GoPro HERO 8 Black review: A fantastic, frameless and feature-rich action cam

The GoPro HERO 8 Black boasts a new sleek, frameless design and incredible features – but there's one big frustration

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GoPro Hero 8 Black review: price, release date and our official verdict
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(Image credit: GoPro)
T3 Verdict

The GoPro HERO 8 Black’s frameless design makes it ultra-clean looking and very simple to use. GoPro’s brilliant new flagship shooter is without question the most powerful and feature-rich action camera in the world, with a simple yet highly-intuitive interface that makes it easy to achieve excellent results – even for beginners. While some fans may be disappointed to learn that the HERO 8 Black camera lacks a front-facing display as standard (an add-on ‘flip-up’ screen can be purchased) any gripes over this lack of additional functionality are made up for by the superb overall package the Hero 8 Black offers.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Frameless design is sleeker

  • +

    The best image stabilisation available

  • +

    Bombproof construction

  • +

    Pre-set modes produce superb results

  • +

    Simple post-production via the app

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No front-facing display as standard

  • -

    Unreliable voice commands

When it first launched, the GoPro HERO 8 Black had some very big shoes to fill. Could it improve on its groundbreaking predecessor? Could GoPro take on the very well-equipped and aggressively priced DJI Osmo Action – especially with the latter's inclusion of an integrated front-facing screen? 

Well, we spent some quality time with the HERO 8 Black, using it both on the dirt track and in the ocean, and we're happy to report that the answer to both of those questions is 'yes'. Although for the latest model, you'll need to head to our GoPro HERO 9 Black review (released September 2020, this is the best GoPro around – explore our GoPro HERO 9 Black vs HERO 8 Black face-off to see how the two compare), the HERO 8 Black remains an absolutely excellent action cam. It's still at number two in our best action camera ranking.

While overall we love this action cam, we should state that although there are some big wins here, there's also one very obvious frustration (more on that later). And the extent of how much it frustrates you depends upon why you're thinking about buying a GoPro HERO 8 Black.

The action camera was first made available for pre-order from GoPro.com in October 2019, and is now available with an MSRP of $349.99 ($299.98 with one-year GoPro subscription) at major retail partners like Amazon and Best Buy as well as the GoPro website. 

How does that price compare to its predecessor, the HERO 7 Black, and its arch-nemesis, the DJI Osmo Action? Well, the HERO 7 Black has now dropped to an official MSRP of $349.99 ($299.98 with one-year GoPro subscription), while the Osmo Action has an MSRP of $369. With a newer model on the market, we're likely to see some good GoPro deals on the HERO 8 Black – keep an eye out for a Black Friday deal (or if you're not set on a GoPro yet, check out the alternatives in our best cheap action camera roundup).

If you want to see how the Osmo Action stacks up against the HERO 8 Black, read our GoPro HERO 8 Black vs DJI Osmo Action head-to-head review. For an in-depth breakdown of how the DJI Osmo Action compares to the HERO 7 Black, read our GoPro HERO 7 Black vs the DJI Osmo Action comparison.

Before we dig into our review of the flagship GoPro, let's take a minute to drool over the GoPro HERO 8 Black action camera in all its glory:

GoPro Hero 8 Black image gallery

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GoPro Hero 8 Black action camera photographed head-on and without any Mods

The Hero 8 Black action camera sports a frameless design and is lighter than the Hero 7 Black when placed in its casing
(Image credit: GoPro)
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GoPro Hero 8 Black action camera photographed with its folding finger mounts extended

Here you can see the folding mounting fingers extended at the base of GoPro's new action camera
(Image credit: GoPro)
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GoPro Hero 8 Black photographed attached to a mini GoPro tripod

Well, hey, Hero 8 Black...
(Image credit: GoPro)
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GoPro Hero 8 Black photographed with the Light Mod attached to the top of the camera

The Hero 8 Black in use with the Media Mod (mic) and Light Mod
(Image credit: GoPro)

GoPro HERO 8 Black review: First impressions

With a refined body and a host of other innovations, the HERO 8 Black seizes the throne previously occupied by the HERO 7 Black. That means the HERO 8 Black now sits near the top of the revered Hero action camera range. The GoPro Max 360-degree camera, which launched shortly after, stands apart from the Hero range.

