July 13, 2024


The term “GoPro” has become an eponym for action cameras as a whole, like “Coke,” “Kleenex,” and “Band-Aid” before it. Sure, there are plenty of other sports camera brands for sale in 2023, but none that come close to matching the feature set of GoPro. And after reviewing the GoPro Hero 12 Black, a feature-packed 5.3K camera, I can tell you that the brand keeps finding new ways to top itself.

The GoPro Hero 12 Black released Sept. 13, 2023, and it’s available for via GoPro and Amazon. The Hero 12 promises drastically better battery life, improved video stabilization, a new wide-angle lens accessory, and new tools for content creators — including vertical capture, which lets you record vertical-frame video for TikTok and Instagram Reels.

GoPro shared its new camera with me for testing ahead of its release, and so far I’ve been very impressed. After spending a few weeks with the newest GoPro camera, I definitely think it’s worth the upgrade for most people (with a couple of notable exceptions).

Is the new GoPro Hero 12 Black worth it?

Let’s answer the most burning question right from the jump: does this new action camera justify the $399.99 price tag? Absolutely, it does. (I should note that the wide-angle Max Lens Mod 2.0, mounting accessories, and cloud storage cost extra.)

For reference, I’ve previously tested the best travel cameras for Mashable, and I recently tested the Hero 12’s predecessor, the GoPro Hero 11 Black. I’ve also tested dozens (hundreds?) of products in my career, including many that failed to live up to the brand’s launch-day promises. Although I’m not a professional videographer, I’ve spent enough time with filmmakers to know the essentials, and I can tell you with confidence that this is an impressive action camera.

Unboxing the GoPro Hero 12 Black with the Max Lens Mod 2.0 attachment.

Unboxing the GoPro Hero 12 Black with the Max Lens Mod 2.0 attachment.
Credit: Timothy Beck Werth / Mashable

GoPro Hero 12 Black camera with accessories and max lens mod

The accessories included with the GoPro camera I tested for this review.
Credit: Timothy Beck Werth / Mashable

I would definitely recommend upgrading to the Hero 12 unless you just bought the Hero 11 or you like the GPS features of the Hero 11. If you carefully check the spec comparisons between the Hero 11 and 12, you’ll notice that the newer model loses support for GPS data. And as GoPro Hero 12 reviews on Reddit note, that’s one of the key ways GoPro achieved superior battery life.

Hero 11 customers complained about overheating and short battery life, and GoPro’s recommended solution was to disable GPS. With the Hero 12, GoPro has made that decision for you. For the vast majority of users, this isn’t an essential feature, but motorsports enthusiasts and hikers may miss this data.

How does the Hero 12 compare to the Hero 11?

I’ve tested both of GoPro’s newest action cameras, and they both left me wishing I’d pursued my childhood dream of becoming a professional stuntman or skydiver.

If you just dropped $400 on the Hero 11 Black, then it might not be worth upgrading so soon, as the Hero 12 offers only incremental upgrades in some areas. However, with new tools for professionals and social media content creators, it’s absolutely worth the upgrade if you have an older-model GoPro or rely on this camera for professional use. Besides the aforementioned vertical capture, the Hero 12 offers twice the runtime compared to the Hero 11, as well as timecode encoding and the ability to sync with Bluetooth audio devices.

Close-up view of the GoPro Hero 12 Black camera

Close-up view of the GoPro Hero 12 Black.
Credit: Timothy Beck Werth / Mashable

What’s new with the GoPro Hero 12 Black camera?

The GoPro Hero 12 Black comes with a few key upgrades compared to its predecessor:

  • Improved battery that doubles the runtime

  • Improved HyperSmooth 6.0 video stabilization and horizon lock

  • New editing tools for professional content creators

  • Vertical capture mode for social media

  • New super wide-angle video mode (with Max Lens 2.0 attachment

The headline here is the improved battery, which GoPro promises will provide users with two times the runtime. According to a press release, the new GoPro “delivers 70 minutes of continuous recording at 5.3K60 (Hero 12 Black’s highest performance setting), over 95 minutes at 5.3K30 and over 155 minutes of continuous recording at 1080p30, all with HyperSmooth 6.0 video stabilization on.” If you invest in a second battery, that means you can record virtually uninterrupted for almost 2.5 hours.

In my testing, the camera lived up to its battery life promises, although I do expect some degradation the more I use the camera and batteries. As noted above, the improved battery life comes at the expense of GPS data, which the Hero 12 no longer supports. That’s a fair tradeoff as far as I’m concerned.

What about the improved video stabilization? GoPro already has Emmy-award-winning video stabilization technology, which gets even better with the newest GoPro. This camera also features horizon-lock, which means as a skateboarder or skydiver spins, the horizon and point-of-view of the video will remain steady, and it’s definitely a neat little trick, as you can see in the video below.

I took the Hero 12 on a cycling trip across New York City, and the resulting video footage was as smooth as promised.

Reviewing the GoPro Hero 12 Black’s video capabilities

Using the GoPro camera is incredibly easy, and GoPro has updated its quick controls to make its user experience as foolproof as possible. You’ll want to turn down the camera’s volume settings (it beeps way too loud) unless you’re in a very noisy environment, but otherwise I have no gripes to report. For advanced users, there’s a more in-depth menu where you can adjust settings to your precise needs.

