GoPro Hero 7 Review

An in-depth review of the new GoPro HERO7 Black for underwater use featuring amazing improvements in underwater video and photo
By Bryan Chu

The GoPro is the world's most popular underwater camera, and for good reason. It is compact, affordable, and surprisingly powerful - allowing almost anyone to take it on a dive and get decent-quality video (depending on conditions and accessories used, of course). In fact, even Hollywood uses the GoPro for those hard-to-get shots. I have had the pleasure of using both the GoPro HERO6 Black and the GoPro HERO7 Black while diving and snorkeling in Southeast Asia. 

So is the GoPro HERO7 Black worth the upgrade from a previous model? Is it the right model for someone new to GoPros? This review answers both questions, as well as providing some helpful tips and tricks we have learned about getting the most out of your GoPro. The short answer from our experience is that the GoPro HERO7 Black is by far the best GoPro ever made. It is absolutely worth making the investment to upgrade from the GoPro HERO6 Black, and it's a no brainer to upgrade from a previous model (5, 4 etc). 

Purchase: GoPro HERO7 Black

Availability: Now

U.S. MSRP: $399.99

 

Shop GoPro PackagesGoPro Accessories and more on Bluewater Photo for all the housing, accessory and shooting tips you need to bring home excellent underwater video.

 

Jump to section:

GoPro HERO7 Black Specs   |   GoPro HERO7 Models |   Image Stabilization

Auto Exposure, White Balance, Colors and Contrast

TimeWarp Video   |   Photos & SuperPhoto   |   Understanding Your GoPro Settings   

Recommended Shooting Modes   |   GoPro HERO7 Accessories   |   Conclusion

Full GoPro Tutorial Series


GoPro HERO7 Black Specs

Key Upgrades from GoPro HERO6 Black

  • HyperSmooth Video Stabilization
  • TimeWarp Video
  • SuperPhoto Mode

GoPro HERO7 Black Complete Specs & Features

  • 12 MP CMOS 1/2.3 inch sensor
  • SuperPhoto mode
  • HyperSmooth Video Stabilization
  • Rugged + Waterproof to 33ft (10m)
  • Live Streaming
  • TimeWarp Video
  • 8x Slo-Mo
  • Touch Screen
  • Voice Control With Wake on Voice
  • GPS Performance Stickers
  • Touch Zoom
  • Photo Timer
  • Short Clips
  • Exposure Control
  • GP1 Chip (same as HERO6 but twice the overall performance of the HERO5)
  • Advanced Metadata
  • Protune
  • QuickStories Enabled
  • Removable Battery (1220mAH lithium-ion)
  • Karma Compatible
  • Super Suit (Protection + Dive Housing) Compatible
  • Video Resolution: 
    • 4K Video @ 60/50/30/24fps
    • 2.7K Video @ 120/60/50/30/24fps
    • 1440p Video @ 120/60/30/24fps
    • 1080p Video @ 240/120/60/30/24fps
    • 720p Video @ 60fps

GoPro HERO7 Model Comparison

Here is how the different GoPro HERO7 models stack up. For underwater use, the HERO7 Black is the only one compatible with the Super Suit dive housing. All models can be used for snorkeling, but the much better specs of the 7 Black, as well as the removable battery, mean that it is well worth the additional investment even just for snorkeling or land use. If you're a diver, the GoPro HERO7 Black is really your only option.

 

HERO7 Black

HERO7 Silver

HERO7 White

Photo

12 MP (with SuperPhoto)

10 MP (With WDR)

10 MP

Video

4K60

4K30

1080p60

Battery

Removable

Built-in

Built-in

Waterproof

33 ft (10m)

33 ft (10m)

33 ft (10m)

Video Stabilization

HyperSmooth

Standard

Standard

Time Lapse Video

Yes

Yes

Yes

TimeWarp Video

Yes

No

No

Super Suit Compatible (for diving)

Yes

No

No

 

Image Stabilization

The biggest improvement with the GoPro HERO7 Black is the hypersmooth image stabilization. It is most obvious with land use, but also makes a noticeable difference underwater.

The stabilization on the HERO7 Black is a big step up from that of the 6, and totally lives up to the hype! On land, it provides a huge boost to hand-held video (both walking and running). Underwater, although a bit less obvious, it still makes the video significantly smoother -  giving it more of a professional, polished feel. This feature alone makes the HERO7 Black worth the upgrade from the HERO6 Black for many GoPro users. 

