I never really considered action cameras as tools for professional photographers. They always seemed overly simplified and dumbed down to the point that they weren’t useful.
That all changed when I picked up the GoPro Hero 8!
Upon further review, I found the technology had advanced tremendously since I passed judgement on this whole category of cameras.
I’d always thought that the lack of control was a limiting factor when it came to action cameras, but now I realize they definitely have a place in the market.
The point of an action camera is to allow you to capture your experience when the conditions don’t allow for a regular camera.
Is GoPro really the best? Well, with the GoPro Hero 8, I don’t hesitate to bring a camera regardless of where I’m going. It can literally go anywhere: underwater, rain/snow, dust/dirt, etc. It’s so simple and compact that you don’t have to think about it!
This is what separates action cameras into a segment all to their own. I highly encourage you to check out this style of camera even if you’ve previously ignored it like I did.
Read on to find out why I’ve become a believer in action cameras, and why I think everyone should check out the GoPro Hero 8.
Table of Contents
GoPro Hero 8 Specs
- Great quality images/video for the size
- Very easy to use
- Excellent value
- Customizable functions
- Low light performance
- Battery life
- LCD could be bigger
- 12 MP CMOS sensor with RAW output
- 2″ touchscreen operation
- 15-24mm equivalent focal length (digital zoom only)
- 4k video recording at 60fps
- ISO range 100-6400
- 1/16000-1 second shutter speed
- Waterproof to 33′ without housing
- Built-in foldout mounting tabs
- USB-C charging in camera
- Wireless communication with Bluetooth
- Single microSD card slot
- 2.4″ (W) x 1.3″ (H) x 1.8″ (L) / 6.2 (W) x 3.2 (H) x 4.5 cm (D)
- 4.13 oz / 117 g
Build & Appearance
Previously, my only experience with action cameras was the Gen 2 GoPro.
I was in for a big surprise when I got my hands on the GoPro Hero 8: the technology and design has evolved substantially.
I was initially very impressed with the sleek style and durable feel of the Hero 8. With simple fold-out mounting tabs on the bottom of the camera, it feels like they’ve reached the next level in design.
There are only 2 buttons on the camera (power and record). This makes the camera dead simple to operate but it still retains a full menu of customization through the touchscreen on the back.
I especially loved the ability to set presets for quick access to common functions.
The camera itself (without a housing) feels extremely tough and has the specs to prove it. Waterproof to 33ft (10m), I never hesitate to take this camera anywhere.
I appreciate that despite being so tough, this camera is still very small and lightweight.
Another thing to note about the GoPro is the simplicity of operation. Because it only has one built-in fixed lens, it allows you to point the camera in a general direction and know that the camera will do its job to capture the scene.
By design, everything past about 1ft (25cm) is in focus. The fixed wide angle lens does an excellent job of capturing big landscapes and making sure to capture the entire scene.
The only adjustment to this is the option to use the digital zoom function.
The digital zoom (15-24mm equivalent focal length) allows you to get a rectilinear image instead of fisheye. This is especially useful when shooting video.
The only thing to note here is that this function is only available when shooting stills in JPEG mode. RAW files will output the entire image capture but can be corrected easily with the lens correction tool in Adobe Lightroom.
Lastly, I really appreciated the simplicity of having a built-in USB-C charging port. This allows you to simply open the battery door and plug in the charging cable.
Overall, the GoPro Hero 8 has reached a level of quality in design that makes it incredibly enjoyable to use!
Ergonomics & Handling
The minimalist design of the GoPro Hero 8 makes it very easy to hold and use.
The buttons are well designed so that they function well when you want them to, but are rugged enough that the camera won’t accidentally get switched on.
It has a touch compatible rear screen and it’s easy to use even when you’re in the water. The screen also has a handy lock function that prevents accidentally changing settings.
Another small feature I appreciated was the ability to switch between photo/video/time-lapse modes with the press of the power button. Holding down the power button turns the camera on/off.
The flip-down mounting tabs on the Hero 8 are a major improvement over previous designs.
Having the ability to hand-hold the camera or quickly mount it on the variety of mounts without having to worry about carrying around the external case is a tremendous improvement. This feature alone makes the Hero 8 a worthy upgrade from previous generations.
When it comes to action cameras, they aren’t really complete until you get a few mounting options. The magic of a GoPro is its durability, but what sets it apart is the ability to put it in unexpected places so you can get creative in ways that other cameras can’t match.
After reviewing a multitude of options, I think the most important mounts to consider are: a selfie stick, a chest or helmet mount, and a clamp/suction mount. With these three types of mounts you’ll be able to position your GoPro in a variety of places that will give you interesting perspectives.
Sometimes the fixed wide angle lens can seem like a limitation, but I try to think of that as a creative constraint and push myself to think of a unique way to use the camera.
I think this is best achieved by putting the GoPro somewhere that a normal camera couldn’t go.
To summarize, the ergonomics of the GoPro Hero 8 are very well designed.
Through the last 8 generations, GoPro has refined their design to keep the best features and minimize the barriers to creating impressive content.
There really isn’t much to think about when it comes to focusing. The beauty of an action camera like the GoPro Hero 8 is that is has a fixed focus that’s sharp from 1 ft to infinity all the time!
This incredible depth of field allows you to focus on framing and capturing the moment instead of worrying about whether things will be in focus. I really appreciated the simplicity of this feature on the GoPro Hero 8!
The other unique opportunity that the GoPro focus range offers is the ability to shoot over/under water photos with everything in focus.
There are a variety of dome ports available that allow you to easily shoot a split level image (something that is much more complicated with a larger camera).
Low Light Performance
Shooting in dark scenes is not something action cameras are especially known for and the GoPro Hero 8 is no different.
