GoPro Just Upgraded the Brains of Its Best Camera With the Hero6

 In Technology

You know the old adage, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” That’s just what GoPro is banking on with its new flagship camera, the $500 Hero6. Physically, it looks identical to last year’s Hero5 Black, and that’s not a bad thing. Under the hood, though, there’s a hell of a lot more power.

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For starters, it’s the first time GoPro has developed and used its own specialized processor, the GP1, which sounds like it packs a punch. In fact, it doubles the frame-rates of the Hero5 Black. It shoots 4K at 60fps and 1080p at a whopping 240fps. Practically speaking, that means you can play back your 4K footage at 40-percent speed (if your final edit is at 24fps) and it will be nice and smooth. I’m more interested in the 10x slow-motion at 1080p, though—you can do some amazing stuff with that. It can also shoot 2.7K at 120fps, which should mean solid slo-mo with the ability to punch in or use additional stabilizing software in your editing rig.

Speaking of stabilization, GoPro says the Hero6 has the most advanced stabilization of any of its cameras yet, but it’s still electronic image stabilization—not optical image stabilization. Electronic stabilization typically costs you a little bit of image quality, but the Hero6 can shoot 4K in a squarer 4:3 ratio (think your old tube TV), so it’s possible that it could use that oversampling for stabilization at standard 16:9 video, which would mean it wouldn’t lose quality. Or as much, anyway. GoPro says it’s three-axis stabilization, which would use info from the accelerometer and gyroscope to correct the footage. We’ll have to see how it looks. Currently, the only action cam that uses optical image stabilization is the Sony Action Cam X3000R, which does a killer job stabilizing 4K video without any drop in quality. It would be a feat if the Hero6 can match it.

GoPro claims the camera has improved dynamic range and low-light performance. I’ve actually always found the dynamic range on GoPros to be surprisingly good, so I’m definitely keen to see if it handles backlighting even better than before. The Hero cameras have never been known for their low-light prowess, so this is definitely a place where it can improve. The Hero6 will feature a digital “Touch Zoom,” which I suspect will result in some quality loss, but it may be just what you need for a quick Instagram shot. There’s also RAW and HDR photo modes.

The new camera also promises faster wireless transfer speeds via 5GHz Wi-Fi, which will be a big factor for GoPro’s Quik app to automatically generate edits for you. GoPro claims its Quik Stories feature will now use “computer vision and machine learning” thanks to the GP1 chip, as well as more advanced sensor data, so it should be smarter about selecting the best bits from your clips. I tried the Quik Stories feature when it first came out in late spring, and I found that it struggled to select the best bits from my clips. If it actually improves here, it would be a big step.

Other than that, the Hero6 looks to be much the same as the Hero5 Black—still waterproof down to 33 feet without a case, still has that bright touchscreen on the back, still voice-controllable, still compatible with a gillion mounts, and it’s available today. The Hero5 has been my go-to action camera for the last year, so I’m not mad that this seems to be, essentially, the same camera, just with more horsepower.

Fusion and Karma

We got a couple updates on some of GoPro’s other products, too. For starters, the Fusion, GoPro’s first 360-degree spherical camera, is finally coming out and will cost you $700. It’s available for preorder today but won’t ship until November.

For those not up to speed on it, the Fusion is a dual lens camera that automatically stitches two extreme wide-angle shots together to make a spherical image which can be viewed in VR or scrolled through with your mouse or phone like a live-action version of Google StreetView. There are already several high-end and low-end players in the market (including Garmin’s very nice Virb 360), but this is the first entrant from the most recognizable name in action cameras. It’s been teased since the spring.

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