPro Hero 5 Black and Karma Grip a great one, though an expensive one in comparison to the Osmo. A standalone Karma Grip can set you back by Rs 30,099. The accessory is available from Amazon India.
GoPro Quik, Quick Key and GoPro Splice
The GoPro has always been linked to a smartphone and that has helped it evolve an app system which lets users create good videos out of their footage on the go. The big struggle with DSLRs is that despite features like Wi-Fi being incorporated, it is still a pain getting high quality videos and stills to where they will be finally used. GoPro has given this problem some serious thought with the Quick Key which lets users pull out the SD card which can then be inserted into this small dongle of a card reader which lets you plug it into any device for editing and transfer. But if your smartphone is linked to the GoPro, you don’t even need that. GoPro Quick key is priced at Rs 3,549 and can be purchased from Amazon India.
For editing the videos, GoPro Splice offers a great degree of control and options even on the phone with easy presets. With GoPro Quik, you can let the app decide how to edit once you select the style you want. This I found was the easiest way to put out the videos you have shot with one level of editing. And this is where, GoPro understands the audience better.
GoPro Hero 5 Black verdict
If you are the adventurous kind, then the it makes sense to invest in the GoPro Hero 5 Black and gradually add on the accessories depending on your requirement. However, do remember that this is not a very cheap ecosystem to get into, though there is certainly value in becoming a part of it. Just be sure that you are one of those who will make good use of it. GoPro Hero 5 Black is now available in India at a price of Rs 29,990 from Amazon India.