The GoPro Hero 11 Black is an action camera for folks who like extreme activities. What happens when you give it to a reviewer with a more sedate lifestyle? He takes it travelling…
|Compact size opens up shooting possibilities||Can get rather warm on longer shoots|
|Easy or Pro modes make shooting simple||Pushes you towards its cloud model|
|Huge accessory range for any shooting need||Tough work to open up for charging or swapping microSD cards|
|Buy The GoPro Hero 11 Black!||Buy On Amazon|
I’ve had a long and somewhat illustrious tech journalism career, reviewing countless smartphones, tablets, laptops, TVs, personal shavers… even a PC shaped like a fish once.
But when GoPro approached me to review the GoPro Hero11 Black, I was intrigued, but I had something of a problem. You see, while I’ve reviewed a lot of gadgets over the years and have plenty of experience and expertise across them, I can’t say that’s true for the action camera segment at all.
I don’t surf, I don’t climb mountains and I don’t deliberately throw myself out of perfectly good airplanes either – though my co-host on Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News has done that.
Also, it’s not like the GoPro Hero11 Black is an entirely new critter. New to me, for sure, but not new to the market. I’m probably committing some kind of cardinal SEO sin here, but there’s plenty of folks out there with far longer GoPro reviewing memories than me with reviews already out there.
Lots of reviews, so how could I bring a useful angle to it?
Then it struck me that the best approach I could take was as an absolute newbie to the field, using the GoPro Hero11 Black as my exclusive video camera for a set task to see how I got on with it.
I wouldn’t be jumping out of planes with it, but instead I took it on a recent trip to Japan for just a little bit of travel vlogging and walking video enjoyment, seeing where it worked well – and where it didn’t.
Update: Of course, this is the Internet, and there are good write-ups around this kind of concept as well:
The GoPro Hero11 Black is a compact camera, as action cameras all tend to be, measuring in at 71.8×50.8×33.6mm and weighing 154grams.
That’s small and light, pretty easy to hold in the hand, though there’s a vast array of secondary holders, tripods and other enclosures you could pop it into.
GoPro sent me two of them, the chest mounting “Chesty” and the combined tripod/monopod “3-Way 2.0” to test out along with the GoPro Hero11 Black. Someone at GoPro obviously has a dark sense of humour, because it occurs to me that you’d want to be careful Googling those terms with safe search disabled.
At the front there’s the primary lens and a 1.4 inch LCD display for self shot framing, while the rear has a 2.27 inch touch sensitive LCD. There’s a power button at the side and a shooting button at the top. All so good, all so simple to get to grips with.
Hiroshima City walk, shot on the GoPro Hero 11 Black
Of course, the real secret of the GoPro Hero11 Black is that it’s quite durable, because it’s really designed for folks who need a camera that won’t break under more stressful conditions.
I can’t say that I tested this to the extreme; about the worst thing I did to the GoPro Hero11 Black was pop it a couple of times into a backpack that was slightly too heavily laden, but it suffered little in the way of damage as a result.
Luckily, I do know someone who has stress-tested GoPro cameras before; regular Vertical Hold correspondent Alice Clarke wrote this excellent piece about deliberately trying to destroy GoPros for Gizmodo a few years back. True, it’s about the GoPro Hero 10, not the 11, but I feel the point still stands. This is a tough camera.
Tough is good when you’re throwing a camera (or yourself) off a roof or through a breaking wave, but for regular travel vlogging it does present a few challenges. The battery and microSD card slots sit behind a very durable and solid door, and I get why this is so.
The problem here is that if you want to change or charge the battery, or swap out the microSD card, it’s rather tricky to do so quickly if you need to. I honestly resorted to using a coin to help pop the door open, which felt like cheating.
The GoPro Hero11 Black has a number of shooting modes for both stills and video at up to 5.3K resolution and 60 frames per second – or 120fps if you’re happy to “just” shoot at 4K.
Why 5.3K? Basically because it gives you a very comfortable buffer to crop in, as well as enabling a variety of alternative framing modes such as 8:7 if you’re shooting for vertical TikTok style video. Not my thing, but flexibility is always a nice option.
