GoPro Hero 8 Initial Thoughts

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Last Updated on November 19, 2020 by Cory Kawa

Earlier today, I received my first GoPro, the GoPro Hero 8 Black, from Costco. I played with it quite a bit last nigher and here are my initial thoughts on the Hero 8’s setup, durability, GoPro Plus, battery life, GoPro App, and post-processing.  

Please stay tuned for a more in-depth review that I plan on writing after the first 60 days, which will also detail my experiences with it as I ride the Cannondale 300

I know that a common practice for a product review is to take a picture of the box and go through a whole unwrapping story, but I’m going to skip that for a couple of reasons. First, it was ordered from Costco and knowing Costco, the package I ordered may not even be available next week. Second, those reviews are available everywhere. Instead, I want to focus on how easy I found everything to work in the first 24 hours of use, with minimal training, and exposure as I feel this will speak to general intuitiveness and ease of use.  

I want to stress that these are first impressions after the first 24 hours. There is a strong chance that my feelings will change as I become more familiar with the GoPro Hero 8.

First Videos and Ease of Editing

I was supposed to go for a ride at Durham Forest last night with a good friend who introduced me to mountain biking back in 2014.  

Plans changed, so I decided to head up to Centennial Park in King City. The goal was to get in a good ride while checking out GoPro’s Time Warp feature, which is a time-lapse video combined with GoPro’s HyperSmooth technology, allowing you to create stabilized time-lapse videos. I’m pretty impressed with the result, it was both super simple to use, and no post-processing was required, see below for some comparison videos.

For the mount, I used the GoPro vented helmet mount combined with Deynards waterproof shock housing to protect the lens and unit against branch damage, see cover photo for how the setup looked. Although the setup caused some forward helmet sag and a bit of a general feeling of heaviness, it was acceptable for the forty minutes, or so I used it.

For comparison purposes, I have included four videos.  

The first is a TimeWarp video, which compressed a thirty-minute ride down to 6 minutes with no post-processing.

The second is a shorter twenty-minute ride taken with standard 1080p video recording. I’ll go into greater detail on post-processing this file below. 

The third is the GoPro Story created via the GoPro App, generated from the TimeWarp video.

The fourth video, and final video, is a GoPro Story created via the GoPro App, where I downloaded the three videos from the cloud and had the app combine them into a story.

But wait, where is the fourth video?

Despite multiple attempts and multiple phone restarts, the GoPro App has, so far, only been able to download one of the three videos from the GoPro Cloud. Although I first thought that perhaps this was due to a lack of space on the iPhone, it doesn’t appear that should be the issue.

Initial Thoughts

The unit itself is pretty easy to use with one button on the side that controls power and camera mode (timelapse, video, photo), and a top button for recording. The touchscreen is also pretty simple and only took about five minutes to figure out. On the touch screen, swipe up to access your content, and down to adjust settings.  

To put it into perspective, my kids were filming with ease with three seconds of instruction. Almost as simple as point and shoot.

Concerns with Durability and GoPro Plus

Unlike past models, the Hero 8 does not come with a replaceable lens. Instead, GoPro pushes their GoPro Plus service. GoPro Plus offers discounted accessories, unlimited cloud storage, and no questions asked replacements for $5 US per month.  

At first glance, I thought this was a pretty good deal, but the catch is the replacement unit will still cost you $79 US, plus $20 US shipping. Assuming a replacement every two years, you will be spending almost the same amount on the replacement as you did the original unit.  

With GoPro Plus, you also get discounted accessories, and there are excellent deals, especially compared to list prices for the equivalent from Canadian retailers. The only catch is the $20 delivery charge, so you may want to consider placing a bulk order.

If you skip forward to the post-processing section, I will share additional thoughts on the GoPro cloud and unlimited cloud storage.

To reduce the risk of breakage, I ordered a Deyard protection kit from Amazon. The package came with two tempered glass screen protectors, waterproof shock housing, underwater filters, and a gel case. Everything seems to be of exceptionally high quality.  

One other important point of note here is the memory card itself. It has a real tight fit, and with my big fingers, I had to use a push pin to get it inserted. It’s safe to say I’m not a big fan of putting pointy things into expensive units. If you have big fingers like me, extreme caution will be required.

