Our family travels a lot, and as Florida residents who love the beach we often end up in locations that involve water. Our trips to hotel pools, beaches, waterfalls, lakes, and rivers had us somewhat frustrated because we wanted to get pictures and videos of our kids, but were afraid of causing water damage to our phones and DSLR.
We finally decided to invest in a GoPro camera. In June of 2018 I went on a rampage of selling odds and ends around our house that we were no longer using. $5 here, $10 there, and we ended up saving close to enough to purchase our very first GoPro.
Since then, it’s been a staple in our suitcases wherever we go, whether or not the destination involves water. We love the size, the simplicity, and the durability of the camera, and we’ve gotten some awesome footage with it!
Whether you’ve got a big trip coming up with waterfalls, snorkeling, boat tours, or just plain old swimming, or you just want an easy waterproof option that your kids can use, too, I think the GoPro Hero 5 Black is an awesome camera option for families.
Since I like to do a ton of research before making a big purchase, I thought I would compile everything I learned about this underwater camera, and also do a review of the GoPro Hero 5 Black so you can decide if it’s the right purchase for you.
Note: The Hero5 Black has been discontinued and replaced with the Hero7 line of GoPro cameras. For now you can still find Hero5 Black on Amazon or in stores like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart.
GoPro HERO 5 BLACK UNDERWATER CAMERA REVIEW
WHAT IS THE GOPRO HERO 5 BLACK?
Before I jump into the features and my review of the camera, I thought I would quickly tell you what the GoPro is if you haven’t already heard of it.
“GoPro frees people to celebrate the moment, inspiring others to do the same.” - GoPro Official Website.
I love the mission statement of GoPro. They’re all about making it easier for people to capture their life, from the mundane moments you’ll treasure years from now to the epic adventures that are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
They sell small, rugged, waterproof handheld cameras that capture picture and video. These digital action cameras are great for travel, families, sports, and water-based activities.
UPDATE: The GoPro Hero 5 Black is now upgraded to the GoPro Hero7, which offers hyper-smooth video stabilization! Sounds awesome, and I’d love to get my hands on it! In the meantime, I’m still loving my GoPro Hero5 Black almost a year later.
GoPro HERO 5 BLACK FEATURES
Touch screen display on the back. Makes it easy to change the settings and see what you captured.
Waterproof up to 33 feet underwater.
Wide angle glass lens. This is nice since I usually keep my 35mm fixed lens on my DSLR, meaning I really can’t capture indoor spaces or large scenery. That’s a good time for me to pull out the GoPro!
Comes with a frame which protects the camera and gives it mounting capabilities with any 3-prong accessories. We’ve used it on a tripod, a floating handle, a head strap, and a car mount so far.
Front and back microphones
There’s a corresponding QuikStories app for your phone. You can connect your GoPro via WiFi to your phone and automatically upload your photos without a cord.
WHY WE DECIDED TO BUY A GOPRO HERO 5 BLACK
I talked about this a little bit above, but my main motivation was that I knew we had a lot of cool family trips coming up that summer and I really wanted to capture incredible pictures and videos of it all. Part of my motivation was starting a YouTube Channel (I’ll get around to editing all those videos soon!) and part of it was just wanting those videos for our family memories.
Right off the bat I’ll say how surprised I am by how much we have actually used this action camera. One of my main concerns when we bought it was that I already always have my DSLR or iPhone in my hand. Would I be able to juggle one more piece of equipment?
Because the GoPro is so small and durable, I’ve found that I often hand the camera off to me kids to let them capture their own point of view. My daughter loves taking it on waterslides and while jumping into pools, and she loves getting in on the fun of capturing memories.
I’ve also found that there have been certain situations where I would just normally forgo having a camera with me because I would be afraid of water damage, like visiting waterfalls or kayaking. These are the times the GoPro comes in handy, because I can leave my phone and camera safely in a locker or bag while still capturing everything with a camera I don’t have to worry about getting wet.
One negative aspect of the GoPro would be the short battery life. I don’t find that I necessarily run out of battery when I’m traveling, because I’m diligent about remembering to charge it every time we’re back in the hotel room or Airbnb. At home, though? I almost never think to grab it because I can’t remember when the last time I charged it was.
IS THE GOPRO HERO USER-FRIENDLY?
