When it comes to the best action camera, GoPro is pretty much the only company to in this day and age. It’s still the best all-round experience for both professional video makers and the average consumer.
GoPro offers an array of accessories, from small handheld mounts that act as tripods, and floating cases, to the powered, stabilising Karma Grip gimbal system. It also has a great, easy to use mobile and desktop apps for editing. As an ecosystem goes, it’s pretty unbeatable.
This brings the question: which GoPro should you buy?
Up to the second quarter of 2018, GoPro has reduced its range of main cameras, from five to four and simplified models too. There are now no more Sessions. Instead, we have three Heros and one VR-focussed Fusion. That doesn’t mean you should dismiss older models, you can still pick up 2015’s Hero 4, and it’ll serve you well.
The newest camera in the range is the most affordable. Called simply, Hero, it’s the new more budget-friendly camera that looks virtually identical to the more expensive Hero6 and Hero5.
Before that, GoPro launched its VR camera, called the GoPro Fusion. It doesn’t look like anything GoPro has released before, has two cameras, and offers 360-degree video recording as well as an awesome feature called OverCapture that makes it easy to edit the footage to follow the action.
Hero6 Black is the latest “flagship” action camera in the range. It’s the same in design as its predecessor, but is the first camera to be equipped with the custom GP1 processor that improves video and still photography.
Hero5 Black is still available and – despite being more than a year old – still offers a great set of features, and is compatible with the new QuikStories feature, where the mobile apps stitch together a video in the background without any work from you.
Price: £649/$699 from GoPro.com
- Seamless 360-degree 5.2k video
- Seamless 360-degree 18MP stills
- Waterproof to 5m
GoPro officially launched the Fusion towards the end of 2017. While expensive, the Fusion has the potential to shake up the VR camera and action camera markets.
It has two 180 degree cameras, which automatically stitch together to form a 360-degree image with an invisible seam. At its highest resolution it shoots 5.2k resolution footage at 30fps, but can also shoot 3k footage at 60fps. Still photos are 18-megapixels.
It’s built to cope in water up to five metres deep and has a 2,620mAh battery capable of shooting for up to 70 minutes before needing a top-up.
Its biggest feature is OverCapture. It essentially lets you select a 1080p window from anywhere in the original 5.2k shot, and then move anywhere in the scene to follow the action. You can also quickly and easily move between various viewing modes: 360, tiny planet and flat fields of view.
Read the review: GoPro Fusion review
GoPro Hero6 Black
- 4K video at 60fps
- 1080p at 240fps
- HDR Photos
- Advanced digital stabilisation
- 10m waterproofing
If you’re after the best possible action camera available, but don’t want to drop £650 on a Fusion, the next best – and likely best regular action camera available – is the Hero6 Black.
Stuck on the front is a camera capable of shooting HDR still photos, as well as 4K video up to 60 frames per second and 1080p footage up to 240fps for awesome slow-motion. It’s also equipped with some very advanced digital stabilisation, which acts like a 3-axis gimbal to smooth out shakes and vibrations. It’s also the first to support shooting in HEVC (H.265) codec.
As well as all that, general image quality is much more natural and better quality too, compared to its predecessor. All this is thanks to the new custom GP1 processor, which has enabled these improvements in hardware that’s largely the same as the previous model. It offers the following resolutions and FOVs:
- 4K Wide – 60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 4K SuperView – 30, 25, 24 fps
- 4K (4:3) Wide – 30, 25, 24 fps
- 2.7K Wide – 120, 100, 60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 2.7K SuperView + Linear – 60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 2.7K (4:3) Wide + Linear – 60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 1440p Wide + Linear – 60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 1080p Wide – 240, 200, 120, 100, 60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 1080p SuperView + Linear – 120, 100, 60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 720p Wide + Linear – 60, 50 fps
It’s waterproof up to 10 metres, fits all the same accessories and mounts as the Hero5. It also has the same 1220mAh battery.
What’s particularly interesting here is that it’s better at QuikStories than any other camera, because it has the built-in ability to analyse telemetry, audio and facial recognition clues and better choose the bits where action is happening. That means when it comes to creating a QuikStory, the camera should be better at choosing the important parts than previous cameras.
You can control Hero6 using the buttons or touchscreen as normal, or use voice commands to get your camera to take photos, shoot video, just by telling it to.
Read the full review: GoPro Hero6 Black review
GoPro Hero5 Black
- 4K video at 30fps
- 12MP stills
- 10m waterproof
Hero5 was an incredible camera when it launched in 2016, and still is a great action camera a year later. Unlike all the previous Heros leading up to the Hero5, this one doesn’t need additional waterproof housing for use underwater, or during particularly wet activities.
If you can do without HDR photos, or the higher frame rate video capture, the Hero5 is an ideal option. Especially if your budget doesn’t quite reach to £400.
For £100 less than the Hero6 you still get a camera capable of shooting 12-megapixel stills and 4K video, and a massive array of accessories and mounts to fit it to. It’s waterproof up to 10 metres, and has the same 1220mAh battery as the Hero6. Here are all the resolutions, frame-rates and FOVs available:
- 4K Wide – 30, 25 fps
- 4K SuperView – 24fps
- 2.7K Wide, Medium + Linear – 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 2.7K SuperView – 30, 25 fps
- 2.7K (4:3) Wide – 30, 25 fps
- 1440p Wide – 80, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 1080p Narrow – 120, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 1080p SuperView – 80, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 1080p Wide – 90, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 1080p Linear + Medium – 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 960p Wide – 120, 60, 50 fps
- 720p Narrow – 240, 120, 60, 50, 30, 25 fps
- 720p SuperView – 120, 100, 60, 50 fps
- 720p Wide + Medium – 120, 60, 50, 30, 25 fps
- WVGA Wide – 240 fps
While it doesn’t have the advanced GP1 processor for better QuikStories action-choosing, the Hero5 is compatible with QuikStories, meaning it can offload to the GoPro iPhone and Android app, which then automatically edits it, choosing a theme and music to cut it in time with.
