GoPro HERO 5 Black

GoPro Hero 5 Review


After using it for 6 months on various outdoor adventures, I feel qualified to publish my GoPro HERO 5 review.
This review is intended to show you how you can use it in the field and what you need to be aware of if you’re thinking about picking one up. Later there will be a guide available when I have finished compiling all the tips I have on using these little beasts.
 
I’ll show you how it performs in the environments it was intended for, and point out some design quirks that you might want to consider before buying, so you don’t get any surprises. 
GoPro Hero 5
GoPro Hero 5
The GoPro Hero 5 differs from all the previous versions in that it’s waterproof out of the box. It’s rated down to 10m/33ft, making it perfect for a bunch of water related activities without a housing. The lens cover is a nice addition in that it protects the lens and you can replace it should yours get scratched.
 
No housing means no muffled sound which became the hallmark of GoPro footage. Even so, the built-in mic on the Hero 5 is not that great. So much so, it prompted the company to release a ‘Pro’ 3.5mm Mic adapter which allows you to attach an external mic to it. I’m not sure what’s Pro about a 3.5mm adapter but it probably helps sell more of them!
GoPro Hero 5
GoPro Hero 5
With a decent mic, there’s nothing stopping you Video Blogging with a GoPro. This makes it a cheap and attractive entry option into the world of online video production. Third-party batteries are cheaper than new potatoes so you shouldn’t have power issues.
 
Sound was an important factor GoPro wanted to address when they designed the Hero 5, and hey royally f&%ked it up! Hence the Pro adapter. Another important design change was to circumvent the need to buy a housing if you wanted to get wet.
 
It’s not much of an action camera if you need to protect it in 10cm of water! Its only merit would be its size. In fact, all previous models had their lenses protruding out from their profile. This meant if you dropped it faced down, or even placed it face down for a moment, scratching the lens was inevitable. Especially on hard surfaces.
GoPro Hero 5
GoPro Hero 5 in Underwater Housing
We can assume GoPro took a long hard look at how users were using their cameras and decided to make the Hero 5 the camera that most users needed. 
 
Most people using GoPro’s are hiking, biking, kayaking, driving, snorkelling, SUP’ing, windsurfing. Some land, some sea, some air. Not much underwater work. Some dive with them yes, but previous GoPro’s were better suited to snorkelling because of their sensors. And if you into underwater photography, you probably are more inclined to go with a more capable set-up.
 
Another cloud, or rather, tsunami on the horizon for GoPro is the influx of Chinese knock-off’s for a quarter of the price. There is no imitation on market at the time of writing that’s waterproof out of the box. GoPro needed to differentiate, and they did. I’ve bought knock-off’s and they died in the water quicker than my mask fogged up. 
 
The GoPro Hero 5 works well for its intended market. Touch screen, voice control, GPS and image stabilisation are all welcome touches too.
 
Hero 4’s did have touch screens, but the Hero 5 allows you to control every aspect very intuitively. Image stabilisation is done in camera digitally meaning it simply crops your image. You could do this in post. Voice control accepts some simple commands and I expect very useful when mounted out of reach but within audio range, as GoPro’s often are. GoPro, start recording. GoPro, stop recording. GoPro, take a picture. GoPro, that was sick (creates a bookmark). GoPro, I’m sick (calls an ambulance)! That would be cool though. Abused, but cool! 
GoPro Hero 5
GoPro Hero 5 in Underwater Housing

Basic Specs and Performance

 
4K at 30fps, 2.7K at 60fps and 1080p at 120fps. It’s the first GoPro camera to shoot RAW stills and they come in at 12MP. It burst shoots 30fps but those are 8MP jpgs.
 
In fact, it’s fair to assume that it’s not really bursting at all. It’s simply shooting a short video clip in 4K at 30fps and assembling those frames as stills. It’s a marketing trick other companies such as Panasonic use to help embellish their products.
 
I wouldn’t have looked at this camera if it didn’t shoot RAW. We’re at a stage now where it’s expected as standard. Just like 4K is. GoPro’s for me are very useful because of their size and output. There are other options out there but since I’m already invested into the brand with a ton of mounts and attachments, the 4K and RAW capabilities swayed me to upgrade.
 
There are a million ways to set this camera up with all the different shooting modes. It can be quite overwhelming at first. Fields of view, frame rates, colour profiles, exposure and focus controls. What’s the best configuration for what you want to do? Trial and error? Well, yeah, that’s how I went about it, but for your convenience I’m putting together a guide so you can short-cut that.
 
There should be a sign up form at the bottom of this page. Sign up to stay in the loop. As soon as I finish the guide, you’ll get a message with a link to the guide.

RAW Stills and Burst Shot Examples

 

GoPro Hero 5 Review
RAW still taken while Panning a shot of a Dolphin

 I love this shot so much because it’s an angle we don’t get to see too often of a dolphin. It really shows off the ergonomics of these beauties. This is one of the very few prints I have for sell in my print shop so head over there if you are inclined.

