When we talk about the GoPro HERO7 Black, many will think of its video recording capability. But what about taking photographs?
GoPro has always positioned its HERO series as a video camera for thrill-seekers and adventurers. Its photography function is like a second child, fighting for a little bit of the limelight. So in this article, I will share with you my experience using the GoPro HERO7 Black as my primary camera during my latest trip to Kao Hsiung, Taiwan.
Having visited Kao Hsiung once in 2017, I learned that the city is filled with stunning scenery. So it is a no-brainer to consider bringing a camera with a wide-angle lens for the trip.
I had wanted to bring my Sony A7RII and a 16-35mm wide-angle zoom lens with me. But knowing that I might have to walk a lot during the trip, especially my visit to Cijin Island, I decided to opt for my GoPro HERO7 Black instead. It’s because of its weight and portability.
Specs of GoPro HERO7 Black’s camera
The GoPro HERO7 Black has a 12MP sensor. So if you are looking for extremely high-quality photos, don’t expect magic to happen. What you will get is a 4,000 x 3,000 pixels resolution, which is similar to smartphone-grade quality. It’s perfect for your social media or a regular photo printout.
Photo Mode and Settings
The default setting on the GoPro HERO7 Black is the Video Mode. You can change it by going into Preferences, and under the General setting, select Photo Mode under Default Mode.
In the Photo Settings, there are four options that you can preset before taking your photographs. There’s the FOV or Field Of Vision, SuperPhoto, RAW or Protune.
Putting it simply, FOV refers to how you want your photos to turn out using the wide-angle lens. By default, the wide-angle lens on the GoPro HERO7 Black has a fish-eye effect. This means that the photograph will have a warping-look to it, pulling in more objects into your frame. If you select Linear as your FOV, then you will eliminate the fish-eye effect and get a straightened image.
I prefer the Linear FOV though it has a narrower angle than the Wide FOV. This means that I had to re-position myself to capture a large object, which the Wide FOV can do effortlessly without me budging.
SuperPhoto is about HDR or High Dynamic Range, which means the GoPro HERO7 Black will take three photos with different exposures, and process it internally to produce the best photo. As it’s the Summer season, I kept HDR On throughout than having it on Auto or Off because of the sunlight.
It’s quite exciting to know that the GoPro HERO7 Black can take RAW images, which means that in this mode, photographs will retain a lot more details than the usual JPG images. This is especially useful if you love to do a lot of post-processing work on your photographs. Unfortunately, if you are a Linear fan like me, RAW is not available for this FOV. Also, taking RAW images will take up a whole lot more memory than JPG. So there’s not really a need for me to have RAW photos unless I’m doing it for commercial reasons.
The last setting is Protune, which lets you access the manual settings. But you can’t access most of them unless you are in Video Mode. What you can adjust is the white balance, the sharpness of your photo, and reset your Protune settings. It’s a good thing because I can’t imagine how frustrating it will be to adjust your manual settings for photography on its tiny display.
When I chose to bring my GoPro HERO7 Black for the trip, I knew what I was getting into, i.e. not to expect a lot from its picture quality. But my perspective shifted after snapping my first shot. The quality of the photo is not comparable to that of DSLR or flagship smartphones, but it’s surprisingly decent.
Though some shots were a little over-exposed and the photos looked overly sharpened, the quality of the photos was not bad for a camera of its size. Impressed with the quality, I started snapping like crazy and here are some sample shots.
Taking photos with the GoPro HERO7 Black in low-light condition was challenging. Noise crept in fast even with spotlights all around my subject. I would say it’s not usable. So I will not recommend using it for night shots. Your iPhone XS or Google Pixel 3XL with its Night Sight is a better choice.
Let’s talk about the pros. The GoPro HERO7 Black is small and that made it ultra-portable. It is waterproofed even without any external housing, which puts my mind at ease. It fits well in my pocket and whenever I need to take a photo, I can easily pull it out like how I would with my smartphone. Taking photos with the GoPro HERO7 Black is a breeze as it does not have any complicated manual buttons to fiddle with. Image quality is decent and in certain conditions, it’s better than expected.
The wide-angle lens is nothing but amazing. With the option to change the FOV, I can at least choose not to have a warped photo, which was experience-changing for me.
I don’t have any major issue with the camera but that does not mean I don’t have anything cons to say about it.
The battery life on the GoPro HERO7 Black lasted me around two hours. I had hoped that it could have lasted longer. But it’s not something a portable power bank can’t fix. Another feedback I have is also about the battery. It heats up fast even on standby mode. I’m not really sure about the issue but it’s scary so I had to put it in my bag when that happened during the trip.
Transferring photos from the GoPro HERO7 Black to my smartphone is a hassle. First, I have to connect to the GoPro app, download the images onto its app before I can save it to my Camera Roll on my iPhone XS. This reduced my excitement to view the images on a bigger screen in the shortest possible time. So perhaps, GoPro can adjust the workflow a little?
Now the answer to the question: Can the GoPro HERO7 Black take good pictures?
Yes, it can but not without some caveats, which I don’t think are deal-breakers. If you have a differing view or you would like to share your experience, let us know in the comments below.