Auto Exposure, Auto White Balance, Contrast, & Colors

To compare auto exposure, auto white balance, colors, and contrast, I took the 7 and the 6 diving on a reef in Tulamben. This footage was taken at about 30-50 ft depth (10-15m), using two Sola 2500F video lights. 

The HERO6 Black and HERO7 Black were pretty comparable, with the HERO7 Black having a small edge on the color and contrast in the foreground. The main advantage though was in the background - the blue of the background water given by the 7 was noticeably nicer than that by the 6. Overall, the improvements are not nearly as big as from the 5 to the 6, but they are still there. 

GoPro Hero 7 for Snorkeling

Along with testing out the two GoPros while diving at depths of around 10-15 m (30-50 ft), I tested it out for snorkeling use, to see if there was a performance difference at the surface. 

As can be seen in the sample video, at the surface the GoPro HERO7 provides a noticeably nicer tone of blue for the water than the GoPro HERO6. This allows for more polished and professional-looking underwater video without the use of filters or post-processing, even if you are just snorkeling rather than diving.

TimeWarp Video!

Time Warp video is an extremely exciting function which opens a lot of doors for a variety of creative uses. This seems to be more of a land-based function, but it is really, really good on land. It allows you to take smooth hand-held time lapse video while moving around. Yes, it sounds too good to be true, but it is the real deal. You can now take your GoPro and walk all over a cool resort, beach, island, museum, or whatever strikes your fancy, and get a smooth, sped-up video of the complete walkthrough. 

My fiancee and I made a day-in-the-life-of video for Villa Markisa, a dive resort we stayed at in Tulamben, Bali. They really wanted to emphasize the beauty of the grounds, so we combined a small amount of drone footage with a lot of GoPro TimeWarp video. With the GoPro HERO7 Black, we were able to walk around the resort just holding the GoPro in our hand, and get amazingly smooth sped-up walkthrough video. Underwater, we used the HERO7 Black with some 2000 lumen and 2500 lumen video lights to capture a variety of wide angle and macro scenes. The HyperSmooth stabilization really came in handy, especially for the macro scenes. We also made use of my Olympus OM-D E-M1 to get macro video of the very small critters. Here is a list of the scenes shot with the GoPro HERO7 Black, for reference.

  • All walkthrough/grounds scenes, using a mix of Time Warp video and normal-speed video (all handheld!)
  • All boat scenes (except for the drone shot)
  • All underwater wide angle scenes, using lights (Liberty wreck, giant frogfish, fish/reef scenes)
  • Selected underwater macro scenes, using Macromate +15 diopter and lights (mototi octopus, two pink/purple nudibranchs, two nudibranchs following each other, wonderpus)

This video could only be done with the GoPro HERO7 Black, as no previous model has the TimeWarp function or hypersmooth stabilization. So it is a really nice showcase for what you can get from this GoPro. Check it out below.

Photos and SuperPhoto Mode

Both the GoPro HERO6 and HERO7 Black can take surprisingly good photos, if you can get close to a good subject under nice lighting conditions. These sample shots were taken in basic photo mode, with HDR (HERO6) and SuperPhoto (HERO7) turned off, to test out the baseline performance.

For basic underwater photo, the GoPro HERO7 Black has a small advantage, with overall better contrast and sharpness.

So how about SuperPhoto mode? First, a quick explanation - as explained on the GoPro website:

With SuperPhoto enabled, HERO7 Black analyzes the scene being photographed and intelligently chooses the best enhancement process. This results in the best image quality possible in a variety of scenarios every time—long gone are the days of guesswork and being distracted by changing and customizing settings for every shot.

SuperPhoto offers two different options: HDR and AUTO. HDR captures the same high-dynamic range photos that were introduced with HERO6 Black. Whereas AUTO analyzes a wide range of scene statistics—such as dynamic range, available light and scene motion—then automatically selects one of four methods for processing the image:

  • High-Dynamic Range
  • Local Tone Mapping
  • Multi-Frame Noise Reduction
  • Standard (or none)

You can find more information about this feature here.

For these tests I turned on Auto HDR on the HERO6 Black, and SuperPhoto Auto on the HERO7 Black (i.e., full functionality). I tried out a few different photos to test for repeatability, and took shots at about 20 ft of depth. It was a cloudy day and not very bright out, but at this shallow depth there was still a decent amount of ambient light. However, note than a sunny day would have led to brighter and better colors of coral and fish.

As can be seen from these first three tests, the HERO7 in SuperPhoto mode definitely adds more contrast and sharpness than the HERO6. The first two photos are clearly much better with the HERO7's SuperPhoto. In the third photo, the foreground is a bit dark, but also note that instead of being light and blurry, the surface water is more nicely exposed and shows details lacking in the photo from the 6.