So the new GoPro HERO action camera line-up is as follows:

  • HERO 9 Black – $449.99 ($349.98 with one-year GoPro subscription)
  • HERO 8 Black – $349.99 ($299.98 with one-year GoPro subscription)
  • HERO 7 Black – $249.99

The HERO 7 White will no longer be available, and the 360-degree Max replaces the GoPro Fusion.

Unfortunately, vloggers and anyone else hoping for an integrated front-facing display on the HERO 8 Black action camera, like the one on its biggest rival, the DJI Osmo Action, might be disappointed. If you want a front-facing screen on the HERO 8 Black, you will need to buy a GoPro ‘Mod’, also called the Display Mod, separated at an additional cost. More on these new GoPro accessories later.

Want to know how the new GoPro compares to DJI's first-ever action camera? Then check out our GoPro HERO 8 Black vs DJI Osmo Action head-to-head.

There was a rumor going around that the HERO 8 Black would be powered by a next-gen GoPro System on Chip. That’s not true: the GP1 Chip sits under the hood of this GoPro model, just as it did on the HERO6 Black and HERO7 Black.

Regardless, GoPro seems confident that a combination of the HERO 8 Black’s improved casing, new easy-to-use video modes, and a slicker, more powerful version of its revered HyperSmooth image stabilizing software, along with a plethora of other functionalities and enhancements, packs enough of a punch to make up for the lack of an integrated front-facing display. Let’s find out if that’s true…

A GoPro HERO 8 Black is used to film a person skiing down a mountain

(Image credit: GoPro)

GoPro HERO 8 Black review: price and release date

The HERO 8 Black action camera costs $299.98 if you also purchase one-year GoPro subscription (an additional $49.99) or $349.99 without the subscription, and is available for purchase starting October 15 on GoPro.com and from third-party retailers on October 20. That price may seem steep considering the price drop on the GoPro HERO7 Black, but the difference isn’t massive. So let’s find out if the HERO 8 Black really worth the extra few bucks – and that’s without the cost of those optional Mods.

GoPro HERO 8 Black review: specs

  • Weight: 126g (no frame required)
  • Dimensions: 66.3W x 48.6H x 28.4D (mm)
  • Video: 4K60, 2.7K120, 1080p240 
  • Photo: 12MP
  • Max video bit rate: 100Mbps (4K)
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • App: GoPro App integrated with Quik
  • SoC: GP1 Chip
  • Digital lenses: SuperView, Wide, Linear, Narrow
  • Burst: 12MP 3, 5, 10 and 30fps with burst options of 1, 3, 6 and 10 seconds
  • Time Lapse: 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30-second and 1, 2, 5 and 30-minute intervals
  • TimeWarp 2.0: 2x, 5x,10x 15x and 30x recording speeds
  • Night Lapse: 4, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30-second and 1, 2, 5 and 30-minute intervals
  • Touchscreen: Intuitive 2-inch LCD
  • Waterproofing: 10m (33ft) without a case
  • GPS: Yes
  • Voice control: Yes
  • Microphones: three
  • Battery: removable 1220mAh lithium-ion 
  • Stabilisation: HyperSmooth 2.0 with High and Boost options
  • HDR: SuperPhoto, auto HDR processing
  • Live Streaming: Yes, via app
  • Other: Portrait mode, auto orientation
  • Memory storage: microSD with at least class 10 or UHS-I rating

GoPro HERO 8 Black review: design and setup

At first glance, the HERO 8 Black looks pretty similar to its predecessor. However, its body appears sleeker, with cleaner lines and a lens that’s not as prominent, despite being marginally bigger in size than the Hero 7 Black. The GoPro HERO 8 Black measures 62.3W x 44.9H x 33D (mm), while the HERO7 Black measures 66.3W x 48.6H x 28.4D (mm).

Crucially, the HERO 8 Black does away with the tedious task of having to fit the camera in an additional frame (required for the HERO7 Black, DJI Osmo Action and other GoPro rivals) in order to mount it. Instead, two ‘folding fingers’ hinge out from its base and fit directly to a mount or whatever accessory you choose to use. These fingers can be magnetically laid flat at the base when not in use. It’s a nifty new addition.

