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GoPro HERO 10 Black Review – Field Test on a 4 Day Mountainbiking Trip

September 16th, 2021 Jump to Comment Section 14

The new GoPro HERO 10 Black was just officially released and we were lucky enough to receive a sample unite to review. We tested it on a 4-day mountain bike trip in East Tyrol/Austria. Curious to hear what it has to offer? Then keep on reading!

In the past, mid-September has always been release time for the latest GoPro HERO action cam – this year is no different. To be brutally honest, over the last few years I had lost a bit of interest in the latest iterations of this camera. Simply because the HERO6 Black released in September 2017 made a huge leap in terms of image quality and since then frame rates/resolution options have not significantly changed. Yes, of course, Hypersmooth (electronic image stabilization) was improved since then, and last year the HERO9 changed the main body dimensions and got a new sensor. Still, in terms of IQ, they are more or less the same.

Spoiler alert: this year, with the release of the GoPro HERO 10 Black things have gotten a lot more interesting!

As we have covered in our news article already, the specs of the new HERO 10 are impressive: 5.3k60p, 4k120p, 2.7k240p resolution, and frame rates. Basically doubling the frames per second for the resolutions that were available already in last year’s HERO9.

This doubling of the frame rates was made possible by the new GP2 processor that GoPro uses now. Along with the new processor also other goodies are in the bag – among them Hypersmooth 4.0 at all resolutions/frame rates as well as a much more responsive touchscreen – so let’s have a more detailed look.

In the spirit of CineD’s claim that reviews should ideally stem from a real-life project, I made a last-minute decision to take the GoPro HERO10 on an adventure that my friends and I had planned for the last months – doing the Carnic high altitude hiker’s trail on the Austrian border to Italy with our e-mountain bikes.

The field trip – the high altitude Carnic hike trail

The GoPro HERO10 felt ideal – we had to pack our backpacks to include everything for multiple days including nights on mountain huts, but keeping the weight and size small to be able to tackle the super technical trails.

So gear had to be super minimalistic. I went back and forth if my full-frame Panasonic S1 with a small 35mm Canon FD lens would fit, but I abandoned all those considerations – it was going to be my smartphone or a GoPro. No more space was available.

Carnic high altitude trail
On the Carnic high altitude trail. Image credit: CineD

And here you go – a smartphone will not give you the flexibility and features that a GoPro offers: weatherproof, you can mount the cam in all sorts of positions including a chest harness, which is what I mostly used. Add superb image stabilization, especially with the new Hypersmooth 4.0 feature and you are way above any smartphone in terms of filming capabilities. And then there are the additional frame rates/resolutions.

We were out for 4 days covering 163km and 6300m altitude difference, spending about 5-6hrs in the saddle each day, using the one HERO10 as the sole camera.

Battery life

Hence the new GoPro HERO10 felt ideal – but I was quite worried about the battery life. The previous generation of GoPro’s was quite power-hungry, and you had to carry multiple batteries on longer trips.

HERO10 Black battery
The GoPro HERO10 Black battery – the same in size/capacity as in the previous HERO9. Image credit: CineD

GoPro sent us a spare battery along with the cam – and I can report, that battery life has significantly improved, most likely due to the new GP2 processor, as the battery is the same as the previous HERO9 model (1720mAh). One battery carried me almost through a whole day, for the rest I had the spare battery. Wow!

Resolution & frame rate capabilities

As mentioned, with the new GP2 processor most of the previously available frame rates have doubled, from 5.3k60p to 4k120p to 2.7k240p. 1080p has stayed the same, it maxes out at 240fps.

HERO10 4k resolution at 120 frames per second
4k resolution at 120 frames per second. Image credit: CineD

In essence, 5.3k mode in 30p and 60p looks superb. GoPro color science is great, white balance is spot on but can shift of course if you move the camera (“flat” was used in the Protune settings, “auto” for WB) – manual WB setting is available of course. However, there is no 24p mode available in 5.3k, only in 4k mode anymore, don’t ask me why.

This means, if you take 5.3k30p as your base, you get 4x slow motion with 4k120p – which looks superb. Almost no resolution loss is visible.

Things get more complicated in the 2.7k240p mode.

HERO10  2.7k resolution
2.7k resolution at 240 frames per second – impressive on paper. Image credit: CineD

The previous generation GoPro’s only offered 240p in the 1080p (FullHD) mode. This mode was hampered by poor resolution and stair-stepping / aliasing artifacts.

Stairstepping / aliasing is mostly gone, but the footage in 2.7k240p is soft. I am not even sure it reaches FullHD quality, but see for yourself:

HERO10 2.7k at 240 frames per second
2.7k at 240 frames per second – rather soft. Image credit: CineD

So yes, it is useable, but the resolution loss on a 4k timeline is very noticeable. I definitely recommend sticking with the 4k120p mode.

One last remark: finally, the software is stable. In the past, especially at higher frame rates, there was always the risk of camera hangs up – hence, losing the shot in very inconvenient moments as you had to pull the battery. Not so anymore, the cam was stable at all resolutions and frame rates.

Hypersmooth 4.0

Electronic image stabilization started to become a unique selling proposition starting with Hypersmooth 1.0 in the Hero7. GoPro claimed, “no gimbal needed”. I didn’t buy into that so far as I also own the GoPro Karma Grip (Gimbal) and the HERO6, and that footage was rock solid no matter what. Previous Hypersmooth implementations kept the camera stable in certain scenarios, but showed hiccups in other scenarios, especially on the breast harness.

HERO10 Hyper smooth 4.0
Hyper smooth 4.0. Image credit: CineD

This time with Hypersmooth 4.0 the footage is very solid, and available in all frame rates/resolution modes – that is huge, and yes, no longer in need of a gimbal. Very few hiccups only if the trail got too rocky/bumpy and the whole breast harness would start to move. There are two settings available, “standard” and “boost” – in my footage I kept it to “standard”, as I wanted to avoid the tighter cropping of “boost”.

Audio quality

The audio quality was another surprise – and this is the Achilles’ heel of any action cam. If you speak to the camera and avoid windy situations, your voice comes across quite OK. Not too bad! Hear yourself in the video above.

New lens cap

Among the “not so obvious improvements” is a new lens cap coating that is more dust/water repellent.

HERO10 New lens cap coating
New lens cap coating – dust & water repellent. Image credit: CineD

As a side effect lens flares look better in my opinion but appear blueish at times.

HERO10 Blueish lens flares
Blueish lens flares due to the new lens coating. Image credit: CineD

Summary

To be honest, I have not upgraded my personal GoPro HERO camera since generation 6 about 4 years ago – but I am finally convinced it may be time. The HERO10 is a very mature product, offering the best action camera on the market with state-of-the-art image quality, resolutions, and frame rates as well as stabilization. And finally good battery life.

What remains on my wishlist for the future? How about adding various focal lengths, as recent smartphones have? How about 10bit video codecs? Ok, there will always be items on my wishlist ;-)

Have you worked with action cameras? What do you think of the new HERO10 camera from GoPro? Time to upgrade? Let us know in the comments below.

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