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So, the GoPro Hero 12 Black is out, the latest in a long line of action cameras that revolutionized capturing shots that would destroy lesser cameras. And as usual, there are a bunch of new features and upgrades.
No doubt you'll be seeing tons of amazing footage from the Hero 12 Black all over social media over the next few days. People skiing, surfing, bungee jumping, and doing all sorts of adventurous things.
This hands-on is going to be a little different.
The way that I make use of GoPros -- and I think I've had every model released since the Hero 3 -- is a little different.
Sure, I've used GoPros as action cameras and attached them to cars and taken them underwater, but I also use them as portable cameras to capture multiple angles of a shot, indoors or outdoors. They're lightweight, small, and can be popped into places where a bigger camera can't or in places that would destroy my Sony A7IV or FX3.
And this is where I'll start -- because there's no better testing ground for a camera's low-light capability than underwater. It's challenging because it can switch from murky and dark to bright and vivid in a flash, and this can result in very variable output.
And since most people just turn on their GoPro and start filming, I tested this camera on the default settings.
And I wasn't disappointed. The output is exceptional.
Here is footage that's straight out the camera, with no color grading or adjustments carried out to it. Considering that this was shot late afternoon, in a rather murky river, the output is great.
And with a little bit of tweaking, it could be made even better. It's clear that the improved HDR (high dynamic range) is delivering the goods. As far as capture quality goes, this is one of the best action cameras out there, the only rival being the DJI Osmo Action 4.
But for me, it's the hardware improvements that I like the most. First on that list: Battery life. GoPros have had atrocious battery life in the past, so it's good to see that the engineers have worked to dramatically improve the endurance this time around. And it's a huge difference!
GoPro claims you can now get up to 70 minutes of continuous recording at 5.3K, 60fps (using the Hero 12 Black's highest performance setting), over 95 minutes at 5.3K, 30fps, and over 155 minutes of continuous recording at 1080p, 30fps, and my testing backs this up.
My next favorite upgrade to the Hero 12 Black is the 1/4-20 thread on the bottom to allow it to be attached to a tripod or selfie stick. Yes, I know, you can do that with a GoPro to 1/4-20 adapter, but that's one more thing to carry.
Being able to screw to the GoPro directly with a tripod or selfie stick is something I've wanted for years.
Also great is how this is the first GoPro to support recording in a log profile -- called GP-Log. This is a flatter color profile that allows more detail to be pulled out of the highlights and shadows in the editing process. If you use this, don't panic if the footage initially looks flat and muddy; that is how it is supposed to look before you start editing it!
GoPro footage can be very distinctive, and being able to apply LUTs (short for look-up table, which are like intelligent filters) that you can apply over this flatter GP-Log capture to get pretty much whatever style and tone you are after.
Another advantage of this is that it can help you match the footage you capture with your GoPro with footage from other cameras. This is going to allow for some really interesting, artistic editing of captured footage.
ZDNET's buying advice
The GoPro Hero 12 Black is a fantastic, solid upgrade to the line. If you're buying a new action camera, you can't go wrong with it. As to whether you should upgrade, that's really down to whether you think that the new features are worth the money. For me, the boosted battery, the ability to capture in GP-Log format, and the 1/4-20 mount make this a compelling upgrade.