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Best GoPro camera in 2021

Best GoPro camera

Choosing the best GoPro camera for you is more complicated than you might think. While there are only five models to consider (we're not including anything older than the Hero7 here), the $300 price difference between the cheapest and most expensive makes the decision harder right away.

What's more, not all are directly comparable: while the Hero7, Hero8 and Hero9 are all standard (though very good) action cameras, the GoPro Max has a major point of difference, in that it shoots 360-degree video.

GoPro undoubtedly makes the best action cameras around, and has done so for years. As a result, all five of these models have something to offer the budding action shooter: for instance, all are water resistant and can shoot 4K video (or above). But there are also some major differences between them, even outside of the price range. 

From the $200 GoPro Hero7 Silver to the $499 GoPro Max, we'll compare each model, to help you decide which is the best GoPro camera for your needs.

Best GoPro camera: Specs compared

GoPro MaxHero9 BlackHero8 BlackHero7 BlackHero7 Silver
Price
$499$399$299$249$200
Video Resolution
5.6K, 60 fps (spherical), 1080p/60fps (rectilinear)5K, 30 fps4K, 60 fps4K, 60 fps4K, 30fps
Photo Resolution
16.6MP (spherical), 5.5MP (rectilinear)20MP12MP
12MP10MP
DisplayRear onlyFront and rearFront and rearFront and rearRear
Slo-Mo2X240 fps (1080p)240 fps (1080p)240 fps (1080p)60 fps (1440p)
LivestreamingYes (1080p)Yes (1080p)Yes (1080p)YesNo
HDRNoYesYesNo
No
Motion StabilizationMax HypersmoothHypersmooth 3.0+ BoostHypersmooth 2.0+ BoostHypersmoothStandard
Microphones
63222
Water Resistance
16 feet33 feet33 feet33 feet33 feet
Battery1600 mAh1720 mAh1220 mAh1220 mAh1220 mAh (built in)
Size2.7 x 2.5 x 0.98 inches2.75 x 1.9 x 1.6 inches2.5 x 1. x 1.1 inches2.5 x 1.9 x 1.3 inches
Weight154 grams158 grams126 grams142 grams

There's no question that the Hero9 Black is the best GoPro camera around. It boasts such features as 5K video, better motion stabilization, longer battery life, and a front-facing display that lets you frame yourself when recording video or taking photos. Its only drawback — if there is one — is that it's quite hefty. At 158 grams (5.6 ounces), it's even heavier than the GoPro Hero Max, the company's 360 camera.

Aside from being great action cameras, there are a few other things that GoPros can do. GoPro released software that lets you use the GoPro Hero9 and Hero8 Black as a webcam. Here's how to use your GoPro as a webcam

GoPro also launched livestreaming for its Hero9, Hero8 Black, Hero7 Black and GoPro Max cameras. However, in order to use this feature, you must be a GoPro Plus subscriber, which costs $49.99 annually. The subscription also provides unlimited cloud storage of GoPro footage, no-questions-asked camera replacement, and up to 50% off GoPro accessories. You also get a discount on the camera itself, if purchased directly from GoPro: the Hero9 Black, for instance, costs $349 rather than $399 if you have a subscription.  

The best GoPro cameras you can buy today

best GoPro cameras: GoPro Hero9

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

1. GoPro Hero9 Black

The best GoPro camera overall

Specifications
Max Video Resolution: 5K/30 fps
Max Photo Resolution: 20 MP
Touch Screen: Yes (2)
Battery Life: 1:41
Water Resistance: 33 feet
Size: 2.75 x 1.9 x 1.6 inches
Weight: 5.6 ounces
Reasons to buy
+Front-facing screen+Removable lens+Media “Mods” add functionality
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy

With the GoPro Hero9 Black, GoPro not only took the criticism of the Hero8, but also added a much-needed feature: a front-facing display. This small screen now shows a live preview, making it much easier for selfie artists and bloggers to frame themselves in videos and photos.

In addition, the Hero9 has a removable lens, so you can once again add filters, such as GoPro's new Max Lens Mod, which enables you to take really wide and stabilized video. It can also shoot at resolutions up to 5K, and its larger battery will perform better in colder temperatures. Our sole criticism is that it's pretty heavy, so you'll certainly notice it if you attach it to a helmet. But overall we'd still consider this to be the best GoPro camera.

