Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

review

GoPro Hero9 Black

8
£329.98

VERDICT:

8
10
Slightly better than ever before and capable of great things, if a little bulky and complex
Brilliant image quality
Brilliant stabilisation
Rapid touchscreen navigation
Millions of accessories
Getting files off means removing the battery and SD card...
...unless you pay a subscription for cloud uploads
Quite big and heavy
High-res clips need serious processing power for editing
Weight: 
126g
Contact: 

At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.

  • Exceptional
  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Quite good
  • Average
  • Not so good
  • Poor
  • Bad
  • Appalling

The GoPro Hero9 Black takes crisp, colourful and beautifully smooth video at anything up to 5K resolutions. While all the additions and improvements – such as a front screen, a bigger rear screen and amazing stabilisation – are generally excellent, they also make the Hero chunkier than before.

Bottom line: unless you're seriously adventuring, vlogging or doing multiple thrilling sports, the Hero9 Black is total overkill. It will produce lovely images of each terrifyingly stupid close pass you're subjected to, sure, but as a simple traffic cam it's rather large, heavy and expensive.

> Find your nearest dealer here

> Buy this online here

The most obvious change over the Hero8 is the new front screen, which brings the 9 in line with the DJI Osmo that Dave really liked.

The front screen is 1.4in and square, though it can show the actual picture (with black bars) instead of the default cropped one; that's more for checking your perfect white teeth as you record (or even 1080p live-stream).

2021 GoPro Hero 9 Black - front screen.jpg

It can also just show status info, or be switched off completely to save the battery.

2021 GoPro Hero 9 Black - front screen.jpg

That Li-ion battery is bigger than before both in capacity (1,720mAh) and physical size, so your old spare batteries won't work. Still, GoPro says battery life is 30% higher than the Hero8 Black's (despite the extra screen and bigger, 2.27in rear screen), and the Hero9 lasts around 1.5hrs when filming at max resolution from a full charge.

2021 GoPro Hero 9 Black - battery 1.jpg

Good luck playing that back on anything afterwards, though – the higher res/higher frame rate files take a lot of processing power to play and edit. 4K, 2.7K and even 1080p are plenty for YouTube-type uses, though, so there's no need unless quality is your god.

The Hero9 is waterproof to 10m as standard, and dunking it in several Welsh rivers did nothing to upset it. The (removable) flat glass lens cover means underwater shots are undistorted, and it clears water well too. It's actually better at clearing after being submerged than when getting rained on – individual drops can sit there without enough weight to overcome the surface tension.

Still, it's not like a 'normal' lens that needs very careful cleaning – a quick wipe with a gloved finger is all it takes to clear it perfectly.

Speaking of fingers, the rear screen is crisp and bright enough that I once noticed a blur through it. Looking carefully at the lens I found a big fingerprint – and was able to clean it off before it ruined any shots. Impressive.

2021 GoPro Hero 9 Black - rear screen.jpg

The Hero9 has grown physically to accommodate its new hardware, and it's now 71 x 55 x 33.6mm and a rather noticeable 159g. Our basic test unit came (in a useful soft case) with just a simple curved helmet mount, but the 9 is pretty ungainly as it rises 8cm above your lid, with its mass up high.

2021 GoPro Hero 9 Black - case open.jpg

Helmets are a good place to put a camera if you want slow-seeming, unspectacular footage, too. At least the lens can be lengthened (virtually, not physically) from the ultra-wide SuperView (16-34mm) to Linear (19-39mm) or Narrow (27mm) for a more limited field of view – wide angles tend to flatten gradients and reduce the feeling of speed.

> How to buy the best bike camera 

It's obviously better on a bar mount, but it tended to slip and rotate in my third-party mount; you may be better off paying for the official, reliable versions. I personally found the Hero9 a bit intrusive and bulky-looking on the bars, but while its mass was noticeable on the steering when moving the bike around, it was undetectable while actually riding.