Considering the cost of Plus, the cost of replacing a damaged unit and the value I see in cloud storage, I foresee myself opting out of GoPro Plus after the trial period.

Battery Life

I’ve seen other articles online that speak to the battery running for anywhere from 50 mins to 8 hours. I was able to get about 1:20 on the one full charge I used. 

I’ve also seen comments from other users about battery drain when the unit was powered off, so far, no issues here for me.

GoPro App and Post Processing

Post processing is perhaps where GoPro surprised me the most. I expected Go Pro would supply some excellent tools as part of their cloud offering, especially since cloud storage was a key part of the GoPro Plus offering. Twenty-four hours in, it appears I’m wrong.

Here is how the general workflow appears to work. After I have recorded videos to GoPro, I then have to figure out how to get the videos to the cloud, and I have discovered two options.  

The first is uploading the videos from the GoPro to my phone, then having those uploaded to GoPro cloud. That is a lot of time spent uploading videos. Another issue to consider is that your ability to upload to your phone will depend upon how much phone storage you have free. If you are only offloading a few short clips, you should be fine, but if you have some lots of content, this probably won’t work.

The second option is downloading the videos from GoPro to PC, via a micro SD card reader, or by plugging the GoPro into the PC’s USB port. If you want the videos in the GoPro Plus cloud, you then log into your account, upload the videos.  

GoPro no longer offers any supported PC software for editing videos, although it appears that you can still access their unsupported legacy software online. Instead, you need to leverage free third party such as Davinci Resolve.

Instead of the PC app, GoPro offers an iOS app for creating GoPro stories. With stories, you can select the videos you want to use, and GoPro will then combine them into a video with added music. From what I can tell, beyond a few minor tweaks, you have very little control in the outcome. Although an excellent tool for putting together quick clips, I do not see any value in it besides that.  

Another point to note is that the processing does not happen in the cloud. Instead, it happens on your device. To make this work, you will have to download the video file(s) from the cloud to your device. That’s a lot of data moving and wasted time, including downloading from the GoPro to PC, uploading from my PC to the GoPro Plus, and downloading from GoPro Plus to my phone or tablet. As mentioned above, if you don’t have enough free storage on your device, this may not even be possible. It’s worth noting GoPro files are enormous with an eight-minute video shot at 1080p, taking more than four gigs of space.

A much easier way would be to leverage video editing software, such as Davinci, where you will have full control over the outcome. You’ll need to ensure that your computer can support this type of work as it is very CPU intensive, especially if recording in 1080p or higher. At this time, I’m not sure that my computer is up for the task. 

Some of my recordings did require some minor post-processing. To protect video files from corruption issues, GoPro breaks down large video files into separate chapters, which can be seamlessly stitched back together in post. I tried Davinci a few times, exporting it in a lossless format, which caused multiple crashes. I then tried MP4Joiner, which also failed, with little explanation. I then moved to Windows Movie Maker, which automatically applied compression, and it worked. I do think if I reduced the output quality in Davinci, it might work, time will tell.

All that brings me back to the question of whether or not I perceive any value in GoPro Plus, and at this time, I do not, if I could edit in the cloud and store my videos there, perhaps. Since most of my editing will happen on my PC, I see no need to leverage the GoPro Plus cloud. Instead, I could easily upload the videos to Youtube on either a private or public channel as a means of cloud storage and sharing.

Final Thoughts on the GoPro Hero 8

I like it. It seems intuitive, easy to use, and the video quality is excellent. My kids and I even took a few videos in the pool, which came out fantastic. 

Although there are a few concerns with the lens, a screen protector and protective housing should solve it.

I’m happy I don’t see value in GoPro Plus since its one less thing I’ll need to buy. Instead, I would suggest signing up for the free trial, ordering your discounted accessories, and moving on. If you plan to put your GoPro through hard use or not use protection, it could be worth the money.

I am disappointed in the lack of post-processing offered via GoPro. However, there seem to be many excellent free tools available.

Please stay tuned for a deeper dive later this summer.

Update – Returned

Although a great little device, and something that I’m sure the right person would love, it just wasn’t for me, and ultimately got returned to Costco.

For me, there were two big issues, the most important, was video editing was just not something I enjoyed. The second, my computer wasn’t good at it either, and even though I have a decent enough computer, I’d probably need to spend another $2,000 to get a computer that could do this well.

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