Read our full GoPro Hero9 Black review.

Best GoPro camera: GoPro Hero 8 Black

GoPro Hero 8 Black (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

2. GoPro Hero8 Black

The next best GoPro camera

Specifications
Max Video Resolution: 4K/60 fps
Max Photo Resolution: 12 MP
Touch Screen: Yes
Battery Life: 158 minutes
Water Resistance: 33 feet
Size: 2.6 x 1.9 x 1.1 inches
Weight: 4.2 ounces
Reasons to buy
+Much-improved audio quality+Sleeker accessory mounting system+Media “Mods” add functionality
Reasons to avoid
-Battery door is awkward to close-Lens is no longer removable

Until the arrival of the Hero9 Black, the Hero8 Black was the best GoPro camera overall. It remains a great bit of kit today, and one that's available for $100 less than the newer model. Unlike previous GoPro cameras, the GoPro Hero8 has its mounting "fingers" built directly into the camera, which makes it a bit easier to attach accessories. You no longer need to use a case if you want to attach it to accessories, such as a tripod or helmet mount. Unfortunately, it also means that cases and lens adapters you had for older GoPros won't work with this model. 

The redesign also allows for new add-on "Mods," which increase the functionality of the camera through external mics, lights, and more. 

GoPro improved the motion stabilization to make the footage from the Hero8 Black the smoothest we've seen from an action camera (until the Hero9 at least), and the overall quality remains as great as ever. The Hero8 Black has also been updated to work as a webcam, and its HyperSmooth 2.0 video stabilization works with more video settings.

Read our full GoPro Hero 8 Black review.

best GoPro cameras: GoPro Hero7 Black

GoPro Hero7 Black

3. GoPro Hero7 Black

The best GoPro camera for around $250

Specifications
Max Video Resolution: 4K/60 fps
Max Photo Resolution: 12 MP
Touch Screen: Yes
Battery Life: 158 minutes
Water Resistance: 33 feet
Weight: 4.2 ounces
Reasons to buy
+Shoots impressively smooth video+Improved touch controls on viewfinder+Sharp 4K videos
Reasons to avoid
-Livestreaming could use some tweaks-Still images can be hit-or-miss

Surprise surprise — next on our list is the GoPro Hero7 Black. This was the first of GoPro's action cameras to include the ability to record 4K video at 60 fps. Like earlier models, it's waterproof to 33 feet, has a rear 2-inch color touch-screen LCD, and voice control. While not as effective as the Hero8 or Hero9, the Hero 7's image stabilization is still excellent. Plus, it can livestream to Facebook using the GoPro app. 

Because of its older design, the Hero7 Black needs to be inserted into a case of some kind if you want to mount it to anything. Now that the Hero8 and Hero9 are on the market, GoPro has discounted the Hero7 Black, and you may be able to find even better deals on the camera through online retailers. For instance, GoPro currently has refurbished versions available for as little as $179.

See our full GoPro Hero 7 Black review.

Best GoPro cameras: GoPro Hero Max

GoPro Hero Max (Image credit: Future)

4. GoPro Hero Max

The best GoPro camera for 360 video

Specifications
Video Resolution: 5.6K/60 fps
Phone Support: Android/iOS
Water Resistance: Splashproof
Battery Life: 1 hour
Storage: MicroSD/256GB
Size: 2.9 x 2.6 x 1.6 inches
Weight: 4.6 ounces
Reasons to buy
+Excellent video quality+Motion-smoothing+Intuitive menus
Reasons to avoid
-Needs tripod-Expensive

While not the best GoPro camera overall, the GoPro Max does have a major point of difference from the others — namely its ability to shoot 360-degree video. Unlike most 360 cameras, the GoPro Hero Max has a small display on its back that lets you view what its cameras are looking at. While it's not as handy as it seems, the large display does make it easy to navigate and change the Max's settings without having to use your smartphone. 

