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GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 7 Black

system 2019-08-03 56 times

Here's my detailed comparison of how the HERO 5 Black compares with the newer HERO 7 Black in terms of features, performance, and specs.

GoPro HERO7 Black vs HERO5 Black

At left is the HERO7 Black. At right is the HERO5 Black.

This is another in my series of in-depth and hands-on comparisons of GoPro models where I try to put the differences and similarities in plain English and rather than just show a comparison table (although you can get one of those below too). The models I’m focusing on here are the new GoPro HERO 5 Black and a newer model, the HERO 7 Black.Both models are the flagship models in their respective ranges. There were only two cameras in the HERO 5 lineup: the Black and a smaller, cube-shaped HERO 5 Session. There are three cameras in the HERO 7 range, and GoPro has returned to a somewhat confusing color-coded model system that they last fully used back with the HERO3 line. The entry-level model is known as the HERO 7 White. It’s the simplest in terms of features and use, and it’s also the lowest-priced of the three. A step above is the Silver, which adds some extra features and is priced a little higher accordingly. And then there’s the flagship model with all the bells and whistles: the HERO 7 Black.

Get $100 off HERO7 Black or Silver with TradeUp deal

GoPro is currently running a deal for the HERO7 Black and HERO7 Silver that gives you $100 off either of them by trading in any old digital camera in any condition (including old GoPros). It brings the price for the Black down to $299.99 and the Silver to $199.99.

It doesn't matter what brand the old camera is or even if it still works. GoPro covers the cost of shipping your old camera in as well as 2-day shipping of the new camera.

The deal is only available at GoPro.com.

I’ve previously compared the HERO 6 Black and HERO 7 Black in detail, as well as the HERO 5 Black compared with the HERO 6 Black. The HERO 5 Black was released in October 2016, while the HERO 7 Black was released in September 2018. In between was the HERO 6 Black (released July 2017). I normally wouldn’t do a detailed comparison of models two generations apart like this, but there are three reasons I’m doing it. One is that while the HERO 7 Black is the current model, you can still find new copies of the HERO 5 Black at retailers. Another is that there are quite a few users who have been turning their entry-level HERO (2018) cameras into HERO 5 Blacks by jailbreaking the HERO (2018)’s firmware.

And another is that many HERO 5 Black users skipped the HERO 6 and may be wondering whether it’s worth upgrading to the HERO7. The upgrade from the HERO 4 Black to the HERO 5 Black was a big upgrade, but the upgrade from the HERO 5 Black to the HERO 6 Black was much less dramatic, at least in terms of new features and capabilities (GoPro’s engineers will rightly point out that the move to the new internal chip was a major step, but that wasn’t something that the end user could really see). So the upgrades from the HERO 5 Black to the HERO 6 Black were quite incremental, so it was by no means a must-do upgrade for everyone. So whether you’re trying to choose between which to buy or whether to upgrade from the HERO 5 Black to the new model, here’s an in-depth, hands-on rundown of their differences and similarities of specs, features, and performance.

You can find much more detailed information below, but if you just want to cut to the chase, here’s a quick version.

Basically, the HERO 7 Black can do everything the HERO 5 Black can do, and in many cases, it can do things better. The improvements aren’t always major, but some, like the better in-camera video stabilization of the new model or the faster frame rate available at 4K, will be compelling reasons for some users to upgrade.

Quick Summary

Here’s the bullet-point version of how these models compare. You can find much more detail below.

What’s New in the HERO 7 Black vs HERO 5 Black:

  • 4K60 video mode (compared to 4K30 in H5)
  • Timewarp video for stabilized motion time-lapse (ie. hyperlapse)
  • SuperPhoto for in-camera photo enhancement
  • Short Clips, which are 15- or 30-second clips that are more convenient to share on social media
  • Portrait orientation when shooting video

What’s Been Improved in the HERO 7 Black vs HERO 5 Black:

  • Significantly improved in-camera electronic stabilization (now called HyperSmooth)
  • Stabilization available at higher framerates (eg. 4K60)
  • Faster video framerates available at more resolutions (eg. 1080p240)
  • Tweaked menu system
  • HEVC / H.265 video encoding

Design and Build / HERO 5 Black vs HERO 7 Black

On the outside, they’re basically the same. There are some minor differences, but none of them really make much of a functional difference or a compelling reason to upgrade.

GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 7 Black

They’re a slightly different shade of dark gray, and the model number is now displayed more prominently on the side. The HERO 5 Black, like the HERO 6 Black, also had a lightly ribbed or corrugated texture around the body; the H7 Black doesn’t have that.

GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 7 Black

So functionally, at least, the cameras might as well be considered identical on the outside. They weigh much the same, have the same external dimensions, the same buttons and screen size, and same compartment doors. The upshot of that is that pretty much any of the accessories where exterior dimensions matter, such as housings and frames, are compatible with both models.

GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 7 Black

Both have the same layout on top. You can also see the ribbed or corrugated texture on the HERO 5 Black (left) which the HERO 7 Black doesn’t have.

One of the most critical areas where they’re the same is in their rugged design. The HERO 5 Black was the first camera in this traditional GoPro shape to have a camera body that was itself waterproof without the need of an external waterproof housing.1 They’re both rated to remain waterproof at the pressures you’d experience when fully submerged down to 33 feet, or 10 meters. If you’re Scuba diving, there’s a good chance you might go deeper than that, in which case you can get a separate SuperSuit dive housing that’s stronger and offers more protection against water pressure; both of these cameras are compatible with the SuperSuit (and therefore also the underwater filters that work with the SuperSuit).

Both use the same lens port, with a cover that’s removable to insert into the SuperSuit and replaceable if the glass gets scratched or cracked (here’s how to do that).

There is a major design difference that you can’t see from the outside: the camera’s brain. The HERO 5 Black used a chip that was developed by a third party. That limited GoPro’s options for customizing and also their ability to innovate to stand out from the ever-increasing range of competitors. So GoPro started developing a chip in-house; it was launched with the HERO 6 Black. The HERO 7 Black uses that same homegrown chip, which is known as the GP1. So far, the GP1 has served a role more as a foundation that is more about potential than the reality of enabling many fancy new features (HyperSmooth is probably an exception), but it’s a foundation that GoPro will increasingly build on in current models.

Controlling the Camera

Nearly all the ways you can control and interact with the camera are basically the same. Both use the touchscreen on the back as the primary way of accessing the menu system. Both can be controlled wirelessly via the GoPro mobile app. Both have voice control. And both use the same kind of shutter button on top for starting and stopping recording or taking a photo.

But there are also some key differences when it comes to more advanced methods of interacting with the camera.

Buttons and Touchscreen

Both have the same touchscreen system on the back that acts both as a live view display as well as the primary means for accessing the settings and preferences in the menu system.

The design and look of the menu systems have been refreshed in the H7 Black. There are tweaked icons and the occasional splash of color, such as a green icon for a fully charged battery and a red one for one that’s about to die. Some of the sections are now better organized, and the major change that I like is that changing shooting modes is now handled with a swipe left or right rather than a popup menu. I prefer the convenience of the new method, although it’s not a game changer by itself.

GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 7 Black

The menu system on the back screen is broadly similar, although it has been tweaked for the new model. The H7 at left with firmware 0.1.51, which made some slight visual tweaks from the original firmware it was launched with.

Both screens are the same size (2 inches), covering most of the back of the camera, and they’re similar concerning sharpness and brightness. But the H7 does have a bit of an edge because the screen is generally less contrasty, which means you can see more detail in the live view.

Remote Control

Both cameras can be controlled wirelessly with GoPro’s mobile app using a combination of wifi and Bluetooth.

Both models are compatible with the Smart Remote and the Remo voice remote.

Voice Control

Both models can use voice control. So you can do some of the basics like start and stop video recording, switch modes, or take photos with voice commands. You can’t change settings by voice command.

Both also have Wake on Voice so that you can turn it on with a voice command. (This was something added in a firmware upgrade to the HERO 6 Black, so if you don’t see the option available, check that you’re using the current firmware.)

