When your name is synonymous with the best action cameras, how do you maintain your status as the best action camera? GoPro has figured it out with the GoPro Hero11 Black, which combines a new image sensor with some innovative features to let you make the most of what you shoot.
My GoPro Hero11 Black review took me through the skies above and along the waterways of New York, as I tested out its new 8:7 image sensor, improved motion stabilization, and new settings for things such as light painting and star trails. TL;DR — if you’re in the market for a new action camera, this is the one for you.
GoPro Hero11 Black review: Price and availability
The GoPro Hero11 Black is now on sale for $499 (AU$869.94). However, you can get it for $399 (AU$649.95) if you also sign up for a GoPro subscription ($50 (AU$69.99)/year).
A Hero11 Black Creator Edition will be available for $699 (AU$1,324.74) or $579 (AU$929.95) with GoPro Subscription. It includes the camera, the Media Mod (a case with an external microphone), the Light Mod, and the Volta tripod, which has on-handle camera controls and a 4,900 mAh battery that gives you an extra 4 hours of recording time. It’s one of the best GoPro accessories, especially if you plan on shooting video for a long time.
GoPro is also releasing the GoPro Hero11 Black Mini ($399/$299 with GoPro subscription) in October (Australian pricing TBD). Like the long-discontinued GoPro Session action camera, the Mini is a small cube that lacks a screen, though there is a small display on the top that shows battery life and recording time. The Mini, which is meant for those who want a smaller and lighter camera for, say, their helmet, has just a single button on top for starting and stopping recording. For more details, be sure to check out our GoPro Hero11 Black vs. GoPro Hero11 Black Mini comparison.
GoPro Hero11 Black review: Design
As with the previous model, the Hero11 has a display on both the front and back; the front display is great for composing selfie shots, while the rear touchscreen is spacious, and makes changing settings a cinch.
GoPro also tweaked its on-screen interface, too: Now you can switch between Easy and Pro controls — the former gives you fewer choices but lets you get to shooting faster, while the latter lets you tweak every setting.
On the top of the camera is a record button, while the left side (if looking at the camera from the rear) has a power button. The Hero11 Black also has two fold-down “fingers” on the bottom that let you attach the camera to any standard GoPro mount without needing a separate case.
The right side of the camera opens to reveal the battery compartment, SD card slot, and USB-C port. It’s a little annoying that you have to open the door to charge the camera, but GoPro sells a USB door for $19 (AU$29.95), which lets you charge the camera while keeping the door closed.
GoPro Hero11 Black review: New features
The biggest change to the GoPro Hero11 is its 1/1.9-inch sensor, which is not only larger than the previous model, but has a 8:7 aspect ratio, which really allows for some neat things. When coupled with Hypersmooth 5.0, you get incredibly great image stabilization.
In addition, the Hero11 also has 360-degree Horizon Lock — you can literally rotate the camera in a full circle, and have the image remain steady. And, thanks to the more square-shaped sensor, you can do so knowing that nothing will get cut off. The only other camera with a similar ability is a 360 camera, such as the Insta360 X3.
The other key benefit to this larger sensor is that it also gives you a lot more flexibility when editing video, and outputting it to the aspect ratio you want. The GoPro Quik app lets you choose from 16:9, 4:3, 8:7, 1:1, 7:8, 3:4, and 9:16.
While it wasn’t available while I was testing the camera, GoPro will be adding a feature that lets you change between digital lenses in the app, so you can adjust the field of view after the fact.
GoPro Hero11 Black review: Performance
To test the Hero11 Black, GoPro took me and a few others on an open-door helicopter ride around Manhattan, as well as a speedboat ride up and down the East River.
For the helicopter ride, I mostly filmed using the Hero11’s full-frame 8:7 setting, as the ride wasn’t all that bumpy, and I wanted to give myself the most options after the fact for editing. The full-frame offers you a wide field of view — while not as expansive as a 360 camera, it’s still plenty wide.
For the speedboat ride, I used the 4k/30 fps setting. Despite the boat bouncing up and down as we flew over the wakes in the East River, the video I shot remained nice and smooth, as if the camera were on a table.