A high-quality rubberized finish covers much of its front and rear edges to prevent potential slippage. And while lighter than its predecessor at 126g (compared to HERO7 Black’s 142g with frame), the HERO 8 Black’s metal construction still has some nice weight to it. 

The camera feels bombproof, and it essentially is. We inadvertently discovered this on a mountain bike ride during testing – we crashed and the rear drop-out mounted HERO 8 Black went through our rear wheel on impact. The rim and spokes were bent from the accident, but the GoPro got away unscathed and even continued recording video throughout the ordeal. The HERO 8 Black also survived bumping off roots, being whipped by brambles, and getting churned and bashed around while surfing, all without sustaining a scratch.

While unavailable for testing at the time of writing, there’s a new set of accessories, called ‘Mods’ (short for modular), designed for the frameless GoPro HERO 8 Black. There are three Mods in total:

Display Mod – a flip-up screen that connects via Media Mod ($55.99)
Media Mod – boosts audio with a shotgun mic ($55.99)
Light Mod – adds 200 lumens and 200 lux 1m to optimise lighting during shoots ($34.99)

These Mods aren’t available until December, which was a bit of a head-scratcher. Especially the Display Mod – considering how the DJI Osmo Action kicked down GoPro’s front door with its snazzy front-facing display, you’d think GoPro would have released the Mods at the same time as the HERO 8 Black. Anyway… 

While not hugely practical for the HERO 8 Black’s main function as an action camera, these Mods are funky and should boost the GoPro’s appeal to vloggers and anyone else looking for a premium compact and lightweight video production tool. Unfortunately, since we were not given the Mods to use during our review of GoPro’s new action camera, we cannot say the following:

  1. How they work with the frameless design
  2. How effective they are

Meet the GoPro Hero 8 Black Mods

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GoPro Hero 8 Black photographed with the Light Mod attached to the top of the camera

This is the Light Mod, attached to the HERO 8 Black action camera via the Media Mod
(Image credit: GoPro)
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GoPro Hero 8 Black mic Mod

This is the Media Mod, which you'd use for enhanced audio quality when recording
(Image credit: GoPro)
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GoPro Hero 8 Black screen Mod

And this is the snazzy Display Mod, which delivers a flip-up screen experience to the GoPro Hero 8 Black
(Image credit: GoPro)

GoPro HERO 8 Black review: features and usability

Much to our delight, and as expected from action camera royalty, the HERO 8 Black is incredibly simple to figure out and use straight out of the box. Charge it using the supplied USB-C cable, fire it up, choose from video, photo, or time-lapse mode, and you’re good to go.

In video mode, the rear touchscreen enables you to scroll through four presets, each designed for a range of scenarios. These presets, namely Standard, Activity, Cinematic and Slo-Mo, can be customized to suit your needs. You also have the ability to create six custom presets that you can add to an easy-access list. 

The default video presets are:

  • Standard: records at 1080p and is ideal for shooting slower moving subjects
  • Activity: recording at 2.7K and 60fps, this is best for capturing intense activities and fast-moving subjects
  • Cinematic: shoots at the maximum 4K video resolution with a 16:9 aspect ratio, rather than the standard 4:3
  • Slo-Mo: creating HD video at 240fps, it’s great for high-speed action shots

Similarly, on photo mode, you also have four customizable options to choose from: Photo, LiveBurst, Burst and Night, on top of the ability to create and store your own custom settings.

The default photo presets are:

  • Photo: captures a single, unprocessed image
  • LiveBurst: records the moments 1.5 seconds before and after your shot, allowing you to choose the best frame
  • Burst: records a rapid succession of images at 30fps when you press and hold the shutter
  • Night: automatically uses slower shutter speeds allowing you to record images in very low light

Time Lapse video mode lets you easily create static, time-lapse sequences. Alternatively, there’s the TimeWarp 2.0 function, which lets you create moving, handheld sequences ideal when traveling over a distance, or for conveying the passage of time. A nifty new feature enables you to switch between real-time and time-lapse recording with a tap of the touchscreen – something that encouraged us to get creative and add more fun into our videos.

Recording in low light and nighttime conditions? There’s the Night Lapse video mode, or play around with Slo-Mo (8x) to highlight the juicy parts of your action edits.