Batteries and Charging

Both use the same removable lithium-ion rechargeable battery rated at 1220 mAh. You can mix and match batteries from the HERO 7 Black, HERO 6 Black, and HERO 5 Black without any issues. That also means that you can expect very similar recording times if you put them in the same recording modes. Neither has battery life that’s going to blow you away–at least, not in a good way–an hour or two of filming in ideal conditions and much less than that in less-than-ideal conditions or if you’re using some of the features that drain the battery even more quickly, like the mobile app, Protune, or GPS, or if you’re using it in very hot or very cold conditions.

Both have the same options for charging. You can connect the camera directly to a power source via a USB-C cable and charge the battery in the camera. If you’re using the right kind of high-output USB-C power source, like GoPro’s own SuperCharger, you can take advantage of fast charging to speed things up appreciably.

Because the batteries are removable, you can also use an external charger for the convenience of having spares on hand to swap out.

GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 7 Black

The battery and memory card compartments. H7 Black at left.

Because the exterior design is fundamentally the same and the USB-C port is in the same place on each camera, so you can also use the same extended battery options.

GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 7 Black

The USB-C and micro-HDMI ports, with the H7 Black at left.

Shooting Video / H7 Black vs H5 Black

Shooting video footage is the bread and butter feature of GoPros. There’s a lot of overlap between what these models can do, but there are also some important and useful additions and improvements in the new model.

But aside from technical specs and features, I’ve found that the video coming out of the HERO 7 Black just looks better, even when you’re doing an apples-to-apples comparison with the same settings. You can see a quick example below in the footage comparing the stabilization.

Video Resolutions, Framerates, and Bitrates of the GoPro HERO 5 Black and HERO 7 Black

Resolutions. Both can shoot up to 4K (3840×2160) in the 16:9 aspect ratio. But the H5 maxes out at 30 frames per second at 4K, while the H7 can shoot at 60fps. The H7 also has an even larger 4K (4:3) resolution that measures 4000×3000 in the 4:3 aspect ratio. Most of the other resolutions overlap: 2.7K, 2.7K (4:3), 1440p, 1080p, 960p, and 720p. The H5 also has an even smaller 480p that was dropped in the H7 (and I doubt anyone has missed it).

GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 7 Black

Framerates. This is an area where there has been a significant upgrade that could be decisive for more than a few users, especially those wanting to do slow-mo. In addition to the higher framerate available at 4K, the H7 Black offers faster framerates at more resolutions. For instance, both have a maximum framerate of 240 frames per second, but on the H7 Black that’s available at 1090p, 960p, and 720p; on the H5 Black, it’s only available at 720p and 480p.

I’ve put together more detailed rundowns of the resolution/framerate combinations available on the H7 Black here and for H5 Black here.

Bitrates. Even more than resolution and framerate, it’s the bitrate that determines what we’d commonly think of as video quality. It’s the measure of how much data the video stream uses. A lower bitrate means it has been compressed more aggressively (or less effectively, in the case of different codecs). And that, in turn, affects the video quality. A higher bitrate opens the potential of better video quality, and it’s something you can especially notice if you edit the footage in a video editor and then recompress it to share.

The bitrates used for the various recording modes vary depending on the settings you’re using, but the maximum bitrate used on the HERO 7 Black is 78 Mb/s (megabits per second).2 On the HERO 5 Black, the maximum video bitrate is 60 Mb/s. But on both of them, you’ll want to make sure you have a memory card that’s fast enough to avoid potential problems like the recording stopping unexpectedly or the camera shutting down.

Video Codecs. Both cameras save most of their video files in MP4 containers with a .mp4 file extension.

On the HERO 5 Black, all of the videos are compressed and encoded with the widely-compatible and older H.264 codec. That has been around for several years now and has been a staple of sharing services such as Youtube or Facebook.

The HERO 7 Black can record most (but not all) of its video using that same codec. That’s a good option for maximum compatibility. But it can also use a much newer and much more efficient codec known as HEVC (or H.265) that can compress the video stream more effectively with better quality while also resulting in smaller file size. The upshot is that the combination of HEVC encoding with a higher bitrate means that you can potentially get better video quality out of the HERO 7 Black. (I say “potential” because there are other things that also influence video quality).