The Hero 8 excels at capturing fast action in adverse conditions but it doesn’t handle high ISO very well.
I found that about 3200 was the max usable ISO with 1600 giving a relatively clean image. The JPEG files looked good but RAW files produced slightly better results after utilizing noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom.
The GoPro Hero 8 offers the best available performance in its class of action cameras, but if you’re seeking excellent low light performance, I’d suggest looking for a camera that’s designed to shoot at high ISO.
The image quality of the GoPro Hero 8 exceeded my expectations. The JPEG images look incredibly sharp and vibrant, especially when viewed on a smartphone.
I found that the RAW files edited very nicely in Adobe Lightroom and I was able to produce some awesome images.
Overall, the images from this camera are very sharp and have good dynamic range. I would compare the image quality to that of top of the line smartphones like the iPhone 11 Pro.
Because it’s a hybrid photo/video camera, the Hero 8 straddles the line of quality between the two. Additionally, it’s a niche product that’s meant to serve a specific need: a super durable, go-anywhere photo/video camera.
With that in mind, the GoPro Hero 8 serves its niche incredibly well. More info on the video performance/features is listed below.
This review is mainly focused on using the GoPro Hero 8 for still images, but it would be incomplete if we didn’t look at the incredible video specs that it offers. Many people really enjoy both capabilities and I agree.
The GoPro video performance is incredible for the size of the camera. It offers top of the line image stabilization all while shooting 4k at a variety of frame rates.
It also shoots 240fps slomo at 1080p.
Image stabilization on the Hero 8 is improved over previous generations with HyperSmooth 2.0. I was amazed at how stable the video is with this feature enabled. It allows you to get gimbal-like shots even while handholding the camera while skiing/running/biking, etc.
What I loved about the video features on the GoPro is their simplicity and usability. Video amateurs will find out-of-the-box success while professionals will be able to make impressive shots by getting the camera into creative positions.
Either way, the GoPro Hero 8 is a powerhouse of video capability.
The GoPro Hero 8 performs incredibly well at its given task: creating impressive photos and videos in a super durable and versatile package.
Sure it has some drawbacks, like poor low light performance and the lack of flexibility in terms of lens choice – but overall it does an excellent job of producing stunning visuals in places where other cameras can’t go.
It’s very fast to use, has an ultra-simple interface, and produces excellent quality straight out of the box.
Additionally, I’m very impressed by the user interface design and streamlined workflow that comes with the GoPro app. I appreciate that GoPro is a forward-thinking company and I think other camera manufacturers should take a hard look at their model.
The Hero 8 pairs easily to a smartphone to offload content that can be easily edited and shared.
I appreciate how they offer a service with unlimited cloud storage for your images so that you never have to worry about losing any data.
It’s awesome to see GoPro making the backend workflow so user friendly. Someday I’m sure we’ll all think it’s silly to have to offload memory cards to a computer and use a separate editing software to process/export images.
For now, I’m impressed with the friendly interface between the GoPro Hero 8 and a smartphone.
Other Useful Features
Unlike other more traditional cameras, the GoPro Hero 8 offers some unique features that fit into the hybrid photo/video format they’re targeting.
One of those features is the incredible burst mode. With one press of the shutter, the camera captures 90 images in 3 seconds starting 1.5 seconds BEFORE you press the shutter! Forget about missing the moment due to shutter lag!
Another cool offering from the GoPro Hero 8 is the time lapse modes. You can easily create time-lapse or hyper-lapse videos with a very easy-to-use interface.
I found these modes similar to what’s offered on the iPhone but still fun to play with because of the wide angle field of view and durability of the GoPro.
Lastly, GoPro really upped the ante when it comes to customization. Their “mods” allow you to customize the camera to add an improved microphone, a flip-out LCD screen, and an LED light.
The mods are available for an additional price.
As I mentioned previously, I think a GoPro isn’t complete without the accessories to mount it. If you buy a GoPro, make sure you get a least a few different mounting options to make sure you can get the most out of its versatility!
Value for Money
At around $400, the GoPro Hero 8 is amazing value! It provides a unique perspective that’s difficult to replicate without a much more expensive camera setup.
With the minor downsides like low light performance, the Hero 8 is an amazing buy for someone who wants to have a super-compact camera with a wide angle lens to quickly capture exciting moments in life.
I think it best serves someone who loves action sports and wants something that can keep up with the sports they pursue.
Compared to the Hero 7, the Hero 8 is a nice upgrade due to the simplicity of mounting and the new video features (namely HyperSmooth 2.0 and the digital lenses).
It also comes with improved battery life, but if you plan on using this camera a lot, you’ll need to pick up a few extra batteries regardless of the version you’re using.
In comparison with the DJI Osmo Action, the GoPro Hero 8 has some improved functionality/quality but the main feature it’s lacking is a front-facing screen (available with a “mod”).
If you’re looking for something to take selfies with or film yourself in a vlog style, the DJI Osmo Action may be a better buy, but overall the GoPro Hero 8 has better performance, features, and functions.
It’s amazing that such incredible technology is available at such an affordable price. For the niche that action cams target, the Hero 8 is unbelievable value! What other sub $400 camera has such stunning performance?
GoPro Hero 8 Review | Conclusion
I will definitely be keeping and using the GoPro Hero 8.
It’s an incredible powerhouse of a camera that produces incredible results. I especially love the way it pairs with my smartphone for downloading, editing, and sharing!
If you haven’t considered the GoPro Hero 8 worthy of your attention, I strongly encourage you to check it out. It’s great for creating photos/videos of action sports or sharing exciting moments on social media.
The price point for the Hero 8 makes it very accessible for anyone looking to create interesting content.
With the rise of sharing stories, photos, videos on social media, I think everyone should at least try an action camera!