Let’s just say that when I first got my hands on this new GoPro, the sun, moon and stars did not align and it took quite some time to warm up to it. Charging took ages, the camera was easily hot, my fingers fumbled with the rear touchscreen, and soon enough, the battery went flat. I had problems pairing the camera to my phone, and when they did, I could not play the 4K videos through the phone.

Well, to be fair, I reserve judgement until I contacted the good people distributing the GoPro.

For a start, I’m neither techie nor geeky, and I hardly managed to read the cover of the operations manual before I decided to power the Hero 6 Black. So, it is usually the case of a user problem – me! – rather than the products themselves. Having said that, I have been a user of the GoPro Hero 4 Black, and thought I should be able to figure out a thing or two about this latest model intuitively.

First Look at the GoPro Hero 6

An action cam, as the name suggests, is a camera to film your actions while you’re immersed in it. I do all kinds of sports, including motorsports. As well, I do love my cameras ranging from DSLRs to rangefinders.

For the purpose of this review, being in a running and sports publication, I’m scoping it to be for primarily towards the running segment as matter or relevance. It doesn’t matter of course if you’re running short or long distances, on the roads or trails, and that your cross training includes bike and swim sessions too. I put all these in my considerations, because at the end of the day, the burning questions for the runners would be: Is it good? Is it relevant for me? Should I go and get one?

GoPro Hero 6 Black Key Features

  • Powerful processor capable of 4K60fps and 1080p240fps for slow motion shooting
  • Waterproof up to 10m
  • Improved image stabilisation, voice control and touchscreen
  • Touch zoom features

Now that we’ve got the technical specifications out of the way, what do those things above actually mean to the runner out there on the street? In short, those are industry standard hardware that you would appreciate when you see the actual image outputs. I would advise for you to get some proper learning of the powerful features of this Hero 6 Black so that you can optimally take advantage of its capabilities.

As a pleasant surprise, beyond a strong hardware, GoPro has also expanded into the realm of user friendly software in the last few years, and is making good progress on this front. When you pair your smartphone with the cam, you would need to download the GoPro app so that you can do remote image capture and file transfers. Additionally, there is also the Quik app that you can download for video editing.

It’s free, and you can use any photos and videos – not just those captured via GoPro cams – for a quick, fuss-free reasonably professional looking videos that you would be proud of for uploads to your social media accounts. If you would want more editing control, GoPro also has a Quik for desktop app that for this purpose. I think it’s a smart way for GoPro to engage with consumers without having to make any investments on its products.

Shalane Flanagan NYC Marathon winner in an interview. Still shot taken from the GoPro Hero 6 video.

Relevance To Runners

In the past, runners used to run with minimal gear. I remembered prior to smartphone days when I used to tie my house key around my shoelaces, and squeezed in money notes in the small pocket of my shorts and I would be out and ready to run. These days, it’s a norm to have a running belt to put the smartphone, money, keys and identity card when a person goes out running, even for short distances. For long distance runners, you’d see them with hydration packs and water bottles too.

Which comes to my point on the GoPro for a runner: is it necessary? What can it do that your smartphone can’t?

For a start, it will mean different things to different runners. If you a purist runner or one that is gunning for your personal best timing at every outing, then you will not want to be distracted with any photo taking for that matter. However, being social creatures, if you would like to share interesting observations in the course of your runs, you would likely flip out your smartphones and have a click or two. What I truly enjoy with the GoPro is the ultra wide field of view (FOV) which average smartphones can’t do, save for flagship models of leading brands. Having such an FOV provides a more dramatic scene and convey a sense of dynamism in the images.

But perhaps the deal maker for me is how rugged the GoPro is compared to a smartphone. Imagine that while running, you see an interesting view, whip out your phone from your running belt, and because of your sweaty hands, the phone slips and falls. The screen cracks, and worst still, it’s broken and you may not be able to retrieve data in it. This is where I think GoPro action cams have a role to play. It’s solidly built, and you won’t have that heart wrenching pain when you drop it because it will likely withstand the drop, unlike dropping your smartphone and breaking it, and losing your work and personal stuffs together with it.

Captured with a mini tripod from ground level. Still shot taken from the GoPro Hero 6 video.

My Experiences

As mentioned at the start, I had issues with this GoPro model from the start. Initial charging seemed to take forever, with the red LED light not changing; I didn’t have a clue whether it was fully charged or not. And when I turned the camera on and fiddled around with the small touchscreen menu, my relatively average sized fingers found it difficult to familiarise with the controls. The GoPro 4 Hero Black that I’m familiar with had no touchscreen, but the tactile buttons gave me lots of confidence to manoeuvre the menus correctly first time round.

Once I got past those initial issues, I then faced challenges on pairing and playing 4K videos. The GoPro 4 was paired easily to my old Samsung Note 4. Recently, I have been using the more modest Samsung J7 Prime model. Pairing was a hit-and-miss affair, and when it was time for a 4K video playback, only audio was audible minus visual. The 4K video codes is not supported on my current phone, which I confirmed with the GoPro distributor; however, it worked fine on my old Note.

Fun when it is waterproof. Still shot taken from the GoPro Hero 6 video.

I tested both photo and video taking both day and night while hand holding it on my runs. Firstly, the image quality is superb, and the ultra wide angle coverage provides a sense of action that my phone cannot do. Then, on the video mode, I thought that the image stabilisation worked extremely well.

The shakes were not as pronounced as on an average phone. However, sweaty hands and touchscreens just do not go together, and I had to wipe the screen before I it could sense my touch.

I also had a quick try out on the waterproofness of this new model. I was so used to having the water housing case virtually fixed on the Hero 4. Adding the case meant that there was also that extra piece of plastic over the lens, which led to image degradation. With the Hero 6 Black being waterproof up to 10m, it was convenient for me to have quick splash in the pool.

In my tests, the battery life averaged about an hour at best. This means that if you are out and about, you would likely need to have a spare battery or two to last the day. I am guessing that the touchscreen feature contributes to the battery drainage. To mitigate it, you would need to turn off the GPS, wifi and voice control features.

You may view test video clips of the GoPro Hero 6 Black below:

The Boon

  • High quality images and audio
  • Waterproof to 10m, eliminating the need for a housing in everyday scenario
  • Ruggedly built

The Bane

  • Short battery life
  • Need to check on phone models compatibility for 4K videos
  • Small touchscreen can be an issue for people with big fingers

Should You Buy?

As running evolves to include being more as a social lifestyle, the reality is that runners will somehow want to share photos or videos of them out there, especially if they are running in new locations. But what if you already own a Gopro Hero 4 or 5 today, would it be compelling enough for you to upgrade this latest model? It will depend on whether you would need the varied frame rates for video taking, as well as the better image stabilisation feature.

If you don’t already own a GoPro, go ahead to give it a try at the authorised shops. You’ll be in awe of the high image quality, and soon realise that unlike other novelties, the GoPro Hero 6 Black is indeed a practical tool to get you the action shots that you want while running.

In a gist, when you have reached the limits of what your smartphone can do, that is when you can go further with the GoPro.

If you want to attend GoPro workshops, please visit Outdoor Sports Travel.

The GoPro HERO6 Black is priced at S$595.

Iskandar Shahril

Iskandar has a soft spot to run overseas and in ultra distance events. He is currently smitten by the trail running bug and foresees multi stage racing to be his next poison. If he’s not competing on foot, you’ll likely to bump into him racing on four wheels.

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