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GoPro Hero puts core features in a familiar package for $199

The new camera looks like the Hero5 and Hero6 Black, but with streamlined shooting options for casual users.

GoPro

GoPro's new Hero camera looks just like the company's Hero5 and Hero6 cameras, and that's no accident.  

Despite being an entry-level model, the Hero shares key design features with its higher-end linemates, namely a 2-inch touchscreen and a rugged body that's waterproof without the need for a polycarbonate housing.

That's something GoPro didn't do with its last Hero, which had little to offer beyond good video quality and a low price. And while the price of the new model is $70 more at $199 (£199, AU$299), those design features apparently mean a lot to potential buyers.

"Our research and feedback shows consumers really like having a touchscreen, so we wanted to give people that familiar experience at an entry-level price, and Hero satisfies both," said a GoPro spokeswoman. Being waterproof to 30 feet (10 meters) without a housing is also a huge selling point for GoPro's cameras, she said.

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So where does that leave the company's other $199 camera, the tiny cube-shaped Hero5 Session ($270 at Amazon Marketplace)? It's going away. The Session will continue to be sold at retailers through the first half of 2018, but is no longer available on GoPro.com. Basically, as happens with other discontinued cameras, retailers will sell through what's available, but once it's gone, it's gone. 

That's a shame since the Session definitely has an edge on the Hero when it comes to the camera's capabilities. GoPro kept the Hero's shooting options to a bare minimum:

  • Record video at 1080p or 1440p at 60 or 30 frames per second (fps) in MP4 at 60Mbps
  • Snap 10-megapixel photos
  • Burst shoot at 10fps
  • Capture time-lapse photos and video at 0.5-second intervals

If you just read that list and wondered why there's no 4K or slow-mo options for video or raw capture or low-light settings for photos, this camera isn't for you. The Hero is aimed squarely at casual and first-time users who want to shoot and share experiences they can't grab with a phone.

gopro-hero5-preview-black-10.jpg

The new Hero has a 2-inch touchscreen on back like the Hero5 Black (pictured).

Joshua Goldman/CNET

The shooting options might be lean, but to help balance things out, GoPro added voice controls and electronic video stabilization. Plus, with the built-in Wi-Fi, you can send clips straight to your phone as soon as you stop recording and have them instantly turned into an edited video with GoPro's mobile app.  

At the start of the year, GoPro dropped the price of its premium model, the Hero6 Black, from $499 to $399. The addition of the $199 Hero along with the $299 Hero5 Black ($249 at Amazon.com) moves GoPro's plan forward to return to a good, better, best product strategy.

"What we've learned is people want 'good, better, best' options from us. So with the new Hero we now have cameras that are characteristically GoPro -- durable, waterproof, cool design -- with feature sets for every level of user." 

The GoPro Hero is available today at retailers and direct from GoPro

First published March 29, 10:00 a.m. PT.

Update, 4:30 p.m.: Adds information on Hero5 Session. 

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