The GoPro Hero 11 Black has hit the streets, following on from the powerful and broadly-well-received GoPro Hero 10 Black, which itself delivered an incremental upgrade to the previous model. The GoPro Hero 11 Black was launched as one of a trio of GoPro models, the HERO11 Black, HERO11 Black Creator Edition and HERO11 Black Mini.
GoPro claims that the three cameras feature a new, larger sensor that delivers the highest resolution, highest 10-bit colour depth, highest level of video stabilisation and widest field of view ever featured natively in a HERO camera. Will it shoot effortlessly to the top of the best action camera available list? We've been putting the GoPro Hero 11 through its paces.
GoPro Hero 11 Black Review: Pricing
The HERO11 Black is available globally on September 14 2022 at $399.98/ £399.98 / AUS $649.95 for GoPro Subscribers and $499.99/ £499.99 / AUS $799.95 MSRP.
Meanwhile, the HERO11 Black Creator Edition is also available globally today at $579.98/£579.98 / AUS $929.95 for GoPro Subscribers and $699.99/ £399.98 / AUS $649.95 MSRP, while the HERO11 Black Mini will be available at GoPro.com on Oct 25 2022 for $299.98/£299.98 /AUS $499.95 for GoPro Subscribers and $399.99/£399.99 / AUS $649.95 MSRP, rolling out to retailers globally after that.
GoPro Hero 11 Black Review: Design and build
The GoPro Hero 11 Black is immediately familiar to the eye, and when picked up and closely inspected reveals itself to be very familiar indeed. In fact, when you go to the official specs, you’ll find it’s exactly, to the half-millimetre, the same physical size as the GoPro Hero 10 Black. Indeed, apart from the new ‘11’ gracing the side of the unit, the two are indistinguishable - the only visual difference being that the GoPro Hero 11 Black’s rear LED appears to be white when off, rather than the darker grey/black of the GoPro Hero 10 Black - not much of a big deal. To all intents and purposes, this is the exact same physical unit - even the batteries are interchangeable. Speaking of which, the new battery (which is rated identically), has a small change - sporting a white surround rather than the GoPro Hero 10 Black’s blue.
Under the hood, the GP2 chip is unchanged over the previous model, and the weight 153 grams - is a single gram lighter than the older model - slim pickings indeed. So what’s the difference, we hear you cry - well, visually, none, it’s all under the skin. The first key change is a new sensor, which is upgraded to a 1/1.9” Sensor. This opens up a whole new world of “Full-sensor video modes” in 8:7 aspect ratio on top of the usual 16:9 or 9:16, as well as increasing the available photo resolution - now up to 27MP in 8:7. These full-sensor modes include 5.3K30 8:7 video and 4K60 8:7 video too.
To the surprise of nobody, there’s a new iteration of HyperSmooth stabilisation in the GoPro Hero 11 Black, now up to HyperSmooth 5.0, and now ‘Emmy Award-Winning’, according to GoPro. In use, HyperSmooth 5.0 does offer an improvement over HyperSmooth 4.0, but it’s another incremental win - better, but not mind-blowing.
GoPro Hero 11 Black Review: Battery Performance
While the look and feel may be underwhelming, the performance is where GoPro’s tweaking pays dividends. Aside from the sensor and image quality, GoPro has clearly dedicated some time and effort to improving battery life, interestingly making some serious gains (when you look at it as percentage improvement) at the higher resolutions. For example, you'll get an extra 7 minutes shooting at 5.3K30 (up to 80 minutes for HERO11 Black vs. 73 minutes for HERO10 Black), an improvement of nearly 10%, but down in the lower resolutions 1080p60: 89 minutes for HERO11 Black vs. 80 minutes for HERO10 Black.
GoPro are calling this extended battery life ‘Enduro’, and as it has been achieved without physically increasing the battery capacity, there must have been some significant optimisations possible over the older software, unless it’s all down to underclocking that new sensor. To be fair, the older model did suffer from overheating and the new version is far less susceptible to that flaw.
GoPro Hero 11 Black Review: Sensor Performance
There are a host of benefits to having a new sensor under the hood, not least that the colour palette is considerably boosted - up to 10-bit. 10-bit colour provides over 1 billion shades of colour vs. 16.7 million in 8-bit. The 10-bit HEVC encoding delivers smoother gradients and improved detail in many situations, most noticeable when viewing horizons or banks of cloud, etc. this is a noticeable improvement over the older model, and a genuine plus point. Indeed, it's arguably the biggest selling point of the new model.
GoPro Hero 11 Black Review: Ease of use
It's been said many times before, but the real superpower of GoPros isn’t their technical wizardry, or the specs, although these are at worst competitive, but the ease of use. It’s always been easy to fire up a GoPro and grab some footage that’s not awful straight out of the box, and after a few tweaks you’ll feel like a pro, with results to match. GoPro have taken this fact a logical step further in the GoPro Hero 11 Black, grading the settings into ‘easy’ (the default when you power the unit on), and ‘Pro’, which allows you to unlock presets that let you choose the best settings for your shot (Standard, Activity, Cinematic, Slo-Mo and more), plus the ability to fine-tune all modes, settings and features.
This achieves a neat balance for GoPro - no compromise of the ‘idiot mode’ that we’ve come to know and love, but also the more granular control that the ‘pros’ demand.
Another key plank in the GoPro Hero 11 Black’s armoury of easy-to-use tools is the new auto-highlight video (see the video below), which takes a maximum of 75 photos + videos, no limit on length, captured within a 12hr window and automatically creates a highlights video from them in the cloud. There are some limits on the tool at the moment (no burst or 360 for example), but as an easy way to enjoy an algorithmically-curated set of video moments it’s no bad idea - indeed, Google’s Photos already does a similar job on Android devices, as does Apple with the iPhone’s Memories feature.
GoPro Hero 11 Black Review: Verdict
The GoPro Hero 11 Black is in many ways the ultimate in incremental evolution. It’s a better camera than the GoPro Hero 10 Black in several areas, and identical in most of the others you can measure. As an upgrade for existing GoPro Hero 10 Black owners it’s an unlikely shout - it’s not that much better - but as an upgrade for earlier model owners it’s a good one to go for. As ever in the incremental upgrade game, it should also make the older GoPro Hero 10 Black model subject to discounts, and potentially a more wallet-friendly upgrade option too.
However, the risk of this is that the GoPro Hero 11 Black is quite hard to get enormously excited about - sure, it’s very likely to be the best action camera currently available, and at a relatively sensible price point (especially when wrapping in the compelling GoPro subscription model), but there’s nothing explosive here. That said, there’s certainly an argument that gentle upgrades ruffle fewer feathers, and ease of use has - if anything - been improved to widen the GoPro Hero 11 Black’s appeal - it’s easy enough for anyone to use, tech-savvy or not.
Overall, the GoPro Hero 11 Black is an impressive action camera, only marred by the impressiveness of the GoPro Hero 10 Black - a familiar issue for GoPro admirers…