HEVC does work better, but there’s a catch: it’s not nearly as widely compatible yet. Newer operating systems are adopting it, and you can upload HEVC files to services like Youtube or Vimeo, but you can also run into situations where your computer or device doesn’t recognize them. (If you do bump into compatibility issues with HEVC-encoded video, here’s a workaround.)

NTSC/PAL. With both, you can choose between NTSC and PAL format, which are the standard options on most cameras that can shoot video.

Stabilization: Standard vs HyperSmooth

The HERO 5 Black was the first GoPro to offer in-camera electronic image stabilization. And it works well. But the new version in the HERO 7 Black works even better. The current iteration is called HyperSmooth, and it’s one of the headline features of the new model. GoPro’s marketing campaign is featuring it heavily. I’ve tested it quite a bit side-by-side, and it’s not just hype–it really does work much better.

Better than words, here’s a quick example. It’s not a perfect example, because the HERO 5 Black actually handles this pretty well already, but it does show some differences. And this clip is also useful to see some other visual differences, like the crisper detail in the HERO 7 Black’s footage, which you can see most clearly in the texture of the road and the details in the trees. I shot this at 2.7K60, which is the highest mode that the HERO 5 Black can do stabilization (the HERO 7 Black can do it all the way up to 4K60).

Protune

GoPro calls its suites of extended, expert features Protune. They give you more control over the shooting and, when used properly, can result in higher quality output. While other models in the various lineups sometimes include Protune, the full set of options are reserved for the Black editions.

The Protune options on these cameras are very similar. The HERO 7 Black has higher options for manually setting the shutter speed and has a few more settings available here and there. But overall they’re very similar. Here’s a full listing:

PROTUNE OPTION HERO7 BLACK HERO6 BLACK HERO5 BLACK
Color GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
White Balance Auto
2300K
2800K
3200K
4000K
4500K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
2300K
2800K
3200K
4000K
4500K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
3000K
4000K
4800K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Manual Exposure / Shutter* Auto
1/24
1/25
1/30
1/48
1/50
1/60
1/96
1/100
1/120
1/192
1/200
1/240
1/384
1/400
1/480
1/960
1/1920
1/3840
Auto
1/24
1/25
1/30
1/48
1/50
1/60
1/96
1/100
1/120
1/192
1/200
1/240
1/400
1/480
1/960
1/1920
Auto
1/24
1/25
1/30
1/48
1/50
1/60
1/80
1/96
1/100
1/120
1/160
1/192
1/200
1/240
1/320
1/400
1/480
1/960
ISO Limit 6400
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
6400
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
6400
3200
1600
1200
800
400
Sharpness High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
Exposure Compensation -2 to +2 -2 to +2 -2 to +2
Raw Audio Track Off
Low
Mid
High
Off
Low
Mid
High
Off
Low
Mid
High
Auto Audio Mode Group Auto
Wind Only
Stereo Only

* Note on manual shutter: The specific options available in the manual exposure / shutter section vary by the framerate you've chosen. The available shutter speeds you'll see available will be limited to multiples of the framerate you're using. As an example, if you set it to record at 1080p60, you won't see the option for a manual shutter speed of 1/96 but you will see 1/120 and 1/240.

Touch Zoom

Both cameras have a digital zoom feature. Before you get too excited, it’s a digital zoom, not an optical zoom. So it’s a bit like an advanced crop.

I’m not a fan of digital zoom, but it makes more sense with video than with still photos because it keeps the output resolution consistent. A negative in this case, though, is that it’s not a particularly smooth or graceful zoom in practice, limiting its usefulness while actually recording. But that’s not going to bother everyone and isn’t going to be an issue for every shooting situation, especially if you plan on editing out that zoom transition.

Looping

Both offer a looping mode where the camera records continuously but keeps writing back over at predetermined intervals. It’s useful in situations where you want the camera rolling to capture something that may happen unexpectedly and then only want to keep that relevant clip rather than later sorting through hours of dead air footage. Like a dashcam in a car or truck.

