GoPro recently released their 12th generation GoPro Action Camera. This iterates on an already strong platform of great optics, features, battery life and a vast array of accessories and mounting options.
Given the close proximity to the release of competitor DJI Action4, this review will reflect on the differences between the two and the changes from the Hero 11.
The GoPro Hero 12 Black is offered as a sports action camera alone, but also as part of a Creators Edition bundle which includes the Max Lens Mod 2 and since getting the Hero 12, I’ve also grabbed the Media Mod accessory at includes an upgraded microphone.
Having spent a few weeks with it, it’s now time for a full review.
GoPro has clearly settled into a comfortable design with the Hero 12 Black offering a very similar design to the Hero 10 and Hero 11 models offered in the past 2 years. There are practical limitations in terms of the size of camera like this, you need a chassis that accommodates the electronics and battery inside, as well as a functional touchscreen on the rear.
To be honest, I don’t have a problem that there’s no revolution here, actually, for those who have bought previous generations, there are big benefits, chiefly among them, that your accessory investments transfer to the latest camera without issue.
I’m not sure why, but GoPro added some small blue flakes to the black exterior, perhaps as a subtle differentiator, but the bigger indicator is the big blue 12 on the side of the camera. By way of design changes, I would like to see them offer a white version or a whole lineup of different colours to support more personalisation.
The Hero 12 continues the front-facing display but lacks the functionality of a front touchscreen that is offered by the new competitor DJI’s Action 4 camera. I really enjoyed the ability to mount the camera, and then interact and change settings on the front screen, this is actually very handy and something I’d love to see GoPro adopt. The front screen is basically just for framing your shot, handy, but it could be more functional.
The rear display is a great interface to switch between shooting modes, reply footage etc. The shutter button is on top, the power button is on the side and mounting clips fold out from the bottom, it’s all very familiar for those who’ve used GoPros before and very approachable for anyone who’s new.
The removable battery also contains the microSD card slot and USB-C charging port and being enclosed the camera is waterproof up to 10 meters, while the ruggedised exterior design is created to withstand drops and bumps common in action sports.
Something I noticed when using the Media Mod is that when you remove the side door to snap on the case, it consumes the USB port, which then means it needs to be removed before you can recharge. This design needs work as those who use the camera enough to invest in the Media Mod accessory, will be pained by needing to disassemble daily just to charge the device.
A key reason that GoPro is so successful as a brand, is that they feature a long list of features and with the release of the Hero 12, it’s easily the best list we’ve ever seen before.
The features enable owners to use the camera in a vast array of use cases in which you can use the camera, along with stunning visual quality.
New GP2 processor
This year, the Hero 12 Black is faster than any GoPro before, thanks to a new GP2 processor that delivers faster performance (both startup times and ending a clip) along with the best image quality than ever before.
The GP2 processor allows the Hero 12 Black to record 5.3K video at 60fps (up from the 5.3k at 30fps on the Hero 11 Black).
Recording in 5.3K allows you to have the resolution necessary to zoom in and still maintain a 4K editing timeline.
If you want to save storage space, or time recompressing to 4K, you can record at up to 120fps. Stepping down to 2.7K lets you jump up to 240fps enabling some serious manipulation of time in post-production.
This is perfect for capturing slow-motion footage, which can be used to add excitement and drama to your videos like extreme sports or scientific experiments.
The front-facing display on the Hero 12 is the same size as the Hero 11 offering, although appears brighter and better colours than before. This display is designed to help you frame the shot when vlogging or taking selfies, but also works great for times where your mounting position doesn’t allow you to get behind the camera to check the rear display.
Before we had the front-facing display, you had to connect from your phone to review the camera position, thankfully this is much easier to do with the front display.
Once you kick off recording, the display allows you to monitor the recording time, and your framing and be across details like the battery life, the storage remaining and the duration you’ve been recording.
HyperSmooth 4.0 image stabilization
There’s definitely some impressive image stablization happening in our smartphones today, but nothing like what’s on offer with the GoPro Hero 12 Black and HyperSmooth 4.0. This magic allows you to strap a GoPro to a skateboard, a scooter, a bike, a GoKart, a car or even a drone and somehow, it looks amazingly stable.
If you spend time which is the smoothest image stabilization system that GoPro has ever offered. HyperSmooth 4.0 is able to compensate for even the most extreme camera shake, so you can capture smooth and stable footage even when you’re running, biking, or skiing.
ProTune for advanced video controls
For most users, the basic video settings will work great, but there are some that use GoPro in a more professional context and for those advanced users you’ll love the ProTune feature. This is a set of advanced video controls that allows you to fine-tune your footage to get the perfect look.
ProTune allows you to tweak settings like exposure, white balance, and colour saturation. Given the wide range of filming locations and lighting conditions you’ll experience, this level of control is important, particularly when trying to minimise post-production editing.
TimeWarp 3.0 for hyperlapse videos
If there are events that play out over longer timeframes, you may want to warp time. With TimeWarp 3.0 you can create a hyper-lapse video that is sped-up to show your audience a lot of information in a shorter period of time. A favourite is to place the camera in the car, connect it to USB-C for power and record a Timelapse of your travels, making memories and creating content you can share online.
Creating TimeWarp on-device is a much more efficient way of achieving this, rather than recording real-time and editing after the fact. While this feature is unlikely to be one you use every day, I am glad it’s available.
Nightlapse mode for low-light time-lapse videos
New with GoPro Hero 12 is a new Nightlapse mode feature that allows you to create time-lapse videos in low light conditions. With Nightlapse mode, you can create stunning time-lapse videos of the stars, the night sky, or anything else that you want to capture at night.
