GoPro Hero4 Black review: No longer top dog

Nathan Spendelow Richard Easton
23 Nov 2016
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The GoPro Hero4 Black has fantastic image quality, but has since been superseded by the Hero 5 Black



Sensor: 1/2.3in CMOS, Sensor pixels: 12-megapixels, Max recording resolution: 4K (30fps), AV connections: Micro HDMI output, 3.5mm microphone to Mini USB (optional), Size (HxWxD): 41x59mmx30mm, Weight: 89g (152g with housing), Warranty: One year RTB

Before we begin, it's worth dropping a quick mention that the Hero 4 Black is no longer the action camera flagship. This year's Hero 5 Black is the new action camera to beat. It's a completely new look, with a fully waterproof chassis up to a depth of 10m, and a brand new touch display.

While video and image quality is roughly the same, for roughly £50 more than the Hero 4 Black you can pick up the Hero 5, with Electronic Image Stabilisation, wind noise reduction and a far greater microphone. The Hero 4 Black is still a fantastic action camera and one of the best, but the Hero 5 slightly edges ahead thanks to its wealth of fancy new features. All that being said, you can check out my original GoPro Hero 4 Black review below.

GoPro Hero 4 Black review

At first glance, there’s not a lot to separate the GoPro Hero4 from its predecessor, the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition. This is mostly a good thing, as it means compatibility with a wide array of accessories and mounts; the camera’s incredible popularity means it’s easy to find all manner of compatible kit from GoPro itself and aftermarket manufacturers.

The Hero4 is available in two versions: Silver (£279) and Black (£359). The Black model has a faster processor and can shoot in either higher resolution or higher frame rates. The Silver has a built-in touch display, which is handy for framing your video and photos, and for providing a more intuitive method for changing settings. An optional LCD Touch BacPAC accessory (around £60) brings similar features to the Black edition. The Hero4 isn’t waterproof without its separate casing, so you’ll lose any touchscreen functionality as soon as it’s enclosed.

If you're after a smaller action camera, then you might want to consider the GoPro Hero4 Session. The newer diminutive cube-shaped camera is considerably smaller and lighter than both the Silver and Black and also benefits from 10m of waterproof protection without the need for a separate case. The Session does lack some of the higher resolution and bit rate settings of the Silver and Black, however. It also has an integrated, non-replaceable battery, which could also prove a problem for those out on long shooting session who are used to swapping batteries in the field.

Still, now that it's officially available for a reduced £249 it's a valid option if you prefer a less bulky action camera. If you're only after an entry-level camera or have a tighter budget, you can buy a Hero+ LCD, which is limited to Full HD resolution and doesn't have the same spread of features. GoPro itself has stopped selling these on its website, but you can pick up one at Amazon for around £220, but the price savings aren't big enough to warrant choosing this over a GoPro Hero Session.

GoPro Hero 4 Black no case

The casing for the Hero4 Black is the same as previous GoPro cameras, using the same spring-loaded buttons that still take a bit more effort than I'd like to press. You still have to remember each button’s action for navigating the menus, too.

You get two case back doors, with the standard door providing waterproofing to 40m. The skeleton backdoor doesn’t protect from the elements but the open back allows for better audio capture. There are mounts for flat, curved and vertical surfaces included in the box, but you’ll need to put the Hero4 in its case to use them.

A mini USB, a micro HDMI connection and a microSD slot are all hidden behind a cover. Annoyingly, the cover detaches completely and is small, making it easy to lose whenever you charge the camera. A hinged flap would be preferable as this was a problem I had with the Hero3 as well. GoPro has since acknowledged the issue with its newer cameras, with the Session and Hero range now all using hinged flaps that don't get lost so easily. The mini USB port can be used for charging, copying images and footage to a computer or used with an optional 3.5mm microphone adapter.

If you're mixing and matching GoPro cameras with newer models from the Session onwards, it's worth noting that newer GoPro cameras now use Micro USB for syncing and charging, which is preferable. It does now mean carrying two different cables if you have older cameras, however. It's safe to assume all future GoPros will now use Micro USB.

A very functional iOS, Android and Windows Phone companion app lets you control the camera’s settings as well as play back captured video via Wi-Fi direct. Once connected it was intuitive to use and was preferable to changing settings directly on the camera itself. The app also lets you copy footage from the Hero4 for sharing and uploading to social networks.

The app has a live view, which makes up for the lack of an LCD display on the Black edition. There’s around a half second delay between the camera and phone; it’s not quite as quick as Sony’s HDR-AZ1 but it’s not too jarring and certainly helps with framing shots. With Wi-Fi Direct turned on, Wi-Fi will remain active even if you turn the Hero4 off, with a blue light blinking on the front of the camera to let you know it's still on.

This means you’re able to remotely turn the Hero4 back on from your smartphone, but also means you’ll need to manually disable Wi-Fi to ensure the battery doesn’t drain while you’re not using the camera. I forgot a few times and came back to a dead battery, which was unfortunate. Holding the settings button on the side quickly toggles the Wi-Fi on and off, which is convenient provided you remember.

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