- Superb electronic image stabilisation
- Improved image quality
- Higher frame rates and resolution combinations
- Waterproof to 10m without a case
- Voice controls can be a little unreliable
- Most expensive GoPro Hero to date
- Review Price: £499/$499
- Custom GP1 processor
- 4K/60fps; 1080p/240fps video
- HDR and RAW photography
- Improved EIS, dynamic range and low light performance
- Voice controls
What is the GoPro Hero 6 Black?
Last year’s GoPro Hero 5 Black was somewhat of a sea change for GoPro’s Hero range, and a camera I called GoPro’s “greatest hits”. The Hero 6 Black, however, is very much an evolution of a now established winning formula. It improves in many key areas, including in its top-end resolution and frame rates, as well as offering significantly better image stabilisation and upgrades in overall image quality.
It doesn’t come cheap, though. At £499/$499, this is GoPro’s most expensive Hero camera to date, but it’s still one I wholeheartedly recommend if you want the best action camera currently on the market.
GoPro Hero 6 Black – Design, controls and screen
In terms of physical design, nothing has changed. The camera body is identical to the Hero 5 Black. So much so, in fact, that if you own the older camera then I’d recommend marking up the newer model to tell them apart. The obvious benefit to this consistency in design is that all of the Hero 5 Black-specific mounts and accessories – such as the Karma drone and Karma Grip – are compatible with the Hero 6 Black.
I won’t go into too much detail here since so little has changed; read the Hero 5 Black review for more details. There’s still a 2-inch touchscreen on the back, but it wasn’t until I put the two models next to one another that I noticed the quality of the display has improved. Colours on the Hero 6 Black’s display are far punchier compared to the washed-out look of the older model. This isn’t a huge deal for a device that you’ll predominantly be using to quickly frame shots, but it’s welcome nevertheless.
The touch-responsiveness also appears to have been improved. In the past, the Hero 5 Black would on occasion fail to register some of the swipe gestures to access menus, but the Hero 6 Black is swifter to respond. Voice controls also make a return, meaning you can say ‘GoPro start recording’ and the device will begin accordingly.
New is the wake-on-voice function. Now, when turned off with your voice, the GoPro will move into a low-power listening mode for eight hours that will enable you to turn on the device and begin recording with a voice command.
When it works, it’s great. However, the issue is that the GoPro can still struggle to pick up your voice in noisier surroundings – when it’s windy outdoors, for instance. There are optional accessories such as GoPro’s wearable Remo remote that feature a microphone that will help in this type of scenario, but I was hoping the camera’s mics might have seen an improvement. You can still quickly begin recording a video from off just by hitting the shutter button on top of the camera; a second press will power it back down. It’s super-convenient.
The Hero 6 Black remains waterproof to 10 metres without the need for any external housing, which is a welcome feature. If you want to go to greater depths, a separate housing is available for scuba fans. In the box you get the usual adhesive mounts to get started. One of GoPro’s strengths in general is its mounts and accessories. Think of somewhere you might want to attach this camera and GoPro or third-parties will likely already have a suitable option.
GoPro has launched a few new mounts alongside the Hero 6 Black. I was supplied with the one known as The Shorty. It’s a cute little telescopic handgrip that extends in length by 20cm. It also opens out into a miniature tripod; it’s quickly become my go-to mount.
A significant change over other GoPro mounts is that the thumbscrew used to secure your GoPro is now a shortened aluminium screw. This makes it perfect for travellers since the shortened screw is unlikely to become caught in your bag or pockets when you quickly want to grab a video or photo. I’m hoping GoPro makes these new screws available separately, as I much prefer them to the longer, plastic options that make the camera trickier to stow away.
GoPro Hero 6 Black – Specs and sensors
The big star of the show is GoPro’s custom-designed GP1 processor. This allows the Hero 6 Black to capture far higher resolution and frame rate combinations compared to last year’s model. It pretty much offers double the performance of the Hero 5 Black.
Where last year’s GoPro topped out at 4K/30fps, the Hero 6 Black can do 4K/60fps. Similarly, the limit was 1080p/120fps slow-motion, but you can now do a super-smooth 1080p/240fps. There’s even 2.7K and 120fps if you don’t want to sacrifice quite so much resolution in exchange for slow-motion dramatics.
Similarly, electronic image stabilisation was only ever available from one frame rate setting down in previous models, such as 1080p/60fps and none at all in 4K resolution. The Hero 6 Black can now do image stabilisation at 4K/30 and still achieve it at 1080p/120fps. That’s a significant bump-up, and a showcase for what was needed from the GP1. The electronic image stabilisation is also hugely improved, as you’ll see in the test videos later in this review. Roll correction is now available when shooting in a Wide field of view, which is almost as good as having a gimbal.
It was important for GoPro to custom design it own chips to differentiate its cameras from the number of new rivals that now offer similar shooting capabilities. The Yi 4K+ Action Cam I reviewed managed to beat GoPro to the 4K/60fps punch, using an Ambarella chip that featured in previous GoPro cameras. But the GP1 offers much, much more.
It also provides the grunt for some video analysis, which plugs into GoPro’s automatic content-generation QuikStories. The GP1 is able to analyse sensor information from the built-in GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope and microphones. Then, through machine learning, it uses this to help the Quik app create a compelling edit with little to no user input.