It wasn’t too long ago that filming at night on any device resulted in a grey mess of pixelation, effectively making the footage virtually unusable. Thankfully that story has changed a lot and I’m really impressed with how well the Hero 12 Black does on this front. This is helped by the increased image sensor this year, backed up by some software magic to make sure black is black.
Live streaming, auto-upload and webcam
The GoPro Hero 12 Black can be used to live stream video to YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms.
Often we face a conflict between recording something on our phones and having videos that are on a connected device that allow us to immediately share content with our social family. This is contrasted by the alternative of filming on a device like a GoPro that is more compact, has better mounting options, features a more robust chassis and many other features, but isn’t always easy to share.
If you’re looking for a way to share your adventures live with the world in real-time, then you can certainly do it with the GoPro. If you’re looking for a way to share ad-hoc content you can set the camera to auto-upload to GoPro.com (subscription required) and as long as you have an internet connection (hotspot from the phone), it’ll upload and become shareable.
What started as a beta driver around Hero 8 days, has now evolved into a fully supported GoPro webcam feature. This allows you to use the camera as a webcam, providing much more value out of a camera that most days isn’t being used. Of course, the great optics on the camera translates to great video quality on a call.
My only wish is that this supported a native Windows webcam driver for base functionality across all meeting apps, then made you install the GoPro driver to get additional control over camera features.
When recording yourself with the GoPro, you may have it on a tripod, clip or suction mount which means you are some distance from the camera. Being able to use voice commands to start/stop recording is a big deal and a great feature.
This has also saved a lot of time editing, when things don’t go to plan, you simply say “GoPro stop recording” to end the clip, then “GoPro start recording” to try again.
New TimeCode Sync
Most casual users will only own a single GoPro, however content creators often use multiple cameras to capture the action from multiple angles. This creates a challenge of syncing the footage in editors like Adobe Premiere and DaVinci Resolve.
GoPro added a new Wirelessly synchronize option across multiple HERO12 Blacks via timecode in the Quik mobile app.
It’s perfect for making precise, frame-matched edits in post-production. Use matching timecode clips in Adobe Premiere Pro and other applications that support multi-camera editing for your next project.
New Bluetooth Audio Support
GoPro now supports Bluetooth earbuds (including Apple AirPods) and BT wireless mics during filming, great for interviews or narration. Often subjects can be some distance from the cameras and on-board audio won’t be sufficient, so wireless mic support is a great new feature.
GoPro also lets you use these audio sources to trigger voice commands remotely and hear alerts from your camera.
As discussed above the speed of the GoPro Hero 12 to power on and be ready for recording is better than ever before.
When it comes to the visual performance of the Hero 12 Black, the story is probably a familiar one for those who’ve seen the footage coming from these cameras in the last 1-2 years. It’s amazing, that’s the best way I can describe it.
When we hit record, your one goal is to have the camera capture what you see in the right colours and quality, so you can remember and share what you experienced. The display on the back of the camera is great, but its when you watch the footage back on a large monitor or 4K TV that really shows you just how good this is.
Many of us have images and videos from more than 20 years ago and it’s such a shame this quality of recording wasn’t around back then.
During my time with the GoPro, I really enjoyed the additional battery life on offer here and while I didn’t get to test the cold-weather improvements, those who use their GoPros in the snow will certainly enjoy not having their battery zapped when the temperature drops. In the other direction, I also saw no sign of overheating even when shooting in the top resolution in 20-30 degree temps.
Price and Availability
The GoPro Hero 12 Black is available now and starts at A$649.95. If you are new to GoPro, then you may want to consider the GoPro Accessories Bundle which includes the Hero 12 Black camera, 2 Enduro batteries, the Handler, Head strap 2 and a carrying case which costs A$729.95. These items purchased individually would cost $780.
Another option is the Hero 12 Black + Max Lens Mod 2.0. What typically costs A$819.90 is currently discounted to $785.91.
GoPro offers a 1 Year subscription option at checkout at a 60% discount for the first year. This means what typically costs $69.99 can be yours for A$34.99. A GoPro subscription includes:
- Exclusive savings on cameras
- Unlimited cloud storage of your GoPro footage at 100% quality.
- Up to 50% off mounts, accessories and lifestyle gear at GoPro.com.
- No-questions-asked camera replacement.
To claim a camera replacement, you’ll pay a service fee of $99.00 which is a decent deal given the price of the camera.
GoPro delivers what you’d expect from a hardware point of view, but what I learned after using the MaxLens Mod 2, was that it really exposed to damage. Something I love about having a GoPro is that you can throw it in a backpack, throw it in the console of your car and it’s pretty resilient. The second you switch the lens to the Max Lens for a bigger field of view, it then becomes something you really need to treat gently to avoid scratching.
I hope GoPro can offer some kind of quick cover that snaps on, rather than having to remove it and store it in the protective cover, that gets old quickly.
Another issue with the GoPro experience that I found is the Media Mod blocks the USB port for charging and using the camera as a webcam. This needs to be rethought and offered with a USB passthrough. While you can transfer footage off the camera wirelessly, there is no option to wirelessly charge the camera.
The GoPro Hero 12 Black is easily the best GoPro yet and still my default choice for an action camera. This year, they got a serious competitor with the DJI Action Camera and while they got by with a fairly incremental upgrade this year, next year really needs to be more revolutionary to stay ahead.
The Hero 12 Black offers excellent image quality, smooth image stabilization, and a wide range of features. GoPro’s vast array of accessories has often been a real strength for the brand, but with others leveraging the standard, that advantage is negated.
The price isn’t cheap, but probably justified for what’s on offer here. The Hero 12 comes in at $20 more than the Action 4 camera, but does offer 5.3K over the 4K available with the DJI. For that minor price difference, and decent quality improvement, along with better battery life, I think the Hero 12 is still the move.