GoPro Hero 5 Review
Still from 4K footage on the GoPro Hero 5

I think it’s worth putting this shot into the mix to help people understand how useful 4K footage can be. Shooting 4K at 30fps gives you 30 x 8MP stills per second! Fantastic for action scenes you can’t afford to miss.


Design Flaw – Microphones

 
The camera mics pick up touches to the outside of the camera and even touches on an attached hand mount! This, as I mentioned, led to GoPro not recalling their products or fixing it with firmware, but releasing an overpriced option to solve it. Someone is getting paid well at marketing!
 
How do you work around this? Simple, don’t touch the camera if you care about audio. Or get an external mic or recorder. This might not be an issue for you. It isn’t for me. Just be aware the issue does exist and you might want to research it before jumping in if audio is a biggy for you.
 

Design Quirk – Memory Card Slot

 
This is finicky but the memory card doesn’t live in the best place. It’s sandwiched between the camera exterior and the battery compartment. If you are of nervous disposition and bite your nails, good luck getting in out. Also, I’ve read reports of people inserting the card between the exterior and the slot (because there is a gap). It gets stuck in there very nicely and it’s all but impossible to retrieve.

Design Quirk – Housing

 
If you don’t dive and won’t be needing any underwater housing, you can skip this part unless you’re curious.
 
It was a smart move to take the waterproof housing out of the equation for new adopters. For divers though, it’s has had the opposite effect, but fear not, I have a solution.
 
GoPro does make an underwater housing for the Hero 5, just as they did for the previous models. The Super Suit is waterproof down to 60m/196ft and comes with 2 Waterproof Backdoors and one Skeleton Backdoor.
 
To get the camera in the Super Suit, you need to remove the cover lens before it will fit into the housing.
 
I have no idea why they did this. It would have been great if the housing took the camera without any modification but I assume the reason was quality related.
GoPro Hero 5
GoPro Hero 5
Removing the lens cover means there is less glass between you and your subject, which is always a good practice in photography. But I’m not sure how relevant it is here and how much better the performance is.
 
The only time you’ll have a problem with this is if you plan on diving multiple times a day from a boat. Or you have weak, danity fingers like a princess!
 
When I was in Palau (see post here), I dived 3 times a day everyday. Came out the water, first thing I did was change my GoPro’s battery. GoPro batteries are good for about 40 minutes more or less straight recording.
 
If you dive from boats, you know you’re going to be jetting off to the next location as soon as everyone is aboard. So, it’s important to get your dry tasks done before you start moving again.
 
This is going to be a challenge on a GoPro Hero 5 though. Imagine being on a rocking or moving boat with water everywhere, your hands are wet, the seats are wet, everything is wet.
 
Take the camera out of the housing and now, not only is the actual lens exposed, the camera innards are also – to salt water. (Remember the lens cover has to be removed for the GoPro to fit into the Super Suit housing).
 
Then of course you will be opening up the battery compartment to swap batteries so… it’s only a matter of time… …Only a matter of time before it drops or slips, the boat hits a wave and it the camera gets splashed with water. Salt water in – end of camera life. I know, I’ve killed many a camera in the water. Salt water is sulphuric acid to electronic components.
 
Did I say I had a solution for this? Yes, I do! 
 
I recently bought one of those Dome Ports that you attached to cameras. They push the waterline away from the lens of the camera which helps you take pictures that split the underwater and terrestrial worlds. Good for shots like this:
 
GoPro Hero 5 Review
Dolphins Photographed Using a Dome Port on a GoPro Hero 5

 

I had looked at these dome ports before but never picked one up because of all the reviews saying how they killed their GoPro’s from leaks.
 
But this particular one I bought has a housing that comes with it. It seems the Chinese are adapting to user feedback. Knowing so many people had issues with these domes, they made a dome that comes with a housing. What’s great about the housing mine comes with is, the whole GoPro 5 Hero fits into it without me having to remove the lens cover! Cannot. Go. Wrong!
GoPro Hero 5 in Dome Port
GoPro Hero 5 in Dome Port
Even if it does leak, I know I’m good down to 10m/33ft because the native GoPro housing is waterproof out of the box. And a dome is something you primarly use on the surface when snorkelling so problem solved?
 
Well, yeah. The housing is good down to 30m/100ft so you can use that for diving. No need to remove the lens cover, your camera’s lens will never be exposed.
 
So, if you’re in the market for an underwater housing, you could get one of these domes which comes with a 30m/100ft housing. They come in at about a quarter of the price of a GoPro branded housing.
 
I’ve looked over each construction very carefully and I don’t see anything notably different. The quality looks about the same. The non native housing is a bit larger to accommodate the lens cover.
 
Here’s the thing – I know the housing is waterproof down to 10m/33ft, but I don’t know how the housing will fair at depth. That I need to test. Wish me luck!

You can pick up a GoPro Hero 5 on Amazon for around $400!
The ‘Shoot’ Dome Port that comes with a 40m/100ft housing is also on Amazon for around $65.99