GoPro’s discontinued Karma drone had such a bad start in 2016 that you would forgive the cameras for never wanting to fly again. But its new Hero for FPV (first-person view) drones reveal a more sensible, laser-focused approach that should help banish these ghosts – and give us an intriguing insight into what other Hero cameras can expect this year.
Hero 10 Black Bones is the real anti-karma. Instead of jumping outside its comfort zone and building a drone with an unfortunate tendency to lose power in the middle of flight, GoPro has instead stripped its flagship action camera and made what looks like the perfect little camera for FPV fans. You can see why in our handy review of the GoPro Hero 10 Black Bones.
When it comes to product launches, this is about as close to a guaranteed home run as you can get. Yes, FPV drones are still pretty niche, but a significant number of pilots have reverse-engineered Hero action cameras to make them suitable for small drones for years. The growing community has also often begged GoPro to make a newer version of its former small action camera, the Hero Session (which arrived back in 2015).
Now, the Hero 10 Black Bones is the camera. And that means we can expect to see many more videos like Tesla’s swooping Gigafactory tour. The only real downsides are that Bones is currently only the US, where GoPro tells us “we do not yet have a date for international availability”. And the fact that, oddly enough, it’s more expensive than the Hero 10 Black, despite the fact that ‘Bones’ lacks screen, battery, speaker, GPS or waterproof build quality from its all-round sibling.
When we asked GoPro about this, it told us that its new action camera costs “significantly less than the industry price for a” naked “GoPro, and Bones helps you save time, money and risk by providing a quality product with a GoPro guarantee Maybe, but there’s no doubt that GoPro is cashing in on the unique combination of Bones and ReelSteady stabilization software that it acquired in 2020 that only works with GoPro gyro data, and that’s a sign of things to come.
Of course, we’d rather the GoPro Hero 10 Black Bones were priced more like the Hero 4 Session, which quickly dropped to $ 199 from its original $ 399 price tag. But this strategy, which seems to succeed more than the all-in-one DJI FPV, reflects a new, smarter GoPro that sees niche specialist cameras as the solution to increasing the demand for its do-it-all-heroes series .
So where else can GoPro take the ‘Bones’ approach? A strong challenger, based on some patents we have recently discovered, is a rival to the DJI Pocket 2 vlogging camera. The patents describe a Session-style modular camera that, unusual for GoPro, would sit in a three-axis mechanical gimbal for super-smooth stabilization. This
marks it from the latest GoPro Volta grip accessories.
Interestingly, the camera is also described as modular and compatible with drones. Could the Hero 10 Black Bones have already given us a glimpse of GoPro’s vlogging camera? If so, the move would again have repeated its Karma drone, whose camera could be removed and used with the now-discontinued Karma grip stabilizer.
The possibilities for specialized GoPro cameras do not end there either: A dash camera, streaming camera, bicycle camera and especially high-end professional GoPro are definitely on the map as well. One of our few issues with the Hero 10 Black Bones is that it still only lets you shoot with 8-bit color depth – which means there could be room for an advanced Hero that offers features like 10-bit color depth, in the near future.
As we move into the speculative area here, it has a solid foothold – a recent earnings call confirmed that this kind of specialization will be GoPro’s direction in the next few years. During the February call, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman said that “by the end of 2022, we plan to increase our hardware offering from the two product types we have today, Hero and Max, to four different camera products”.
Is Hero 10 Black Bones one of these four products? Since it’s part of the Hero line, maybe not – and it’s apparently not going to be the end of GoPro’s expansion. According to Woodman, GoPro expects to expand it further by the end of 2023. In other words, ‘Bones’ is just an appetizer to what’s supposed to come from the action cam maker.
This is a change of tactics is long awaited. GoPro has taken a long time to recover from the hedonistic mid-2010s, as it over-expanded itself with launches like the Karma drone.
This put the company on a more focused path, leading to Hero 9 Black, Hero 10 Black and, importantly, a new software-focused model that has produced some popular gains. These include the GoPro Quik app, the new GoPro Player + ReelSteady desktop app, and its GoPro subscription, which we consider a good investment (especially if you plan to buy one of its cameras).
The result of all this is that GoPro is ready to make some interesting new cameras again, if not like those from the past. The Hero 10 Black Bones is an interesting start, but it’s just a hint at how GoPro plans to cut its all-in-one action camera into smaller and perhaps more useful pieces.
Smartphones may mean that GoPros will never again reach the heights of their former mainstream appeal, but in its 20th year, it looks like the action-cam king is preparing to show off his new tricks – and we look forward to to see what it is later this year.