Read the full review: GoPro Hero5 Black review
GoPro Hero (2018)
- 1440p video at 60fps
- 10MP stills
If you want a capable action camera without the expense, there’s the new GoPro Hero. As you’d expect, at half the price of its highest-spec sibling, it doesn’t have the same top features. It was launched in the first half of 2018, and brings the Hero series entry-point to a much more affordable level while also streamlining the GoPro product lineup.
It doesn’t have 4K video recording, but it has many of the same features as the Hero5 Black. For instance, you get voice control, QuikStories, video stabilisation and waterproofing up to 10 metres. It even has the 3-mic noise reduction system. And, unlike the Session cameras it’s replacing, it does have a screen, so you can see what you’re filming and interact with the controls using its touch sensitivity.
If you can live without the 4K resolution video, the 60fps 1080p capture from the stabilised Hero should be more than enough to capture your best outdoor exploits. Here are all the resolutions, frame-rates and FOVs available:
- 1440p Wide – 60fps
- 1080p Wide – 60fps
- 10/1 burst rate 10MP stills
It’s a much simpler offering from GoPro and one which should prove very easy to use for those thinking about trying out a GoPro camera.
GoPro Hero4 Black
- 4K video at up to 30fps
- WVGA resolution super slow-mo
- No touchscreen
GoPro may not be offering the Hero4 Black through its own channels anymore, but that doesn’t mean you should turn your nose up at it. It’ll now cost considerably less than the Hero5 or Hero6. You won’t get built-in waterproofing on this one, but it’ll still make a great companion for all your action shoots. You also don’t get the built-in colour touchscreen on the back.
It supports up to 4K (30fps) video, 12MP (30fps in burst) photos, and SuperView (dynamically stretches a 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9). It also has an ultra wide, medium, or narrow field of view, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, waterproofing up to 40-metres with housing, microSD memory up to 64GB, and a 1160mAh battery.
- 4K – 30, 25, 24 fps
- 4K SuperView – 24fps
- 2.7K – 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 2.7K SuperView – 30, 25 fps
- 1440p – 80, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24fps
- 1080p – 120, 90, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24fps
- 1080p SuperView – 80, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24fps
- 960p – 120, 60, 50fps
- 720p- 240, 120, 60, 50, 30, 25fps
- 720p SuperView – 120, 60, 50fps
- WVGA – 240fps
Other features include: professional-grade low light performance, various burst rates, time lapse intervals, continuous photo rates, compatability with GoPro’s Protune software and app, an auto low-light mode, night mode, and time lapse mode, and support for simultaneous video and photo shooting, looping video, and auto image rotation. It also supports high bitrate video (up to 60Mbps) and an external studio mic.
GoPro Hero5 Session
- 4K video up to 30fps
- 10m waterproofing
- Tiny, portable design
The Session range is the ultra-portable set of cameras that’s recently been discontinued, but they still make great options if you can find one. They cut down a little on features, but are surprisingly capable of producing great footage, despite their small size. The top of the range Session is the Hero5 Session, which launched alongside the Hero5 in 2016.
Like the Hero5, it’s compatible with QuikStories and connects to the GoPro mobile app. It’s waterproof to 10 metres, is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth equipped, and can shoot in all the modes you’ve become accustomed to: Photo, Burst Mode, Night Photo, Video, Looping, Time Lapse Photo, Time Lapse Video and Night Lapse Photo.
Video is stabilised, and wind noise is actively reduced using two mics on the exterior. You can even make use of the ProTune feature for more manual photo and video control. Here’s a full list of available resolutions and FOVs.
- 4K Wide – 30, 25, 24 fps
- 2.7K Medium – 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 2.7K SuperView, Wide + Linear – 30, 25, 24 fps
- 2.7K (4:3) Wide – 30, 25 fps
- 1440p Wide – 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 1080p Wide -90, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 1080p Superview + Linear – 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 1080p Medium + Narrow – 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
- 960p Wide – 100, 60, 50, 30, 25 fps
- 720p Wide – 120, 60, 50, 30, 25 fps
- 720p SuperView + Medium – 60, 50, 30, 25 fps
As well as all these features, you can make use of GoPro’s Voice Control to take photos, shoot video or time lapses. As small cameras go, it’s pretty advanced, and matches the Hero5 Black in almost every way. It’s just cheaper and smaller and missing the touchscreen.
Which GoPro should you buy?
If you want the best of the best, the Hero6 Black is the easiest recommendation. It doesn’t just film 4K resolution at 60fps, it’s waterproof, can do 240fps slow-mo at 1080p resolution, and has really impressive digital stabilisation during shooting. Overall image quality is better than the Hero5, and the voice control is more advanced.
If you want high end recording abilities in as small a package as possible, the Hero5 Session is a really great option, even if it is discontinued. It’s compact, waterproof and can shoot at pretty much the same levels as the Hero5 Black, and doesn’t cost the earth.
If budget is the primary motivator for you, the newest Hero is clearly the best option. It doesn’t have 4K, but if you’re unsure about getting in on the action camera game, or don’t have the financial flexibility to pony up for a more expensive GoPro, the basic Hero will do you just fine.