In appearance, absolutely nothing distinguishes the new GoPro Hero6 Black from its ancestor the Hero5 Black: same case, same materials, same layout, same positioning of physical controls, same screen size and definition, same optics, etc. the list of physical similarities is long. Clearly, only one element makes it possible to differentiate them: the mention “Hero5” or “Hero6” on the optics, next to the USB-C / HDMI hatch.
This perfect similarity ensures perfect compatibility with official, compatible and even DIY accessories.
But if the two cabins are identical to the nearest micrometer, it is different from the electronics: inside the small black block, everything has changed. Starting with the processor, GoPro’s first in-house chip, the GP1.
GP1: first home processor
After years of partnership, GoPro has announced that it will dispense with Ambarella chip services to drive its cameras. A risky bet – it takes skill to develop a processor! – justified by questions of costs, customization according to specific needs but also to allow GoPro to stand out from the competition. Because if the brand once had up to a year of exclusivity on the chips of the Californian Ambarella, the latter now sells its entire catalog to all Chinese brands that request it. GoPro, which does not intend to fight against cameras at 200 euros, decided to take out heavy artillery to try to make a difference. This difference is called GP1, an “intelligent” chip that recognizes scenes to adapt color rendering. And which turns out to be much better both in photo and video.
Always cut for the road
Since the Hero5 generation, GoPro cameras are now waterproof to 10 m without a housing and the Hero6 obviously benefits from this resistance. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are always in the game, as is GPS, a GPS whose data integrated into files (photo and video) allow Quick, GoPro’s free editing software (or any other compatible software), recreate superimposed tracks, speed, etc.
As we specified above, the Hero6 is compatible with all the accessories of its ancestor, batteries and nacelle of the Karma drone included.
Finally a very fluid 4K
On the performance side, the element that jumps out first is obviously the arrival of 4K mode at 60 frames per second. A mode eagerly awaited by those who wish to achieve more fluid sequences than those produced by the Hero5, limited to 30 frames per second maximum. Besides being able to produce x2 slow motion, it is above all an opportunity to give a softer rendering to action scenes or drone passages, the slighreview acceleration at 30p giving a blurred effect – here, the sharpness is more long preserved.
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4K60p mode is finally accessible because the GP1 chip integrates a hardware compression / decompression engine in HEVC (high efficiency video codec) also called h.265. It’s fire-Samsung which was the first to integrate it into its brilliant NX1, hybrid too far ahead of its time in 2014… and which is still in 2017, since the reading of h.265 files is far from be accessible to all machines. So be careful with the compatibility of your editing software if you decide to shoot in 4K at 60 frames per second.
240 fps: impressive slow motion (but watch the light)
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The new GP1 processor is not limited to 4K, it is also the one that makes it possible to record sequences at 120 fps (2.7K) or even 240 frames per second in Full HD 1080p. This impressive frame rate makes it possible to slow down a sequence up to 8 times by bringing it down to 30 fps. If the lareview iPhones are also capable of reaching these framerate (frame rate in English), the GoPro can do this on board for an hour without flinching and … without overheating!
The rendering of slow motion will obviously depend on the sequences and the editor, but this opens up a much wider creative field than what the competition or previous models can offer. Be careful with the light: the Hero 6 sensor remains a small compact sensor and at 240 images per second, the camera captures less light per frame than at 30 images. On our review sequence in mountain biking in the undergrowth, we note the degradation of the details in the darkest parts of the image. The 240 i / s mode is only in broad daylight or full of light. Below a certain level it is better to switch to 120 or even 60 fps
Improved image quality
The Hero6 offers better image quality than its predecessor, in both photo and video. We could just thank the GP1 processor again, but it is also the fruit of the work of the software development teams who are responsible for taming the chip. From the sharpness of the image to the color rendering, everything has been improved. Up to the dynamic range: the Hero6 displays more information in the shadows and is less likely to spread out the details. Jpeg compression is therefore much better.
Beware of colors however: the scene analysis of the Hero6 is sometimes very enthusiastic and tends, in very good weather, to oversaturate colors. Fortunately, a “flat” rendering is there to calm the ardor of GP1 and we can also take advantage of the RAW file format to develop slightly less brilliant shots.
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If electronic stabilization still requires cropping – information must be kept on the edges of the sensor to ensure a margin of calculation – this is extremely well contained in the case of the Hero6: only 5% loss. The sacrifice is therefore minimal for a very effective system for action scenes. For static shots – on a tripod, for timelapses, for example, we recommend that you deactivate the stabilization to enjoy the full focal length and not make the on-board electronic system work unnecessarily (this will preserve the battery and the quality of ‘picture).
No (yet?) Stabilization in 4K
Why put “still” in parentheses then? Simply because the engineers at GoPro entrusted us with actively preparing firmware updates to improve the performance of the camera or even extend its capabilities. Is 4K stabilization possible? The future will tell us.
GP1, a processor that has it under the pedal?
According to Engadget, who was able to speak with Nick Woodman, founder and managing director of GoPro, live streaming could arrive in the coming months. For our part, we had the chance to meet the head of the Parisian team of GoPro engineers who were in charge of the development of the GP1 – article to come! – and if he did not give more details about the improvements to come, the message was clear “we are still under the pedal”. It is up to them to prove it to us!