Reviewing the New GoPro HERO11 Black—An Experiment in Patience

Reviewing the New GoPro HERO11 Black—An Experiment in Patience
The new GoPro HERO11 Black encourages playtime—if you’re willing to practice.

There is an eerie phenomenon in the mountains when a strike of lightning shatters the darkness without any thunder. It doesn't just spark in the scientific sense, but it also inspires creators to capture the fleeting split-second of energy, like we can compress nature into a tiny explosion of time.

Last week, in central Idaho, those mountains produced this very weather, and I thought I might be able to snag something great. Like a storm chaser, I maneuvered to a parking lot with a view of our local ski mountain surrounded by what I assumed to be ominous clouds in the black. I burst open the box of the GoPro HERO11 Black, threw it on, flew into the settings, and... light painting wasn't there.

Some of GoPro's newest and most fun experiments are under the "Pro" label, not "Easy." By the time I realized where the settings were, the dramatic lightning was done, and I trekked home to try and understand this new HERO (the camera, not me) a little better.

Understanding the GoPro HERO11 Black

Videographers, filmmakers, and content producers—we're like storm chasers. We're always going after the next big thing. The next new camera, platform, or technical innovation.

In Ian Livingston's Washington Post article about storm chasing, he quotes chaser Sean Casey: “Storm chasing is about how you handle failure.”

And if this first failure was an indication, I was in need of practice and patience, something that traditional GoPro users, the grab-it-and-go types, might not have in abundance (just like me). With no manual and a "get out and do it" attitude, the GoPro has always been a "stick it on and turn it on" camera for action sports footage.

GoPro Hero 11 Black
Ok, technically, you CAN get a streak of lightning with light painting as seen in the center of the screen.Credit: NFS

While at first glance, some may have assumed that the "Pro" in GoPro stands for GoProfessional, as in, grab this camera, turn it on, and you're a pro, the name comes from founder Nick Woodman’s surfing background. If one went professional in surfing, AKA they were able to "go pro," then their athletic pursuits would be filmed.

Knowing that the camera is rooted in water sports checks out. Every new GoPro release seems to improve on its underwater capabilities, from low-light captures to durability to battery power. I had fun dunking it into crystal-clear water to see what would emerge. 

Every new release also comes with updates under the hood and new capturing techniques that might have the potential to turn you into a professional videographer.

GoPro Hero11 Black w/ battery
GoPro Hero11 Black w/ removable batteryCredit: GoPro

Can GoPro make you seem like a professional videographer out of the box? Not quite. In the GoPro HERO11 Black world, to be a professional, you have to also be patient. From multiple takes to master light painting, long record times for Star Trails, uploading through Wifi to the cloud for an auto edit, and recharging the battery after or during camera intensive elements, the new GoPro settings require some patience and some practice.

Ironically, if you’re impatient, the new GoPro HERO11 has a special Quikcapture button (not a spelling error) which allows you to turn the camera on and start recording simply by hitting the red shutter button at the top. This, in turn, led to several videos featuring such Oscar-worthy lines as "Oh, what? You're on?" and award-winning cinematic masterpieces of the inside of my backpack.

I contemplated the usefulness of this feature. How many times have we wanted that with our phones? Sometimes clicking the iPhone photo button and finding the right setting really is too long. No fumbling with the device. Just press the button. We have that option here. 

GoPro Hero11 Black
Storm chaser in action.Credit: NFS

Speaking of Quik, GoPro Quik is also the name of the GoPro app that facilitates uploading to the cloud, organizing footage, and editing material. When your material is in the cloud and you have a GoPro subscription, the Quik studio will automatically create highlight videos for you and ping you with a new video. For purposes of this review, I decided to do a quick edit myself and compare that to the edits and cuts that the Quik app created. Quick vs. Quik.

But first, we need a boat.

GoPro Hero11 Black
I'm on a boat!Credit: Lauren Marziliano

The opportunity to trek to the Sawtooths with the GoPro HERO11 Black provided some experimental time for the new camera. And while water sports are the main drive (or is it "dive"), GoPro has continued to target outdoor adventurers and hikers with Facebook ads and materials. To capture the trek, however, we might have to get crafty.