I further tested the Hero11 Black’s motion stabilization by strapping the camera to the back of my three-legged dog, and had him run around (he loves running, and it doesn’t hurt him). As with the Hero10 Black, I was astounded at how steady the resulting video looked. The camera was flopping around as much as my pup’s ears, yet you would never know it by looking at the finished product.
GoPro added three new night-specific shooting modes to the Hero11: Light painting, Star Trails, and Vehicle light trails. While you could create each of these to a certain extent with earlier models, it was a much more cumbersome process. Now, it’s a simple matter of tapping a couple times on the screen.
Star Trails lets you capture the stars and other celestial objects as they move across the sky. Here, you can set how long you want the trails to be, how long you want the shutter to stay open for, and more. I like that you can also set the duration, as well as when you want the camera to start recording. That way, you can set it to record at 3 a.m., but not have to stay up that late.
Light painting is also a lot of fun, and lets you explore your inner Picasso. Like the other night modes, Light Painting opens the camera’s shutter for an extended duration. Then, using a light source — like a flashlight or lighter — you can trace objects and designs in the air, and it will show up as a single image. I was able to do some pretty neat things with a light-up hula hoop, as you can see in the video above.
GoPro Hero11 Black review: App
GoPro’s Quik app is the second part of what makes the Hero11 one of the best action cameras.
In addition to letting you manually edit videos, the Quik app has a number of theme-based editing templates, which automatically create highlight videos from your recordings. It works by analyzing your video, then cuts it into a highlight reel, complete with a soundtrack.
It works really well; in mere minutes, I had created a pretty whiz-bang video from some of the chopper footage I shot.
Annoyingly, you have to download videos to your phone to edit them — whereas the Insta360 X3 lets you edit files while they’re still on-camera. If you have a GoPro subscription, you’ll soon be able to edit videos stored in the cloud, though you’ll be limited to files smaller than 4GB.
When it comes to manual edits, you can speed up or slow down specific segments, add filters, and change exposure, contrast, and more. The one thing I wish it could do was lock on a subject, as with the Insta360 X3, but it’s a bit trickier to do if you don’t have a 360 lens. An auto-highlight feature is also being added, but was not available while I was testing the camera.
If you have a GoPro subscription ($49.99 (AU$ 69.99)/year), you can enable another helpful feature in the Hero11 Black. When the camera is plugged in and connected to a Wi-Fi network, it will automatically upload all of the files on the camera to your GoPro account, saving you the trouble of having to do this manually.
A GoPro subscription gives you unlimited storage of full-resolution photos and videos taken with your GoPro. In addition, you get advanced editing tools (such as the aforementioned ability to speed up and slow down segments of your video, filters and music), live streaming, discounts on GoPro gear, and a no-questions-asked replacement if your GoPro camera gets damaged or goes missing.
GoPro Hero11 Black review: Battery life
When GoPro launched the Hero10, it also released a new optional Enduro battery, which offered roughly 40 percent more endurance, faster charging, and the ability to work in temperatures as low as 14 degrees F.
Good news for Hero11 Black buyers: That battery now comes as standard. According to GoPro, you should be able to record for up to 80 minutes when the camera is set to 5.3K/30 fps, and up to 137 minutes when recording at 1080p/30 fps.
GoPro Hero11 Black review: Verdict
While it’s not quite as expansive as a 360 camera, the GoPro Hero11 Black’s larger 8:7 image sensor lets you capture more of what you see, and, thanks to some clever editing tools in the GoPro Quik app, you have a lot more options around what to do with your footage afterwards.
Undoubtedly, the GoPro11 Black is the best action camera overall (and, not surprisingly, the best GoPro). However, those of you who plan to use an action camera mounted to a helmet may prefer the upcoming GoPro Hero11 Mini, which has the same sensor as the standard model, but which is smaller and lighter. The biggest tradeoff is that there’s no display, so you just turn the camera on, and edit things later.
Those looking for an even more immersive view should check out the Insta360 X3, which has a 1/2-inch image sensor and an equally impressive number of editing features.
As someone who has been using action cameras for more than a decade, the GoPro Hero11 Black is the best I’ve ever used. At least until the GoPro Hero12 comes out.
Next: Here is our detailed comparison between the GoPro Hero11 Black vs GoPro Hero11 Black Mini.