Like the HERO7 Black, the HERO 8 Black responds to a range of voice commands, which can be handy when your hands are otherwise occupied. On paper, the camera can handle 14 commands in 11 languages and 6 accents. However, when moving at speed or there’s background noise, we found that the GoPro did not always pick up our instructions – frustratingly, we had issues when mountain biking and surfing.

While you can edit your images and videos using the camera, you get a far greater range of options and applications when using the GoPro App. Once synced via Bluetooth with your Hero 8 Black, the app enables you to control your new GoPro using your device. It also allows you to stream to YouTube and Facebook Live, as well as offload your content locally or to GoPro’s cloud service (subscription fees apply). And with it, you can edit your clips and instantly create cool looking videos using Quik and its in-built themes. 

GoPro HERO 8 Black review: video and stills

The GoPro HERO 8 Black’s stills and video are incredibly rich and detailed. This is particularly apparent when filming at 4K60. While the video resolution may be the same as its predecessor, its superior bit rate of 100Mbps (compared to the HERO7 Black’s 78Mbps) improves data transmission and produces even better, studio-quality shots as a result.

GoPro’s hugely impressive image stabilization software, HyperSmooth, dominated headlines when the HERO7 Black landed, so it’s not surprising that HyperSmooth 2.0 takes center stage on this new flagship camera.

The most significant update here is that HyperSmooth 2.0 stabilization is now available across all video modes and resolutions, which is a BIG deal. In addition, you also now have the luxury of increasing the level of stabilization further by running HyperSmooth 2.0 in High or Boost settings. 

The differences between unstabilized and HyperSmooth-stabilized footage are impressive. However, know that the additional gains from High and Boost mode are marginal – though that’s hardly a problem considering that HyperSmooth is already the most impressive action camera image stabilization available.

The options for photo processing are pretty similar to those on the HERO7 Black but with a few additions. SuperPhoto automatically selects the best image processing for your shot, while HDR uses processing best suited for use in well-lit conditions with slower-moving subjects/surroundings. You also now have the option to save your images as unprocessed RAW files as well as in JPEG format.

GoPro HERO 8 Black review: an image taken of spray rising up from surf in the ocean

This still was taken by T3 using the HERO 8 Black action camera during a recent UK surfing trip

(Image credit: GoPro)

GoPro HERO 8 Black review: verdict 

Incredibly easy to use, all while yielding seriously stunning results, the GoPro HERO 8 Black action camera is a very impressive piece of kit. Boasting HyperSmooth 2.0 image stabilization and a host of other enhanced features, this is the most feature-rich action cam we’ve ever tested. 

The unique frame-less design and range of compatible Mods enable you to expand the HERO 8 Black’s huge capabilities beyond pure action shooting. This is great news for vloggers and anyone who wants to document their travels, though the fact that you’ll have to wait a little while to buy those Mods is frustrating.

If you’re new to action cameras and want the very best features, the GoPro HERO 8 Black should be your top choice. While the image resolution essentially remaining the same as its predecessor, making it less of an essential upgrade for HERO7 Black owners, it’s still one heck of an action camera.

That said, if your budget doesn’t stretch to $299.98, the GoPro Hero 7 Black is now priced at a reasonable $249.99. So then, it becomes a choice between that GoPro and the equally impressive DJI Osmo Action. Unsure of how they compare? Check out our Hero 7 Black vs DJI Osmo Action comparison piece.

For those of you who are vloggers first and action photographers/videographers second, and ‘seeing at a glance’ whether you’re perfectly in frame is more important than anything else, check out the DJI Osmo Action. Because while you will be able to add a flip-up display to the HERO 8 Black via the Display Mod, you’d have to be willing to pay extra for it.

Add that cost to the HERO 8 Black’s $299.98 (if you also pay for the $49.99 one-year GoPro subscription), and you’re suddenly breaking the $400+ barrier. That’s a lot more than the aggressively priced DJI Osmo Action, which retails for $369 and already comes with an integrated front-facing display. 

For pro-action photographers though, the $30 price difference (without the Display Mod) is minuscule. Ultimately, when it comes to the true nature of an action camera – a compact, rugged cam that can handle whatever you throw at it and still live to tell the tale – GoPro continues to lead the pack with the impressive HERO 8 Black. Action photography just hit a new level.