The GoPro Hero Max also has a HyperSmooth stabilization feature, so your bumpy video will look nice and smooth, and image quality from the camera — up to a max resolution of 5.6K/30 fps — lives up to GoPro's typical high standards. Plus, GoPro's app is loaded with features, including the ability to livestream video from the Max.

However, the GoPro Hero Max's design requires the use of a selfie stick, and lacks a tripod mount, so you have to use it with one of GoPro's accessories. 

Read our GoPro Max review.

Best GoPro cameras: GoPro Hero7 Silver

GoPro Hero7 Silver (Image credit: GoPro)

5. GoPro Hero7 Silver

The best GoPro camera for around $200

Specifications
Video Resolution: 4K/30 fps
Phone Support: Android/iOS
Water Resistance: 33 feet
Battery Life: 1 hour
Storage: MicroSD/256GB
Size: 2.5 x 1.9 x 1.3 inches
Weight: 2.9 ounces
Reasons to buy
+Inexpensive (for GoPro)+Takes 4K video
Reasons to avoid
-Not as good motion stabilization-No front display

The GoPro Hero7 Silver is the best GoPro camera if you're looking to spend around $200 on an action cam, but still want good quality video. Like the pricier GoPros, the Hero7 Silver has video stabilization, but it's not as effective. There's also no front-facing display, so you'll have to rely on the rear display to find out how much recording time you have left, and how much juice is left in the battery.

The Hero7 Silver can shoot 4K video, but you're limited to 30 fps, which truthfully won't be a big deal for most users. But, the camera is waterproof to 33 feet, can take time-lapse videos, and be controlled by voice. 

GoPro is no longer selling this model directly, but you should be able to find it at retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon for around $199.

What to look for when buying a GoPro camera

Design

While all of the best GoPro cameras (with the exception of the Max) share a similar design, there are a few differences, especially between the Hero9 Black and older models.

With the Hero8 Black, GoPro redesigned the camera so that the mounting "fingers" — used to connect the camera to GoPro accessories — are built directly into the bottom of the camera. This way, you don't need to attach a case if you want to mount the camera to a selfie stick or some other device.

However, unlike earlier models, the Hero8's lens cover cannot be removed; other GoPro models let you take this piece off so you can attach other lens covers, such as filters and the like. The Hero9 rectifies this issue.

All GoPro models have a rear display which you can use to frame your shot and adjust settings. However, the GoPro Hero7 Silver (and the Max) lack a front-facing LCD, which on the Hero7 Black and Hero8 Black show your recording time, battery life, and more. Unlike the others, the Hero9's front display also acts as a viewfinder, which makes it easier to compose shots with you in it.

Video and image resolution

The GoPro Hero9 Black is the first GoPro that can shoot video at 5K resolution, albeit at a max framerate of 30 fps. Both the GoPro Hero8 Black and Hero7 Black can shoot 4K video at 60 frames per second, as well as slo-mo video at 1080p/240 fps. That's better than the Hero7 Silver, which tops out at 4K/30 fps, and can only shoot slo-mo at 120fps.

On the stills front, the Hero9 takes 20MP photos, while the Hero8 Black and Hero7 Black are both limited to 12MP and the Hero7 Silver has to make do with 10MP.

The GoPro Max is in a class of its own, as it shoots 5.6K spherical videos, but only 1080p/60fps rectilinear video. 

Image stabilization

One of the defining features of the best GoPro cameras has been electronic image stabilization, which goes a long way towards smoothing out shaky action cam footage. GoPro calls its technology HyperSmooth; hyperbole aside, it's very effective. Newer (and pricier) GoPro models have more advanced versions of HyperSmooth.

If you're taking really shaky video, though, we recommend the GoPro Max; because it's a 360 camera, and recording everything around you, it's the best at maintaining a level horizon no matter how much the camera bounces around.

Be sure to check out all of our camera picks:

Best cameras | Best DSLR cameras | Best action cameras | Best waterproof cameras | Best point-and-shoot cameras | Best instant cameras | Best mirrorless cameras | Best cheap cameras | Best GoPro accessories | Best drones | Best 360 cameras | Best iPhone lenses | Best iPhone tripods |DSLR vs. mirrorless | Best Nikon accessories | Best Sony a6000 accessories


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