GoPro continues to be the market leader in the action camera space. I’ll admit that I’ve never once used an actual GoPro before, so now that I’ve been spoiled by rival models like the Insta360 One RS and DJI Osmo Action 3, I was a bit skeptical that the GoPro Hero12 Black would have anything meaningful for me, especilly after reading reviews about last year’s GoPro Hero11 Black.
Action cameras have come a long way since GoPro first came onto the scene to establish the niche segment, evident in the shoot-now, worry-later experience with Insta360’s lineup. GoPro has chosen to keep its focus on what it does best: provide exceptional performance and quality that enthusiasts crave.
In my GoPro Hero12 Black review, you’ll see what the company does to stay relevant in today’s market. While the new camera doesn’t break from tradition, I was most impressed by how all the minor upgrades come together and cater to today’s content creators such as myself.
GoPro Hero12 Black review: Price and availability
One of the best decisions that GoPro made with the Hero12 Black was reducing its price to $400, which is $100 less than what its predecessor cost at launch. I applaud GoPro for this, especially considering how there isn’t really a specs boost with the Hero12 Black. Now, it’s more in line to compete head on against direct rivals such as the DJI Osmo Action 4 and Insta360 One RS.
Alternatively, there’s a combo that packages in the Max Lens Mod 2.0 for $480 — which you can also buy separately for $100 (or $80 with a GoPro subscription). I’d suggest going with this package because you’ll be able to tap into GoPro’s class-leading 177-degree field of view with the Max Lens Mod 2.0 fastened onto the Hero12 Black.
The GoPro Hero12 Black was officially announced on September 6, 2023, but it’s now available for purchase through GoPro and other retailers.
GoPro Hero12 Black review: Specs
GoPro Hero12 Black review: Design
Not a lot has changed with the design of GoPro's camera. In fact, the Hero12 Black sports the same overall dimensions, weight, dual displays, and rugged constriction as the Hero11 Black, plus the same water resistance rating of 33ft (10m). Recycled designs aren’t new, but at least the Hero12 Black proved to be solidly built, as it held up after being knocked around in my backpack. With its soft touch casing, I do like how the camera repels debris and smudges to stay clean looking.
What I really like about GoPros in general is that the two prong mounts are built into the body, instead of requiring a case like in other action cameras I’ve tested. However, GoPro adds one new addition to the design that gives it more versatility. I’m referring to the tripod mount that’s tucked away on the bottom of the Hero12 Black.
While the two prong mounts allow the Hero12 Black to attach to other GoPro accessories, the 1/4-20 mounting threads let me use all of my existing camera gear. I personally love this because it makes it so much easier to fasten it to a tripod, selfie stick, and other existing accessories I use with my professional camera gear. Call it a long overdue addition, but it's one I’m grateful to see — and something everyone else needs to copy.
GoPro Hero12 Black review: New features
Like I said, GoPro kept most of the specs unchanged with the Hero12 Black. As much as I know a lot of people would love upgraded hardware, such as a larger camera sensor and touchscreen display, GoPro instead gives the Hero12 Black more utility. There’s no denying that its action cameras were targeted to enthusiasts, but now it’s now reaching a broader audience thanks to some new features.
Support for Bluetooth devices is the Hero12 Black feature I’m most stoked about. That’s because I no longer need to buy an adapter or costly wireless microphone system in order to get clear audio. Instead, I’m able to use my existing pair of Sony LinkBuds S and AirPods to to work as a wireless mic to record audio. That may not be as good in terms of quality compared to dedicated wireless microphone systems, but it gets the job done whenever I’m 10 feet or more away from the Hero12 Black. I think it's better than using the internal mics, too.
With its 8:7 image sensor, the GoPro Hero12 Black makes a point of capturing better vertical videos for social media. Rather than mounting the action camera so that it’s positioned vertically, there’s a mode to change the aspect ratio so that it captures vertical video regardless of its orientation. It’s yet again a minor addition, but one that eliminates the need for me to adjust the orientation in post later on.
Finally, the addition of GP-Log and LUTs (Look Up Tables) provide users with even more utility to tweak their footage. The average person probably won’t dabble too much with this, but professional videographers such as myself will find it extremely helpful to color grade the footage in post. Specifically, LUTs can be applied using video editing software to achieve a certain color style.
GoPro Hero12 Black review: Video performance
When it comes to video quality, the GoPro Hero12 Black doesn’t disappoint with its excellent dynamic range performance, good details, and steady look — the hallmark qualities I want to find in any action camera.
