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GoPro Hero5 Black is ready to record at your (voice) command (hands-on)

There's much to like about the company's new top-of-line GoPro, but being able to control the camera just by speaking to it turns out to be handier than you might think.

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After teasing a new camera for months, GoPro finally has two new models: the Hero5 Black ($399, £350 or AU$549) and the Hero5 Session ($299, £250 or AU$449). Both cameras arrive on October 2 -- skip down the page to see Lexy Savvides' hands-on video.

The former is a complete overhaul and new flagship camera for the brand. The latter is a souped-up version of the original 2015 model, but minus some key features from the Black to help make picking one easier than in the past.

GoPro also announced its first drone, the Karma, at the same event in California.


The GoPro Hero5 Black.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

The Hero5 Black gets two key design changes from the Hero4 version. One, it's now waterproof to 10 meters (33 feet) without a housing. Excluding the original Session, GoPro's past cameras were only rugged and waterproof when in a polycarbonate housing, and dealing with them is a hassle. Presumably there will be dive housings for those who want to go deeper or need shock protection, but out of the box you can just take it out in the sand and surf.

Second, GoPro ditched the three-button control setup for the Hero5 Black in favor of a 2-inch touchscreen and a single button that turns the camera on and starts it recording (there's also a small Mode button on the side, but it's nearly superfluous). The touch interface has been updated, too, streamlining things a bit so you don't end up endlessly swiping around.

The better to hear you with

One of the most common complaints with GoPros, or any action cam really, is wind noise. There's really little you can do about it, but GoPro deserves some credit for at least trying to fix it. It used three mics on the Black and the camera will automatically switch between them to deliver the best possible stereo audio.

The mics are important for another reason: GoPro added voice controls for starting and stopping recordings, snapping photos and even tagging highlights in your clips by saying "That was sick!" and "Oh sh*t!" It works really well, and there are currently 10 commands and support for seven languages with more coming soon. The company also plans to have a new remote control, called Remo, to extend the range of voice commands.

As for shooting options, it pretty much does the same things as its predecessor (sorry, no 8K-resolution video this time around). What's new is the camera can capture 12-megapixel photos in raw format and there's also a wide dynamic range mode. GoPro also added a linear-view setting that corrects distortion in its wide-angle photos and videos. (The 10-megapixel Session has this option, too, but lacks the raw capture and WDR mode.)

GoPro also introduced what it calls professional-grade electronic image stabilization. It's disappointing the company wasn't able to work in optical image stabilization for the Hero5 like Sony did for its latest, but at least there's the option for EIS. I'm not sure if it comes at the cost of image quality or resolution, though.

'Connected and convenient'

Earlier in the year, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman said the Hero5 would be "the most connected and convenient" camera GoPro has ever made and any new hardware would do a better job of connecting to phones and the cloud.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Enter GoPro Plus, a $5-per-month cloud service that makes it possible to upload, edit and share your clips with a phone or computer. Plug in a Hero5 to charge and the camera will automatically upload your photos and videos to the service. However, video gets transcoded into 1080p at 30fps, regardless of the recorded resolution. Basically, the service isn't for backing up so much as it is to have all your clips readily available for sharing.

The service also gives you access to a library of licensed music to drop into your clips, 20 percent off on mounts and accessories from GoPro's site, premium support and access to exclusive GoPro apparel. OK, maybe that last one isn't going to seal the deal, but the music is a nice bonus.

Easier edits

The cloud service ties into a bigger issue that's potentially stalled sales of new GoPro cameras: No one wants to edit their videos. To that end, in February, GoPro picked up two mobile video-editing apps -- Replay and Splice -- with the former relaunched in May as Quik.

The app, which is available for iOS and Android, analyzes your photos and video clips to find the most exciting stuff in to include and cut out the boring bits. You can trim it further if you don't like what you got. It'll then add transitions and effects and sync those to the beat of the music you pick. GoPro has now brought these same features to a desktop version of Quik, if you want to do your work on a bigger screen.

Also, for those times when you simply can't wait to get your clips off the camera and on your phone for editing, GoPro will sell the Quik Key. It's a keychain microSD card reader that plugs right into the jack on your phone.

Though we've started testing out the new Black (and having some fun with it as well), there's still much more to be done. We'll be back soon with a full review.

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