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GoPro Hero 11 review: One change makes all the difference

It’s better, and it builds on an already very capable platform. But if you own a Hero 9 or 10 there’s no real need to rush out and upgrade unless one of the new features solves a personal pain point. When you factor in strong competition from DJI and Insta360, both of which have new rivals in their line up, the arrival of the Hero 11, makes this the best time to be in the market for an action camera ever.

Video transcript

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- When you need to look at the last few GoPro cameras and their competition to see that companies have realized that action cameras need to do more than shoot action. And the same is true for the new GoPro Hero 11 Black. First let's be clear, in terms of appearance, there is only one difference. And that's quite literally the one printed on the side here.

Even in the Hero 10 was already able to shoot above 4K. It seems a little greedy almost to expect even more resolution this time around. Instead, GoPro proprietary SuperView mode gets a boost up to 5K and a little more slow mo in 4K. But that's about it for the existing video modes.

Still images, however, receive solid jump from 23 megapixels right up to 27, which is nice. But I've never been too sure about who exactly uses their GoPro for pictures, especially when you can grab frames so easily.

There is one important hardware change though, a new, larger sensor. The way it's been implemented though doesn't translate to better low-light performance unfortunately. It still remains something of a weak spot for the GoPro lineup. Instead, it's all about flexibility, which leads us neatly on to the next two features.

First is 360 degree horizon lock, horizon leveling was already pretty good on the Hero 10. But now, it's unbreakable. If like me, you're prone to wrongfully mounting your camera, this is a godsend. It's only available in linear mode for now though. Of course, Insta360 already had this in its camera. So it's great to see it here too.

Second and possibly bigger advantage to this new taller sensor is something called full frame recording. Now, this isn't a camera mode, per se. Although, you could use it that way if you want. This is more about recording absolutely everything that the sensor sees and then punching out the aspect ratio that you want after the fact. With full frame, you can shoot once and pull a 4K 16 by 9 video out for YouTube and then a 9 by 16 video out for Instagram, all with no loss of resolution, and even with different framing if you wish.

I really enjoyed going out for a ride and not thinking about my framing, just punching out two different videos once I got home. One at 16 by 9 and one in portrait. And it definitely got me thinking about other cool things I could do with this, especially as you can change that framing every single time, like being able to get different perspectives from the same shot.

Be warned though, you might find yourself having to think kind of backwards. The first time I used it, I did a little intro to camera. And I kind of positioned myself filling the whole frame. Now of course when I came back home and started punching out the videos, I realized that portrait mode is going to give me a little bit of a weird crop. So that was something that I had to bear in mind.

Keeping things frame related, there's a new Hyper-V mode, which is essentially everything from an 8 by 7 sensor squeezed into 16 by 9. And you absolutely won't want to use this on everything. But the super wide angle really made my modest skate rides look and feel much more intense. And the sense of speed and proximity does at the pace almost like a racing drone shot. There is a trade though. The scenery will be extra warped. And it can feel a bit like you're in a 90s first person shooter game at times, especially if you're someone with a lot of geometric lines. So proceed with caution.

GoPro image quality has come a long way in recent years. And while there's no real change this time around, colors do seem to pop a little bit more without the slightly oversaturated look of older cameras. So now once you've finished shooting, the Hero 11 Black isn't done. GoPro is heavily promoting the introduction of automatically generated highlight reels. Now, the idea is pretty simple. You get home. You plug-in your camera, connect to the Wi-Fi. As long as you have a GoPro subscription of course. And then, it will do the rest, delivering you an automatically generated highlight video. Now, this isn't something we were able to test at the time recording this video. But it'll be interesting to see how well that turns out.

You might be getting a vibe here that this is more of an iterative update. And I'd be inclined to agree with you. Something that we can talk about, though, are the new night time lapse modes. There are three in total. Star trails, light painting, and vehicle lights. All three are pretty self-explanatory. And they add some welcome additions to the standard time-lapse options. But I'm going to guess, these aren't really things most folk will be using regularly, though it can make for some good, creative, filler shots.

In better news, GoPro now includes its longer lasting extreme weather battery as standard. Battery life has long been something of an ongoing challenge for the Hero cameras, especially as they offer more power intense features. So I'll take all the milliamperes they can offer. Each time I took the Hero 11 out, though, I was averaging about an hour and a half of constant usage. That's either recording or connecting to the camera with my phone or often both. That's actually not bad given I was testing all the most power hungry features. So you can reasonably expect nearer to two hours of life under less intense sessions.

And that sort of sums up the GoPro Herro 11 Black experience. It's better. And it builds on an already very capable platform. But if you own a Hero 9 or a Hero 10, honestly, there's no real need to rush out and upgrade unless one of the new features solves a personal pain point. When you factor in strong competition from the likes of DJI and Insta360, both of which have new rivals in their lineup, the arrival of the Hero 11 makes this possibly the best time to be in the market for an action camera ever. Head to engadget.com for more news and reviews.

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