By using all this captured data, alongside algorithms for face recognition and even identifying the sound of applause and cheering crowds, the app can more easily determine the important parts of your clip worth highlighting.
Imagine hitting a backflip on your snowboard while hurtling down a mountain at 100mph, all the while the crowd is going crazy, and you can imagine what will end up in your edit. It’s clever stuff and removes one of the greatest pain points of recording any kind of footage – knowing what to do with it in the end. I’m as guilty as anyone of capturing lots of content and then failing to ever edit it into anything compelling.
Now the GoPro app can detect when there’s new footage on your GoPro and then download it to the camera to be automatically edited together into a highlights reel.
Wi-Fi performance has also seen a performance boost. It now allows for faster 5GHz connections, which translates to 3x faster file transfers when using the companion GoPro smartphone app to transfer footage. It can still take a while to transfer content, especially if it’s of the 4K variety and for whatever reason, some footage would refuse to transfer.
That 5GHz Wi-Fi connection is also a serious drain on the battery, so I recommend transferring content when the device is plugged in; not while you’re out on an important shoot. I also found that the Hero 6 Black became super hot at times. Bluetooth remains a low-power way for the GoPro to communicate with your paired phone and be remotely powered on.
The app still provides a handy live view of the sensor for remotely controlling the camera or framing your shots when the camera is out of reach. There isn’t much lag and the experience has become more seamless over the past year. It’s still a little annoying to have to install the Quik app separately from the GoPro app for content creation, though.
GoPro Hero 6 Black – Video and image quality
That fancy GP1 processor has done more than just improved frame rates and image stabilisation. It’s also responsible for bolstering global tone mapping, resulting in improved colour and dynamic range. The latter has been bumped up by the equivalent of 2-stops. Auto-exposure adjustments have been upgraded – meaning that scenes that quickly transition from dark to bright adjust far more quickly during videos – as has low-light performance.
QuikStories generated video
While the Hero 5 Black produced some stunning video, the Hero 6 Black improves upon it in many ways. The dynamic range in particular is one of the first things I’ve noticed. I’ve captured numerous GoPro videos in the gym over the years (unexciting footage for anyone else, I know), and I merely mention this because it’s an environment I’ve massive archives of GoPro footage for.
1080p/240 slow-motion footage
It meant I immediately noticed how much more pop the red strobe lights lining the room had on the Hero 6 Black, or how the blue top I often wear appeared less washed out than before. Granted, these are issues that could have been remedied with a bit of colour correcting or processing in the past – but now you get far more impactful images straight from the camera.
Unedited footage straight from camera
The image stabilisation on show in footage captured while mountain biking was phenomenal. Gone was all of the nausea-inducing judder, and the camera did fantastically well with the rapidly changing lighting conditions. In the past, the scene would be momentarily overexposed when coming out from dense tree cover, but it now adapted seamlessly. The dual microphones came in handy in such situations, too, with the automatic wind noise reduction doing an excellent job.
Footage taken while walking is always tricky to stabilise – but, again, the Hero 6 Black’s capabilities far eclipsed what was available with the Hero 5 Black. While not as smooth as when using a gimbal such as the Karma Grip or FeiyuTech G5, it’s less ‘floaty’ and less limited by the speed of a motor to adjust the camera angle. It’s by far the best electronic image stabilisation I’ve seen.
The improvements aren’t limited to video, though. The 12-megapixel still images have improved as well. While the Hero 5 Black had ‘Wide Dynamic Range’, this has been upgraded to full HDR on the Hero 6 Black. Still images look all the better for it: they’re plenty sharp and exposure looks great. RAW support also remains if you want more to play around in post processing. The ‘Linear’ field of view option remains if you want more natural shots without that typical GoPro barrel-distorted look. It makes the GoPro a very usable still image camera that can go where most cameras wouldn’t dare.
GoPro Hero 6 Black – Battery life
In a welcome move, the Hero 6 Black uses the same batteries as the Hero 5 Black. So if you have any spare cells lying around then they’ll be compatible. Battery life is also comparable with the older Hero model when comparing like-for-like modes. Expect around 1hr 45mins of continuous video at 1080p/30fps. Shooting at 4K/60fps is obviously the most draining; I managed about 50 minutes before the battery gave out. This is from a continuous shot, however; expect less stamina overall when shooting multiple clips with more screen-on time and fiddling around.
Charging is via a USB-C connection, so it’s easy enough to carry a portable battery charger with you if you don’t have spare batteries.
Should I buy the GoPro Hero 6 Black?
I was initially taken back by the Hero 6 Black’s $499/£499 price tag. That’s around the same price as the Sony FDR-X3000R Action Cam, a camera that impressively managed to miniaturise optical image stabilisation. But if I had to make a choice between the two, I know which camera I prefer.
While there’s a $100/£100 premium between the Hero 5 Black and Hero 6 Black (the former will remain on sale as the cheaper alternative), the newer model is worth the extra outlay if you want the absolute best. In fact, I’d argue that the electronic image stabilisation is so good that a gimbal is no longer as necessary – so you can factor that saving into the equation. The overall image quality is also markedly improved, making the GoPro Hero 6 Black absolutely the best action camera you can buy today.
The GoPro Hero 6 Black improves over the Hero 5 Black on multiple fronts. It’s the best action camera you can buy today.