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The GoPro Hero 12 Black is a more subtle update than we're used to seeing from the brand, but, in fairness, there are only so many times you can double the framerates before things start to get a little ridiculous. Instead, the 2023 flagship is all about refinement, and it aims to show what the 8:7 sensor is truly capable of.

The question is, with competition heating up from the likes of the DJI Osmo Action 4 and the Insta360 Go 3, is this small update enough for GoPro to retain its position as king of the action camera market? I was keen to find out, here are my first impressions.

GoPro Hero 12 Black gradient
GoPro Hero 12 Black
First impressions

A host of subtle but well-thought-out upgrades make this GoPro the best one yet, but it does lose its onboard GPS, which may sour the deal for some users.


  • Weight: 154g
  • Waterproof up to 10m / 33ft
  • Integrated 1/4-20 tripod thread, new speckled finish

The GoPro Hero 12 Black uses the same chassis that the brand has been using since the Hero 9 Black, so there are no surprises about its size, weight, and ruggedness. It does look slightly different, though, as GoPro has added a speckled blue paint job to the latest model. While this is just for looks, I do like the finish, and it serves to make the Hero 12 stand out from its very similar-looking predecessors.

GoPro Hero 12 Black vs GoPro Hero 11 Black (5)

If you take a look at the base of the camera, there's another change to be found. GoPro has cleverly integrated a 1/4-20 tripod thread, and nestled it between the fold-out mounting tabs. This is an excellent move, and I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner. It means you can attach the Hero 12 Black to almost any camera accessory on the market without the need for an adapter, it's super handy.

Elsewhere, everything is exactly the same as the Hero 11 Black. It uses the same Enduro battery pack, has the same front and rear displays, and the USB-C port and microSD card slot are in the same location.

Despite using the same battery, the Hero 12 Black promises significantly improved battery life, as well as better thermal performance. GoPro claims this is all down to optimisation and efficiency gains, but it doesn't take a detective to figure out that the onboard GPS is missing from this model – and that probably accounts for a lot of the gains.

GoPro Hero 12 Black (12)

So, how much better is the battery life? Well, it's a little complicated, as it all depends on which options you have chosen to shoot with. Here's how GoPro explains it:

• 70 minutes of continuous recording with HyperSmooth 6.0 on at 5.3K60.

• 58 minutes of continuous recording with HyperSmooth 6.0 on at 4K120.

• Over 90 minutes of continuous recording with HyperSmooth 6.0 on at 5.3K30.

• Over 155 minutes of continuous recording with HyperSmooth 6.0 on at 1080p30.

Effectively, that means 2x longer runtime in the most demanding modes such as 5.3K60 and 4K120, or 15 to 20 per cent longer run times in standard modes like 4K60. Unfortunately, I haven't had the camera for long enough to test these claims, so I'll be revisiting this in my full review with more detail.

Software and features

  • Improved menu system
  • Bluetooth microphone support
  • Timecode Sync

Most of the changes that you'll find with the Hero 12 Black come in the form of software tweaks and additional features, and it's immediately apparent as soon as you start using the camera. The layout of the UI is so much simpler to navigate, you're no longer forced into editing a bunch of default presets, but you can still create them if you want. From a user-end, this makes so much more sense.

GoPro Hero 12 Black (6)

The option of selecting Easy and Pro modes has been retained on this model, and both modes benefit from improved menu design. If you're looking to get a GoPro for the first time, and aren't au fait with manual camera settings, this is definitely the one to go for, it couldn't get much easier to operate.

One of the most exciting additions to the GoPro Hero 12 Black is the support for Bluetooth microphones. This means that you can use your AirPods or a supported wireless microphone as an audio source for your videos. Your wireless mic will also work as a trigger for GoPro voice commands, which could prove handy if you get a little too creative with your mounting setup.

In use, the Hero 12 records both the onboard mics and the paired Bluetooth mic simultaneously, and they're recorded as separate channels on the camera. This means that you can mix and match between them in the edit. It's perfect for adding some commentary to action-packed scenes.

GoPro Hero 12 Black (19)

Another new feature is Timecode Sync, which allows you to quickly and accurately synchronise videos from multiple GoPros. This isn't something that's likely to appeal to the average GoPro user, but for anyone using GoPros in a professional broadcast environment, this could be a game changer.

It's not all good news, though, as I mentioned earlier, the Hero 12 is the first GoPro in a long time to come without an onboard GPS unit. So, if you frequently use GoPro's speedometer/altimeter overlays and the like, you might want to steer clear of this model.

Photo and video performance

  • Up to 5.3K60 /4K120 in 10-bit colour
  • New HDR video mode and GP Log profile
  • HyperSmooth 6.0

The GoPro Hero 12 Black uses the same sensor and processor as the Hero 11 Black, so in many cases, the footage will look identical. There are, however, a few new features that will affect the look of this footage.

GoPro Hero 12 Black (1)-1

The first is the addition of an HDR Video mode, which records a much higher dynamic range at up to 5.3K30 resolution, perfect for scenes with strong backlighting. There's also the addition of the GP Log colour profile. This GoPro's first attempt at a Log profile and it's designed to allow for the utmost flexibility when colour grading. I haven't had much time with the camera at this stage, and I still need to put this new profile through its paces, but it's certainly flatter than the classic GoPro Flat colour profile and appears to have a wider dynamic range, too.

The GoPro Hero 11 introduced the concept of filming in an almost-square 8:7 ratio, then cropping into vertical and horizontal 16:9 clips after the fact. This has proven so popular that GoPro has expanded its availability, so now you can record star trails, light painting and time warp videos in this 8:7 format.

If you already know that you want a vertical clip, but your mounting solution won't allow you to position the camera vertically, then you can remove some of the hassle by using the new vertical shooting mode. This will use the camera's unusually tall sensor to record vertical clips in high quality while the camera remains horizontal.

GoPro Hero 12 Black (14)

HyperSmooth has seen some improvements this year, too, mainly with its AutoBoost functionality. It now analyses four times the data compared to the Hero 11, and it should smooth things out more accurately and with greater precision than last year's model.

As I mentioned, I've not spent very long with the camera at this stage, so there's plenty of analysis still to be done. I can confirm that the footage looks a lot like the Hero 11's footage, and the new Log profile is indeed very flat, but everything else is going to require some further testing.

First impressions

The GoPro Hero 12 Black is an interesting release, and in many ways, it's a tale of two halves. There are some great additions here, like the built-in tripod mount and the ability to pair with Bluetooth mics. Professionals will be ecstatic about the Log profile and Timecode Sync, too.

The most impactful change in my, admittedly brief, testing has been the new UI layout. It's a massive improvement over the previous model.

Improved battery life has been touted as one of the big features of this model, but when you realise that it comes at the cost of onboard GPS, it sort of sours the deal. If you never use the GPS functionality, then that's all well and good, but I do use it, and its absence makes this camera far less appealing to me.

I'll hold off my judgement until I've spent some more time getting to know the ins and outs of this camera, but on first impressions, it seems like a more refined version of the Hero 11, which was already an excellent camera, and that's sure to be good enough for most people - so long as they don't need GPS.