Master the Modes: HERO10 Black Image Quality + New Defaults
Longtime fans of GoPro cameras may notice that video clips and stills straight from the camera look a little different this year, and connoisseurs will swear that they look even better. In either case, they’re right. But how? Why? The physical camera doesn’t look very different between the HERO10 and HERO9 Black, so what’s going on. The answer is: A lot! We’ve been making some serious changes under the hood now that new GP2 processor is powering HERO10 Black, and that’s translating to the best images from a GoPro yet.
Step into our kitchen and see how our secret sauce is made.
Let’s start with the simplest one to explain. HERO10 has three color profiles: Vibrant (formerly GoPro Color), Flat and the all-new Natural. Natural understood the assignment and quickly became the preferred default color profile on the HERO10 Black.
For years, our cameras’ default color profile was saturated and more “poppy” looking. It was vibrant, and it made things stand out, no doubt, but it wasn’t quite realistic. With HERO10 Black, we’ve tried to make photo and video content mirror how your eyes see the world—still color-rich, but less over-the-top. Now, if you loved that look, it’s still an option! Just go into the settings for whatever profile you want and change the color to Vibrant, but we strongly suggest you give Natural a chance. You’ll notice greens, blues and reds look like they do in nature, not in a cartoon.
PRO TIP: Make sure you have the latest firmware! We’re always adding IQ improvements, and the most recent v1.16 has further perfected skin tones. Most noticeably, faces in direct sunlight will no longer appear blown out, instead facial coloring looks nice and even, and your complexion will look more full and rich, too.
Local Tone Mapping
Full disclosure, we’re about to get a little geeky as we talk local tone mapping, or LTM. A global tone adjustment is where the image processor (i.e., your camera’s brain) looks at the image that the sensor just captured, and it makes an adjustment to the whole image. With local tone mapping, the processor can target specific regions of the image without affecting others. Thanks to the new GP2 processor in HERO10, the camera is powerful enough to make these detailed adjustments not just to still images, but to video as well!
Here’s an example. Say you’ve got a puppy as the subject of your shot, with a big blue sky behind it. Local tone mapping will identify that the puppy is probably the focal point of the image, and it will adjust the contrast only in the boxes of the grid that contain the doggo, thus making its fur look clearer and more distinct. For the rest of the image, it will leave the contrast alone, or maybe even lower it to bring up the shadows a little bit. GP2 allows these adjustments to be made up to 60X a second, depending on the resolution and frame rate you’re shooting in.
Eagle-eyed GoPro power users may also notice that the default sharpness on HERO10 is now set to Medium—it was previously always set to High. The crazy thing is if you compare images from the HERO9 on High sharpness vs the HERO10 on Medium sharpness, the HERO10 appears to have more detail and looks cleaner. This is largely due to LTM and improvements to our lens technology. If we’re being honest, we always felt High looked a bit over-sharpened, and the edges could skew a bit “digital” looking. Plus, Medium sharpness makes it easier to. Now, that option is still there if you want those razor edges, but almost all of our pro users are using medium, and it looks fantastic.
Local Tone Mapping was included in SuperPhoto mode for the HERO9 (and still is), but the HERO10 is the first time we’ve been able to apply it to video. It kicks in automatically in all but the most processor-intensive modes (i.e., it’s not it 5K60, 4K120, or 2.7K240), but it’s everywhere else, and it really makes your clips sing.
Now, let’s talk 3D Noise Reduction, or 3DNR. You probably already know that noise in this case, doesn’t refer to the audio, but to digital artifacts in an image. At its very worst it can look like static. It’s typically more of a problem when you’re shooting in dark environments where the camera bumps up ISO (sensor sensitivity) to compensate. As the sensor gets more sensitive, it picks up more false pixels, which result in digital noise. Noise reduction smooths that out.
3DNR takes that to a whole new level, and again, it’s thanks to the beefed-up processing power of GP2. While regular noise reduction goes one frame of video at a time to soften almost everything, 3DNR uses AI to look at multiple frames at a time and only fixes what’s necessary.
For example, if you’re shooting a dimly lit street, 3DNR compares several frames so it can tell what pixels are anomalies, and it fixes just those pixels to match the rest so that the whole video doesn’t become over-softened. You’ll see that edges are sharper, details remain distinct, and the remaining noise is smoother and far less distracting—especially when the camera is in motion. It’s a match made in HERO10 heaven.
It doesn’t only work in low-light situations, but that’s definitely where you see the most benefits. 3DNR works in 4K30 and 24fps, 2.7K60 and below, and 1080p120 and below resolutions, with some limitations based on your digital lens setting. What’s crazy, is a lower-resolution mode with 3DNR may outperform a higher resolution mode without 3DNR in lowlight conditions. This is a glimpse at the secret-sauce type of sorcery our Image Quality Team whipped up to make the image quality of HERO10 Black unmatched.
Want More Than Just a Taste?
These aren’t the only ways the HERO10 Black has improved image quality. You’ll notice that HDR photos are massively improved. GoPro is now using its own, proprietary HDR technology and it looks way more natural, like what your eyes really see (which have a high dynamic range of their own). Colors are more realistic too. Overall, you’ll notice that there are fewer artifacts and the grading is softer with more subtle transitions, too.
The long story short is that we’re continuing to tweak and refine (and add more features) to HERO10, so keep an eye on The Inside Line for more updates and keep your firmware updated for all the latest and greatest.