Last year GoPro did a complete overhaul of its Hero action camera lineup with the GoPro Hero9. It added a front-facing screen, 5K filming, and more battery life. This year’s GoPro Hero10 is an iterative update that builds on the foundation laid by the 9. But while the $500 Hero10 looks almost identical to the Hero9, there is one big change that sets the stage for much bigger things to come.
Although GoPro claims the Hero10 is 3 percent lighter than the Hero9 (153g vs. 158g), it feels identical in my hands. The one distinguishing feature between the two models is the blue labeling on the Hero10, versus the silver decals on the Hero9. There is a grippy, rubber finish; stowable mounting prongs; two physical rubber buttons for power, mode switching, and recording; two screens; and a latching battery, USB-C port, and microSD card slot compartment. GoPro claims the removable lens covers are more scratch resistant and water-repelling, while at the same time producing less ghosting. I didn’t have any trouble with my Hero9’s lens cover, but more protection is always welcomed.
Internally the GoPro Hero10 is getting a big upgrade with the new GP2 processor. This is the first processor change to the Hero lineup since the Hero6 that came out in 2017, and it provides a much needed speed update.
First, GoPro claims the Hero10 can upload footage to your phone or the cloud 30 percent faster because of the GP2 processor. And for the first time in the Hero lineup, you can plug your GoPro directly into your phone for 50 percent faster uploads to your device via GoPro’s Quik app.
Second, the front screen now has a higher frame rate, even though it is exactly the same hardware as the Hero9. In most modes you will now see a 30fps image on that front screen. I also noticed there is a lot less lag on the front screen when actively recording.
But more importantly, the third speed boost, and the most notable one, is that the Hero10 can capture content quicker. In photo mode, the Hero10 both takes and saves a photo much faster than the Hero9. I was able to take three HDR photos on the Hero10 before a single photo was done processing on the Hero9.
That speed is also noticeable when stopping a video recording, where the Hero10 is able to save the recorded video faster so you can get back to the live view and menus. All of that being said, there is still a lag that I find especially annoying when attempting to snap photos. The system is still far from perfect for a quick photo capture. But with higher resolution screen grabs from the video you don’t have to worry about snapping stills at all.
The Hero10 can grab 19.6-megapixel photos from 5.3K 4:3 video. That’s up from 12-megapixel frame grabs in 4K 4:3 video on the Hero9. In a 16:9 frame, the Hero10 can provide up to 15.8-megapixel photos from 5.3K video, where the Hero9 maxed out at 14.7-megapixel photos from 5K.
Although this is the same 23.6-megapixel sensor that was used in the Hero9, GoPro claims the GP2 processor can get more out of it. The Hero10 takes photos in four modes: live burst, which continuously captures images as you hold down the shutter; burst, for a set amount of photos taken in one burst; night; and standard photo. There are also four color processing options that range from SuperPhoto for the most in-camera color and contrast processing, to RAW that provides the flattest image for post color work. Across the board, the photos are punchy in perfect lighting but take on a lot of grain in lower light, even in night mode. I’ve never viewed a GoPro camera as a photo-first tool, and even with the higher megapixel photos, this camera is best in video mode.
Photos taken with the GoPro Hero10
The Hero10 can shoot 5.3K video at 60fps, 4K at 120fps, and 2.7K at 240fps. That is a frame rate boost at every resolution compared to the Hero9, and that 5.3K60 setting is really great for dreamy shots of water or snow flying.
GoPro is also releasing HyperSmooth 4.0, GoPro’s in-body stabilization software, with the Hero10. Long gone are the days of needing a gimbal for a GoPro. There are three stabilization levels: boost, standard, or off. Boost crops your image the most but provides the best stabilization. With HyperSmooth 4.0 also comes an extended tilt limit of its horizon leveling feature, letting you get more sideways while still maintaining a level shot.
If GoPro continues to improve this feature, I could see there being a day where needing to mount your GoPro level to the horizon is no more, much like Insta360’s micro action camera, the Go 2, that supports 360-degree horizontal leveling.
The Hero10 also uses the same batteries as the Hero9, although at the highest capture resolutions, like the new 5.3K 60fps, you will see greater battery drain. I was needing two batteries to get through a full day of casual filming in these high resolutions as opposed to one battery for a day of casual filming with the Hero9.
The Hero9 and Hero10 footage is almost indistinguishable once exported. With the Hero10’s 5.3K footage there is a teeny-tiny bit more room to punch in, but unless you are a 60fps super fan, I think most Hero9 users won’t need to upgrade this year. GoPro claims the GP2 processor also allows for local tone mapping and 3D noise reduction in it’s video algorithms, not just in photos, which should provide for better low-light performance and better detail in small, typically tough to film places such as blades of grass. But while I found the Hero10 to have slightly better low-light performance, there is still a lot of smoothing and noise happening to the image, and there is still a graininess to the image when lighting conditions are not perfect. Check out our video above for loads of samples where you can see that this camera still performs best on sunny, blue sky days.
The last change in image is in the color differences between the two cameras. This year GoPro is natively setting the Hero10’s color preset to natural as opposed to vivid, or “GoPro Color” on the Hero9. Although, again, you really have to pixel peep to see a difference between the two settings.
There are a few features I didn’t get to test in my time with the Hero10 that will be rolling out in a large software update coming on November 16th. The Hero10 will be getting Max lens mod support, a few additional resolutions including 24fps at all resolutions, and the SuperView lens at 5.3K 30, 25, and 24fps.
The Hero10 remains a great action camera because of its size, durability, and 5.3K 60fps abilities. There is simply no other camera this size that is this powerful, and if you currently own a Hero8 or older, the Hero10 will feel like a huge upgrade. But I don’t think it’s a big enough leap forward for Hero9 users unless you need that buttery 5.3K 60fps or have to have the latest and greatest.
The Hero10 is also very expensive. It retails for $500 without a GoPro subscription, $400 for existing GoPro subscribers, or $400 for new subscribers with an included year of GoPro subscription. This is the most expensive Hero camera GoPro has put out since it last updated the processor in the Hero6. For a hundred dollars less, the Hero9 is still plenty capable and still available.
But, with all of that being said, the GP2 processor sends a very clear sign that GoPro isn’t done pushing the limits of this small, action camera. When GoPro released the GP1 processor in the Hero6, GoPro was facing an incredibly rocky future after its failed attempt at making a drone and a gimbal. GoPro decided with the GP1, its first custom-made processor, to slim down the company and focus solely on Hero Blacks, 360 cameras such as the Fusion then the Max, and its subscription service. Instead of going big in many directions, it set out to make a select few really great products that had enough features for the pros but were easy enough for a hobbyist to pick up, too.
The result is a balanced camera that provides plenty of resolutions for any task, an easy-to-use UI, and a subscription service worth its price. If GP1 is any indicator of how far GoPro can push its systems, the next few years looks very promising for the Hero lineup.
Photography by Becca Farsace / The Verge