Whether you want a camera that can keep up with your adventurous lifestyle or one that will commemorate life’s biggest moments from a point-of-view angle, we love using GoPro cameras for both video and photos.
The company makes cameras in a variety of price points and with varying features, but something they all have in common is their small size. Designed to be handheld or mounted on anything from a helmet to a snowboard to a selfie stick, GoPros are ideal for anyone who is concerned about weight, whether you don’t want to weigh down your suitcase with a bulky camera or change the balance of your snowboard.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a GoPro
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right GoPro for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Picture and video resolution: If you’re shooting a once in a lifetime event, you’re going to want the pictures and videos to look as good as possible. The video and photo resolution (image quality) can vary by GoPro, but our minimum requirement was the ability to shoot at 4K and take 10 megapixel photos. This ensures your memories will look clear on every screen in your home, from a laptop to a giant TV.
Video stabilization: Cameras with video stabilization reduce the jittery-ness in photos and videos through using a mix of hardware and software to compensate for your movement. All of the GoPros on our guide have this feature, but some do a better job than others.
Dynamic range: This is a fancy way to say better color accuracy, and more contrast between dark and light parts of your pictures and footage. The more dynamic range a camera is able to capture, the more lifelike everything looks.
Durability: GoPros are also known for their durability, with the small rugged cameras able to withstand tough climates. Every model in our guide is waterproof, so you use them to capture video of a mountain bike ride in the rain, or your latest snorkeling adventure.
Connectivity: All modern GoPros can be wirelessly connected to your phone over Bluetooth and WiFi, which makes it easy to transfer, edit, and share clips. You can also adjust the camera’s video settings, including white balance, sharpness, and exposure. Some models also have built-in hardware that lets you start a livestream from the camera itself.
1. GoPro HERO7 Silver
The HERO7 Silver is where you should start if you’re just getting into the world of action cameras.
It has a maximum video resolution of 4K at 30fps with stabilization, and can take 10MP (megapixel) photos with a wide dynamic range. The camera has two microphones, and intelligently uses them to reduce noise from wind. GoPro says this camera is waterproof in up to 33 feet of water.
You can adjust its settings four ways: through GoPro’s app, by tapping on its touch screen, through voice commands, or hitting the “mode” button on the side of the camera. The first three will give you access to more controls, but we like that you can cycle through some features at the push of a button during a strenuous activity (think snowboarding with gloves on).
The camera saves your media on a MicroSD, which you’ll need to buy separately. We recommend getting a card with a large amount of storage, since high resolution video files are big.
While we’re talking about accessories, the HERO7 is the only GoPro in our guide that requires an external mount if you want to attach it to a tripod. This will add some weight and bulk to the camera, which may get annoying if you’re trying to pack light.
PROS: Small size, excellent waterproof rating, solid video performance.
CONS: Needs an accessory to mount it.
Note: If you want most of these same features, but don’t mind sacrificing some video quality, we recommend the $157 GoPro HERO7 White. Its maximum video resolution is 1080P, and it doesn’t have HDR, but beyond that they’re almost identical.
2. GoPro HERO8 Black
The HERO8 Black may only be one number away from the HERO7, but it’s a big improvement in several ways.
It has a maximum video resolution of 4K at 60fps (the higher the frame rate, the smoother the video), and maximum photo resolution of 12MP. Its higher resolution video is bolstered by a GoPro technology called HyperSmooth 2.0 + boost, which can further reduce jitter in video and photos, and lets you snap your video to the skyline, so it looks more natural.
The HERO8 Black also ups the ante on color quality by using another GoPro technology called SuperPhoto, which uses software to automatically adjust the camera’s photo settings to get the best shot. GoPro also said that it’s improved the camera’s HDR over previous models, so colors and skin tones should look more true to life.
GoPro introduced a new mode with the HERO8 Black called LiveBurst, which captures 1.5 seconds of video before you hit the shutter button, so you’ll have a greater chance of getting the beginning of a shot you may have missed otherwise. You can adjust this setting to take a burst of 90 still images instead.
The camera’s physical body hasn’t gotten much larger, but it has a few standout quality of life improvements. There’s a front-facing microphone, which can capture better audio and further reduce wind noise. There’s also a status screen, which shows the camera’s current resolution, battery life, and clip length. Beyond that, it has the same control mechanisms as the HERO7, down to recording on a MicroSD Card.
One of the biggest changes is the addition of “folding fingers” at the bottom, which lets you clip the camera onto your clothes, helmet, or post, so you don’t have to worry about getting the best shot. Like the HERO7, the HERO8 Black is waterproof at up to 33 feet.
Finally, you can stream 1080P video directly to Facebook Live or YouTube if the camera is connected to WiFi, which is great if you want to share video from an event in real time.
PROS: On-camera live streaming, improved HDR, SmartBurst helps you get videos or photos you might have missed otherwise.
CONS: Video resolution jump isn’t very big from more basic models.
3. GoPro MAX
The Max earns its name by being the most advanced camera GoPro makes.
It has a maximum video resolution of 6K at 30fps, and a maximum photo resolution of 18MP with Max HyperSmooth, an improvement over HyperSmooth 2.0.
Those video specs don’t tell the full story, though, because the GoPro Max is a normal action camera and a 360 camera, which can stitch together 360° of video at 5.6K (30fps) and photos at 16.6mp. In 360 mode, the camera will automatically shoot and stitch these photos and videos together, so you won’t have to mess with them manually on your phone or computer.
It can also capture distortion-free photos at 270°; again, the camera stitches everything automatically. You can even shoot a 360° motion smoothed time lapse video.
These video features are complemented by a six microphone audio system that captures directional audio to create a 360° surround-sound effect.
Despite all of this, the GoPro Max is actually a little worse than the other cameras in this guide. It doesn’t have the front-facing screen the HERO8 has (it’s been replaced by a microphone), and it only has a waterproof rating of 16 feet. Neither of these are deal breakers, but the added hardware in this camera means it’s taken a slight durability hit. It’s also strange that it can only live stream video in 1080p, but that may be a limitation of YouTube and Facebook live.
Beyond that, the GoPro MAX retains most of the same physical features present in more basic models. It has a touch screen, physical shutter button, mode switch button, and stores your media on a MicroSD card. It’s about one inch taller than the other cameras in this guide, but that’s not a huge deal, especially since it has GoPro’s folding fingers, so you might not need an external mount.
The GoPro MAX is a feature stuffed action camera for people who want the most options while shooting and editing their photos or videos. If you want to capture your next trip or sporting event in the highest fidelity, this is the only choice.
PROS: 360° photo and video, best-in-class motion smoothing, super high resolution.
CONS: So-so waterproof rating, no front-facing screen.