To help create more video content I recently purchased the GoPro Hero 8 Black. After one trip backpacking trip with it and some around-the-office tinkering, I’ve decided to return it.
I’m new to action cameras and to videography in general, so entering this market is a bit overwhelming. And unfortunately I didn’t have time for exhaustive research, since my first guided trips of the season are coming up fast.
I was intrigued by the Insta360 One R, but the device’s crevices and modularity seemed poorly suited to rough and dirty backcountry use. Meanwhile, GoPro’s flagship Hero 8 Black seemed to check all my boxes:
- Compact and durable body;
- Good video quality, sound, and image stabilization in consideration of the device’s size, weight, and price;
- Optional exterior mic using the Media Mod; and,
- Less expensive, and also currently $100 off.
I also assumed that, as the industry creator and leader, GoPro would address well my relatively basic needs.
Why it’s being returned
The most problematic issue with the Hero 8 is its TERRIBLE battery life, which makes it completely impractical for the backcountry. Its performance on my trip was laughable: I shot just 27 clips totaling 16:56 before the battery died.
We started early on a Saturday, and by mid-morning I noticed that the battery was being depleted rapidly. The camera was “off,” but I speculated that something was running in the background. So I turned off Wi-fi, GPS, voice control, and Boost, and I turned down the screen brightness. That may have helped some, but it wasn’t enough.
The camera burns through the battery when it’s recording and also when it’s not. For example, while sitting on my desk for the past 72 hours, the battery has gone from 62 percent to 47 percent, or a 5 percent daily drain. I’m appalled that GoPro has not solved this issue in the eighth generation of this product. And, no, removing the battery between uses and at night is not an acceptable option.
Online reports of piss poor battery life and battery drain are widespread. While the device specs at 81 minutes of recording (at 1080p/60fps), realistically it’s much less, especially with the battery drain.
Updating the firmware, reformatting the memory chip, and turning off all the nice-to-have features (why bother then?) has not solved the problem.
A lesser concern with the Hero 8 is that it does not have a lens protector. If it falls the wrong way onto some rocks, or if it’s simply abraded by Utah sand in a hipbelt pocket, the image quality will never be the same.
At this point, I only know one thing: the Hero 8 Black isn’t going to work for me. But I’m not yet certain what I will get instead.
Two other options:
- Buy a gimbal and external mic for my smartphone; or,
- Shoot more video with my trusted Canon G9X camera, and when necessary take audio through a standalone system run through my smartphone, which can be combined in post-production.
Thoughts and suggestions are welcome.
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