Recording quality

The HyperSmooth 3.0 image stabilisation is incredibly impressive, as is the horizon-levelling option – I've heard complaints about the latter being a bit slow and uneven, but for it me it was great. Even deliberately wiggling the camera while panning has no effect, while shaking it does nothing to fluster HyperSmooth either. If things are really rough, there's even a 'boost' mode. Perfect for your favourite potholes.

I haven't mentioned megapixels yet, so here goes: this can record 5K video at 30fps and take 20mp pictures too – it can also, via the app, take 14.7mp stills from video. If you want 60fps you need to drop to a mere 4K resolution, and yes I'm being sarcastic – 4K is still more than a lot of TVs can even display.

It also does lovely smooth slowmo at 120fps, and goes as high as 240fps – again though, you'll need a strong computer to deal with it afterwards.

For info: it's a gentle descent that starts in the open and goes under trees and gets a bit dark, to test how it copes. The road gets rougher, goes over a cattle grid and gets rougher still. The camera was visibly vibrating on its mount (alloy bar mount, plastic connector, everything bolted). It was also shaking hard enough to slowly sag downwards no matter how tight I tried to get it – the camera's quite heavy and it's tall. It would work better mounted upside down, but then you wouldn't be able to see the red blinky light that tells you it's recording.

Niggles

And now for the best bit – complaining – though complaining's not what it used to be, is it? Anyway, getting videos or pictures off this involves removing the battery to get to the fiddly little SD card, then using an adaptor to get it in your computer's card reader (let's assume it has one).

2021 GoPro Hero 9 Black - battery and memory card slot.jpg

You can upload directly to the cloud if you set that up via the app, but doing so requires a paid subscription. Seems a bit stingy – I'd have happily taken a wired transfer from the camera.

I found the touchscreen worked really well, but the sheer wealth of options can make it confusing and occasionally hard to learn. More than once I switched on things and then just couldn't find them again to switch them off, and at first I was constantly switching it to other modes (photo, timelapse) without wanting to.

The stiff power button seems to need a particularly long press to work, as well (a bit irritating with cold hands), though the option to have the shutter button instantly wake the camera in recording mode can help there.

2021 GoPro Hero 9 Black - power button.jpg

Pressing it again saves the clip and shuts everything down once more – useful if you're only filming intermittently. You're more likely to fill the card with junk from accidental presses, of course, so if you're keeping this in a bag you'll be happy it's possible to disable it.

> 10 tips for submitting good quality camera evidence to police

Switch on HindSight and you can even record what happened before you pressed record – the Hero9 quietly writes to a 30-second buffer that's ditched if you don't hit the button. Clever. Oh hang on, I've stopped complaining. Not sure how that happened. Apologies.

2021 GoPro Hero 9 Black - back.jpg

There isn't room to detail every clever thing this does (see GoPro's site, linked up top, for at least some of the details) as it runs the gamut from timelapses to scheduled filming to HDR 'Nightlapse' modes, and really we're looking at its suitability for cycling here.

Though bigger than the Hero8 and noticeably dense, the Hero9 is still pocketable and mounts pretty easily almost anywhere on the bike – it's less than ideal for helmet mounting, and is hardly sleek or aero, though.

It's also fairly complex and expensive if you're just filming the roads (or even gravel tracks and trails), though you won't be disappointed with the image quality. You might be disappointed with just how pedestrian your finest riding looks, though...

Value

At £329.98 it's only 98p more than the DJI Osmo was when we reviewed it, and even the Hero8 beat that for image stabilisation. With its new front screen, the Hero9 matches or beats the Osmo at everything.

If you really just want to record the roads/trails while looking weird, the Techalogic DC-1 Dual Lens Helmet Camera is a very similar weight, films forwards and backwards at the same time, and is only £179.95.

Alternatively, the GoPro Hero7 Black can now be had for around £250, and it's really not far behind the 9 for real-world cycling use.

