GoPro Hero 12 Black Review: Refined and Improved

GoPro is to action cameras what Kleenex is to tissues. I can’t tell you how many people I have seen with GoPro knockoffs nevertheless refer to their camera as their “GoPro.” For the average person looking to document their life, any small camera is a GoPro.

While GoPro dominates the market mindshare, its competitors—DJI, Insta360, and others—are pushing the action camera in new and interesting directions, with useful features like magnetic mounting systems, larger sensors, and simpler menus.

The GoPro Hero 12 offers none of those things, but when I head out the door, I still grab my GoPro ahead of every other small camera I have. GoPro’s new Hero 12 has been a good reminder why. It has everything that made the Hero camera great, but now it’s better.

Incremental Improvements

Side by side, the only visible difference between last year’s Hero 11 Black (8/10, WIRED Recommends) and this year’s Hero 12 Black is the blue number on the side and a bit of blue speckling on the outer skin. Otherwise, the body is the same, meaning that all your old accessories, lens filters, mods, and add-ons will work with the Hero 12.

Even inside, the two cameras aren’t that different. The GoPro Hero 12 Black uses the same 8:7 aspect ratio sensor and GP2 processor as its predecessor, the Hero 11.

That might make this camera a tough sell for some. That said, there are several new features in the Hero 12 that make it a welcome upgrade: longer run times (with less overheating), 10-bit Log video, timecode syncing, and a standard tripod mount.

The internet is rife with speculation that the GoPro Hero 12 is merely a firmware upgrade to the Hero 11. I have no insider information on that, and I don’t think it matters. GoPro improved the Hero 11, and how they did doesn’t really interest me. What interests me is that I have been shooting with Hero series cameras since the Hero 5 Black, and the Hero 12 Black is the first model that has never overheated.

GoPro Hero 12 Black.

Photograph: GoPro

If you shoot with your GoPro the way you’re supposed to—you know, strapped to your helmet or your bike or some other fast-moving thing with good airflow around it—you’ve probably never overheated it. I have never had any problem with those shooting scenarios either. But I shoot a lot of video with my GoPro perched on a dashboard, in the direct sun, with almost no air at all moving around it. Previous models rarely shot more than 15 minutes in more demanding modes, like 5.3K 30p or 4K 120p.

I’ve been shooting with the Hero 12 this way for over a month now, and it has not overheated. Not once. Battery run time is significantly longer as well. Again, this was primarily noticeable to me when shooting in modes that really strain the camera, especially 4K 120p.

Some of that improved battery time might be the result of a feature being removed, namely GPS. I never used the GPS feature, and GoPro says it removed it because less than 1 percent of users used it. Predictably, that 1 percent is outraged. GoPro wouldn’t give me any specifics, but I would not be surprised to see the GPS features added to a new version of the remote. This is the route that both DJI and Insta360 have taken.

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