I’m a millennial who loves computers, cameras, and phones, so I’m pretty technologically savvy, but I’m also someone who does not like dealing with details, reading directions, or taking the time to figure something out. I would say I would fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to figuring out new technology.
I watched maybe one or two YouTube videos to help me figure out how to initially set up and use my camera, then I never looked at instructions again. I’ve still found that it’s super easy to navigate the touch screen and settings. There’s only one button, making capturing memories pretty fool-proof. Even my 5-year-old can figure it out!
I think the other user-friendly test is whether I can hand the camera off to a stranger and easily give them instructions for capturing a picture or video of me. That’s been a success!
I almost never hand off my DSLR because people cannot figure out how to look through the viewfinder or focus the camera properly, or even find the shutter. We have had no issues with the GoPro in this sense! Just press the button and go!
WHAT IS THE GOPRO PHOTO AND VIDEO QUALITY LIKE?
The video quality is excellent - smooth, picks up sound well, and it does a great job of automatically changing the settings to fit the lighting.
The photo quality is nice, and with some post-processing I’ve come away with some really cool pictures taken on the GoPro Hero 5.
I still prefer my DSLR photos to my GoPro photos, but as I mentioned, there are some situations where you just can’t bring the DSLR.
GoPro vs. iPhone
I find the photo quality pretty comparable for both the GoPro and the iPhone, except in low light situations. In that case I would definitely turn to my iPhone.
If we are outside or in a brightly lit interior, I would have no problem using either one.
I definitely love that my iPhone 8 Plus has portrait mode, and I often use that to capture photos of food or my kids when I don’t have my DSLR with me. There’s no depth of field option with the GoPro, but that’s ok with me. That’s not what it’s made for.
On the other hand, I love the ruggedness of the GoPro. I don’t really ever worry about dropping it or getting it dirty, which is a HUGE advantage for someone with small children.
If you have little kids, you know they always want to help take pictures or see the photo you just took of them, so they are always grabbing at your camera. Usually with dirty hands. I never have a problem handing my GoPro off to the kids to let them capture a few photos or videos.
I very rarely do that with my iPhone. My whole life is in there!
And then, obviously, I will definitely favor my GoPro if there’s any chance that we will be encountering water.
GoPro vs. DSLR
I sometimes have a hard time choosing between the iPhone and the GoPro. But when it comes to choosing between my DSLR and my GoPro, there’s just no comparison.
My DSLR takes crisp, colorful photos with so many different depth-of-field options. If I can use my Nikon for a still photo I will, hands down.
The GoPro, on the other hand, is so much easier for capturing video, so I will always grab that if I’m trying to catch some action.
In my opinion, these pieces of equipment have two completely different functions, so I don’t really ever feel like I’m choosing between the two. Rather, I feel like they complement each other! I love having both with me when I’m traveling.
DO WE USE THE GOPRO A LOT?
When we’re traveling we use the GoPro a ton. I’ve found that when we’re just at home and I’m capturing videos or pictures of my kids, I’m much more likely to grab the iPhone than the GoPro. Then my pictures are already on my device to edit and share, and there’s no uploading necessary.
I will say that I was so, so grateful to have my GoPro when I went to Brazil in August. We took the Macuco Safari boat to Iguazu Falls, and I wouldn’t have gotten any pictures or videos of it if not for my GoPro. I don’t have any waterproof housing for my Nikon or iPhone, so I just wouldn’t have bothered.
We also did some kayaking on that trip, and I was able to capture the gorgeous scenery with my GoPro. Like I mentioned above, AWESOME to have in water situations and when you’re outside.
We also took a trip to the Dry Tortugas where we snorkeled and did all kinds of water activities. I loved that I was able to capture that on the GoPro!
My kids love using the GoPro when we’re traveling, and my 5-year-old will often grab it from me and start recording herself narrating the scenery and what we’re doing. I know I’ll treasure that video as she gets older.
IS THE GOPRO CAMERA WORTH THE MONEY?
It really depends on the person. Do you travel a lot? Are you going on a once-in-a-lifetime trip where you’ll be snorkeling, swimming, doing extreme sports or anything action-packed, then yes. I think it’s 100% worth your money.
If you rarely leave home and already use your phone or digital camera for photos and videos, then I would question why you feel you need or want this camera? Really dig into what you think you would use it for before making the investment.
Further Reading on Travel Photography
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