So, the GoPro Hero 12 Black is out, the latest in a long line of action cameras that revolutionized capturing shots that would destroy lesser cameras. And as usual, there are a bunch of new features and upgrades.
No doubt you’ll be seeing tons of amazing footage from the Hero 12 Black all over social media over the next few days. People skiing, surfing, bungee jumping, and doing all sorts of adventurous things.
This hands-on is going to be a little different.
The way that I make use of GoPros — and I think I’ve had every model released since the Hero 3 — is a little different.
GoPro Hero 12 Black
Hero 12 Black takes its best-in-class image quality to the next level with HDR for both videos (5.3K and 4K) and photos
Sure, I’ve used GoPros as action cameras and attached them to cars and taken them underwater, but I also use them as portable cameras to capture multiple angles of a shot, indoors or outdoors. They’re lightweight, small, and can be popped into places where a bigger camera can’t or in places that would destroy my Sony A7IV or FX3.
I tend to think of them as all-purpose cameras, not just action cameras. So, the upgrades that are important to me will focus more on all sorts of uses as opposed to extreme sports.
That said, I did recruit the help of Katherine Betteridge to test the Hero 12 Black’s underwater capabilities. As well as being a gifted artist, composer, photographer, videographer, and drone operator, Katherine is also a fearless wild swimmer, happy to leap into rivers and lakes to test bits of kit.
And this is where I’ll start — because there’s no better testing ground for a camera’s low-light capability than underwater. It’s challenging because it can switch from murky and dark to bright and vivid in a flash, and this can result in very variable output.
And since most people just turn on their GoPro and start filming, I tested this camera on the default settings.
And I wasn’t disappointed. The output is exceptional.
Here is footage that’s straight out the camera, with no color grading or adjustments carried out to it. Considering that this was shot late afternoon, in a rather murky river, the output is great.
And with a little bit of tweaking, it could be made even better. It’s clear that the improved HDR (high dynamic range) is delivering the goods. As far as capture quality goes, this is one of the best action cameras out there, the only rival being the DJI Osmo Action 4.
But for me, it’s the hardware improvements that I like the most. First on that list: Battery life. GoPros have had atrocious battery life in the past, so it’s good to see that the engineers have worked to pretty much double the endurance this time around. Yes, double.
GoPro claims you can now get up to 70 minutes of continuous recording at 5.3K, 60fps (using the Hero 12 Black’s highest performance setting), over 95 minutes at 5.3K, 30fps, and over 155 minutes of continuous recording at 1080p, 30fps, and my testing backs this up.
And this is done with the same Enduro cold-weather battery found in the Hero 11 Black.
I never used to go anywhere without a handful of batteries or a way to keep the GoPro powered from a power bank, but now you can get away with one or two batteries.
This is a game-changer! I’d still need external power for things like long time-lapses, but for regular video and photo use, battery power is usable, at last!
My next favorite upgrade to the Hero 12 Black is the 1/4-20 thread on the bottom to allow it to be attached to a tripod or selfie stick. Yes, I know, you can do that with a GoPro to 1/4-20 adapter, but that’s one more thing to carry.
Being able to screw to the GoPro directly with a tripod or selfie stick is something I’ve wanted for years.
Also great is how this is the first GoPro to support recording in a log profile — called GP-Log. This is a flatter color profile that allows more detail to be pulled out of the highlights and shadows in the editing process. If you use this, don’t panic if the footage initially looks flat and muddy; that is how it is supposed to look before you start editing it!
GoPro footage can be very distinctive, and being able to apply LUTs (short for look-up table, which are like intelligent filters) that you can apply over this flatter GP-Log capture to get pretty much whatever style and tone you are after.
Another advantage of this is that it can help you match the footage you capture with your GoPro with footage from other cameras. This is going to allow for some really interesting, artistic editing of captured footage.
ZDNET’s buying advice
The GoPro Hero 12 Black is a fantastic, solid upgrade to the line. If you’re buying a new action camera, you can’t go wrong with it. As to whether you should upgrade, that’s really down to whether you think that the new features are worth the money. For me, the boosted battery, the ability to capture in GP-Log format, and the 1/4-20 mount make this a compelling upgrade.