In what has become a somewhat predictable annual release schedule, GoPro’s new Hero11 camera doesn’t deviate much from the formula. If you’re already a GoPro fan, you’ll probably like what’s on offer here.
The exterior of the GoPro Hero11 Black is essentially identical to last year’s Hero10 Black. If you haven’t paid close attention, it’s been years since GoPro added a bigger battery and a front-facing screen. Clearly GoPro is happy with the overall size, shape and layout of the design, as it has been unchanged for some time. The price is the same as last year: $500.
For my personal taste, I don’t have many complaints about it. There’s a power button, a button for recording, and a waterproof hinge that will open to reveal the battery and micro SD memory card slots. It is very simple to navigate the physical configuration.
Of course, this means there is a heavy reliance on software menus and touch buttons. Over time, GoPro continues to add more features that require more swipes and taps through the menus. It’s starting to get a little too much, and at some point I think GoPro could benefit from adding some extra physical control to get things under control.
The bottom of the GoPro Hero11 Black features a two-pin foldable bracket that allows many previous GoPro mount accessories to be compatible with the new camera.
Image quality and the sensor itself are the big stories with the GoPro Hero11 Black. This camera is now equipped with a 1/1.9 type sensor in an 8:7 aspect ratio. In a new video mode, we can actually take advantage of this near-square sensor and record 8:7 video at 5.3K. This allows great flexibility in publishing to be able to crop the scenes vertically or horizontally, depending on the medium on which they will be shared.
It also expands horizon-lock shooting capability, and now with the mode enabled, the camera can rotate 360 degrees without the horizon ever being askew. In last year’s model, the limit was 45 degrees.
It’s only a matter of time before mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras start incorporating sensors like this, and GoPro is in a pretty good position to be able to say they were earlier than everyone else to do it. That said, the GoPro also offers regular frame sizes straight from the camera. In 8:7 mode, it can record up to 5.7K at 30p or 4K at 60p. In 16:9 it can go up to 5.7K 60p, 4K 120p or 2.7K 240p.
Another big draw – perhaps the most important for more serious shooters – is the enhanced 10-bit video. Having more color depth leads to better results once the footage is processed and the colors are pulled during editing. Since action cameras are typically set up once and left unattended throughout a shoot, having that extra flexibility towards clean editing is a really good thing.
Some videographers will choose the Hero11 Black solely because of this improvement in color quality.
In photo mode, photo resolution is 27-megapixels, a step-up from the 23-megapixels seen in the Hero10 Black last year. Photo quality is also quite good, although as I said with its predecessor, images still clearly look like they were taken with an action camera or smartphone. It’s probably good enough for people most of the time, though.
Competent as ever, but no jerks in the formula
At this point, GoPro is moving forward with a Hero formula it’s been refining for generations. It seems to be working for the company, otherwise I’d expect bolder changes that would better appeal to the crowd that’s been on the GoPro look for as long as cameras have been around. The 8:7 ratio sensor was a surprising change, and it shows that while most of Hero’s year-over-year changes are incremental and just another stepping stone, GoPro can still get some imagination.
Are there alternatives?
Along with the GoPro Hero11 Black, the company is also releasing a Hero11 Black Mini. If the standard size is too big, or you just want a simpler camera experience with a built-in battery and a smartphone app to control a lot, then the Mini will be worth checking out.
GoPro releases a new Hero every year, so it’s pretty straightforward to look at last year’s model or the previous one to see what the differences are. In my opinion, the new Hero11 Black is a great camera, but it’s not much better than a year ago. That said, the Hero9’s aging CPU would make upgrading to the Hero11 quite noticeable, and I wouldn’t recommend buying a Hero9 now unless it’s some sort of sellout.
Another alternative that I like is the Insta360 One RS. This action camera thinks outside the box a bit more than the GoPro and uses interchangeable modules. It allows me to switch from shooting with a 360 camera to shooting with a normal action wide angle camera just by swapping the module. The image quality isn’t as good as that offered by GoPro, but it’s more flexible for variety.
Should you buy it?
Yes. GoPro didn’t introduce any flaws or make any kind of significant design changes, which can only mean that I would recommend buying it again. However, if a GoPro was never your thing to begin with, this new model won’t change that opinion.