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GoPro Hero 12 Black review: spec-tacular upgrade
Despite added competition, GoPro remains at the top of the action camera rankings, according to our ongoing testing
I’ve been testing the GoPro Hero 12 Black for about a week and, even though I need a little bit more time to give you a final review score, I can already tell you (and show you) that this camera is my new favorite way to take video, action-filled or otherwise.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the new GoPro Hero 12 Black is received by the creator community, especially now that the DJI Action 4 and Insta360 Go 3 are after a piece of the action camera pie.
Several early GoPro Hero 12 Black leaks pointed to a 1-inch sensor and 8K video, that promised to continue to advance the category. But those lofty specs turned out to be fake. While some might see that as a disappointment, the reaction to these leaks was mostly met with a chorus of people saying, “I don’t need 8K. Just give me better performance at 4K!”. Thankfully, that’s exactly what the GoPro Hero 12 Black delivers, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s more intuitive to use and reliable (so far) with a more robust feature set to boot.
GoPro Hero 12 Black review in-progress
✅ 👑 GoPro Hero 12 Black becomes the king of reliable action cameras
✅ 🗼 Mount it on a normal tripod thanks to a 1/4-20 mounting thread
✅ 🌔 HDR video option enhances the quality of 4K footage
✅ 🎛️ Easy mode for novices, time code sync for experts, AirPods/Bluetooth headphone support for everyone
❌ 🤔 Still a learning curve to master the very best features
❌ 🤼♂️ New competition – Insta 360 & DJI – offering tempting alternatives
❌ 🙅♂️ Some people won’t be happy that the sensor size is the same
🎨 Spec-tacular paint job. Blue speckles adorn the front and back plate of the Hero 12 as well as its buttons. It’s a fresh take on the traditional black, and one that I found particularly pleasing. The biggest bonus I found during my testing was that I could easily distinguish the new Hero 12 Black from the Hero 11 Black (or the many other similar-looking old GoPros) – infinitely important when out in the field.
🗼 I love the Hero 12 Black so much I would mount it. Finally, there’s a 1/4-20 mounting thread (aka Quarter 20) on the bottom of the GoPro Hero 12 Black. Ingeniously implemented right between the fingers of GoPro’s traditional mount, you can now attach this to a tripod or anything you’d typically screw onto your camera or screw your camera onto. Granted, I’ve moved my other cameras to a Peak Design/ARCA-Swiss mounting system, but this is a step in the right direction.
🔋 2x longer run times. The Hero 12 Black (like the Hero 11) comes with GoPro’s Enduro battery, which offers more juice at higher resolutions and frame rates. But there’s a little more juice year-over-year with 4K/120fps gaining 58 minutes of run time, and 5.7K/60fps gaining an extra 70 minutes of run time, according to GoPro. More action, less charging. I’ll confirm these times in my full review.
🌔 HDR video boosts 4K quality. Remember when I said I just wanted GoPro to have better 4K video, well thankfully it does. The GoPro Hero 12 Black introduces HDR video capture for 4K (up to 30fps in 8:7 and 60fps in 16:9) and 5.3K (up to 30fps in 16:9). And if you want even more dynamic range to work with, GoPro has also introduced GP-Log with LUTs you can take into Adobe Premier, Final Cut, and Davinci Resolve.
🌀 Time warp, ⏲️ Time lapse, 🌃 Night effects in 8:7. I loved that the Hero 11 Black’s 8:7 sensor introduced a good in-between movie format for cutting both 16:9 YouTube-style and 9:16 Instagram/TikTok video. The GoPro Hero 12 Black expands on this, letting you shoot everything in 8:7 (offering a 16% taller field of view than video). That includes taking photos, time-lapses and night mode shots.
🎧 AirPods & Bluetooth compatible. The MediaMod is great and all, but GoPro is further expanding compatibility with what you already own – including AirPods. You can attach up to four Bluetooth devices to the Hero 12 Black (it was just one with prior models) and get clean mic and audio playback. No need to ever take those AirPods out of your ears.
😅 Easy controls for the ‘rents. I bought my dad a GoPro for Christmas one year (he’s big into tennis) and it went… OK. Good video with a steep learning curve. Even for me, a techie, I’ve long felt Hero series’ controls require a master’s degree in GoPro – that’s why I’m in awe of GoPro creators who’ve nailed seamless-looking footage. Now it’s everyone else’s turn with a solid easy mode that has you decide just the basics: three framing options (vertical, widescreen and full screen), toggling 8x slo-mo on and off, and whether or not you want to create night effects.
⏲️ Time code sync. The experts are being catered to as well. I really like the addition of unlimited syncing of Hero 12 Black cameras for multi-camera editing. It’s exclusive to the latest Hero 12 cameras, but all you have to do is show your multiple GoPros a QR code on your phone and they’ll all shoot footage in sync together. It works with Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premier, and other editing software to streamline post-production.
📸 Even more Instagram and TikTok-friendly. I hate having to vertically mount anything, so I was stoked when GoPro told me the Hero 12 can natively shoot 9:16 while it’s mounted horizontally. Better yet, you can shoot 4K 9:16 videos natively with the new Vertical Capture Mode.
📝 Better UI. Video settings feel much better laid out in a grid with all of the selectable options available at a glance. Previously you had to pick each option like resolution first and then you could pick something after diving into another set of options.
🎛️ Edit anywhere – including PC and Mac again. The latest Quik app uploads all of your footage into the cloud and makes everything accessible from the new Quik Cloud editor. This new Quik Cloud editor will work on both your phone and desktop, so you can start working on your laptop and then keep tweaking things on your phone while you go out. The only caveat is the Quik editor desktop editor (yes, GoPro is supporting computers again) won’t be ready until November 1 for Mac and Summer 2024 for Windows users. So we’ll have to wait a bit to see how well it actually works.
📳 HyperSmooth 6.0. AutoBoost now analyzes up to 4x more data when compared to HyperSmooth 5.0 and the Linear + Horizon Lock built-in digital lens keeps your footage steady even if your camera rotates a full 360°during capture. You don’t need expensive gimbals or stabilization software for pro-quality results
🖼️ 🖼️ 🖼️ Interval Photo: You can capture 27MP photos, but even more interesting are interval pictures that can be taken in bursts from 0.5 seconds to 120 seconds. This joins useful features such as HindSight (always recording with a 30-second buffer), scheduled capture (set a time to turn on the GoPro 24 hours in advance), and duration capture (15 seconds to 3-hour-long clips set to a timer).
👐 Max Lens Mod 2.0. I’m still testing the GoPro Hero 12 Black with and without the Max Lens Mod 2.0, and I’m finding it helpful for its wide field of view, offering 4K/60fps with the widest FOV at 177° – wider than any action camera, including spherical cameras shooting in single-lens mode. It’s a major increase from the 155° FOV of Max Lens Mod 1.0. Best of all it’s smaller, lighter and 2x more scratch resistance than the 1.0 version.
🤼♂️ Competition for ‘Hero’ status. DJI and Insta360 have honed in on GoPro’s action camera dominance in recent years. Before it was knock-off action cameras with funky names that littered Amazon – you couldn’t trust them. But the DJI Action 4 and the nifty Insta360 Go 3 are gaining attention with reliable performance. However, I’m increasingly finding ways in which the Hero 12 Black keeps GoPro on top (I almost immediately lost the Insta360 Go 3 camera pill within 24 hours of owning one).