We’re at a point in time where becoming a 'content creator' is open to everyone - the platforms are there, all you need to do is jump on and you can showcase your playing and opinions with millions of people across the globe. The rise in vlogging is testament to this, with large numbers of people now flocking to see Ola Englund, Davie504 and the like broadcast live from their homes. But if you're going to get started with your own video channel, you're going to need a way of filming yourself.
As vlogging, streaming and other video-based mediums grow in popularity, so it figures that the brands behind the cameras start to up their game. Where once videography (and photography) was quite a complex endeavor, now that process has been totally democratised. Anybody with a half-decent smartphone can produce content that would have looked cinema-grade just a couple of decades ago.
One of the first brands to carve a niche in this field was GoPro, whose tiny, feature-packed action cameras created an almost entirely new sub-industry. But, where these small, versatile cams were once the preserve of the extreme sports crowd, their feature-set has grown to make them an increasingly wise choice for all kinds of content creation. GoPro cameras are small enough not to be intrusive, they produce wonderfully high-resolution images and videos, and they are so, so simple to operate.
The GoPro Hero9 is the new kid on the block, and packs in a number of specific features which make it the ideal vlogging camera for guitarists. Sure, there are cameras out there with more functionality, and more advanced setups will favor the versatility of a DSLR, but for sheer point-and-shoot simplicity – with great results – we’re happy to recommend the GoPro Hero9. Allow us to explain why.
1. Higher resolution
If you’ve used GoPro cameras before you’ll be familiar with the fact they produce incredibly sharp, vibrant images, especially from such a tiny sensor. The new Hero9 delivers another bump in resolution from its predecessors, with an incredible 5K now available.
You’d be forgiven for asking why you’d ever want 5K resolution, when all but the most expensive TVs and monitors max out at 4K. Well, for a start you're future-proofing your investment, plus having that extra resolution is a godsend when it comes to editing.
With a higher pixel count to work with, you can crop and resize your footage yet still retain a super-high level of detail from your shots. Of course, you can opt for 4K all the way down to 1080p if preferred, which will result in smaller video files.
2. Better battery life
A common criticism of GoPro cameras, and all video cameras, is battery life. Or a lack thereof. And, while you can always just buy extra batteries, it would be nicer if the ones you already had worked that little bit longer. With the Hero9, GoPro has improved operating efficiency enough to give a decent boost to battery life, meaning you can now record continuously for over two hours before you’ll need to replace your power source. This is all the more impressive when you factor in the new front-facing screen. Which leads us nicely onto…
3. Front-facing screen
For vloggers or streamers using their phones to record, there is a common dilemma. Do you rely on your front-facing camera, so you can make use of the phone’s screen to ensure your frame is lined up correctly, or do you make use of the better cameras on the phone’s rear but lose that ability to see yourself while you record/stream? The GoPro Hero9 overcomes this with the addition of a front-facing screen, albeit at a reduced size to the main rear screen. Perfect for ensuring your focus and framing are all as you want them to be.
4. Creative shots
As with any GoPro – or indeed, any action camera – some of the benefits come through the extra creativity on offer through such a small camera. GoPro has always offered extra creative options in its devices, whether that’s through different lens effects (including the ubiquitous fish-eye) or through things like time-lapse, or slow-motion recording. The Hero9 really delivers on this front, offering up to 8X slow motion at 240 frames per second (fps). For guitarists, this is super-useful when filming tricky shred solo tutorials, as it allows you to really zone-in on specific runs to help your students/viewers. And being such a small size means it can be mounted practically anywhere, including your guitar's headstock...
5. Streaming capabilities
Streamers are in luck with the Hero9 too. While there were workarounds to let you use your GoPro live on platforms like Twitch and YouTube, the Hero9 has this functionality built into it natively. When you factor in the camera’s multiple mounting methods, this opens up the potential for some unique angles or framing options, all of which can be streamed in 1080p directly to your chosen platform.
If there’s one thing GoPro cameras aren’t short of, it’s accessories. Sadly, this didn’t extend natively to interchangeable lenses, with the company figuring if people want that sort of functionality, they’ll use a DSLR. That stance has softened with the Hero9 however, with a removable glass lens protector paving the way for the Max Lens Mod, which extends the field of view to 155 degrees; perfect for filming live shows and rehearsal sessions. There’s also official mods for lighting, microphones and more, making it a neat little modular system.
7. Improved stabilization
GoPro cameras are renowned for their built-in stabilization, which is understandable when you consider GoPro’s original target market of mountain bikers, skydivers and suchlike. Yet the technology behind it has been continually refined, and users have found it helps even for basic handheld shots. The classic ‘GoPro on your headstock’ shot will benefit massively from this, allowing you to concentrate on your playing without fear of the resulting footage giving your audience a headache.
For around $449 new, the GoPro Hero9 delivers exceptional value. When you factor in the various recording features, the increased resolution and battery life, and the sheer simplicity of using it, there is an argument that the Hero9 is perhaps the perfect vlogging and streaming camera. What many vloggers will do is rely on a ‘main’ DSLR for the majority of their to-camera pieces, yet having a GoPro in your arsenal too offers up a whole range of creative options. And, at this price, it’s hard to argue with that.
The final feature we’re drawing your attention to is called HindSight. As musicians, we’ve perhaps all been in a recording situation where we lay down the perfect take only to find we’d forgotten to hit record. Nightmare, right? HindSight offers a backup by recording a 30 second buffer before you even press record, so you get that extra safety net of knowing the camera is watching even before you are ready. Ok, so that sounds a bit creepy, but we can see it being genuinely useful for guitar vloggers who are recording themselves.