This article was sponsored by GoPro who also provided the GoPro 9 Black. Thank you GoPro for supporting ADVrider.
GoPro has been around for years, and their cameras are spectacularly popular. I recently updated my own with a pair of GoPro 8 Black models.
I previously owned a GP3, or maybe a 4—I forget which. I had bought loads of batteries for it because I always forgot to turn it off. But I hated the menu structure on the early models so much that I rarely used the thing. I thought I would never buy another. However . . . after seeing a few detailed videos of how good the 8 was, I jumped back in—and I love how easy it is to use.
So why am I writing this review about the GoPro 9 Black?
Well, GoPro asked me to. They invited me to test a 9, and to be honest, my initial response was not in the affirmative. But they didn’t back off. They suggested I might like the 9 Black a lot more than the 8. Just take it and see, they said.
So I took it, just to see.
They sent me the basic kit, which included the camera, one battery, one cable, and one mount.
Side by side with the 8 Black, it’s slightly bigger, mainly due to a bigger battery, which gives about 30% more user time, and the new front screen, which is a great addition if you want to film yourself and know you are actually in the shot and not cutting half your head off.
The rear screen is touch-sensitive, the front screen isn’t, but can be changed from a mini-monitor to an info output display easily in the menu if you prefer it set up that way.
So the big question: Why as a motorcyclist would you want a Hero 9 Black versus every other camera out there, including other GoPro cameras or your phone, which probably has a pretty good camera on it and works in a way that you are already familiar with?
A few reasons:
- Video quality. 5k is on a whole other level, or if you want lesser quality it also has 4k, 2.7k and 1080P, and it can shoot in 24, 30, 60, 120, and 240 frames per second, depending on how you want or need your frame rate to look, maybe for doing extreme slow motion stuff to see incredible detail.
- Battery life. Obviously, that’s a big plus, but that works for everyone. The difference between us (motorcyclists) and most users is that with the addition of a USB outlet on the handlebar, we are sitting on top of a big charger, and we can, if we want, run it all day long. Most other users on skateboards, skis, mountain bikes, unicycles, etc., rely on the battery.
- Hypersmooth. The 9’s switchable image stabilization feature is remarkable. It can smooth out the roughest track with massive amounts of vibration that would otherwise leave you with unwatchable footage. If you don’t make sure part of your motorcycle is in the shot, people might think a drone took the shot, flying next to the rider.
- Horizon Leveling. The 9 Black uses the horizon as its base level and holds it steady as the action moves (to a limit of about 45 degrees—but can be made to be 360°, see the video below for the upgrade). With Horizon Leveling the horizon is stationary and the action moves inside the frame. Watching motorcycle footage, this actually gives you the feeling of leaning into corners. This video gives great examples of all the differences. Although this feature is also available on the 8 Black, the footage can be used straight from the camera on the 9 Black, but with the 8 must be first run through an app.
- One button touch. It starts recording for a set amount of time, then turns itself off; this isn’t new but it does make it easy to hit record when you are riding (although there is a couple of seconds delay as it powers up). Now you won’t have to go through hours of footage to find “that 10 seconds.”
- And finally, and especially, Hindsight.
Hindsight is so new that even video reviewers missed it in the first reports on the Hero 9 Black. Although, to be fair, in the early models a software update was needed before Hindsight appeared in the camera settings. If you have a 9 Black and no Hindsight, do the update and it will appear.
The camera must be turned on and not recording to use Hindsight, which creates a loop of recording set at 15 or 30 seconds, set by you in the menu, on the SD card. When something important happens before you can start recording, you say, “GoPro start recording,” or you hit the record button, and the recording that starts then will incorporate the previous 15 or 30 seconds from the loop-recording into the clip.
Loop recording isn’t a new concept, but the way this is set up has made it easier than having to search an undetermined length clip or having to change SD cards if you don’t want the previous clip recorded over.
Things can happen quickly for motorcyclists, and this feature will make sure you don’t miss the shot when they do. I had a grizzly stand up in front of me in Alaska last year. But you’ll have to take my word for it. The camera wasn’t turned on.
A water crossing, a rocky hill climb, a wheelie done well or badly, a near-miss with an animal, you get the idea—and with Hindsight, you get the shot.
If you’ve been around this site for a while there is a common saying that pops up:
“Photos or it never happened.”
With a Hero 9 Black you will NEVER miss that shot, because of Hindsight. For real-world situations, that incident in traffic, maybe you are cut off by a driver, or an accident happens in front of you, or to you, now you can go back in time and have it recorded.
Would Hindsight be useful to prove your case to a police officer at the scene, or in court? You’ll only know if you have it. The advantage we as motorcyclists have is that we can keep the batteries at full charge right there from the handlebar or we can carry spare batteries in the tank bag. Something to think about?
I mentioned this to a fellow rider and his immediate response was, “Wouldn’t it be great if in a future update GoPro figured out a way to know an impact or quick deceleration happened and made it turn on by itself and record the ‘Hindsight’ and onwards in case you weren’t able?”
Key differences between the Hero 8 Black and Hero 9 Black:
- 9 Black is slightly bigger and heavier
- 9 Black has better resolution, almost double the sensor resolution of the 8 Black, which enables it to capture up to 5K video and 20.2MP photos
- 9 Black has improved battery life over the previous models by about 30% or more, but with a totally new, bigger battery
- 9 Black has a front display making it a lot easier to set up shots if you want to be in them; the 8 didn’t have this option
- 8 Black has a wider field of view, but the 9 with a lens mod can exceed the 8
- The rear touchscreen on the 9 Black is bigger than on the 8 Black
- Hypersmooth (image stabilization) is on both but the boost on the 9 allows you to shoot at 5k vs 4k on the 8
- 9 Black has horizon leveling in-camera, 8 Black has it, but has to be done in the app
- Hindsight, only in the 9 Black
- Scheduled capture, 9 Black has built-in timers so it can start recording even when you’re not there, or awake . . . sunrise time-lapse, or a Milky Way shot in the middle of the night, anyone?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, for them or against them.
All specs are taken from the GoPro Website