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HomeTechGoPro Hero 12 Black Review: Now With More Pro

GoPro Hero 12 Black Review: Now With More Pro

The GoPro Hero 12 Black, the company’s latest flagship camera, was announced on Sept. 6 and on the surface, it’s not drastically different from the Hero Black 11. But what the camera can do and what you can do with it continues to evolve, and most of the Hero 12 Black’s new capabilities are to help creators and other video professionals.

There are improvements even casual users like myself will appreciate, though, including one small design change that’ll make long-time users and first-time buyers happy. I got a chance to test out the Hero 12 Black for a bit, and these are my first impressions of the top new features in no particular order.

The biggest little change

I’ve been reviewing GoPro cameras since the Hero 3 Plus. Over the years, GoPro has redesigned the cameras to eliminate some accessories. You don’t need a housing anymore for it to survive a crash or go underwater 33 feet, for example. Flip-down mounting fingers were added to the bottom, so a camera cage isn’t needed anymore to mount the camera. And now, GoPro’s added a standard 1/4-20 tripod mount between those fingers so a GoPro-to-tripod mount is no longer necessary just to put the thing on a tripod.

A simple tripod mount is a big deal.

While testing over the years, I’ve lost many GoPro tripod adapters. So not having to hunt one down — or worry about having one with me when I’m out shooting — is great. With a fixed-head tripod, the mounting fingers will still give you more flexibility. But this addition opens you up to more mounting options and the ability to move from a tripod to a GoPro mount without, again, the need for an adapter.

Longer recording times*

Every time a new GoPro is released, I can guarantee the same two questions will be in the comments sections around the internet: “Does the battery life still suck?” and “Does it overheat like the last one?” These are small, powerful cameras, and to stay small, the battery can only be so large, and GoPro is limited by current battery technology like everyone else. Thankfully, GoPro started including one of its Enduro batteries that last longer and perform better in the cold.

GoPro includes one of its Enduro batteries with the Hero 12.

GoPro also made some changes to improve battery life, such as dropping GPS support, which, GoPro told me, wasn’t being used by many people and was one of the first things it recommended turning off to extend runtime. The Hero 12 Black doubles its runtime for shooting at 5.3K/60 and 4K/120 to 70 minutes and 58 minutes, respectively. (It can also get 81 minutes of continuous video at 4K/60, which is what I shoot most of the time.) To its credit, GoPro is upfront about the conditions and settings used for testing (they’re at the bottom of the product page) and quick to mention these times are thermally limited.

The processor and battery give off a lot of heat, especially at higher resolutions and faster frame rates. Combined with a small, waterproof body, the cameras do get hot and will eventually shut down to protect the camera and your shots. It’s the cost of doing business, so to speak.

HDR photos and video

Over the past couple of models, GoPro improved its auto-exposure performance so video adjusts to sudden changes in scene brightness faster and more smoothly. That means the picture coming out of a tunnel on a sunny day adjusts quickly. The Hero 12 Black adds HDR video (photos were previously available) to the mix to bring out shadow detail and control blown-out highlights.

HDR is available at 4K/60 and 5.3K/30 resolutions. The results I got were good, but they did have a slightly unnatural look that’s typical of HDR. Also, it didn’t seem to improve backlit portraits much in my limited testing. Still, it’s nice to have if you’re doing something like going in and out of tree cover because it helps keep the exposure from constantly shifting.

Horizontal vertical video

Shooting vertical video with a GoPro isn’t difficult — unless the camera has to be mounted. Like any other camera, it has to be turned vertically to shoot vertical videos. And since the mounting fingers are on the bottom of the camera, it requires a pivot arm or a similar mount to hold it vertically. With the Hero 12, GoPro introduces a 9:16 framing setting for 1080p and 4K video at up to 60 frames per second. Plus, there’s a new $100 Max Lens Mod with a 177-degree angle of view that’ll capture basically everything from your legs to the sky in one, expansive shot.

The Hero 12 Black lets you choose horizontal (16:9), vertical (9:16) or full-screen (8:7) framing.

Although I’m not exactly a fan of vertical video, it is the preferred choice for social videos. Shooting natively in this format means no awkward mounts, and you can post without editing. However, there’s also the option to shoot in 8:7 full-screen format and then crop it to whatever format you want in GoPro’s Quik app or elsewhere.

Mics made easy

GoPro’s cameras have had Bluetooth for a long time, mainly for connecting to a phone or a remote control. With the Hero 12, you can use it to connect Apple Airpods or another pair of wireless earbuds. The setup is simple: Put your earbuds in pairing mode and tap a Pairing button in the Dashboard (an options menu that opens by swiping down from the top of the screen).

The camera found my Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds almost instantly and took maybe another second or two to connect. This gives you a wireless mic to use when you’re too far from the camera — whether you’re in front of it or it’s somewhere like outside of a car. It can also handle voice commands, and you can hear camera notification beeps, too.

Even more pro

With the Hero 11 Black, GoPro added 10-bit color. If you’ve ever noticed color banding in shots of the sky or anything else with color gradations, 10-bit color improved that, smoothing them out. It also helps with color correction, grading or matching colors to other cameras. For the Hero 12 Black, GoPro added GP-Log encoding with available LUTs (lookup tables). The 10-bit color combined with these features gives users more control over color and dynamic range than any GoPro before it.

Turning on 10-bit color, which is somewhat hidden in the Preferences menu, enables the Log profile.

Adding to that, there is unlimited wireless timecode syncing of Hero 12 Black cameras. The Quik app has a QR code that you just show to each Hero 12, and it will sync the time and date between all the Hero 12s you’re shooting with. This helps make multi-camera editing in Premiere or Final Cut Pro much easier.

Basically, GoPro continues to pump up the features for pros and enthusiasts. But the Hero 12 Black still adds some new options that’ll appeal to any user. Features like HDR video, better stabilization, vertical video and a tripod mount are good regardless of if the camera is for work or pleasure. There’s even an updated Easy mode that simplifies controls for those times when you don’t want to think about every last option available in the Pro mode.

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