The birth of brushless 3 axis gimbals has arguably revolutionized the consumer camera industry giving consumers and prosumers alike the ability to capture stable video footage at a MUCH higher success rate. The days of picking through clips, trying to squeeze out that one semi-ok looking shot to finish an edit have been a thing of the past for a while now.
Camera technology in and of itself has also come a long ways too as many of today's new cameras both small and large now feature additional optical and digital image stabilization features that actually perform so well it has honestly pondered many of us here in the office - is the gimbal industry going to be around in 10 or 20 years? How long is it going to be until camera hardware & digital image stabilization technology improves so much that it renders our 3 axis stabilizers useless? The answer is truly a topic of discussion for an entirely different article but it is fair to say that technology is heading in that direction and it won't be long before we start seeing camera technology that is comparable to gimbals...
Oh wait...what's that? Did you hear what GoPro came out with? ;)
All kidding aside, the newest action camera from GoPro (GoPro Hero7 Black) is marketed very cleverly claiming to be “The Gimbal Killer”. GoPro’s introduction of "HyperSmooth" stabilization claims to steady the camera so well that many fans of GoPro are now saying that you don’t need a gimbal to use with this camera. Well, being a gimbal company we had to of course put this claim to the test and give the GoPro Hero7 Black a fair shot.
Now before we get into the review it’s important to note a few details about the new GoPro Hero7 and HyperSmooth stabilization:
- “HyperSmooth” is a stabilization feature only available on the Hero7 Black model and is not available in the two other lower Hero7 model cameras called the “Hero7 Silver” and “Hero7 White”.
- “HyperSmooth” has its limitations in terms of compatible resolution and frame rates when filming. HyperSmooth compatible resolutions & frame rates are:
- 4k = 24/30fps
- When HyperSmooth is turned on it results in a 10% FOV (field of view) crop - meaning that the resulting video is a reduction and calculated average of what the entire camera sensor is capturing.
So let’s get into it…
JP Schlick our lead in-house editor went out and gave the Hero7 Black a thorough test, shooting moving shots while mountain biking and static shots of his buddy skateboarding. Comparing the results of HyperSmooth ON with no gimbal vs HyperSmooth OFF with a gimbal. Check out the video below:
Our Take on Video Quality
In our testing the Hero7 Black’s most notable improvement with HyperSmooth ON is the camera’s ability to minimize high frequency vibrations - resulting in overall smoother shots. Previous GoPro model cameras like the Hero3 and Hero4 were notorious for producing nauseating video especially when mounted to the handle bars of a bike or the deck of a skateboard. “GoPro Jello” as we used to call it was almost unavoidable without spending a great deal of time trying to isolate vibrations from the camera.
Our take away from testing the GoPro Hero7 Black with HyperSmooth turned ON is that it is an amazing compliment to the camera. Shooting with HyperSmooth ON in scenarios where you are not putting the camera through a lot of movement significantly improves the video quality overall.
However for high speed mounted shots or shots where you are running or inducing a lot of movement to the camera the HyperSmooth feature does just an OK job smoothing out the video. It is by far a noticeable improvement but like before the camera’s ability to smooth out all movements is inherently limited by the way it is mounted to the rider and / or the level of steadiness of one’s hands while shooting video - something that gimbals like our EVO SS wearable gimbal offers a fix.
The one thing that we didn’t mentioned in our video is that while the HyperSmooth feature significantly improves the camera’s ability to stabilize high-frequency vibrations, it does not help the camera in terms directional heading or by keeping the it level and smooth to the horizon - something many gimbal users and film makers are very used to by now.
Another note worth mentioning is that with HyperSmooth on we found that sudden yaw (pan) axis changes in direction usually resulted in the stabilization algorithm rendering sudden jumps in the footage - essentially turning what was at one moment a really smooth shot into a sudden interjected shutter.
Thankfully the GoPro Hero7 Black’s audio quality has significantly improved compared to the predecessor Hero5 and Hero6 models. With a newly redesigned waterproof membrane microphone housing the Hero7 Black does not possess the same infamous ‘wind-tunneling’ or ‘harmonic’ feedback that plague the earlier Hero5/6 generation cameras. This notable improvement is especially evident when paired with our EVO SS wearable gimbal. In our test we estimated that the reduction in feedback interference was reduced approximately 85% when set to basic audio settings - which makes hearing any electronic feedback from the motors very difficult to hear. Thank you GoPro!
Is the audio perfect? No it is not. Do not expect ‘perfect’ quality audio. Remember it still is an action camera. The audio quality on basic settings is probably comparable to the GoPro Hero4 but it is most certainly a significant improvement over the Hero5 & Hero6. Which then begs the question to many - is it worth an upgrading to the new GoPro Hero7 Black if I already have the Hero5 or Hero6? Our answer? Probably - but that is highly dependent on your overall use and goals of owning an action camera in the first place. For many audio quality isn’t as important as it is to some and given the semi lack luster performance of the HyperSmooth stabilization feature at the end of the day is it ultimately worth dishing out another $399 for this camera? In our opinion if your after better overall audio and video quality then yes it should be taken into consideration. But the camera certainly isn’t overall a ‘gimbal killer’.
What we strongly feel is fair to say is that the Hero7 Black offers a much better end user experience out of the box than all preceding camera models which in all honesty does probably make it the best action camera on the market today.
The GoPro Hero7 Black is overall flat out awesome and is arguably by far GoPro’s most successful release to date. Needless to say the Hero7 Black is turning out to be something we are already fighting over in the shop until we get more units in.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to let us know! Take care and Keep It Smooth!