The magic of HERO7 Black's new SuperPhoto mode is explained in the following words by GoPro Image Quality Lead Alex Cashman and Image Processing Senior Engineer Keita Nagashima.

When HERO7 Black launched in Fall 2018, it introduced with it a new, enhanced photo mode called SuperPhoto. Simply put, SuperPhoto is the most advanced still photo feature ever on a GoPro.

With SuperPhoto enabled, HERO7 Black analyzes the scene being photographed and can intelligent chooses the best enhancement process. This results in the best image quality possible in a variety of scenarios every time—long gone are the days guesswork and being distracted by changing and customizing settings for every shot.

SuperPhoto offers two different options: HDR and AUTO. HDR captures the same high-dynamic range photos that were introduced with HERO6 Black. Whereas AUTO analyzes a wide range of scene statistics—such as dynamic range, available light and scene motion—then automatically selects one of four methods for processing the image:

  1. High-Dynamic Range
  2. Local Tone Mapping
  3. Multi-Frame Noise Reduction
  4. Standard (or none)

To give a better idea of how each image-processing method works, here is a quick peek at what happens under the hood each time you take a SuperPhoto.

Pro Tip: We recomend setting your HERO7 Black SuperPhoto mode to AUTO, so you know it will be working its magic, allowing you to stay present in the moment.

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

Leveraging the power of the GP1 Chip, HDR was first introduced on HERO6 Black. It works by quickly capturing multiple images back-to-back using different exposure settings, then intelligently combines them into a single image. This reveals greater detail in shadows and highlights, and for scenes like sunsets or back-lit selfies, HDR reveals details that were previously lost on a GoPro. 

Using this multi-frame approach is an intelligent solution to the limitations of very small image sensors, however, HDR isn't an end-all, be-all solution. It can occasional suffer from artifacts that degrade the image quality.

This is mainly seen with moving objects, which can cause "ghosting" when images are combined (as demonstrated by our expert juggler below), and lowlight scenarios, which can increase noise due to the exposure differences between frames. This is why HDR is best-suited for well-lit scenes with little motion, such as landscapes.    

Local Tone-Mapping

If SuperPhoto AUTO detects too much motion to use HDR, it will use a process called Local Tone-Mapping (LTM). LTM analyzes an image and applies enhancements in regions that are lacking fine detail, such as grass (as seen below) or a dog’s fur.    

LTM is not intended to reveal the shadow and highlight detail that HDR aims to reveal; instead, LTM enhances fine details that may be lacking from HDR or ‘Standard’ photos. The end result is a photo with more fine detail, contrast and more realistic textures without appearing false or over-sharpened.

Multi-Frame Noise Reduction (MFNR)

Lowlight scenarios are very difficult for all small cameras due to the amount of noise created by small, high-resolution image sensors. For dark scenes, SuperPhoto AUTO will use a sophisticated noise-reduction algorithm called Multi-Frame Noise Reduction (MFNR).

Similar to HDR, MFNR captures multiple images back-to-back that are analyzed by MFNR to produce a single image. The result is a natural-looking image with greatly reduced noise that retains details better than conventional noise-reduction methods.    

Also similar to HDR, MFNR can produce artifacts if there is a lot of motion in the scene. If too much motion is detected, SuperPhoto will not use MFNR and will choose the next-best method for that scene.

Standard Photos

If the scene does not meet the criteria for HDR, LTM or MFNR, SuperPhoto AUTO will use the Standard image processing method. These photos go through the same processing as HERO7 Black’s regular photo modes: Single, Burst and Time Lapse. And thanks to the power of the GP1 Chip, all Standard photos apply WDR processing, first introduced on HERO5 Black single photo mode.

Word to the Wise

  • SuperPhoto is only available on HERO7 Black for single photo mode.
  • SuperPhoto takes a bit longer to process than a regular photo; processing time (typically 1-3 seconds) can vary just a tiny bit depending on the scene and the processing used.    

With each generation, GoPro has pushed the envelope on what is possible for still photos in such a small form-factor. Years of research, development, fine-tuning and testing have resulted in the simplest way to make sure you get the shot, whether you’re skiing on a sunny day or walking a city at night. It was complicated for us, but it won’t be for you … so we called it SuperPhoto.