GoPro Hero 12 Black’s versatility is a result of focused generational evolution

Posted By: Ramesh Sharma Posted On: Sep 08, 2023
Unlike the matte black finish on its predecessor, the GoPro Hero 12 Black edition gets specks of blue all over the exterior. (Vishal Mathur/ HT Photo)

Foundations of a benchmark defining experience aren't usually placed in one go. It takes time, often a series of incremental movements. GoPro, around for almost 20 years, seems to know the importance of a tough grind. In retrospect, this method becomes clearer, something GoPro embarked on last year, when the Hero 11 Black action camera (a category that's still niche and performance driven) settled on a series of important upgrades. A collective step forward that provides the basis for a series of iterations which the GoPro Hero 12 Black achieves.

One of the bigger forward steps for the GoPro Hero 12 Black includes longer run times. As much as twice more. What does that mean? A 4K120 (4K being the resolution; 120Hz representing frame rate, per second) video recording can go up to 58 minutes on a battery charge, up from 28 minutes from the GoPro Hero 11 Black. The difference is wider with 5.3K/60 videos, now up to 70 minutes and significantly up from 35 minutes from its predecessor.

Why do we talk about generational foundations with battery stamina improvements? Last year's Hero 11 Black had switched to a new battery chemistry for what is now called the Enduro battery pack. It's still the same 1720mAh capacity in the GoPro Hero 12 Black, which means that with capacity and chemistry sorted, GoPro could focus on optimising the hardware and software as the next step. Some shooting times are thermally limited, which means a sensor is telling the camera when to stop after a threshold is achieved.

We noticed often with the GoPro Hero 12 Black – heating at times is quite apparent, particularly in warm outdoor climes, when shooting 4K or 5.3K videos. Could this theoretically mean you'll be able to eke out a few more minutes in colder temperatures? That could have been possible, but it is likely GoPro has settled on a hard limit instead of relying on variations such as ambient temperature.

Also read:GoPro Hero11 Black is proof how vital upgrades can elicit maximum impact

The 8:7-inch sensor has been carried forward, with additions on the software front to unlock more shooting modes. There's a new vertical capture mode for 9:16 aspect ratio videos. There's one eye on relevance, and this will immediately appeal to anyone creating videos for Instagram and YouTube Shorts, for instance. While the predecessor also shoots in 8:7, the GoPro Hero 12 Black clearly can make better use of the sensor.

HyperView mode uses the full width of the 8:7 sensor for 16:9 aspect ratio videos. You'll also be able to use this for TimeWarp, Night Lapse and Time Lapse shooting modes. I'd said this last year as well, and it's a good time to return to that point – a square sensor in the GoPro Hero 12 Black, as also in the GoPro Hero 11 Black, may just be hinting to smartphones to try something new. Phone camera sensors aren't square, usually in 4:3 or 3:2 ratios.

A question that comes to mind is – can some of these shooting modes be added to the GoPro Hero 11 Black too via software updates?

And to touch upon the relevance of vertical videos for content creators in this era, GoPro has added the Bluetooth connectivity for not just microphones but also the Apple AirPods. The utility goes beyond just vertical videos, but that's a potentially more relevant scenario. Voice commands to control the GoPro Hero 12 Black (you can use voice to start and stop shooting, for instance) or even a narration or voice-over becomes easier to overlay on the video you're shooting, in the first go.

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That's before we get to the Max Lens Mod 2.0, which should have been part of the “Black” box pack (it goes on sale in November). You'll be using this for ultra-wide videos, that is 177 degrees field of vision. That's 36% more than the wide mode in-camera and 48% more for vertical videos.

HDR, or high-dynamic range, videos are a crucial addition. It is available, for both photos and video modes. For videos in particular, you may need to keep an eye on the virtual ceilings placed when HDR recording is enabled – for instance, 5.3K up to 30fps in 16:9, while 4K can do up to 30fps in 8:7 and 60fps in 16:9. Even before we went through a gentle edit cycle with HDR videos to extract more detailing that on-camera processing often can't extract, elements such as shadows alongside a greater differentiation between brighter and darker parts of a frame were immediately clear.

As we have already illustrated, you may lose out a bit on the frame rate with 5.3K videos with HDR, but that trade-off may just be worth it (even without HDR, 8:7 is our video recommendation) since the full width of the sensor is in use and that means better lighting and details to work with. Photos are in the 27-megapixel resolution, though you will have to put in considerable effort to wrangle the sort of quality you'd be used to with smartphones that pixel bin 12-megapixel images from 48-megapixel or 50-megapixel sensors.

GoPro's in-camera video stabilisation, has always been par excellence. The Hero 11 Black was no different in its era. The GoPro Hero 12 Black takes another step forward. We didn't have the chance to thrash a dune buggy with a Hero 12 Black mounted and recording, but from what we tested, unnecessary vertical as well as sideways movement is seamlessly eliminated. Smartphones now have optical as well as electronic image stabilisation, but are yet to come close in this regard.

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Encapsulating smart software is the Night Effects upgrade, that takes a still image as well from the final moments of a video that's done with any of the Light Painting, Star Trails or Vehicle Light Trails pre-sets. You must mount the GoPro Hero 12 Black to find any utility in these. Handheld won't work.

And the Hindsight mode, if you enable, can shoot as much as 30 seconds worth of video footage before you press the shutter button. That's good assistance to have, but to be fair, it'll really only work with the Hero 12 Black is mounted or placed in a ready-to-shoot position; 30 seconds worth of footage emerging from your trouser pocket or the really near carry pouch wouldn't mean much.

What didn't need to change, hasn't changed. The dual screens haven't changed, in position, type or size. USB-C still remains protected behind the environment resistant cover. Battery size hasn't been increased, and the extensive range of accessories you may already be using with an earlier generation GoPro camera are likely to continue working seamlessly with the Hero 12 Black too.

This year's pricing is intriguing. Let me illustrate last year's range. The Hero11 Black was priced at ₹51,500, the Hero11 Black Creator Edition at ₹71,500 while the Hero11 Black Mini was worthy of a ₹41,400 price tag. This year, the troika has been simplified, and the “mini” edition doesn't seem to be on the horizon. That means the Hero 12 Black is priced at ₹45,000 (also to factor in the balance of the entry point) while the Hero 12 Black Creator Edition will be priced at ₹65,000.

Also read:Four-wing drive: Flying cars are taking off, but are we ready for them?

GoPro confirms to us that in addition to the standard one-year global warranty, Luxury Personified (these are the official distributors in India) will be bundling one year more. These little things add value.

The GoPro Hero 12 Black is a definite step forward, more so with vertical videos and HDR. The fact there were no distractions of broader changes to simply tick off a spec sheet, meant the resources went into smarter updates. The support for Apple AirPods for audio narrations, being one. Better encoding that'll reduce recording sizes. And an updated Quik suite, that'll allow video edits directly on the cloud too.

Without looking much different, the GoPro Hero 12 Black still manages to be a significant step forward, generation to generation. The blue specs on the black matte finish add a nice visual touch too.

Source: Hindustan Times
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