Other Video Features

There’s a handful of other new features introduced with the HERO 7 Black.

The H7 Black has added a new Short Clips option. GoPro has been putting a lot of effort in recent years to make it simpler and smoother to share what you’ve shot with your GoPro. This feature is squarely part of that effort. Short clips are standard video but are saved at predetermined lengths of 15 or 30 seconds. The idea is that they’re much more manageable to share via the GoPro app to social media.

Another new feature on the HERO 7 Black is a portrait orientation; it’s not available on the HERO 5 Black. That’s filming vertically rather than the usual horizontal (or landscape) orientation. Youtube recently began supporting this more fully because so many people film with their phones held upright. It’s also something that works well for the various “stories” features on social media services like Instagram and Snapchat. If you don’t want to risk accidentally starting filming in vertical, there’s a setting you can use in the options precisely to lock in landscape-only recording (called Landscape Lock). Both the front and back screens also rotate to reflect the vertical orientation.

Shooting Photos

There are many more similarities when it comes to using the still photo modes than there are differences.

RAW and JPG

GoPro’s RAW image format, which has the file extension .gpr, debuted with the HERO 5 Black, and it’s still there on the HERO 7 Black. It’s based on Adobe’s DNG RAW format.

Shooting in RAW opens up the possibility of better image quality because it gives you much more of the data that the sensor sees and doesn’t apply lossy compression that can impact image quality. The catch is that you need to process the images first before sharing them (and not many imaging apps aside from Lightroom supports it. (Here’s a workaround if you’re not using Lightroom.)

Both of these models have the option to shoot images in RAW. And on both cameras, it automatically saves a JPG version at the same time even if you’ve set it to shoot RAW, so you have a fallback if necessary.

With an April 2017 firmware update (v.02.00), the HERO 5 Black was given ability to use RAW for Time-lapse Photo and Nightlapse Photo modes (so long as the interval is at least 5 seconds). The HERO 7 Black had it from its launch.

Image Sizes and Quality

There’s no difference in their image sizes: both models shoot photos that result in 12MP images that measure 4000 by 3000 pixels.

Options & Protune

Both cameras have Protune options for photo mode in addition to the video Protune options. When shooting photos, these give you finer control over the exposure, including things like ISO, shutter speed, and white balance. There are also options that apply as the image is rendered and saved in the camera, such as sharpness and GoPro color–these apply only to JPGs and not RAW files.

The options available in these models are very similar, although the H7 Black does have a few more values available for some settings.

PROTUNE OPTION HERO7 BLACK HERO6 BLACK HERO5 BLACK
Color GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
GoPro Color
Flat
White Balance Auto
2300K
2800K
3200K
4000K
4500K
5000K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
2300K
2800K
3200K
4000K
4500K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Auto
3000K
4000K
4800K
5500K
6000K
6500K
Native
Shutter Auto
1/125
1/250
1/500
1/1000
1/2000
Auto
1/125
1/250
1/500
1/1000
1/2000
Auto
1/125
1/250
1/500
1/1000
1/2000
ISO Min 3200
1600
800
400
200
100
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
1600
800
400
200
100
ISO Max 3200
1600
800
400
200
100
3200
1600
800
400
200
100
1600
800
400
200
100
Sharpness High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Low
Exposure Compensation -2 to +2 -2 to +2 -2 to +2

* The shutter settings were added to the HERO5 Black with a firmware update in April 2017 (v.02.00).

Exposure Control

Using the back touchscreen, you can select which part of the screen that’s used to calculate the automatic exposure. Both cameras have this feature.

Burst Mode and Continuous Capture

When you’re shooting fast-moving scenes, it can come in handy being able to grab a quick sequence of shots. Both of these cameras have two variations of ways to do this. They both share these burst mode rates: 30/1, 30/2, 30/3, 30/6, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3, 5/1, and 3/1.

The HERO 7 Black also has an Auto option. It’s a bit hard to explain what it does, so I’ve put together a more detailed explanation with examples.