Conclusion

The GoPro Hero9 Black is a fantastic, high-quality camera – for both video and stills – with some truly impressive software stabilisation and effects. It's very rugged and does just about everything you could want. Whether the sometimes confusing complexity and considerable expense that brings is worthwhile depends entirely on what you plan to do with it; the more things besides simply riding down the road, the better.

Verdict

Slightly better than ever before and capable of great things, if a little bulky and complex

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: GoPro Hero9 Black

Size tested: n/a

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?

GoPro says: "More everything. More resolution: Shoot stunning 5K video that maintains serious detail even when zooming in and capturing 14.7MP frame grabs. Also records in 4K, 2.7K, 1440p and 1080p.

"More pixels: Capture crisp, pro-quality 20MP photos''and use SuperPhoto to make sure you get the shot.

"Max Lens Mod: The new Max Lens Mod delivers unbreakable Max HyperSmooth stabilization and Max SuperView, Our widest-angle perspective yet.

"More screens: A new front display serves up a live preview for easy selfie framing - while the large rear touch screen delivers intuitive control.

"More stability: HyperSmooth 3.0 - now featuring in-camera horizon leveling - is our most advanced stabilization ever.

"More acceleration: Record mesmerizing time-lapse videos with TimeWarp 3.0. Go all out or tap Speed Ramp to slow the action while recording.

"More streaming: Live Stream with HyperSmooth video stabilization or use as a webcam with near limitless mounting options."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

GoPro lists:

New Image Sensor

Video: 5K30, 4K60, 2.7K120, 1440p120, 1080p240 and more

Photo: 20MP

New 1.4in front colour display with live preview and status modes

Larger 2.27in rear touch display with touch zoom

30% more battery life than HERO8 Black with improved cold weather performance

Removable, rechargeable battery

HyperSmooth 3.0 with in-camera horizon leveling

TimeWarp 3.0 featuring Real Speed and Half Speed

1080p Live Streaming

1080p Webcam mode

Power Tools: HindSight, LiveBurst, Scheduled Capture and Duration Capture

SuperPhoto + HDR Night lapse video

RAW photos

Digital lenses

Voice control with 14 commands in 11 languages + 6 accents

3 microphones with advanced wind-noise reduction

Stereo + RAW audio

Larger speaker for improved audio playback

Removable lens cover

Built-in folding mounting fingers

Rugged + waterproof to 33ft (10m)

Compatible with Max Lens Mod, Light Mod, Display Mod and Media Mod for HERO9 Black

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

Strong, rugged and stylish.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

Does just about everything, and produces great shots.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
6/10

Dense enough you'll know it's there.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

If you just want a traffic cam, deduct a couple of points. If you want to record yourself sending road gaps as well, add one or two.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

This is designed to serve so many purposes it's hard to say, but in our context – road cycling – it's brilliant, if total overkill.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The quality, often clever design and the waterproof ruggedness.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Quite heavy, expensive, and the sprawling menus take a bit of learning.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

At £329.98 it's only 98p more than the DJI Osmo was when we reviewed it, and even the Hero8 beat that for image stabilisation. With its new front screen, the Hero9 matches or beats the Osmo at everything.

If you really just want to record the roads/trails while looking weird, the Techalogic DC-1 Dual Lens Helmet Camera is a very similar weight, films forwards and backwards at the same time and is only £179.95.

Alternatively, the GoPro Hero7 Black can now be had for around £250, and it's really not far behind the 9 for real-world cycling use.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes – if I had the money.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

This remains the king of the action cameras, though whether you really need that for road cycling is debatable – the more all-weather adventuring, vlogging or extreme riding you do, the more you'll appreciate its considerable abilities. The addition of a front screen means there's really nothing the competition seriously beats it at – the Hero9 is a little heavy, bulky and complex in some situations, but that's the price of such wide-ranging performance. It's excellent.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 48  Height: 183cm  Weight: 78kg

I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mtb,

Latest Comments