GoPro has come a long way since its first action camera in 2004, which carved a little square in the hearts of adventurers and daredevils alike. Continuing its legacy of greatness, GoPro has pivoted away from more niche features that precluded casual creators from the action cam market.
The latest Hero 11 Black action camera implements expanded-upon tools GoPro fans will recognize from Heroes 9 and 10. With a more creator-focused approach, someone who is decidedly not “in action,” like me, has a new option to try. I was excited to get my hands on a Hero 11 Black and I am going to share my thoughts on this nifty little gadget with you.
Hero 11 Black: First Impressions
For those familiar with the GoPro action cam lineup, very little has changed externally with the Hero 11 Black. In fact, the only obvious difference from the outside is the large “11” printed on the side. For folks who already have GoPro accessories like lens filters and other modifications, this is great news, because they will be fully compatible with this newest model.
As far as hardware changes are concerned, the Hero 11 Black’s most notable upgrade is a taller sensor. Capturing in an 8:7 aspect ratio, the new sensor will be most useful when shooting vertical video for popular social media platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok.
The sensor brings a few adjustments for users coming from older models. At a glance, the Hero 11 Black can record 5.3K video at 60 fps and includes a new ability to shoot in 10-bit color. GoPro’s proprietary Super View mode is now known as Hyper View—enabling a wide-angle 16:9 capture with a great 5K resolution boost. Still image capture has jumped from 23 megapixels to 27, which is a welcomed change for GoPro fans of still photography. Even slo-mo has been refurbished with a bump up to 4K.
Sensor aside, the Hero 11 Black benefits from a stronger and tougher battery that is designed to withstand more extreme weather. Short and finicky battery life has plagued the Hero line for a while, and this improvement could not have come at a better time. I say this because the camera has several new modes and shooting features that are as exciting as they are power consuming.
Hero 11 Black: Setting Up
GoPro’s “Easy Controls” make the action camera’s setup right out of the box incredibly efficient. Upon powering on, users are met with three different profiles that have optimized settings to best complement specific shooting objectives. While “Extended Battery” is the middle-ground default profile, users can also choose to prioritize capture quality or battery life with the respective “Highest Quality” or “Longest Battery” profiles.
This feature feels especially appealing for digital creators who are new to professional cameras. The graduation from a smartphone to an action cam is significant, but the streamlined interface of the Hero 11 Black helps mitigate the learning gap so new users can hit the ground running. Easy Controls also use very self-explanatory language, so the initial unboxing is basically a hands-on orientation.
Users who want to enjoy the full range of the Hero 11 Black will need to utilize Pro Controls, which are easily accessible by swiping down. Here, you can mess around with the aspect ratio, resolution, and the width of the lens, among other more nitty-gritty specifications.
For my own edification, I spent some time exploring the 8:7 aspect ratio capture settings to see how exactly the full-frame recording worked with the new sensor. Pro Controls are also necessary for accessing the swathe of flashy new camera modes that I will get into shortly.
Other shooting settings must be changed via the Quik App. GoPro veterans are no strangers to this application, which facilitates important functions like quick editing, extracting frames, and sharing content with others. The Quik App is also integral for cropping your media in different aspect ratios. With all of this in mind, the app is where users can adjust the bit rate, shutter speed, white balance, etc.
In total, getting the Hero 11 Black ready for action was a breeze. Controlling this little guy is extremely intuitive and utilizes familiar gestures for those who work with smartphones. The language used for controlling and toggling is simple and self-explanatory. Even the add-ons and more advanced features don’t feel like much work at all. These qualities coalesce to realize a product that is well-suited for beginners, especially digital natives who already know their way around a smartphone camera.
Hero 11 Black: New Camera Modes and Features
GoPro has rolled out some exciting new camera modes and features for the Hero 11 Black that are definitely worth mentioning.
First is the Hyper View Mode—the refurbished version of Super View Mode we have seen in previous GoPro models. Working with the taller sensor and different aspect ratio, Hyper View stretches what you capture to a 16:9 frame that is perfect for platforms like YouTube.
Hyper View Mode capture most closely resembles footage taken from a flying drone and is effective for executing a dramatic wide view depending on how you use it. I say this because, when walking with my Hero 11 Black, I found objects warping when passing by the outer periphery of my sensor and looking wonky while in Hyper View Mode. Capture quality is great overall with that illustrious 5K boost, but I suspect this mode works best when the GoPro is mounted on a fast-moving vehicle traversing some scenic, otherworldly terrain.
For content creators, the new nighttime time-lapse effects might be a compelling reason to get a Hero 11 Black. These effects are great for adding diverse filler to the creative Rolodex. With three to choose from, Hero 11 Black users can capture Star Trails, Vehicle Light Trails, and experiment with Light Painting.
As a city dweller, I knew pretty quickly that I wouldn’t be able to play with the Star Trails effect. I did, however, prop up the action cam on a street-facing window to capture some psychedelic nighttime scenery. Those who have shot star and vehicle light trails will attest to how difficult the process can be, but GoPro has simplified this undertaking to the press of a button, and it actually works.
Like many of the other features I have discussed so far, the night effects are incredible because they make sophisticated shooting techniques accessible to users of all skill levels. These effects are a dream come true for vloggers looking to create more elevated and variegated content and can be fun for all kinds of creative experiments.
Users can opt to use the full-frame recording feature for total capture and avoid messing around with camera modes entirely. Full-frame recording is notably not a camera mode for the Hero 11 Black, although, technically, it can be used for capturing image stills. This feature is worth discussing because it will likely present a bit of a learning curve for other users, the way it was for me.
Basically, full-frame recording enables Hero 11 Black users to record absolutely everything the sensor can see, and then apply the desired aspect ratio to your footage afterward via the app. Working in tandem with the powerful upgraded sensor, this is a function that works well with no discernable quality downgrading in post.
While this feature is incredible, it also takes some getting used to. You never have to worry about missing a moment as long as your sensor is generally facing the action, unlocking untold potential for snagging a shot you might’ve missed with a normal camera. On the flip side, most of us are used to framing everything when recording, so not needing to can feel disorienting. It’s worth spending some time messing around with the full-frame function at home prior to going out for a shoot just to be completely acquainted with how it works.
Hero 11 Black: Verdict
The Hero 11 Black is a good camera or a great camera, depending on your skill level and how you intend to use it.
For new creatives, especially those who have never worked with a professional camera before, this action cam is definitely worth considering. At a snug mid-range price for a good camera, you are also benefiting from a storied lineage of adjustments to yield a product that is basically perfect for you. Will you be learning practical photography and videography skills? Not so much, but that might not be your primary objective anyway, and that is totally okay.
New creatives also have a wealth of educational resources at their fingertips, because the GoPro community is vast, savvy, and friendly. Whether you are on YouTube or browsing the forums, no question you have about the Hero 11 Black will go unanswered—which is not always true about other cameras.
If you already have a Hero 10 or even a Hero 9, I think upgrading to the 11 is most sensible if your primary focus is social media. Video specs for the Hero 11 Black are almost identical to the Hero 10, while other updates like the ability to capture RAW and JPEG files is sequestered to still image bursts, and not video, for now.
If you find yourself disappointed by your current model’s coloring or battery life, those are also great reasons to make the jump. The 10-bit color upgrade is noticeable, especially when editing, while my battery lasted an impressive 2 hours and 15 minutes with intermediate usage of different features while in the field.
All told, my experience with the Hero 11 Black was a great one. Compact, user-friendly, and powerful, taking all the new creative features out for a spin really showed me how easy using a camera can be.
Are you thinking about getting GoPro’s Hero 11 Black? Let us know in the Comments section, below!