GoPros have always been something I’ve wanted, but could never justify. As hard as it is to believe, I’m not an extreme sports kind of guy. I also don’t have a dog, so there goes the two main reasons why you’d ever want an action camera. But then I found a third.
A while back, I started riding motorcycles, and this newfound passion led me on some of the most incredible roads our country has to offer. One thing led to another and I was like oh my god, now I need to get a GoPro. It just so happened that all of this coincided with one of GoPro’s biggest camera launches: the brand new GoPro Hero 10 Black.
The question is, should this be my first GoPro? Or are all GoPros similar enough that you’d be fine with any of them.
On the surface of things, it doesn’t look like the GoPro Hero 10 is very different from its predecessor, the Hero9. In fact, when you go to the GoPro website and compare them, the differences seem iterative at best. You’ve got stuff like a higher frame rate on a resolution nobody’s going to use, slightly higher res photos, and slightly higher res 240fps footage. Really, that’s all you’ve got for me? For the big Hero 10?!
But then I started using it, and I gotta say, you can definitely feel the difference that the new GP2 processor makes.
Everything you do on the Hero 10 is faster and snappier than it is on the Hero9. The menus scroll smoother, the camera turns on quicker, it starts recording faster, and for an Action Camera, I think speed is super important. When you’re in the moment or when you see a moment hurtling towards your face, that second or second and a half the Hero 10 saves you makes a difference especially if you don’t want the extra battery drain you get from Hindsight.
And this is all exacerbated if you need it to make a living. Nothing frustrates me quite as much as gear being slow or straight up not working during a shoot when you already have a million other things to worry about. It’s almost like the Hero9’s hardware wasn’t designed for the GP1 processor because using it is like trying to run a AAA game on a Raspberry Pi. Even the front screen can’t maintain a smooth refresh rate which is absolutely wild to me.
So, as someone who’s never owned a GoPro before, this alone was almost enough to convince me that the Hero 10 was the right place to start. Then you start to factor in all the amazing things this tiny action camera can do. I know I clowned on the camera’s video resolution a little bit because honestly, nobody’s really going to NEED 5.3K at 60fps. Not only are the files absolutely massive, but it will also drain a whole lot of battery, be an absolute bitch to edit, and limit recording time because…heat.
But none of that detracts from how incredible it is that something THIS TINY can shoot 5.3K at 60fps for any amount of time at all. And it’s not done yet because it can also shoot 2.7K footage up to 240fps, though that’s probably going to be too slow for anything I’ll ever do besides fall off a cliff. So, as a technological achievement, the Hero 10 blows my mind. But unless you’re a skateboarding, base-jumping, wakeboarder with a penchant for using your action camera as a baseball, you’re probably not going to use all of the features all of the time.
I did try out a couple of the recording modes, like 5.3K for more cinematic stuff. And 2.7k at 240fps for the time I went whitewater rafting. But for what I needed the action camera for, which was to document my motorcycle adventures, I mostly shot in 4K 60fps with the SuperWide lens. Partly because beyond sharpness, I don’t really see any other gains in image quality when shooting in the higher resolution. And resolution isn’t really the Hero 10’s main problem.
In my time with the camera, dynamic range and low-light were the two things it struggled with the most. When you’re shooting under direct sunlight, the camera will have trouble with the highlights. This can sometimes cause the bright areas in your frame, like clouds and metallic surfaces, to be blown out especially if you’re shooting on small mountain roads with a lot of shadow.
You can mitigate some of this with tweaking in post and by shooting in GoPro’s flat colour profile. But, Zach, my video editor, tells me that it’s not quite like shooting flat on a proper camera—the details and data just isn’t there for this small camera. But, I am comparing it to much more capable cameras with larger sensors here. For a camera that’s as tiny as the Hero 10, the dynamic range is actually very impressive. Plus, you can also slap on a bunch of different filters like an ND or graduated ND to help with image quality.
Low-light, however, remains the bane of small sensors. I found the best results with capping the actISO at 800 because you get a lot less noise. But if your scenes are really super dark, then capping it at ISO 1600 will be better because you will lose a bunch of detail in the shadows otherwise.
Now, I would like to note here that I’m still very new to GoPro and action cameras in general, so I’m probably not the best person to give you advice on camera settings because I’m still experimenting with it too.
I will however stand my ground when I say that Super View is the best lens to use when filming motorcycle on-board footage. The ultra-wide angle gives a great sense of speed especially if you use a chest mount, and it is also the most forgiving when it comes to positioning your camera. I did experiment with the other lenses, including the incredible Linear + Horizon Levelling, but I felt like its ability to straighten everything out took away from the feeling I wanted to convey when you lean the motorcycle.
I was also surprised by the quality of the microphone. Even with all that wind blasting my face and the camera mounted on my chin, the built-in microphones still gave pretty usable audio.
Perhaps to nobody’s surprise, the GoPro Hero 10 is an incredible GoPro, and I think it’s definitely the best GoPro that has ever been launched. But if we were to go back to my initial question: should this be your first GoPro?
This is where it gets a little tricky because besides the more powerful process or, you can find pretty much everything else about the Hero 10 on its predecessors.
The waterproof body with the built-in mounting pins debuted on the Hero8. I think Hypersmooth is still as awesome 90% of the time on the Hero7 as it is on the Hero 10, and if all you need is a front screen was to check framing, then the Hero9’s display will do that just as well.
Probably the most notable physical change is the new oleophobic lens on the Hero 10 which makes a huge difference when shooting in the rain. But even that’s interchangeable with the Hero9. But what I think the Hero 10 brings to the table is a level of refinement. It’s turning an essentially functional experience into a great experience.
It can do pretty much everything you’d ever want an action camera to do, and it’ll do it better than any other action camera I’ve ever used. What’s more, GoPro didn’t do away with the removable battery the way DJI did with the DJI Action 2 so you can easily swap the batteries when they die down the road. They’re also the same kind of batteries you’d find on the Hero9, and it will also last the Hero 10 about an hour shooting on 4K.
And you can actually get the Hero 10 with all of this refinement for not a whole lot more than the Hero9. You can find them on Shopee for a little over RM2,000 for just the GoPro, with sale prices driving this down below RM2,000.
So, if you don’t already have a GoPro, I think the Hero 10 is a great place to start—it’s definitely where I’d start if I was buying new because of how complete the experience is. However, if you’re already on something like the Hero 7 or newer, I don’t think the Hero 10 is something you should spend money upgrading to. Unless there’s a specific feature you NEED on the Hero 10, I think the Hero 7 in experienced hands will do just fine.