Overall, SuperPhoto on the HERO7 delivers much better image quality than HDR on the HERO6. But for scenes with only ambient lighting and very large dynamic range, SuperPhoto may render the darker area of the photo a bit too dark. So in general, shooting with ambient light, SuperPhoto should give you noticeably better shots, but in some cases it may be better to shoot in plain HDR mode instead.

The next tests were done with one small video light, a Light & Motion Sola 2500F, at the same conditions of about 20 ft of depth and a fairly dark and cloudy day.

In the first video light test, the images look very similar, with about the same quality in the foreground, but a bit more detail in the background with the HERO7 in SuperPhoto mode. However, in the second test the HERO7 Black looks significantly better. The colors are nicer, the contrast is much better, and the fish and coral pop a lot more. So, whether using lights or just shooting in ambient light, Superphoto is quite the asset. In some cases it provides only a minor advantage, but in other situations it makes a much better image.

The final comparison I did is to demonstrate the importance of using artificial light for underwater photos. 

Again, this is only a small 2500 lumen video light, but the difference between using ambient light and this video light is very significant. Although the fish form a nicer shape on the left image, they stand out much more on the right because of the video light. If I were to use two of these lights, or even just one light with more power, then the improvement would be much greater. Up until getting to strobe levels of light (call it 50,000 lumens plus), the more light the better. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that even a small 2000 lumen light is way better than no light, as long as you can get within a couple of feet of your subject. 

Understanding Your GoPro Settings

Video Modes

Here is a breakdown of the available video modes for the GoPro HERO7 Black. Note that some of the higher resolutions and higher frame rates do not allow for hypersmooth image stabilization.

Resolution

Aspect Ratio

FPS

Field of View

Screen Resolution

Image Stabilization

4K 4:3

4:3

30/25

Wide

4096x3072

None

4:3

24

Wide

4096x3072

standard

4K

16:9

60/50

Wide

3840x2160

Hypersmooth

16:9

30/25/24

Wide, Superview

3840x2160

Hypersmooth

2.7K 4:3

4:3

60/50/30/25/24

Linear, Wide

2704/1520

Hypersmooth

2.7 K

16:9

120/100

Wide

2704x1520

None

16:9

60/50/30/25/24

Linear, Wide, Superview

2704x1520

Hypersmooth

1440p

4:3

60/50/30/25/24

Linear, Wide

1920x1440

Hypersmooth

1080p

16:9

240/200

Wide

1920x1080

None

16:9

120/100

Linear, wide, superview

1920x1080

Standard

16:9

60/50/30/25/24

Linear, wide, superview

1920x1080

Hypersmooth

960p

4:3

240/200

Wide

1280x960

None

4:3

120/100

Wide

1280x960

Standard

720p

16:9

240/200

Wide

1280x720

None

16:9

60/50

Linear, Wide

1280x720

Hypersmooth

 

Resolution & Aspect Ratio 

The GoPro shoots in two aspect ratios (ratio of video width to height) - 16:9 and 4:3. 16:9 is the standard aspect ratio for video, while 4:3 is the standard aspect ratio for still photos. The GoPro sensor has an aspect ratio of 4:3, and is about 4000 px wide by 3000 px high. So when shooting at 4K 4:3, the GoPro is using basically the full image sensor. When shooting at 4K normal (16:9) then the GoPro is using basically the full width of the image sensor, but not the full height. For lower resolutions, the GoPro scales the video down from 4K. 

Frame Rate

There are a large amount of available frame rates. 30 fps is a standard video frame rate, while 24 fps is the frame rate for cinema movies. Anything 60fps and above allows for slow motion video when output at the normal 30 fps. However, some people do output their video in 60 fps, and there are situations where 60fps can provide smoother underwater video than 30 fps. 240 fps at 1080p is equivalent to 8x slow motion, for a normal 30 fps video. This is very impressive and can allow for some neat slow motion video making.

Field of View

The GoPro HERO7 has two main field of view options - wide and linear - as well as a superview mode.

  • Wide is the full wide view of the lens, which has a fisheye effect to allow for very wide angle shooting. In 16:9 (standard) aspect ratio this gives a 133.9 degree diagonal field of view when zoomed out, or a 70.8 degree diagonal field of view when fully zoomed in.
  • Linear is the field of view with the fisheye effect removed. In 16:9 (standard) aspect ratio this gives a 95.5 degree diagonal field of view when zoomed out, or a 57.4 degree diagonal field of view when fully zoomed in
  • Superview takes 4:3 video and squishes it down vertically to convert it into 16:9 video. As 4:3 video is taller than 16:9 video, this allows you to capture scenes with a larger vertical field of view, but then output video in the normal 16:9 aspect ratio.