It’s also equipped with choice of shooting modes. Easy mode is, well… easy. It’s there for if you don’t particularly want to get into the nitty gritty of tweaking settings, but I found it a little limiting, so while I couldn’t claim familiarity with older GoPro models, I got on a lot better with the Pro mode that let me actually change settings as needed.
So what about video quality? I was mostly happy with what I could shoot, with a couple of reservations. There’s definitely something to having a dedicated device like this for ad-hoc shooting separate to just using your smartphone.
It’s more compact, I’m less likely to scream if I drop it on the pavement, and what I found was that people tended to react less in public to being shot on it, even though it looks a lot more like a traditional camera. That’s a big plus. Being able to set different frame rates also made it pretty easy to throw in slow motion when needed in editing after the fact.
Silverball Planet Osaka, shot on the GoPro Hero 11 Black
I should mention that GoPro’s entire approach is basically built around smartphone integration, even though it does want to replace the smartphone as your camera of choice, via the GoPro Quik app. This lets you connect your phone to the GoPro for quick transfer of video files, but also – via a subscription – to upload your content to the cloud and even have automatic highlight videos created of what you’ve shot. A neat idea in theory, but it’s certainly not the way my particular workflow goes, and you would need to bear in mind that subscription cost if that worked for you.
All so good so far… but there were areas where the GoPro Hero 11 Black didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Low light shooting is not a strength, even with specific modes for things like starfield shooting (not that I tested this, because Japan’s got way too much light pollution in its cities for that to make sense). You can tweak for low light to an extent via the shutter speed, but this isn’t really where the GoPro Hero 11 Black shines.
Osaka Street walk at night, all shot on the GoPro Hero11 Black
The GoPro Hero 11 Black also gets hot quite quickly if you’re shooting for anything more than a couple of minutes at a time. I understand why, because shooting 5K 60fps involves shifting around an awful lot of frames and its smaller size doesn’t really give it a lot of space for heatsinks.
Still, for my walking videos I’d often find I had a tiny very hot potato to hold – and one that ripped through the battery life quite quickly if so.
Nintendo Store Osaka, shot on the GoPro Hero11 Black
Audio pickup was OK, but not great. Yes, I know, there’s a full-on media mod that adds a microphone and the ability to plug in your own, but I didn’t have that, so can’t comment on it. By itself it’s got passable pickup, but that’s about it.
Battery life is also something of a concern, but it does very much depend on how you’re shooting. For those longer shoots if I wanted to go the whole hog 60fps 5.3K, I’d get less than an hour’s shooting time all up, but that can be extended if you’re happier not thinking about slow motion and taking it at 30fps and lower resolution for sure. The challenge here for me again was that rather stiff (but necessary) battery door. Recharging is via USB-C, but to do so you’ve got to pop it open in the first place.
Kure Station Walk, shot on the GoPro Hero11 Black
In terms of the accessories that GoPro sent my way, I got far more use out of the 3-Way 2.0 Tripod/Grip/Arm than I did the chest mount.
It’s very hard not to feel like you’re wearing a slightly-too-small sports bra when you’re wearing the Chesty, and it did tip my scales of self-consciousness a little too far over into embarrassment when wearing it in public.
Again, though, I can see why this could be ideal if you were the plane-jumping type, because it very much does hold the GoPro Hero11 Black in place very tightly indeed.
GoPro Hero 11 Black: Alex’s Verdict
It’s pretty clear that the action market is still GoPro’s bread and butter, and the GoPro Hero11 Black is very much built around the needs of that audience.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a less useful camera for those of us with more sedate lifestyles, depending on your shooting needs. If what you need is a more robust camera for shorter clip shooting, there’s a lot of appeal here.
GoPro Hero 11 Black: Pricing and availability
The GoPro Hero 11 Black retails in Australia for around $649.95.
Want to help out this site and its sole proprietor? Buy one via the Amazon link below (affiliate link, obviously)
|Buy The GoPro Hero 11 Black!||Buy On Amazon|