GoPro has officially pulled the cover off its newest camera, the Hero 8 Black. Available to order starting today, the flagship action camera costs $399, and offers a number of improvements over last year’s Hero 7 Black in terms of image quality, image stabilization, updates to the software, and more.
But one of the biggest changes comes in the form of a new line of accessories that GoPro is calling “Mods,” which let users attach a higher-quality microphone, a small (but powerful) LED light, and a flip-up display. They all seem potentially useful in their own right, but viewed together, they are an obvious attempt to capitalize on the rise of vlogging by offering a more integrated solution than the hacked-together rigs that content creators often resort to using.
The $79 “Media Mod” looks somewhat like a bulked-up version of the “Frame” housing GoPro has sold for the last few years. It contains a small, integrated shotgun microphone, and has USB Type-C, HDMI, and 3.5mm ports all built in, as well as two cold-shoe mounts for attaching accessories, including the two other Mods GoPro announced today.
The $79 “Display Mod” is a 1.9-inch screen that attaches to the top cold-shoe mount and plugs into the Media Mod. It rests flush against the back of the Hero 8 Black, but can flip up to help frame up a selfie shot. Then there’s a $49 waterproof “Light Mod” that can get as bright as 200 lumens. Both the Display and the Light Mods have their own internal batteries, meaning they won’t drain the Hero 8 Black’s battery. (GoPro says it believes there will be interest in the Light Mod as a standalone product because of its power, size, and build quality.) There will also be other Mods in the future, according to the company.
Take the Mods away, and the Hero 8 Black is still a pretty clear class-leading camera. It shoots 4K video at up to 60 frames per second. GoPro says it has made HyperSmooth — the standout feature of the Hero 7 Black — even better on the Hero 8 Black, and it now works in all shooting modes. The camera can even hook into mounts and accessories without needing a separate housing, making it less burdensome and just overall easier to use.
But the Mods are an interesting strategy play from GoPro. They’re a way for the company to try to differentiate the Hero 8 Black from the small amount of direct competition the camera will face. They also may help GoPro win over customers who would have otherwise chosen to shoot with bigger, more expensive cameras and accessories.
If the Mods prove to be successful, they could provide something of a small moat for GoPro, since the main Media Mod has to do a sort of “handshake” with the Hero 8 Black — meaning no one else will be able to make one that works with the camera.
At the very least, though, the Mods will make it possible for customers to stop shooting with cobbled-together solutions, while helping the company capture a small slice of the accessory market it was actually missing out on.
“We saw people essentially hacking the experience, but they obviously wanted to use the core device,” Pablo Lema, who runs GoPro’s product and user experience teams. “But the beauty of it also is that, once you take all this away, you’ve got a camera that you can dunk in the water with and go diving with. That versatility that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
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