Flying a drone is not permitted in a wilderness zone. That's where the boat comes in. Small action cameras invite a bit of creativity and problem-solving. The ability to mount a device anywhere inspires new possibilities for capturing the world—dogs wearing cameras, surfboards, bikes, robots, skateboards, and more. Here we are again, storm chasing toward the next new thing.

I'm going to be as direct as I can. The horizon lock and stabilization are exceptional. With the GoPro on a selfie stick, on a moving boat, with no gimbal, and no stabilization in the post, the footage is insanely smooth. If you've got the right tools, it could be "no drone, no problem." 

GoPro Hero11 Black handheld
GoPro Hero11 Black handheld in the water.Credit: GoPro

The arrival of darkness allowed for the testing of Star Trails and Light Painting. Both are exceptionally "cool," to quote how my friends put it, but both are exceptionally long processes and "persnickety" (also a direct quote). After a few attempts, we realized that our glow sticks might work if we were close enough to the GoPro, and the longer and slower we wrote, the better.

We would rehearse, record, and playback. Over and over. Patience and practice. It would have been helpful if the front LCD screen could somehow show one light painting progress.

As for Star Trails, a 20-minute GoPro capture yielded one second of material while knocking the battery from 70% to 30% in that same time. Looking to do an all-night star trail capture? You'll want to plug the camera into a mobile charger. That said, there is no better feeling than capturing a shooting star, even in that one second. 

After returning to a place with reliable and semi-speedy internet, it was time to test the Quik experience. Your internet does need to be quick for this part. Utilizing the auto-highlight function requires both a subscription to GoPro and your material in the cloud. Quik is, in fact, quick. The app is zippy, and connecting your GoPro is fast and easy. I selected some highlights, started the upload into the cloud, and waited.

GoPro Hero11 Black menu
Simple settings, simple UICredit: NFS

After some patience and a night of sleep, I received a notification for a new highlight video. Quik will take the entirety of your footage into account, so a bit of trimming on your end is needed if you don't want the app to use an entire video file. 

Quik easily and impressively finds the humans in your footage and even someone's voice to create fun one-liners and chops them all together in an inspiring manner ready for social media. (A note—fellow humans have been removed from the video below out of courtesy.) It was truly surprising.

Fine adjustments to color are not available (i.e. saturation and contrast) though the filters do help, and one can adjust the speed of each individual clip as well within the edit. One quirk of Quik—my music track would often continue to play even while I was editing individual items. Just an FYI!

GoPro Hero11 Black notification
Equally easy cloud accessCredit: NFS

One very important note regarding your material and Quik. There is a setting called "Auto Clear," which will remove material from your micro SD card after it uploads to the cloud. It reminds me of the similarly scary FCP 7 setting that could remove material from any sources connected to the machine.

I ensured that the Auto Clear was switched off on my phone (see below). However, when I turned the GoPro back on after charging, I received a cheerful note and a surprise. 21GBs of magically created free space (also see below). There was still material on the card, so it’s unclear if anything was actually removed, or if it was just telling me how many GBs were free.

Considering that Quik Quirk (trademarked by me), I would recommend transferring the old-fashioned way to a hard drive and to the cloud to have proper media storage.

Here is the Quik edit.

Is the GoPro HERO11 Black for You?

The new GoPro HERO11 Black comes down to patience. Are you willing to practice and test? Willing to edit down your video clips for the GoPro App so it only uses the best moments? Willing to experiment with Pro and Easy modes? Willing to see which selfie stick or other accessories might work? Willing to see what the Studio in Quik creates for you? 

Then the new GoPro is ready for you and however you play. 

Light painting with the GoPro Hero11 Black
This took six times to get right. Aputure MC for the win.Credit: NFS

But to succeed in a world full of “Pro,” GoPro, iPhone, MacBook, or otherwise, you need trust. Trust that your device won’t shatter. (For the record, this GoPro probably won’t, though I have broken the front lens glass by “throwing my GoPro” in an AER device) Trust that your camera battery won’t die. Trust that the settings are right. Trust that your subject is in focus. Trust that things are uploading into the cloud, even if it takes a while. Trust that your material won't be deleted. Trust that if you only have one take, you can get it. Trust that the auto editor might edit something magical for you.

Wherever you stumble in that virtual trust fall will determine if the new GoPro is for you. And maybe, with practice, you’ll get to chase your own creative storm.     

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