GoPro's Hero7 Black sets a new standard for in-camera stabilisation, and the quality of the footage is excellent too. I didn't really have the camera long enough to get to the bottom of everything it can do, but the headline features – great quality footage and best-in-class stabilisation – are easily enough on their own to recommend it, provided you can stomach the top-end price tag.
- Pros: Great footage, excellent stabilisation, easy to use, good connectivity
- Cons: Audio is average; attaching an external mic requires a £50 accessory
Great quality footage with excellent stabilisation
Mostly what you want to know from an action camera review is: is the footage any good? To which the answer here is, yes. It's probably the best I've seen from an action camera. Given that the Hero7 Black is at the top of the market, and GoPro has long been offering really good quality from its cameras, that's perhaps no surprise.
HyperSmooth is the big draw for the Hero7 Black. It's not available on the other two, cheaper, Hero7 builds and it claims to take in-camera stabilisation to a new level. And it pretty much delivers on that promise. Here's a quick compilation of footage from a day-long ride down to Ilfracombe and a dip in the freezing sea the next day. All the footage was taken with the camera in hand, on the end of a £1 selfie stick from Poundland, or attached to a floating handle for the shots in the sea. In total I shot about half an hour of footage across the course of a day, and that was more or less a battery's worth.
The first thing you notice is that the footage really is exceptionally smooth. Using a selfie stick usually smooths out the footage a bit anyway, but in terms of smoothness it's hard to see how most of the opening riding sequence could really be improved in that regard. The quality of the footage (shot in 1080/60 for this video) is excellent too: lots of sharpness and detail, and the camera copes well with shooting into the sun. The Hero7 will shoot in 4K up to 60fps.
If you take the camera in hand – which I did for the café section and some of the riding footage after that – then the footage isn't quite as smooth, but it's still pretty good, and miles better than most action cameras I've used.
The beach and bodyboarding footage is also excellent. What it doesn't show is how much less of a faff it is to have a camera that's fully waterproof without using an enclosure. You get better footage, because you're not adding another lens element, and it's much easier to use the camera, and to see the display. You can use the touchscreen in the water too, although it doesn't work quite so well when it's wet.
Controlling the camera through the buttons and the touchscreen is fairly straightforward, although sometimes I got a bit lost in the menus. Still images, timelapse and burst photos are available as well as various resolutions of video at various shutter speeds. You can have 1080p footage up to 240fps in wide view – although the camera can't do that and HyperSmooth at the same time – and 120fps at 2.7k resolution.
A lot of the modes are accessible from voice commands too: you can tell the camera to shoot in video, timelapse, burst and photo mode. You can turn the camera on and off too. I found that the voice controls mostly worked well, although wind noise when you're riding at speed interferes a bit.
Sound quality is okay from the internal microphone, but audio is never the highlight of an action camera. If you want to connect an external microphone you need both the microphone and GoPro's own adapter, which is another £50. If you're using the Hero7 as your primary camera for anything and being able to hear what's going on is important, you'll need to factor that in. And some kind of frame to hold the adapter and the microphone, too.
The Hero7 is Bluetooth and WiFi enabled, and you can get at your footage in a number of ways. If you have a GoPro Plus subscription ($4.99/mo) then you can auto-upload it to the cloud when you're on WiFi. The subscription has other benefits too: it acts as an insurance policy so you can get a replacement camera if you break yours, and you get 50% off accessories if you buy them from GoPro. No: the Karma drone doesn't count as an accessory, since you're asking.
You can also cut together videos using the QuikStories app on your phone. Pick a bunch of shots, tell the app where the highlights are, pick a theme and it'll bung them all together. I found it a bit hit and miss: on longer shots it was okay, but on shorter bits of footage it too often included bits where I was fiddling with the camera or it was pointing at the sky. I intended to uses QuikStories to put the video above together, but in the end I found it a bit fiddly and reverted to a desktop video app.
For short, quick edits – the clue's in the name, I guess – it's certainly something you could learn to use and get decent results from. The Hero7 Black also allows you to stream live to Youtube and Facebook, which wasn't something I managed to try during testing.
Overall: Expensive but worth it if high-quality footage is a priority
I was pretty sad when I had to give the Hero7 back, and I didn't really have it long enough to get to grips with all of its features. I did have it long enough to recognise that it's a quality bit of kit, though. Not everyone needs their footage to be this good, but I'm sure everyone would like it to be. Whether that's worth £380 of your hard-earned (£330 on gopro.com at the moment) is for you to decide: you can get some pretty good cameras for a lot less than this, but this is the best action camera I've used thus far, and it might well be the best one there currently is.
Best-in-class image stabilisation and great image quality from GoPro's top dollar unit
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road.cc test report
Make and model: GoPro Hero7 Black
Size tested: 62.3 x 44.9mm
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Insanely smooth video.
Gimbal-like stabilization–without the gimbal.
Rugged + Waterproof
Dunk it. Drop it.
Tough as nails and waterproof
down to 33ft (10m)
Say one of 16 commands, including 'GoPro, take a photo' or 'That was sick' to tag an epic video
Makes shots look amazing automatically with HDR, local tone mapping and noise reduction''in any light.
Send it. Live
Stream to Facebook Live, YouTube™ and more to share must–see moments as they happen
Time lapse on the move.
Capture super smooth, stabilized time lapse video''even as you move through a scene
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Feels like a quality unit.
Image quality and stabilisation are unbeatable right now.
No issues during testing.
Weighs about the same as similar cameras; it's heavier than some but that's down to the build quality.
£380 isn't small change but it's a quality bit of kit.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As an action camera it gives the best footage I've seen.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Audio is average; attaching an external mic requires a £50 accessory.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Great footage, excellent stabilisation, easy to use, good connectivity, good build quality, lots of features.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's top of the market, but that's balanced by both the quality of the footage and the feature set.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Hero7 Black offers a noticeable jump in performance over previous cameras from GoPro, and they were pretty good. The quality of the footage is exceptional, and that's what most people will be looking for.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.