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GoPro Hero 11 Black Review: Vertical Video

GoPro Hero 11 Black Review: Vertical Video

As somehow who largely dreads postproduction video editing, I was far more excited about some of the other new software-based features in the Hero 11 Black, especially the Star Trails feature. If you’ve ever tried shooting star trails before, you know how laborious it is to stack hundreds of images, so this will probably blow your mind: The Hero 11 can shoot perfect star trail video with a single press of a button. Again, the ability to pull out a 24 megapixel still comes in handy. 

Other new software modes include a Light Painting mode if you want to have some fun with a flashlight, and a Vehicle Light Trails mode to easily turn nighttime car lights into rivers of white and red.

In keeping with the idea of less work for the user, there are now two modes available in the GoPro: Easy and Pro. The camera ships in Easy mode, which offers a streamlined interface for those who aren’t going to wade deep into the GoPro’s color settings and other fine-tuning details. If you are a pro, or are just used to the old UI, it’s, um, easy to switch to Pro, which is the familiar GoPro interface.

Another nice feature that isn’t directly related to the Hero 11 (in fact, it works with all GoPros going back the Hero 5) is more control over Auto Highlights video. You do need to be a GoPro subscriber, and you have to turn on Auto Upload. 

Once you do, the Quik app will automatically generate edits and put them in your Quik app. That much has been around for a while, but GoPro now introduces the ability to edit Auto Highlight video without downloading the source files to your mobile device. You’ll end up editing a low-res proxy, but when you export or share to another app it’ll send the high-res version. Theoretically this will solve my main gripe with Quik, which is that it’s just too much for my phone, but unfortunately this feature was not available to test when I was writing this review.

Alongside the new Hero 11, GoPro is introducing a new camera, the Hero 11 Black Mini ($450), which is a Hero 11 Black in a smaller form factor sans screens. That means there’s no way to review your footage and no way to even frame the shot in many cases. (You can pair it with the Quik app and frame that way.) That might sound strange, but for many of GoPro’s core use cases—that is, the people that really do strap GoPros to their body and go surfing or climbing or motocross riding—the weight savings and streamlined form factor trump screens. You can’t see a screen anyway, when it’s on your head. 

There’s another aspect I like about the Mini, though. A while back, Leica released a digital rangefinder with no screen. That is, there is no way to review your images. The Leica was impractically expensive, but I rather liked the message behind it: Just shoot. Stop checking to see if you “got the shot.” The Hero 11 Mini reminds me of that ethos. As GoPro’s head of product pointed out to me, it’s not the kind of camera that forces you to sit at a distance and shoot your kids party, not in the moment at all. Rather, you stick it in the corner, push record, and go back to living.

All that said, I did not actually test the Hero 11 Mini. I still think that, for most people, the Hero 11 Black is the best action camera to buy. If you have the Hero 10, is it worth upgrading? That depends on whether or not you need the extra vertical space in your shots. If you’re constantly editing video down to different formats, then the Hero 11 is definitely worth the investment.

The Best Mirrorless Cameras to Level Up Your Photos

The Best Mirrorless Cameras to Level Up Your Photos

You know what’s the least important part of taking a great photo? Gear. The vision you have and the work you put into realizing it are far more critical.

That’s not to say gear doesn’t matter, just that it’s best used in service of something larger, not obsessed over. That’s why this guide doesn’t get too deep into the weeds of megapixel counts, sensor sizes, and pixel peeping. All these cameras are capable of producing amazing images; which one is right for you depends more on your needs than the size of the sensor. 

But choosing the right one can be confusing. I’ve spent years now testing dozens of cameras in all kinds of shooting scenarios to come up with what I think are the best choices for different types of photographers.

Be sure to check out our many other buying guides, like the Best Compact Cameras, Best Camera Bags, and Best Action Cameras. 

Updated August 2022: We’ve added some more buying advice and updated pricing and availability throughout.

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The Bags, Backpacks, Cubes, and Straps to Protect Your Camera

The Bags, Backpacks, Cubes, and Straps to Protect Your Camera

We’ve tested a lot of camera bags. Here are others that we really like but that have been eclipsed by our top picks. 