GoPros do not have optical zooms, so when you use the zoom function, the GoPro actually just uses a smaller area of the sensor.  This is why you cannot zoom in when shooting in 4K; since 4K already needs the whole sensor in the wide field of view, there is no way to use a smaller area of the sensor. But when shooting in lower resolutions, the GoPro can zoom in by cropping how much of the sensor is used.

When shooting video underwater, you want to get as little water between you and your subject as possible (though don't go closer than the 12" minimum focus distance, or you will get blurry close-up video). The less water between your subject and the camera, the brighter and more colorful the footage will be. So, all things being equal, using a wider field of view and getting closer to your subjects will give you noticeably better video quality.

The GoPro HERO7 has the same issues as the 6 in that you cannot zoom in while underwater. So if you really want to zoom in for macro video you have to set everything up on the GoPro, and then keep it on while putting it into the super suit. You also have to keep it on during the whole dive. Or, you can shoot wide video in 2.7K or 4K and then crop it in post-production. This is what we do, and it works great.

Recommended Shooting Modes

I recommend shooting 2.7K @ 60 fps, wide field of view (fully zoomed out), with hypersmooth stabilization turned on. We use this for all of our macro and wide angle video. We then edit the footage, crop it down and stabilize it, and then output our videos at 1080 and 30 fps. 1080 is more than enough quality for web usage (ie Youtube, Instagram, Facebook). 2.7K provides the extra resolution to allow for cropping and stabilization without any compromise on the quality of our final 1080 resolution video. 60 fps helps have a bit smoother underwater footage, but the most useful part I find is that video shot in 60 fps can be slowed down to 30 fps without looking choppy. This is especially important for macro video, as it allows you to catch fast behaviours and make wobbles look a lot better on your final video.

4K is higher resolution, and is a big buzzword these days, but on a normal computer monitor or moderately-sized TV, the differences are not noticeable. And 4K video is very large and very difficult to edit - I would need to get a new computer to edit 40K @ 60fps. 

We use wide field of view, to get closer to the subject and get the best wide angle results. If we are shooting macro with a diopter, we still tend to use wide field of view, as that allows us to switch back to wide angle during the dive, and using 2.7K footage will let you crop out the blurry edges this creates.

So, 2.7K @ 60 fps should be good for the vast majority of GoPro users. But if you are doing cinema/broadcast quality footage, or if you want to be able to zoom in further on macro subjects, then by all means use 4K resolution. Just don't default to it - only use it if you have a good reason to!

Also note that some video editing software does not like 2.7K footage, as it is a non-standard resolution. For example, in Adobe Premiere Elements, you can edit and work with 2.7K footage for most functionality, but cannot stabilize it. In Final Cut Pro, you can edit and work with 2.7K footage and stabilize it as well. So if you choose to use 2.7K, make sure your editing software will give you the functionality you want.

Tips to Get the Most Out of Your GoPro

  • Update the firmware. Our HERO7 black sometimes froze underwater with the original firmware. Once we updated it, the freezing issue mostly went away, though it still does need to be reset sometimes. The 6 does not have these issues, so hopefully with another future firmware update, they should also disappear for the 7.
  • Use a tray. This allows you to get much more stable video
  • Use video lights. Yes, a filter is typically better than nothing, but the only way to get really nice colors underwater is to use video lights. 2000 or 2500 lumens is a great starting point and will make subjects 2-3 feet away pop with color!
  • Consider using a macro lens, such as the macromate mini, to allow you to video small critters

GoPro HERO7 Accessories

 

Super Suit Housing

*A must-have to venture below 33 ft (10m). Only works with the HERO7 Black

The GoPro HERO7 is waterproof down to 33ft (10m) without the housing, just like the 6 was. This is great for snorkeling. But for scuba divers and freedivers it is necessary to use the Super Suit housing, which is rated down to 197ft (60m). This is the same suit as you use for the 5 and 6, as all three are the same size.

To insert the HERO7 Black into the Super Suit dive housing, you need to first remove the waterproof lens cover by twisting to the left and popping it off. Then drop the camera in and lock the latch. 

GoPro HERO7 Super Suit Housing

 

Micro SD Card

GoPro recommends using a Class 10 memory card. For underwater video, we recommend a card with 64 GB memory so that you can record video all day without changing cards. The Max-Flash Hyperspeed Micro SD cards are fast enough to capture 4K at fast framerates and are a great companion to your HERO7. They come with an SD Card mount so that you can insert the card into your computer or card reader.