Unfortunately, the GoPro app Quik wasn’t quite as impressive. I did have some difficulty editing within the app. As you can see, there are pretty straightforward options for uploading and accessing your footage.

screenshot of GoPro Quik app

Pairing my camera to the Quik app.
Credit: Timothy Beck Werth / Mashable

screenshot of media library in the gopro quik app

A screenshot of the Quik media library on my iPhone.
Credit: Timothy Beck Werth / Mashable

Unfortunately, the app really struggled with longer video files. For Quik paid subscribers, GoPro will automatically create a highlight reel video after every new adventure (more on this new and needing-improvement feature below). When I tried to edit these highlight reels, the app frequently crashed or froze. I tried editing my video files into smaller, more manageable chunks but encountered the same problem.

To be fair, I have an old phone with low memory, and we’re dealing with raw 4K footage. Still, I saw a lot of this while using the app:

screenshot of frozen screen in gopro quik app

The spinning wheel of death, GoPro edition.
Credit: Timothy Beck Werth / Mashable

After clearing up a lot of space on my phone, I was able to edit smaller video clips with no problem in the app. You can check out some of my test videos on my TikTok channel.

GoPro Hero 12 Black offers new tools for professionals

GoPro has an army of content creators all over the world shooting professional videos with their cameras, and countless athletes, surfers, skydivers, drivers, and snowboarders use GoPro cameras to share videos with their fans. For professionals, GoPro has introduced some handy new features that will make it easier to create and edit videos.

Video editors will appreciate that the new GoPro offers timecode syncing when you’re using multiple cameras and Bluetooth support for audio devices like microphones. And like the Hero 11 Black, video footage can be automatically uploaded to the cloud as soon as you’re done shooting.

The Hero 12 also comes with a new lens accessory, the Max Lens Mod 2.0 Accessory, which lets you achieve a “177 degree field of view at 4K resolution at 60 frames per second.” This wide-angle lens supports a new “Hyperview” setting to capture even more immersive action shots. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity (or skillset) to test out these features while flying down mountain slopes or jumping off cliffs, but I was impressed with the video I captured cycling across the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City.

Finally, the Hero 12 Black comes with a new extra-large 8:7 sensor. With all of these tools (and plenty more), this camera is capable of producing video unlike anything that’s been captured before with an action camera.

GoPro Hero 12 Black offers tools for social media (and amateurs)

Okay, so professionals are sure to love the new feature-set of this GoPro camera, but what about more casual users like myself? Hardcore videographers may look down their nose at vertical-frame video, but for folks who want to make cool videos for TikTok, this camera’s new vertical video mode is really awesome. Even better, while you can shoot in vertical video, you can also automatically turn your horizontal-frame video into vertical format, making this camera a versatile tool for social media content creators uploading to YouTube and TikTok.

I also appreciated that the GoPro Quik app will automatically turn your video footage into a short video montage, which is super useful if you don’t want to spend hours on video editing and just want to share something quickly with your friends.

Semi-pro tip: When you shoot using the “Full Frame” mode, you can then use the GoPro Quick app to switch between widescreen, vertical, and standard frame using the same video footage.

For early reviewers, GoPro organized a graffiti tour and workshop, and I wanted to share the montage the Quik app created. You can see the video GoPro created of this adventure below and on my TikTok channel, optimized for vertical video.

This is a cool feature, but not a perfect one. The footage GoPro included in the montage was often random, and the video included one shot oriented the wrong way. You do have the ability to edit and tweak the montage by selecting new clips, music, or switching between vertical and horizontal video. However, as I mentioned, the app gave me quite a bit of trouble when I tried to edit longer 4K videos.

GoPro Hero 12 Black captures 27MP images

Like other GoPro cameras, the Hero 12 doesn’t just capture 5.3K video — it can also capture images with an astounding level of detail. For sports and action photography, this camera will take 27MP images. For reference, that’s significantly more detail than many popular DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras.

Of course, you won’t be able to fine tune photography settings like you could with a FujiFilm or Sony camera, but it’s a useful value-added feature if you want to snap some pics along with your gorgeous 5.3K video and time-lapse footage.

Here are two unedited photos I took with my GoPro Hero 12 Black:

graffiti artwork of red monster on a brick wall

A photo from a graffiti tour organized by GoPro.
Credit: Timothy Beck Werth / Mashable

the author standing in front of a graffiti mural in Brooklyn

The author on a graffiti tour organized by GoPro.
Credit: Timothy Beck Werth / Mashable

What are the biggest downsides to the new GoPro camera?

As much as I enjoyed playing around with this camera — and as impressive as the video stabilization and video quality truly are — I did experience a couple of minor pain points while using this camera.

Because GoPro has packed so much tech into such a compact camera, the Hero 12 Black overheats when you’re uploading video or approaching the end of a session. That’s not new or surprising, and the camera doesn’t get so hot that it’s impossible to hold, but it’s noticeable. And, like I said earlier, I also encountered some issues with the Quik app.

The bottom line: The GoPro Hero 12 Black is a beast of a camera

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this GoPro camera. For instance, I’m treating it as a given that you can’t literally scratch the surface of your new GoPro, as waterproofing and durability are to be expected with any new GoPro. I performed some underwater tests with this camera, but waterproofing is nothing new with GoPro.

I tried to play around with as many features and settings as I could with the GoPro Hero 12 Black, and it continues to impress me the longer I spend with it. It’s hard to believe that a camera that costs $399.99 can capture professional-quality 5.3K video, but GoPro has overdelivered with its latest action camera.


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