October 27, 2018
I have never owned a GoPro before this HERO7 Silver, so I cannot comment on how it compares to previous models. I am reviewing this camera as a GoPro novice: how the setup went, what the camera can do, how the Silver differs from Black and White models. The first thing that struck me about the GoPro is its size: 2 3/8 x 1 3/4 x 1 inch. I read the specifications, but it's startling to see a multi-featured video camera that fits easily in the palm of my hand. GoPro offers a downloadable product manual, but I found the best source of guidance to be YouTube videos about getting started with your GoPro. The first things you need to do are: charge the camera and install a micro SD card from GoPro's list of recommended cards. You do both of these things via the panel on the left side of the camera. Using a 32GB micro SD card, you get 2 hours 8 minutes of video at regular resolution, 1 hour 5 min at 4K resolution. Thirty minutes of video at standard resolution used 25% of the battery charge.
Setup did not go smoothly for me. The GoPro will not operate without having its firmware updated, so you can't get past the screen where it prompts you to install and pair to the app. You can update the firmware through the mobile app, the Qwik desktop app, or you can download the update to a computer manually. I chose to use the Qwik app for Mac. I plugged my camera into my computer via USB. It took about 30 minutes to download and install the firmware update. Then it said the camera could not be updated. I tried again without success. I wondered if the problem might be the camera battery, so I charged it. Apparently the update had been installed before. When I went though the setup on the camera again, it stopped on the page to install the app, but I was able to hit the back button and go to a page that allowed me to skip that step. So I was in. Be sure that the camera is fully charged before you attempt to install an update.
The GoPro is fairly simple to operate. Swipe down from the top to access Preferences. Swipe up from the bottom to access the videos and photos that you have recorded. Swipe side to side to switch between video, still photo, and time lapse photo (one frame every 0.5 seconds) modes. Or you can hit the power button on the right side of the camera to do this, which usually happens accidentally when I am trying to turn the camera off (hold the button down to turn off). The GoPro Silver offers two resolutions and aspect ratios for video: 4K video, which has a 16:9 aspect ratio (3840 x 2160 pixels) at 30 frames per second (fps) and 1440p video, which has a 4:3 aspect ratio (1920x 1440 pixels) at 60 fps. The default is 1440p; you can change to 4K with one tap on the screen. In the specifications, this camera also lists 1080p video as an option, but the camera actually records in 1440p 4:3 video that can then be cropped in the app to 1080p 16:9 video.
I don't do action sports. I am using this camera to videotape architecture, specifically the relationships between buildings, which don't show up well with a still camera. I need to move around and between the buildings. Some tips that will be obvious to an experienced user but not to a novice: If you take the camera out of its frame and hold it with your hand, do so with your right hand. When holding the camera with my left hand, my finger was often in the picture. To avoid this problem, you could leave the camera in its frame and hold it by its mounting buckle. That is a little uncomfortable. GoPro wants to you buy something to hold the camera: a Shorty, which is a telescoping poll and mini-tripod, or, if you will be using the camera around water, the Handler, which floats. Another tip: The default setting causes the screen to go dark in one minute to conserve power. This isn't helpful if you are handholding and trying to videotape what you see. This can be changed in Preferences.
The Silver model offers GoPro's standard image stabilization software. I wasn't bouncing around very much, but I was walking, going up and down stairs, and occasionally running. I found the stabilization to be pretty good. The video I shot is much smoother than that taken with the video mode on my Nikon DSLR, which is mighty shaky. One day I shot outdoors on a sunny, very contrasty, day with blown out highlights and deep shadows. That was inadvisable. The camera isn't horrible in those conditions, but it's not great either. It was grainy in low light when I zoomed in, but that is to be expected. There are two zooms available in 1440p mode (you cannot zoom in 4K). These are digital zooms, not optical zooms, so they are just crops. You are getting the equivalent, in 35mm film camera terms, of 15mm (no zoom), 23mm (mid-zoom), and 35mm (full zoom). I was a bit disappointed that I could not get a "normal" (50mm) zoom, and a digital zoom is less than ideal.
After I shot my videos, I wanted to view them. I used the Qwik desktop app. The GoPro splits all video in to 4GB "chapters" due to limitations of the memory card's file system. Inconvenient, as I was shooting long videos, but, at standard resolution (1440p), 4GB was 17:40 minutes. The videos went into a "GoPro" folder that was created in my Pictures folder, but you can manually change the destination folder in Qwik's settings. You can view the videos in Qwik, or, you can double-click them in their folder to play in the video software of your choice. Qwik also allows you to make clips, rotate, grab a photo from video, or Adjust Gauges, which requires that you had the GPS data enabled on your video. You can choose to add Speed Tracker (a line graph), GPS Path, Speedometer, and G-Force to display over your video image. Tip: If you rename your video files, Qwik will not recognize them. You will need to go to Settings and, under Media Folders, click "scan" in order to locate the files again.
I do not favor using the mobile app, as I don't have a lot of space on my phone. I installed it on my iPad, however. I had no luck getting it to pair with my camera using Bluetooth. I was able to pair it with wifi without any hitches, but be sure your mobile device and your camera are on the same band. The default on the camera is 5GHz. You can watch stored videos from your camera or from the Cloud on the app, but the neat feature is that you can watch what the camera is seeing in real time if you are in range.
The GoPro Silver also takes 10MP still photographs, and it automatically employs its wide dynamic range (WDR) feature that pulls more detail out of shadows. Still images are 3648 x 2736 pixels with an aspect ratio of 4:3. If you like, you can take photos continuously at rate of 4 per second by holding shutter button or 15 frames per second by choosing burst mode. There is also a self-timer, and you can activate voice control to tell the camera to take a picture without needing to have your finger on the shutter button. Voice control works reliably and can be activated with the touch of a button when you swipe down from the top of the screen. See the user manual for a list of commands.
If you are wondering why buy the Black model or why not buy the White, these are the major differences: The HERO7 Black offers optional RAW format for still photos. It has a removable battery. It uses Hypersmooth image stabilization, which is supposed to be better than standard. Watching YouTube videos comparing the two, I think Hypersmooth is better for certain types of movement and not others. SloMo slows movement down by 8x in Black rather than 2x in the Silver. Black is compatible with dive housing that allows it to be waterproof to 60 meters (197 feet) rather than the 10 meters (33 feet) on its own. Black offers far more choices in frame rate, field of view, and resolution. HERO7 White does not offer 4K video or WDR for still photos, and does not have GPS capabilities, so no GPS stickers, etc.