A similar feature is Continuous capture. Rather than capturing a predetermined number of photos as Burst Mode does, Continuous capture will keep shooting while you hold down the shutter button. But the rates vary for each camera. On the H7, it can shoot at either 3 or 30 photos per second, depending on the lighting conditions. On the H5, it captures 4 photos per second up to a maximum of 30 photos.

I have a more detailed post separately on the differences between burst mode and continuous photo.

SuperPhoto vs WDR

The HERO 7 Black includes a new, enhanced photo mode called SuperPhoto. It’s actually a combination of automatic enhancement methods to try to create a better-looking photo. It analyzes the image and tries to use HDR, local tone mapping, or multi-frame noise reduction to help improve the capture and produce a processed image that should look better than a straight capture. You can set SuperPhoto to be on, off, or on auto. Something work noting, though, is that processing such as HDR doesn’t work with RAW files; it only works with JPGs.

The H5 Black has a simpler, less aggressive, and less effective option called WDR (for wide dynamic range). A useful way to think of it is as a lightweight HDR. It can improve the photos coming out of the camera, although I’ve found that WDR doesn’t work a well as HDR (here are some side-by-side examples).

SuperPhoto does work better than WDR. The contrast tends to be better and the colors richer. The JPGs coming directly out of the camera just look better. I don’t currently have any directly side-by-side examples of WDR vs SuperPhoto, but I have previously posted some comparisons of the HERO 5 Black’s WDR vs the HERO 6 Black’s HDR and also the HERO 7 Black’s SuperPhoto vs the HERO 6 Black’s HDR. And here are a couple of side-by-side examples of photos shot with a HERO 7 Black with SuperPhoto turned on and with a HERO 5 Black with no enhancement (ie. no WDR).

GoPro HERO 7 Black

 SuperPhoto ON

GoPro HERO 5 Black vs HERO 7 Black

GoPro HERO 7 Black

 SuperPhoto ON

GoPro HERO 5 Black

 GoPro HERO 5 Black

As much as the JPGs are often (though not always) better, it also doesn’t strike me as a particularly compelling reason to upgrade. There are also several reasons you might not want to use it, including that it doesn’t work with RAW and some of the shooting modes and it’s slow. So in my view, it’s one of those new features that’s nice to have but that probably isn’t going to make much of a difference in choosing between the two models.

HERO 7 Black vs HERO 5 Black: Time-lapse

Both cameras have quite extensive time-lapse capabilities. They both have a Time-lapse Video mode, which captures the frames and then compiles them into a video file in the camera, saving the result as a video file. They offer the same options for setting the interval between shots: 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds. They have similar options for the output resolution, with a few differences.

HERO 7 BLACK HERO 5 BLACK
4K
2.7K
2.7K 4:3
1440p
1080p

They have Time-lapse Photo mode, which captures the frames and saves each as an individual image file so that you can download them to your computer and compile them there. You can save the resulting images as standard JPGs, or, if you’re using an interval of 5 seconds or great, as RAW (.gpr) files (a JPG version is still saved alongside the RAW version). The same interval options are available as with the Time-lapse Video mode.

They both also have what’s called a Night Lapse mode. This is a tweaked version of the Time-lapse Photo mode that allows for both much longer intervals as well as slower shutter speeds (keeping the shutter open longer allows more light to hit the sensor). There’s quite a difference here, with the H7 Black having much longer intervals available. These are the different Night Lapse Photo intervals available on each camera.

HERO 7 BLACK HERO 5 BLACK
Auto
2 sec
4 sec
5 sec
10 sec
15 sec
20 sec
30 sec
60 sec
2 min
5 min
30 min
60 min

For many time-lapse captures, you’re going to want to set up some kind of external power to work around the limited battery life of the internal battery. That’s especially true if you plan to use some of the HERO 7 Black’s much longer intervals.

There’s one new variation feature on time-lapse that has been added to the HERO 7 Black. They’ve called it Timewarp. It’s basically the same thing as what’s usually called hyperlapse. The key difference between it and standard time-lapse is that standard time-lapse typically has the camera in one fixed spot–or maybe on a slider or rotator robot. Hyperlapse, or in this case, Timewarp, is designed for situations where the camera is on the move. The innovation with Timewarp is that it applies the same kind of stabilization as HyperSmooth to create smooth motion footage instead of what would otherwise be extremely jerky footage. Timewarp saves its results as a compiled video file with the same resolution options as Time-lapse Video.

