GoPro Hero 11 Black review: The action camera gets cranked up to 11September 15, 2022
The action camera originator is back with its eleventh model in the Hero series, the GoPro Hero 11 Black. On first impressions, the new Hero looks identical to both the Hero 9 and 10 that came before it, but don’t be fooled, there’s a lot going on under the surface here.
There’s a new sensor at the core of the Hero 11, and it brings with it some exciting new possibilities. There’s also a move to 10-bit colour and higher bitrates than ever before, which is sure to be welcome news to professional users.
If that all sounds a bit confusing, the brand has also created a simplified mode which allows beginners to get up and running without needing to know all the technical jargon.
So, with these features in mind, it would seem that Hero 11 has set its sights on being the perfect action camera for professionals and newcomers alike. It’s an ambitious goal, so we’ve been putting the new camera to the test in order to find out if it succeeds.
- Weight: 154g
- Waterproof up to 10m / 33ft
- Replaceable hydrophobic lens cover
The design of the Hero 11 Black is identical to the Hero 10 Black, which in turn was identical to the Hero 9 Black. All that’s changed is that the new model has an 11 printed on the side, so there’s not a lot to talk about on the design front.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, as it means the Hero 11 maintains compatibility with GoPro’s expansive lineup of mounts and accessories. It also means that batteries are interchangeable between all three models, which comes in extremely handy when you’re running low on juice.
Waterproofing remains unchanged, and we still get the excellent hydrophobic coating on the lens protector. GoPro’s materials state that the camera is 1 gram lighter than the Hero 10, but our scales measured 0.3 grams heavier. Either way, the two cameras weigh about the same.
We’d love to see a reduction in weight, as this is one of the heavier action cameras on the market, but GoPro has also introduced the Hero 11 Mini which could appease those looking to shave weight without compromising on quality. We’ll hopefully be giving the camera’s slimmed-down sibling a thorough testing in the near future, too.
Video and Photo capture
- Video resolution: 5.3K/60fps, 4K/120fps, 2.7K/240fps
- Photo resolution: 27MP
- HyperSmooth 5.0 and 360-degree horizon lock
- 10-bit colour and 120Mbps bitrate
As we mentioned up top, the highlight here is the Hero 11 Black’s new larger sensor. However, instead of just increasing the sensor size in the hopes of gaining better low-light performance and clarity, GoPro has taken a different approach.
The new sensor has an 8:7 aspect ratio and this almost-square format allows for way more headroom. As a result, the camera gets the new HyperView digital lens, improved HyperSmooth across the board, 360-degree horizon locking and the ability to choose between vertical and horizontal cropping after shooting.
What’s more, the Hero 11 is the first action camera that benefits from 10-bit colour, which means it captures over 1 billion shades of colour, compared to 16.7 million colours in the 8-bit recording mode. This comes in very handy during post-production, especially if you shoot in a flat profile. It also means that Hero 11 footage can be better matched to larger professional cameras, and this is sure to excite anyone working in professional video environments.
For us, the new HyperView lens was one of the standout features. The extremely wide and distorted field-of-view creates an excellent sense of speed and excitement for first-person shots. It’s not something you’d want to use in every scenario, as the distortion is pretty extreme, but when used with a chest mount it looks amazing.
HyperSmooth stabilisation, which was already excellent in the last couple of releases, has been improved even further. The biggest change is the new AutoBoost mode, which automatically activates when the camera gets particularly shaky, smoothly zooming in on the footage to keep things super steady. This is the kind of effect that could only be achieved in post-production on previous models, so having it baked into the camera is an excellent time saver.
Horizon levelling now works with complete 360 rotation, which is effectively like having the Max Lens Mod built right into the camera – albeit with a narrower field-of-view. It’s a cool feature and allows you to throw the camera in the air or strap it onto a car steering wheel while the resulting video stays perfectly stable. That said, in our day-to-day use, it’s not something we’ve often needed.
What we found much more useful was the new 8:7 shooting mode, it’s an excellent addition and, in use, reminds us of the way we edit footage from 360 cameras like the Insta360 X3. Essentially this video mode captures the whole 8:7 sensor, then in the app, you can choose to export it as a 16:9 video for YouTube, a 9:16 for TikTok and a 4:3 for your Instagram grid. It’s a really handy way to cover all of your desired platforms in one shot.
Photos can also take advantage of the full sensor, and you can use the app to reframe your snaps to horizontal, vertical and 4:3 formats. In addition, we’re given a small bump in resolution, now 27MP compared to 23MP on the Hero 10.
The Hero 10 already produced the best footage of any action camera that we’ve tested, and the Hero 11 looks even better thanks to its higher bitrate and colour depth. We think GoPro’s approach was smart here – we weren’t lacking in frame rate options or resolution on the Hero 10, so instead choosing to focus on shooting modes makes a much greater difference in practice.
Features and battery
- Swappable 1720mAh Enduro battery
- New easy-control mode and night effects
- GP2 processor
The Hero 11 Black ships with the upgraded Enduro battery in the box, and when combined with its refined firmware, GoPro says it offers a 38 per cent increase in recording time over the standard Hero 10. In reality, you’ll still likely want to bring more than one battery on a long day shooting, but it’s a definite improvement, which should be even more noticeable in cold weather.
The camera uses the same GP2 processor as last year’s model. On the Hero 10, it impressed us with the menu fluidity and touch screen responsiveness, and we’re happy to see that remains the same here. What has been improved, though, is the way we interact with the menus.
GoPro has realised that after around two decades of constantly adding features, its menus had become somewhat intimidating, especially for those new to the world of video-making. To make things easier for beginners, the camera now ships in Easy Mode wherein you simply choose between the highest quality or extended battery life, and the camera pretty much figures out the rest. Once you’re ready to dive into the more advanced settings, switching to Pro Mode brings back the wealth of settings and configurability we are familiar with.
Also new on this model, are some excellent time-lapse presets for light painting, vehicle trails and star trails. These work excellently, allowing you to capture flashy footage with no post-processing whatsoever.
The Quik app has also seen upgrades including the ability to auto-upload your footage to the cloud at source resolution. The service will also be able to send you AI-generated highlight videos, but during our testing, this had yet to be implemented.
Finally (and this is a big one for us), the pairing process to connect your GoPro to the app seems to have been vastly improved. We’re not exactly sure what has changed, but it now works flawlessly with our Android devices – in stark contrast to previous GoPro cameras.