GoPro just officially announced the Hero 5 Black, the company’s first flagship action camera since the Hero 4 was unveiled in 2014. The company also announced the Hero 5 Session, and update to the original Session — the small, cube-shaped camera that was released last summer. The cameras were unveiled at the launch event for the GoPro Karma drone at Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Northern California, and both are compatible with GoPro’s first quadcopter. They’ll be available October 2nd.
The $399 Hero 5 Black and the $299 Hero 5 Session share a surprising number of specs and traits. Both shoot 4K footage at a max of 30 frames per second, and both are water resistant out of the box up to 33 feet without a housing. Each camera also has voice control, with seven languages supported at launch. And both are capable of automatically backing up footage and photos as part of the new GoPro Plus cloud-based subscription service (more on that in a bit).
There are important differences between the two cameras, though. The Hero 5 Black looks like a more rugged Hero 4, shoots 12-megapixel photos, comes with a 2-inch LCD touchscreen, features built-in GPS, and can capture RAW photos and Wide Dynamic Range video. The Hero 5 Session, on the other hand, shoots 10-megapixel photos (likely thanks to a smaller sensor), and there’s no screen, no GPS, and no RAW or WDR modes. (The Session will still have GoPro’s ProTune video mode, though, which allows users to capture a flatter image that is easier to color-correct when editing.)
GoPro is also touting a simpler menu system for both cameras, with one-button operation (like the company offered on the Hero 4 Session). The Hero 5 Black even has dedicated buttons for photo and video recording. Each camera comes with stereo microphones, too. GoPro says the new Hero 5 cameras will also have "professional grade" electronic, or digital, image stabilization. It’s something GoPro has never offered before, but it’s also one of the few noticeable drawbacks considering Sony just announced that the new cameras in its Action Cam lineup will have mechanical image stabilization.
Alongside the cameras and the Karma drone, GoPro also officially announced GoPro Plus. Nick Woodman, GoPro’s CEO, has been teasing this cloud storage service for a while now, and details of how it works leaked last month. It essentially goes like this: users pay a $4.99 per month subscription fee, and when they plug in their cameras at home the footage and photos they shot will start uploading to the cloud. Those files can then be accessed anywhere via GoPro’s mobile editing apps (Quik and Splice), the newly refreshed mobile app (now known as Capture), or the company’s desktop app. The desktop app, by the way, got updated and rebranded today. It will now simply be known as the desktop version of Quik, and GoPro has added the autonomous editing features I got a preview of in this story from May.
The drawback to GoPro Plus is that users will only be able to download the files and edit them locally — you can’t start editing a project on one device and pick it up seamlessly on another. The GoPro Plus subscription does include a library of royalty-free music, as well as 20 percent off any camera mounts and accessories. It will be available starting September 29th.
The throw-in features of GoPro Plus sort of tip GoPro’s hand on how it will have to market these new cameras. The flagship features of both Hero 5s aren’t really unique — you can find most of them from competitors like Sony or Garmin — but the strong top-to-bottom experience that GoPro’s always offered gets even stronger with today’s announcements. Now it’s just a matter of whether that beefed-up ecosystem and the announcement of Karma will be enough to rescue the company’s ailing stock price.