Unboxing the Hero 9
We finally got our hands on the brand new GoPro Hero 9 and wanted to share our first impressions to help you make a choice about upgrading. We'll do a full review in about a month after we've had a chance to shoot some real video with the Hero 9. If reading isn’t your thing, our YouTube review is available at the bottom.
What about image stabilization?
For our initial test, we try out GoPro's updated Hypersmooth 3.0 and the brand new Horizon Leveling function in an enduro riding setting. As an initial matter, it's worth noting that the Hero 9 is substantially larger in just about every way than the Hero 8. The form factor is lager on all dimensions, the battery is larger (which is cool), the screen is larger, etc. It's fine, except it means all your cases, media mods, and other external accessories from Hero 8 and earlier probably won't work with the 9.
For everyday use, the Hero 9 offers only minimal image stabilization improvements over the Hero 8. The Hero 9 Horizon Leveling works as billed, tilting the view to keep things level up to about 32 degrees. For enduro riding, this creates a drone like effect where both the bumps and the lean of the bike are smoothed out dramatically.
We didn't like that you're almost completely removed from the flow of the vehicle. However, we're super excited to try Horizon Leveling in our sailing videos as with the Hero 8 and prior models, it's hard to tell how high you're getting when flying a hull. Here's where we expect the new functionality to really shine.
Bigger is better, sometimes
It’s important to note that the Hero 9 is larger than the Hero 8 in just about every way. While it’s got a cool oversized front selfie screen and better battery life, it also won’t fit most of your existing cases or mods. The form factor of the Hero 9 is substantially larger, so you will need a new media mod, new diving case, and possibly a new helmet mount (depending on the angle you like to use).
The battery is huge, so old batteries are not compatible. Neither are most of your charging accessories like docks or battery holders.
There are a couple of bugs to watch out for as of this posting.
The touch screen sensitivity is wonky, GoPro has promised an update soon.
There are several limitations to Horizon Leveling that you need to consider before buying the camera. First, it works best if you also buy the Max View lens, which is quite expensive and may not offer the perspective you prefer. Second, it'll only level up to a max angle (which makes sense, because after 45 degrees, the view will rotate orientation instead of leveling).
GoPro broke the audio input adaptor because of some software issues they were having around the upgraded Hero 9 media mod. They've promised a fix, but for now, you either buy the media mod, or live with the internal mic (which we all know is pretty terrible).