Audio

Both cameras have three onboard microphones and can record in stereo with those onboard mics. In reality, the sound quality from the onboard microphones is always going to be somewhat mediocre. So if audio is essential for what you’re aiming for, you’ll get much better sound quality by connecting an external microphone. Both models are compatible with external microphones.

With both of these models, you also have a Protune option of recording a separate, high-quality audio file along with the video. It saves it as a separate WAV file that has the same filename as the corresponding video file.

Other Bells and Whistles

Here are some more of the features of these cameras.

GPS. Using a built-in GPS chip, the camera can embed the GPS coordinates of the photo or video into the corresponding metadata. Both the H7 Black and H5 Black have GPS.

Karma Drone Compatibility. GoPro abandoned their drone and external stabilizer effort, known as Karma, but if you’re still using one, both of these models work with Karma drone and grip.

Live Video. They’ve introduced a new live streaming feature with the HERO 7 Black. The HERO 5 Black doesn’t have it.

GoPro Plus Compatibility. GoPro Plus is a subscription service. Among its features is the ability to upload photos and video automatically to the cloud (again, routed through the mobile app). Both cameras can work with that if you’ve got an active GoPro Plus subscription. If you don’t have a GoPro Plus subscription, you can have the photos and video offload automatically to your phone (but without the Plus subscription, they’ll stay on your phone and won’t go to the cloud.)

Photo Timer. Oddly, until the HERO 7 range, GoPros haven’t had a self-timer. But one has been finally been added, all the easier to take selfies with.

Advanced Metadata. The new HERO 7 Black has a new feature that can analyze the photo and do things like optimize the exposure for faces, etc. It’s not a true facial recognition as it is available on many other cameras, but it is a form of advanced processing that’s not available on the HERO6. This is not something I’ve played around with in depth, but I’m inclined to think that it’s not going to be a crucial feature and deciding factor for that many users.

Which to Get?

If you don’t have either model, it seems to me the only compelling reason to choose the HERO 5 Black is that you’ve found a particularly good deal on it somewhere. The HERO 7 Black does everything the HERO 5 Black does, does somethings like stabilization quite a lot better much better, and has a handful of interesting new features. It is, in short, a better camera. So if you take price out of the equation, there’s really no reason to get the HERO 5 Black. But prices matter, and I’ve seen some very good deals lately on the HERO 5 Black that can certainly tip the balance in its favor.

Whether upgrading from the HERO 5 Black to HERO 7 Black is worth it is harder to give a straight answer to. I’m personally inclined to think it is worth it, but it’s also not a slam dunk. The HERO 5 Black, after all, is a very capable camera that can capture wonderful footage and photos. For many users, it’s more than enough camera. And the two models share so many core features and specs that it’s not like you’re going to be able to instantly tell which camera a particular video or photo was taken on.

The three biggest factors, to my mind, are the higher framerates of the H7 Black (including 4K60) and the much better in-camera video stabilization (and the stabilization being available at higher resolution/framerate combinations). Other features like SuperPhoto and Timewarp aren’t bad to have, but I’d expect that those by themselves aren’t going to be compelling reasons to upgrade for most users.

For some niche uses, it’s an easier call. If you’re shooting a lot of slow motion, the HERO 7 Black has higher framerates at more resolutions than the HERO 5 Black. Same goes if you’re shooting time-lapse at night or in low light–the H7 has muchlonger intervals available. If you’re into hyperlapse, you’ll probably enjoy the convenience of having the Timewarp feature. And videographers shooting for clients or broadcast are likely to appreciate the higher bitrates and better HEVC encoding. On the flip side, if you’re filming music performances, you’re not going to see much benefit from the newer model because they both have the basically the same audio features and specs.

So, as you can see, it’s not necessarily a slam dunk either way. Which is, after all, the reason I’ve gone into so much detail above. Hopefully, you’ll find it useful to help make the decision on which to get or whether to upgrade based on your own needs and preferences.

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