GoPro Hero9 Black is a vlogger’s dream.

Time flies when you have a GoPro. It’s been 18 years since Californian entrepreneur Nick Woodman founded the company.

The much-told story is that Woodman was on a surfing trip in Australia and Indonesia and was using a 35mm camera attached to his hand by a rubber band to film his surfing activities.

Needless to say he had a light-bulb moment. What began as sewing straps to cameras using his mum’s sewing machine has seen Woodman become a billionaire selling those hardy, small rectangular GoPro cameras and their host of attachments to everything.

Now GoPro is up to generation nine and I have been trialling the GoPro Hero9 Black. This year things are different. The pandemic lockdowns mean fewer adventurers are out getting filmed abseiling down cliff faces, skiing and travelling.

I managed to get some video of the Hero9 Black in a toy car with big wheels while it skilfully negotiated its way around rocks, pools of mud and parkland.

The Australian’s tech writer Chris Griffith tests GoPro’s latest action camera.

To empathise with the good folk in Melbourne, where the lockdown continues, I used the GoPro Hero9 Black to video my cycling through a virtual Jurassic Park with dinosaurs eating by the side of the road. This took place in the lounge room. The room doesn’t have a cliff face but it has become a virtualised adventure playground.

I used the time lapse feature to film the neighbourhood waking up from my balcony. It videoed the experience for more than an hour as the sun rose, and I played it back in under a minute.

I used a tripod but didn’t need to worry about the camera’s battery going flat overnight – between when I set it up and early morning. That’s because this GoPro lets me key in the start and end times for my time lapse masterpiece and it wastes little battery in the preceding hours.

The biggest development with the GoPro over recent years apart from better video quality is its excellent image stabilisation which lets you take time lapse, time warp and now night lapse video over long periods. That’s great for speeding up your off-road, surfing and skiing action.

GoPro Hero9Black offers more improvements: 5K video, 20MP photos, 14.7MP fixed stills, a bigger 2.27-inch back-facing screen and 30 per cent more battery life.

GoPro Hero9 Black action camera .

There’s now a 1.4-inch front screen which makes a world of difference if you are video logging as you can frame-up your face and ensure you remain in shot. Images and video are still taken by the big front facing lens. You get 1080p resolution when live streaming or in webcam mode.

The Hero9 Black is waterproof to 33 feet. As with other recent GoPros you don’t need to house it in a case under water. There’s better image stabilisation (HyperSmooth 3.0) with horizon levelling.

You take time warp video when the camera is moving. You can contrast the fast action around you with the slow movement of buildings far away. Time warp includes image stabilisation.

Time lapse, on the other hand, is when the camera is stationary and other objects are moving. You could be videoing the night sky.

GoPro has adapted a feature similar to the ‘top shot’ capability of the Google Pixel 3 smartphone, where the camera is continuously filming as you prepare to take some action.

Chris Griffith with GoPro founder Nick Woodman at a previous launch.

GoPro’s version is called LiveBurst and records what is happening 1.5 seconds before and after the shot. That way you won’t miss the optimal moment of action. You can choose between the best photo in the range, or a 3 second clip of 4K video. It is an image setting.

Alternatively there is HindSight mode for video which buffers 15 seconds or 30 seconds of footage before you officially press the shutter button. Again, you don’t miss the optimal moment. You activate these features in preset settings and that is when the 15 seconds starts counting down.

I want to mention one feature of GoPro that I wish I knew about a year ago. The camera can help you find a mislaid or lost GoPro.

You have limited time to do this while the camera can still be connected to your phone via Bluetooth. That applies even when the camera is turned off.

The first way is to reconnect the phone to the GoPro wirelessly, and, using the GoPro app, look through the viewfinder to work out where the GoPro is. If that doesn’t work you can switch on the locate camera setting in the app preferences to get the camera to play beeping noises. Then go looking for it.

Go Pro media mod.

After finding my missing Hero8 Black, I stuck a Tile tracker to the side of it. These trackers typically have a enough battery for a year. This will work provided you stick the tracker away from where adaptors connect, and you’re not using the camera underwater.

GoPro rolls out hardware add-ons called “mods” that enhance the photography experience. Unfortunately you can’t use the display mod and media mod for the Hero8 Black with the Hero9 Black because it’s a slightly larger camera. I’m not so worried about the display mod which adds a front-facing display because the new camera offers one by default.

The media mod is particularly useful with its built-in directional mic, 3.5mm mic port for an external mic, HDMI out, and two cold-shoe mounts. There’s a removable foam mic cover to suppress wind noise.

I like the look of the max lens mod which offers a GoPro Max-style ultra-wide 155 degree field-of-view. The good news is that the light mod which offers 200 lumens of brightness during shooting is compatible with most GoPro mounts. If you already have one, you’re in business.

Light mod for the GoPro Hero9 Black.

Finally, there’s GoPro’s bizarre pricing. The GoPro Hero9 Black on its own costs $699.95 without a 12-month subscription and $559.95 with it. That’s right, you pay less to get more. It seems GoPro is anxious to get you aboard its subscription service.

A subscription gives you a no-questions-asked camera replacement, and unlimited cloud storage of photos and video at original quality. So put some money back in your pocket and go for a camera plus subscription deal.

The GoPro Hero9 Black goes on sale in Australia today (September 17)

Published in The Australian newspaper.

Posted in News.

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