Over the last few years, I've come to believe the GoPro is perhaps the best value-for-money piece of tech you can buy.
Every time I use one I'm re-amazed by what it can do - not just in terms of picture quality and video stabilisation but every aspect of the design seems so well thought out - from the legendary durability to the controls - both physical and on-screen - to the mounting system - even the accessories.
Good technology is supposed to make life easier - not more complicated. This simple philosophy is all-to-often overlooked in favour of adding more and more features nobody asked for. Then you have to learn how to use them.
The GoPro isn't like that. Using one always feels instinctual to me - and then there are the host of tricks that happen automatically, without you having to do anything at all.
Perhaps the only slight disappointment with the GoPro HERO12 Black is that yes, once again, it looks pretty much identical to last year's model - well, other than the fact it's no longer completely black. It now features a groovy speckled pattern on the front, rear and control buttons. I really like the look because it gives the appearance you've already dropped it in the mud/snow/sand/ocean before you even take it out of it's very-disposable box.
The HERO12 still features dual LCD screens both back and front so you can see you're definitely in shot when shooting selfies.
However, 2023 does see GoPro introduce one small but significant add-on to the outside of the device; a 1/4-inch screw mount on the base. This has been cleverly dropped in between the trademark GoPro mounting fingers because sensibly, after only a decade or so, the designers have conceded most non-GoPro tripods, mounting brackets and other accessories all use 1/4-inch threads as standard. Nice one.
In fact, many of this year's upgrades follow a similar theme; keep it simple, give them what they want.
For example, the HERO12 now records for up to two times longer - and that's using the same cold-weather Enduro battery as last year. They've just worked out how to make the camera run more efficiently.
You want an even wider field-of-view? Sure thing. The new Max Lens Mod 2.0 accessory offers 177 degrees. Pretty crazy.
Thanks in part to GoPro's recent change to an 8:7 aspect ratio, it's now possible to shoot in portrait, even when the camera's mounted horizontally - meaning any pics or footage can be shared to phone-shaped socials straight away.
The new HDR video protocol means an even greater level of detail and colour accuracy. This is so crucial because a lot of action shots happen in super-bright conditions - too much sunlight reflecting off water or snow can really blow out an otherwise perfect shot. HDR helps figure a lot of that stuff out.
Something even more ingenious than the 1/4-inch mounting thread is the new ability to pair your bluetooth headphones or earbuds with the HERO12. It only takes about 3 seconds yet means you can then use the built-in mic on your earbuds instead of the one on the GoPro. This is massive - now you can mount your camera somewhere noisy - like the outside of your car - while recording a totally audible VO from inside. So good.
Existing shooting modes like Light Trails and Duration Capture have been further enhanced and as we saw last year with the incredible 5.3K footage, even stills captured from the video (either while shooting or after) look unbelievable.
In fact, you can see some shots like those in this video I took while in Rarotonga last week.
I need to point out I didn't edit this video myself. I just pressed record a few times and then the videos auto-uploaded to the cloud when I got back to my room and put the camera on to charge.
Next time I opened the Quik app on my phone, here's what was waiting for me...
I didn't choose the shots, the music, the transition effects - none of it. That's all completely A.I. generated and instantly shareable.
The Quik app just seems to go from strength to strength - it's hard to fathom how powerful an editing tool it is, right there on my phone. I can't wait fo the desktop version to be released in the coming months; if it's anything as good as the phone app, it may well become my primary video editor.
As you can tell, although the HERO12 still looks the same, all these sensible, thoughtful upgrades make for a significant leap forward in the evolution of the GoPro - yet it only costs NZ$749.99. As I said earlier, what other device offers this much functionality for such a low price?
TimeCode Sync is yet another "make-your-life-easier" idea. Using the Quik app on your phone you can bring up a unique QR code you simply "show" to each camera to make post-action editing so much more precise. Unfortunately, this only works on the HERO12 so I wasn't able to try it out with my latest Extreme Dog-Walking video. This is a real shame as I wanted to trial the Fetch dog harness on Jerry and Chesty camera harness on me to show him wearing it. That meant a three-camera shoot which is a lot of footage to try and syc up when it comes to editing time.
But perhaps the real star of the new edition of Extreme Dog-Walking is the latest HyperSmooth 6.0 video stabilisation. If you thought GoPro footage was already incredibly smooth, wait till you see these shots taken from the back of my dog...
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