GoPro Hero 12: The gadget you didn't realise you needed in your life

I know what you're thinking. I have a fantastic video camera on my phone. I'm not leaping off cliffs, jumping out of planes on a regular basis, nor am I shooting a reality TV show. What use would I have for a GoPro?  

That was my precise attitude towards them – until I had a chance to test one out for myself.  

After an adventure-filled few days putting their new flagship device – the GoPro Hero 12 - through its paces and coming to grips with some of its innovations, it quickly became clear that pigeon-holing this ingenious wee device as strictly in the remit of the thrill-seeker is a distinct disservice to its capabilities. 

In September, GoPro launched the 12th edition of its ubiquitous device, boasting a host of new features, which – depending on how experienced a user you are – may or may not be of use.  

The good 

As they say, you only get one chance to make a good first impression, and unboxing and firing up the GoPro Hero 12, I'm immediately smitten. 

Remarkably lightweight but still sturdy and sleek, you get the sense just by holding it this device is capable of taking a licking and keeping on ticking. 

GoPro Hero 12: The gadget you didn't realise you needed in your life
Photo credit: Supplied

The device features one main rear screen and a mini LED on the front, meaning at any stage during recording, you can flip the device to capture a selfie or reaction without having to fuss with any buttons, allowing you to snare much more candid moments. 

The HDR video – unique to the Hero 12 - allows for recording at 5.3k and 60 frames per second, which is a significant leap from the 4k highest specification iPhone offers, not to mention the vastly superior width of angle. Watching your footage back, the true-to-life 10-bit colour and clarity shines through, revealing a level of detail that's often lost in overexposure and shadows. It also boasts a really fun 240fps slow-mo mode. 

But underwater is where the GoPro really comes into its own, where its waterproof superpower shines. No need for an airtight case anymore, you can dive right in.  

One of the most striking aspects of the GoPro recording experience – and perhaps the one which differentiates itself most from other alternatives - reveals itself once you start moving with the camera, when you'll notice how incredibly stable your shots remain. 

That's all thanks to GoPro's patented HyperSmooth feature, which has been juiced up even further in the 12. Enable the Horizon Lock feature and the camera will remain steady even when rotating a full 360 degrees. No need for a gimbal, my friends. No matter how bumpy the terrain or rambunctious the setting, images stay mindblowingly stable. 

The range of video settings on hand are too numerous to go over in huge detail but needless to say, if you're bold enough to dive in - there's a wealth of customisation available. Or, as I did, simply opt for one of several default presets which more than hit the spot. 

GoPro Hero 12: The gadget you didn't realise you needed in your life
Photo credit: Supplied

One function of the GoPro I completely overlooked was – alongside its flagship video capability – it's also a plain old camera. With the click of a button, you can swiftly switch from video to take HDR quality stills, with all of the functionality you'd expect from a high-end camera, including the very useful self-timed burst mode which you can initiate via voice activation. 

And once you've compiled all of your glorious, shiny new footage, the editing process is made simple and seamless for even the most tech-challenged user by the GoPro's 'Quik' mobile app. 

Once paired with your device via its new Bluetooth functionality (which also caters for your headphones), you can instantly connect to your GoPro to view everything you've just shot, then bang it all together in a clip to share with family or social media with minimal fuss. 

The app even does the courtesy of identifying 'highlights' from your longwinded shots. And if you'd prefer to avoid editing altogether, will whip up a 45-second snippet ripe for your Instagram page. Congrats, you just became a content creator.

For a rather reasonable annual fee of US$24.99 (NZ$40), you can subscribe to GoPro's cloud service, which will automatically upload all of your content to a cloud on an unlimited basis - an extremely handy service which allows you to refresh your SD card immediately for a new day of filming. 

GoPro Hero 12: The gadget you didn't realise you needed in your life
Photo credit: Supplied

The bad 

Surprise, surprise – we're talking about battery life. The all too familiar bane of a tech user's existence. 

The GoPro 12 claims to have a '2 x runtime' compared to its previous model. But that doesn't necessarily refer to the time you spend doing the actual recording, when you'll probably be struck with just how quickly the meter dwindles, especially when you push the image quality to its limit. 

It means at least one spare battery is a must for any excursions beyond half a day. 

You'll also want to ensure you're using an SD card with a minimum of 128GB storage. That exceptional picture quality means they fill up surprisingly quickly. 

On a related note, extended periods of recording – meaning anything beyond the 15-minute mark – will result in the device reaching thermonuclear levels of overheating and – eventually – self shutdown.  

The habitual stop-start nature of GoPro usage means it will likely rarely be an issue, but nonetheless can be a touch disconcerting. 

GoPro Hero 12: The gadget you didn't realise you needed in your life
Photo credit: Supplied

The verdict 

I was firmly of the viewpoint that my Samsung Galaxy S23 was all I needed to document both everyday life and any family holidays. 

But I have to admit, my GoPro experience has completely swung that stance. There's just so much more scope for creativity.  

There's something about wanting to do that hardware and all of that pristine footage you've captured justice that I find compels me to dive into the editing process, rather than just let those moments dwell as just another lonely snippet in my phone's endless camera roll. 

Once you start to involve some of the clever multitude of accessories you can combine with the GoPro, you can take that creativity to a whole new stratosphere. Head mounts, chest straps, wrist straps, even mouthpieces – they all add to the fun. 

And you don't necessarily need to wait until you're on an exotic getaway to put them to use. I've had mine sitting around the lounge at the ready, prepped to capture my toddler during those heartwarming 'Frozen' solos at a moment's notice. I've even strapped it to her for an afternoon at the park, which gave me a unique perspective on the playground. The QuikCapture launch button on the side of the device means recording is only ever a hasty click away.

For all of those canine lovers, there's even an attachment that will allow you to mount one on your dog's back. The new mounting system on the Hero 12 makes switching between these seamless.

The more pertinent question surrounding the GoPro is – do you need the brand new 12 edition with all of its bells and whistles and far-from-insignificant price-tag of NZ$749?  

For those who aren't social media creators or adventure seekers, you could probably scale back and opt for the cheaper 10 or 11 models. 

Nevertheless, it's a gadget that will add to your life in more ways than you may expect. 

Newshub was supplied with a GoPro Hero 12 for the purposes of this review