Max-Flash Hyperspeed 64GB Micro SD Card

Max-Flash Hyperspeed 32GB Micro SD Card

 

Spare Battery

GoPro Hero4 Battery

The battery in your GoPro HERO7 will last one to two dives, depending how much you're shooting. Buying one or two extra batteries allows to you change it out during your surface intervals. GoPro HERO5 and HERO6 batteries are compatible with the GoPro HERO7.

 GoPro HERO7 Spare Battery

 

Dual Battery Charger

GoPro Hero4 Dual Battery Charger

If you're shooting a lot on dive trips, don't hesitate on this. The alternative is to charge the batteries one at a time through the GoPro, which isn't always ideal or easy on tight schedules packed full of diving. 

GoPro HERO7 Dual Battery Charger

 

SeaLife Aquapod

SeaLife Aquapod

Capture your best selfie yet with the extendable Aquapod. Made by SeaLife, the Aquapod is designed for underwater use. Not only can you capture that selfie, but you can get the camera closer to your subject, whether it is something small or something skittish that you can't approach. The aquapod can also be quite useful for immersing the GoPro into the water from a small boat.

SeaLife Aquapod

 

GoPro Multigrip Handle

GoPro Multigrip Handle

Adding a handle like the Beneath the Surface Multigrip handle adds stability and is an easy way to hold your GoPro while diving, or any other activity. Often, if handholding your GoPro, you'll see your fingers wrap around into the picture. This problem is solved with the handle.

GoPro Multigrip Handle

 

GoPro Tray and Handles

GoPro Handles and Tray

Attaching your GoPro HERO7 to a tray and handles will make the camera easier to hold on to and much, much more stable underwater. In addition, the handles serve as a mounting point for video lights. Below are a few of our favorities:

Ultralight Tray & Handles for GoPro

Beneath the Surface Angled Double GoPro Tray

 

Video Lights

i-torch fishlite video light

Bring color back into the picture with the use of video lights. Even a high-powered light will only illuminate a subject a few feet in front of you, so these are most useful for macro and close focus wide-angle video. Adding a video light to your GoPro setup will allow you to shoot professional-quality video on your next dive! Below are a few of our favorites: 

Kraken Sports Hydra 3500

Dual Light Value Package

Be sure to visit Bluewater Photo to learn about more video lights, whether professional high-lumen or small and affordable.

Conclusion

The GoPro HERO7 Black has some major improvements over the HERO6 Black, and is by far the best GoPro yet. If you already have a HERO6 Black, the HERO7 Black is most likely worth the upgrade, as it will get you noticeably higher quality underwater video. And if you want to try out the amazing TimeWarp video mode to unleash your creativity on land, then the upgrade becomes an even better sell. If you have a GoPro model prior to the 6, then upgrading to the 7 is pretty much a no-brainer, as the step up in underwater video quality will be huge. So, no matter what GoPro you have, you should strongly consider making the upgrade, and reaping the benefits of the more professional, polished output of the GoPro HERO7 Black.

 

Check out another action camera made specifically for diving: Paralenz Dive Camera Review

GoPro Camera Reviews

 

GoPro Tutorials

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan is an editor and writer for the Underwater Photography Guide. He loves any activity that takes him out into nature, and is especially fond of multi-day hiking trips, road trips to National Parks, and diving. Any kind of diving. He discovered the joy of underwater photography on a Bluewater trip to the Sea of Cortez and has been hooked ever since. He recently finished a 1-year "radical sabbatical" with his partner Lisa (both of them quit their jobs), which included over 120 dives, mostly in Indonesia and the Philippines. His very favourite underwater experiences include swimming with humpbacks in Moorea, being smashed against the rocks next to marine iguanas in the Galapagos, marvelling at the riotously colourful reefs of Komodo, freezing his hands off under the ice in Greenland, and exploring the never-ending wonders of muck diving in Tulamben and Anilao (where he was a Bluewater photo workshop co-trip leader).

Fortunately, Bryan and Lisa managed to avoid killing each other during their year of traveling together (though at times it came close). Now they are back home in Canada, planning their wedding and doing their best to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. Their main concern at this point is finding a way to not run out of money, while avoiding returning back to their old 9-5  jobs (oil & gas, government). Oh, and also continuing to support their diving and underwater photo/video habits...

You can find more of Bryan's underwater photos on Instagram at @bryandchu and check out his and Lisa's travel and relationship blog at www.bryanandlisa.ca!

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