One of the questions I get asked a lot is, is the new GoPro worth upgrading to?
As a camera reviewer I’m often lucky enough to get to use cameras before they get to market. The GoPro HERO11 is no exception and I’ve been using it for a bit now. So here’s a few thoughts on it from a kayaking and water sports perspective.
Buying an action camera now, aside from the cost of living crisis, is a good position to be in, because the quality is so high. Aside from the top of the range cameras, there are also numerous inexpensive cameras to choose from as well. However, be careful. The one thing I will say about budget models, well, two things actually, is that they usually have a comparatively narrow field of view, and their stabilisation systems are nowhere near as advanced as a GoPro, Insta360, or DJI Action. My advice is to save up for one of the better makes, because it will not only give you a much better image, but it will last longer and keep some resale value.
HERO10 vs HERO11
If you bought a HERO10 last year and you were wondering whether to upgrade to the 11, think carefully. If you don’t do much editing or picture grading then the 11 doesn’t offer you a massive upgrade. Sure, HyperView on the 11 gives a much better perspective for helmet mounting, but whether that’s worth nearly £400 of your money is quite another matter. In short, if you’re a casual user who owns the HERO10, don’t upgrade. If you are a power user who really needs the best quality for well produced YouTube edits etc, then maybe it could be worth it. But the 10 will still carry you a long, long way. The HERO10 is one of the best cameras GoPro has made, and while the 11 is certainly an improvement, the 10 will keep you going for a good few years.
HERO9 users might want to consider the upgrade, particularly if you do capture lots of trips and footage, and make an effort at editing. The 10 and the 11 are more reliable with much more responsive user interfaces. That said, the 9 is still a very good camera. I’m keeping mine to use with the Max Lens Mod.
If you are buying your first action camera then the question is slightly more straightforward. If you want an excellent camera that does pretty much everything you need and you don’t have the money for the 11, then get the HERO10, which is still current and available alongside the 11. If you really want the absolute best image quality and you edit and want to do grading, then the 11 is the way to go.
HERO 5, 6, 7, 8 vs the HERO11
Certainly if you are thinking of moving up from these cameras, then the 11 will give you a big upgrade in capability. But, if you don’t need the ultra slow motion modes, or are quite happy with Superview for helmet mounting (and if you aren’t using Superview mode, why ever not?) then the 8 will definitely be a keeper. I gave mine away, but I still think it is an absolute ripper of a camera. Though now that I’m used to the front facing screen on the 9, 10, and 11, which makes setting up backward facing bow mounted shots easier, I do prefer the newer cameras, but…
When moving up from cameras previous to the HERO9, bear in mind that the HERO 9, 10, and 11 are chunkier than before, making them heavier and bulkier for helmet mounting. I don’t mind it, and don’t really notice, but some of you might. In that case it might be worth you waiting for the HERO11 Mini in October. But more on that in a moment.
Both the HERO10 and HERO11 handle highly saturated colours, such as those found on kayak equipment and clothing, much better than the older cameras, which just clipped colour information. Some of you might not have noticed it, but for me it was a very noticeable problem on the older models.
HERO11 vs DJI Action 3
I haven’t used the Action 3, but I have used the Action 2 and will be looking at the 3 in the near future. However, I can still offer advice on it. The Action 3 is a huge improvement over the Action 2 in terms of design. It will give you a superb image, although it is more contrasty and doesn’t handle highlights as well as the GoPro, and they tend to blow out in highly contrasty conditions. With that said, the Action 3 has an utterly superb Ultra-Wide mode, which has much less distortion than the GoPro and is a match made in heaven for helmet mounted POV shots. It’s also a lot less expensive than the GoPro.
One potential disadvantage is the magnetic mounting system. The clips that hold the camera in place are much harder to displace than the previous Action 2 design, but it does lift the camera up higher than the GoPro system.
The Action 3 and the Insta360 ONE RS below both have longer battery life than the GoPro. Although unlike the GoPro they don’t have user replaceable lens covers, should they get damaged.
HERO11 vs Insta360 ONE RS
The ONE RS is an excellent camera, and I love the 360 capabilities of it. Although if you are filming in 360 for reframing you do need to do a bit of work in editing, and also be careful to protect the lens from scratches. The 4K Boost module makes the ONE RS behave like a GoPro, and provides excellent image quality and colour. The only drawback to it is that it doesn’t offer anywhere near a wide enough angle of view for my liking for POV/helmet mounting.
One feature that the HERO10 and 11 have that makes them perfectly suited for water sports is the hydrophobic lens cover. This doesn’t get mentioned enough, but with the HERO10 and 11 (and the 9 if you retro fit it) water droplets on the lens are a thing of the past. No more needing to lick the lens or use RainX etc. Simply blow some breath on it and wipe it clean with a lint free cloth before using it to make sure there’s no oil from human finger prints etc, and away you go. Your footage will stay clear. And if it gets scratched and starts retaining the odd droplet, it’s cheap and easy to replace. It’s one of the best new features of the newer cameras, and for water sports participants might be worth the upgrade in itself.
In my opinion, the devices above are the only action cameras worth considering for good quality capture. I’ve looked at different budget cameras before now, and they have always been disappointing. The saying “buy cheap, buy twice” comes to mind.
For water sports the GoPro is the way to go, for both HyperView on the 11, Superview on the 10 and previous, but also, importantly, for the hydrophobic lens cover on the two most recent models. No other company offers that, and so if you do go for a make other than GoPro, you will still suffer from water droplets on the lens.
So, in conclusion, my thoughts are this. If you’re on a tighter budget, get the HERO10 with a GoPro subscription (you can cancel it before renewal, but you do get the camera for a lot less money) or if you are an action camera junkie and love editing trips, get the HERO11.