GoPro Announces a New $199 Hero Camera

There's a new GoPro in the world, and man is it cheap. The new GoPro Hero is available globally right now for $199.

This GoPro—called simply "Hero," with no number after it—looks just like the other cameras in the company's flagship Hero line, and it works with all of the accessories made to fit those cameras. But the new Hero has been simplified and abridged to make it easier to use and to bring the price way down. So while it doesn't have all of the advanced features of the $399 Hero6 or the $299 Hero5, the new Hero does have many of them, making it an excellent budget choice for those eager to start playing with action cameras.

The new GoPro Hero shoots HD video at 1440p and 1080p at 60 frames per second. It also shoots 10-megapixel stills and has an electronic video stabilization system. So far, you'll notice a few features missing that GoPro offers in its higher-priced cameras. The Hero can't shoot 4K video, nor can it deliver the ultra-smooth slow-motion shots produced by the Hero5 and Hero6. It lacks the optical image stabilization capabilities of the pricier cameras. The software has also been simplified to make the camera easier to operate. The advanced options within the menus (which most users never touch anyway) have been stripped away so there aren't as many decisions to make before you hit "Record."

There's a lot you still do get, however, like a 2-inch touch display, voice controls for starting and stopping a recording, and waterproofing that's good down to 30 feet. Full compatibility with existing mounting hardware is a big deal. And given GoPro's intended audience for the Hero is youngsters and newbies, HD video is just fine. The 1440p resolution is likely good enough for almost everyone filming their outdoor exploits as a hobby, and is good enough for quick edits of sharable video clips destined for social media or YouTube. And yes, this new GoPro works with the company's smartphone apps that enable in-the-moment wireless file transfer and touchscreen editing tools.

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Riding the Wave

This release arrives at a time when GoPro's once tumescent halo has faded. Not long ago, the US manufacturer held the entire action camera market in its brutally dominant grip. But in the last two years, competitors have nibbled away at its market share. Smartphone cameras have improved drastically, obviating most users' need for a dedicated video camera. Meanwhile, Asian manufacturers have released dozens of copycat action cams at prices that comically undercut GoPro's—some feature-for-feature matches of Hero cameras sell for less than half the price of a GoPro. Looking to diversify, GoPro launched a drone business in 2016, then abandoned it early this year, laying off hundreds of employees. Just last week, GoPro announced it would start licensing its camera tech to third parties. In a long and steady slide, GoPro's stock has shrunk from over $80 a share in late 2014 to around $5 today.

Maybe a cheap camera will help GoPro compete on the low end, meeting the Chinese competitors in their price bracket with a brand pedigree and name recognition the imitators can't match. Maybe the $199 Hero will give younger users the filmmaking bug and urge them to upgrade, fueling a whole new customer base. Or maybe this is where this movie starts to fade to black.

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