What is the best GoPro camera to buy for 2021? At this point, there are many different models of GoPros available, and it can be tricky to know which one is best suited to your needs. We’ll be ranking the best GoPro camera choices, we’ll compare GoPro models, and we’ll give you some quick GoPro reviews, but first, let’s take a look at a few reasons why you might want to choose one of these cameras instead of a more traditional camera. If you are wondering which GoPro to buy, let us help you make an informed decision.
Which is the best GoPro camera
Why use an action camera?
The GoPro brand specializes in small, durable cameras known as “action cameras.” There are other brands that also manufacture these types of cameras, but GoPro has remained the cream of the crop when it comes to action cameras.
GoPro video cameras are known and loved for their small size, wide field of view, mounting capabilities, water-proof housing, and near-indestructibility. You will notice plenty of differences when you compare GoPro models.
GoPro cameras are a favorite of extreme sports practitioners and adrenaline junkies around the world, but filmmakers can get more than their money’s worth out of the cameras as well, and there are also ways to build your brand with GoPro videos. But you still need to determine which is the best GoPro for the money and which are the best GoPros for film production.
Plenty of feature-films and television shows have begun incorporating GoPro-shot sequences, and there are even entire films shot exclusively using GoPro cameras such as the first-person action film Hardcore Henry.
Perhaps even more promising is the number of innovations that have been in the years since. Hardcore Henry was shot using the GoPro Hero 3 model of camera, and the GoPro camera line has now progressed all the way up to the Hero 9 model, with many improvements and adjustments having been made with each subsequent model along the way.
Older models of GoPro cameras are periodically phased out of production as they become obsolete. Currently, there are four worthwhile camera models to look at in our GoPro comparison. Any of these could prove to be a valuable filmmaking tool. Let’s rank them.
What is the best GoPro camera
4. GoPro Max
The GoPro Max is perfect for certain needs in specific situations but far less ideal for the average film production and, arguably, less versatile than a mainline Hero model camera.
The GoPro Max uses two lenses, both extremely wide, to capture a full 360° field of view. The 360° footage captured is viewable through a VR headset, or you can reframe and control the direction, angle, and movement of the footage in Post-Production, and output your 360° footage as traditional footage with a limited perspective.
In this instance, the 360° footage provides you with many options, allowing you to make camera framing decisions in post. For tips on framing, check out our post on ways to frame shots like a master filmmaker.
The GoPro Max shoots 360° footage in 5K, but keep in mind that this footage will not look quite as sharp as 5K footage shot traditionally would, since the pixels are spread out across a wider area. For an explanation of why, and to see some other GoPro comparisons, refer to the video below.
The 360° shooting style also allows the camera to provide the absolute best built-in stabilization possible. Another perk of the GoPro Max is, surprisingly, the audio quality. The GoPro Max actually records audio through a combination of six different microphones built into different places within the camera, which combine into a 3D audio recording.
The big downside is that if you want to capture traditional footage, rather than 360° footage, your options are limited. You can shoot in what the camera calls “Hero Mode,” which uses one of the camera’s lenses instead of both, but this mode also caps your resolution to 1080p. Traditional footage shot with the GoPro Max is weaker since it isn’t what the camera was built for.
Which GoPro to buy
3. Hero 7 Black
The GoPro Hero 7 just might be your best choice of GoPro if you are working with a limited budget. Since this model is two-generations old at this point, it is the cheapest on the list by a significant margin, but it is still a powerful little camera. This was once the top rated GoPro, but has been surpassed technologically.
The Hero 7 Black shoots 4K footage at 60fps and can shoot at higher frame rates with lower resolutions. The slow-motion capabilities of the Hero 7 Black are excellent, especially when utilizing the excellent built-in stabilization, dubbed “HyperSmooth Stabilization.”
Let’s quickly clarify the colors in GoPro camera names. Black, Silver, and White are not simply the colors of the camera bodies but instead, they distinguish variants on the model. Black, Silver, and White are all different versions of the base Hero 7 with different feature-sets and different price points.
The White model is the cheapest, and the Black is the most expensive but also, by far, the best. For all your filmmaking needs, go with the Black model, and that holds true for every numbered GoPro model.
GoPro for sale
2. Hero 8 Black
The Hero 8 Black includes everything that made the Hero 7 Black great with just a little bit more. The already impressive HyperSmooth stabilization was upgraded to HyperSmooth 2.0, and the bit rate was dramatically improved.
The Hero 8 also introduced a new field of view option: ‘narrow.’ This new FOV is in addition to keeping the wide, linear, and ‘SuperView’ modes from the previous model. The design and construction of the camera mount were also improved to be less obstructive when not in use.
The other upgrades are less show-stopping, but they are plentiful. The camera’s timewarp mode was overhauled, the Hero 8 introduced a ‘night’ specific timelapse mode, and the Hero 8 was the first GoPro model to allow for customizable settings presets.
Top rated GoPro video cameras
1. Hero 9 Black
The GoPro Hero 9 Black is the most recent mainline GoPro release and, unsurprisingly, the best. The Hero 9 Black has all of the best bits of the previous Hero iteration plus a few nice additions. The Hero 9 Black now has two full-preview monitors on the front and rear, whereas the previous version only had a rear monitor and a status screen on the front. The downside to having two screens is the additional toll taken on battery life.
If you plan to use your GoPro to take still photos, the Hero 9 has made a huge leap from the 12 megapixels of the previous Hero 8, all the way up to 20 megapixels. When it comes to video, the options remain varied, with the highest resolution possible now being 5K at 30fps.
Another huge boon to the Hero 9 Black is again in the stabilization department. If you were already impressed by the stabilization capabilities of the Hero 7 and 8, then the Hero 9 will knock your socks off with its HyperSmooth 3.0 built-in stabilization.
The sound quality of the Hero 9 will not impress, and will likely prove completely unusable in professional projects, but external mics are used for a reason. The audio quality is about on par with the Hero 7 and 8; no major improvements in the sound department. The Hero 9 will give you top-notch picture quality, smoothness of motion, and versatility.
The Best Slow Motion Cameras
So, those are your best options if you are looking to buy yourself or someone else a GoPro camera. It is only a matter of time until GoPro comes out with their Hero 10 model, which is likely to further improve upon the feature-set already available. If slow-motion footage is a priority for you, then our list of the best slow-motion cameras is a must-read. GoPros have a knack for slow motion, but there are many cameras on the market that specialize in slow-mo videography. Check them out, up next.