When it comes to action cameras, GoPro is likely the first brand that comes to mind. With GoPro releasing 10 generations of the Hero camera, do you really need the latest and greatest to capture some action-packed moments?
The action camera market is a competitive place, with brands such as DJI also having choices to buy from – but if you’re looking to stick with the GoPro brand, how does an older camera hold up? In this review we’re going to be looking at the GoPro Hero 8 to see what it offers and if it can still firmly hold its place – despite being a few years old.
Why the Hero 8?
I ended up purchasing the Hero 8 as it was the latest GoPro at the time and there was a nice promotion available for it – however, even though it is now a few years old, I still highligly recommend the Hero 8 for anyone looking for an action camera as you can usually get a good deal on one and they still manage to pack a punch thanks to a few notable features.
The two main features that I was looking for with the Hero 8 was their Hypersmooth image stabilisation as well as the 60fps 4K capture that the camera is capable of. For me Hypersmooth 2.0 is the main winner for me here as, spoiler alert, it’s really effective — although we’ll speak about that more later.
Let’s take a look at the design of the GoPro Hero 8, which follows a consistent design first seen in the Hero 6 but follows some design characteristics and language that have been present since the first GoPro.
The first striking thing about the GoPro is that it is not only compact, but how dense it is as well – it isn’t laboriously heavy by any means, but you can tell that it is packed full of tech in a rugged shell that can take a hit. Not only that, but it’s also happy to get dirty. From my use whilst mountain biking, my GoPro has been covered and submerged in mud and continues to work just fine, and thanks to the camera’s waterproof rating (it can be submerged up to 33ft) the mud is easy to wash off.
The front of the GoPro features an information display to show your recording mode, storage and battery to allow you to monitor your recording when you’re not able to see the touchscreen display. There’s also a recording light on the front as well as a microphone and the protruding lens. Unfortunately, unlike the Hero 7 and Hero 9, this lens is not swappable if damaged, so I have put “screen” protectors on the screens and lens of my GoPro.
The top and bottom are simple, there’s a big capture button on the top to start/stop recordings or take photos and the bottom has integrated folding fingers to attach the GoPro to various accessories and mounting solutions – it’s neat having these built into the GoPro as it means that you no longer need a plastic outer shell. These fingers are replaceable should they be damaged and you can do this yourself by ordering the part from GoPro’s website – nice.
The sides feature a power button on the left side and a weather sealed door which covers the battery, microSD card and USB C port. I’d recommend taking out the battery when putting in the microSD as I have sometimes slid it down the side of the battery and missed the slot completely, everything under the door is fairly tightly packed in.
Aside from what you get, the GoPro has expandability with mods which can allow you to tailor the GoPro for things such as streaming and broadcasting by adding integrated lighting or vlogging by adding a better-quality microphone, cold-shoe and HDMI port for example.
The software experience is fairly intuitive, mainly revolving around a gesture interface which makes use of swiping and scrolling – although you can still use physical buttons to switch between modes and start recording, which can be handy when you’re wearing gloves.
You’re able to set a variety of different presets for different situations as well as dig into the recording settings to change image profiles and bitrate settings – I initially missed these settings, however enabling the high bitrate for your recording does make a visual difference, although it does use up a bit of extra space.
The GoPro uses clear audible beeps to let you know when settings have been changed or an action has been made which is useful for when you’re out and about using the camera. This means that you don’t have to be constantly looking at the screen and can use the audible beep for reassurance to hear your recording start or your photo taken.
I also liked the ability of QuickCapture, which allows you to turn the camera on and immediately start recording with a single press of the shutter button. This is great for when I’m on my bike as I can use the GoPro to record clips, rather than the whole ride – allowing me to save storage and battery life – with a single charge usually lasting for around 40-50 minutes of continuous use.
Outside of the GoPro itself, it also has good integration with the mobile app, which connects to the GoPro via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, giving you remote viewfinder functionality as well as the option to start recording if your camera is mounted in a precarious location, the mobile app is also used to update the firmware. GoPro has also added the ability to use the device as a webcam for Windows and Mac computers – which is very handy if your built-in webcam isn’t great.
I’ve been really impressed and pleased with the image quality that I’ve been able to get out of the GoPro Hero 8. Out of the box the overall colour of the footage was a little oversaturated for my liking, so I dialled that back a little – however you may prefer that look, so it’s well worth having a mess around in the settings to make it work for you.
I usually find myself recording in 2.7K 60fps as this provides optimal sharpness for my casual usage and still keeps the video files relatively small and easy to work with – in comparison to 4K. This gives me a nice sharp image that I can confidently pause at any time to see a clear and sharp frame of my activities. The GoPro works well in well-lit situations and general daylight, but as it doesn’t feature a huge sensor it can struggle and get noisy in poorly lit areas and in the dark.
Digital lenses also feature, this is technically a software feature although I thought it would fit nicely into this section of the review. Digital lenses allow you to quickly switch between virtual focal lengths, this is useful if you don’t need as wide of a view or don’t want yourself to look like you’ve been recorded through a fisheye as it can work to look more like a traditional camera focal length versus an ultrawide. These digital lenses can unfortunately not be switched between during recording, like on an iPhone, but they can be set before you start recording without affecting the resolution of your video output.
I’ve also got to mention HyperSmooth 2.0, which does a phenomenal job at image stabilisation which leaves me with usable footage – even on really bumpy and shaky gravel. It may seem like a bit of a marketing gimmick, but honestly it really works. Some of the terrain that I am going over on my bike is incredibly bumpy and not smooth – HyperSmooth 2.0 does a great job of making it look like my GoPro is on a gimbal stabiliser.
Would you like to see a comparison between HyperSmooth 2.0 and my Zhiyun Crane 2 gimbal? Let me know!
I thought I’d also give a mention to the microphone, it does a decent job at getting clear audio whilst on my bike and the wind reduction is effective at delivering a clear result.
So, to conclude. I think the GoPro Hero 8 is a great choice of action camera for those that want to have a capable camera that delivers high-resolution and smooth video – I think it’s perfect for enthusiasts. Of course, if you want the bleeding edge or plan to use a GoPro commercially, the latest model is always available. However, when it comes to value for money, the Hero 8 offers a very compelling package.