Video recording tops out at 5.3K 60fps, which will give you the most utility if you intend on editing later on. If not, I suggest sticking with either 5.3K 30fps or even 4K 120fps. If you’re into faster shooting speeds, the Hero12 Black can shoot 2.7K 240fps for super slow motion footage.
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I captured a lot of videos in New York during an event with GoPro, which had a group of people spray painting a mural and an electric bike ride through Brooklyn and Manhattan. During that testing, I found that the Hero12 Black offers fantastic dynamic range, doing nicely to contrast the highlights and shadows.
In low light situations, such as indoors with artificial lighting, I noticed a hint of noise in the shadows. It’s barely noticeable when viewing the footage on a smartphone, but it’s hard to miss on my 27-inch monitor. Low light video recording isn’t its specialty, but I’m not surprised because I’ve yet to find an action camera with a convincing performance.
The Hero12 Black also excels in stabilizing its footage. With the Max Lens Mode 2.0 fastened onto the Hero12 Black, I was impressed by how well it locked onto the horizon — including when I intentionally jiggled and swayed the Hero12 Black. It simply kept the footage stabilized. There were a few times when horizon lock was off by a bit, but luckily I was able to fix it with the GoPro Quik app.
I find the Max Lens Mode 2.0 intriguing for vlogs since it captures much more than just my upper torso. In fact, its 177-degree field of view is so wide that it manages to cover a smidge below my torso. And I don’t have to stretch the Hero12 Black all that far away from me either, which is nice when you’re trying to get two people in frame without scrunching close to one another. Yes, there’s some distortion around the corners, but that’s the inherent result with such a wide field of view. Luckily, there’s an option to change the aspect ratio so that it’s a tighter frame.
Overall, I can’t say enough about the excellent video performance out of the GoPro Hero12 Black. The only drawback is its low light performance, which I’m not too critical about given I’ve yet to come across an action camera that excels at it.
GoPro Hero12 Black review: Software
Given how this is the first time I’m using a GoPro, I do appreciate that the software is set to “easy” mode by default. Really, it simplifies the options and provides all the relevant details for newbies to understand. From choosing the resolution and frame rate to options for framing, I find the software in the Hero12 Black incredibly intuitive.
Transferring content from the camera to my smartphone is also a breeze using the Wi-Fi connection of the GoPro Quik app. In order to get the most out of the Quik app, you’ll need to invest in a GoPro subscription that offers incentives such as unlimited cloud backup, special product discounts from GoPro, and more premium editing tools. It costs $4.99 per month, or $49.99 if you pay for the entire year. GoPro’s currently has the yearly rate discounted by 50%, which makes the cost $25 for a limited time.
Even without that subscription, I’m able to still edit and stitch videos captured from the Hero12 Black with ease. I love how I can create "murals" in the app that highlight my day or special activity, while also stitching together a short clip that’s perfect to share on social media. The app took the 20-plus minutes of footage I captured and created a slick-looking, bite-sized clip no longer than 2 minutes. Various transition effects and color filters were automatically applied to give it a professional look.
GoPro Hero12 Black review: Battery life
I’ve mentioned countless times that the specs aren’t a huge boost here with the GoPro Hero12 Black. In fact, it packs the same 1,720 mAh battery that’s in the Hero11 Black. However, the company claims the new camera offer 2x longer runtimes thanks in part to a re-engineered power management system.
The Hero12Black can effectively record up to 70 minutes shooting in 5.3K 60fps, versus the Hero11 Black’s time of 35 minutes. I haven’t been able to test out this claim, but I can tell you how the power management system automatically puts the Hero12 Black in standby mode to save its battery. It also doesn’t take long to boot up from a turned off stage. In fact, it takes 8 seconds for it to start recording when it’s completely off.
When I'm trying to capture something that's happening in front of me, it's nice that I don't have to wait an eternity to start recording.
GoPro Hero12 Black review: Verdict
Things have come a long way since GoPro first sold its action camera in 2002. For a long time, the form factor and operation remained unchanged. While its competitors are exploring other flexible designs, GoPro has instead chosen to focus on the fundamentals.
And you know what? I think the GoPro Hero12 Black hits it on the mark by adding minor features that go a long way. Not only does the new camera add features to appeal to today’s content creators, such as its class leading 177-degree field of view for wider vertical video capture, but it introduces new features that make it more practical as a video camera for the average Joe.
On top of that, the Hero12 Black continues to stand out for its incredible video performance, various shooting modes, and smooth stabilization to please long-time users that crave quality. The Hero12 Black certainly doesn't reinvent the category, nor does it need to — GoPro's latest does just enough to get by to convince me it’s worthy of being $100 less than its predecessor.