Peak Design Everyday Sling for $159: The Everyday Sling has long been one of my (Jaina) personal favorites for everyday carry or heading out for a day of shooting. It comes with flexible dividers you can adjust or remove, depending on how much organization or storage space you need. It comes in 3-, 6-, and 10-liter sizes. The 10-liter version has room for a 13-inch MacBook Pro, a charger, and my FujiFilm X-Pro 2 camera. If you need room for additional lenses or a larger camera body, you might want to forego the MacBook; it can get a little tight in there.

Wotancraft Scout Daily Camera Bag 9L for $299: If you’re after a stylish messenger, I’ve always liked the designs from Wotancraft, and the Scout is no different. It’s made of durable Cordura with some cowhide leather thrown in for the straps on the flap. The main compartment is spacious and separated by sturdy dividers, along with a padded laptop pouch that can just barely fit a 13-inch MacBook Air. There are two pouches in the front that can loosely carry some small items, but there’s not much in the way of organization here. There is a luggage pass-through and a rear zippered pocket, but no side pockets and no easy way to attach a tripod. 

Tenba Fulton V2 16L Backpack for $140: I really prefer bags that have some way to quickly grab the camera, and that’s why the Fulton V2 isn’t higher above: The only way to pull out camera gear is by taking the bag off and unzipping the back compartment. (Technically, you can access this compartment from the roll top, but that requires undoing a lot of Velcro.) Otherwise, it’s a nice, small bag that can fit a good amount of gear, with an expandable roll top to store lunch or spare clothes, a stretchable mesh side pocket for bottles, and a canvas side pocket that can fit small tripods. Tenba says this can fit a 16-inch laptop in the padded compartment at the front, but I could only squeeze a 13-incher. It’s water-resistant and comfy to tote around. 

Ona The Bowery Compact Messenger Bag for $209:  I’ve owned this bag (the black waxed-canvas version) for seven years, and it remains in great shape. It’s attractive and perfect for short outings, with plenty of padding and a divider to keep your gear protected. You’ll only be able to fit a camera and one extra lens. There’s a pouch on the back I’ve used to stow a Nintendo Switch or a Kindle, and I shove my cables, batteries, and SD cards in the pouch on the front. Unfortunately, the two side pockets are too tight to fit anything bigger than a pen or a microfiber cloth. One perk? You can quickly detach the strap to turn the Bowery into a camera cube for a bigger backpack. It comes in an array of colors and materials. 

Lowepro PhotoSport Outdoor Backpack III 15L for $190: This pack only looks good on the trail and can only fit a small DSLR or mirrorless in its removable cube (with side access!). It’ll mesh well with your other hiking gear, and there’s a good amount of room for snacks and anything else you’d want on short hikes (including a 2-liter hydration bladder). It’s made of 75 percent recycled fabrics. 

Light Your Photos and Videos Properly With This Camera Gear

Light Your Photos and Videos Properly With This Camera Gear

The best way to build your skills as a photographer or videographer is to learn about the art of off-camera lighting—the use of flashes or continuous lights that are set up on stands around your photographic subject or held in your hand, and not mounted on your camera. 

I’ve written an entire guide on how to properly light your photos and videos. It’s filled with advice from experts who have spent their careers mastering the intricacies of lighting. And it is lifelong process, but with a few basic concepts and a few inexpensive tools, it’s a process that is surprisingly approachable.

Below are product recommendations from myself and the experts. We’ve assembled good picks for those just starting out, as well as picks for seasoned photographers and videographers looking to upgrade to more professional setups.

Be sure to check out our many other photo buying guides, like the Best Mirrorless Cameras, Best Compact Cameras, Best Camera Bags, and Best Action Cameras. 

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more.

Start With One Light

Camera lighting doesn’t have to be expensive. Sure, if you want the world’s best Swedish-made lights, they’ll cost you as much as a used car. But if you’re just looking to grow your skills and start experimenting, you can start with an affordable one-light kit.

“With a one-light kit, you can easily create photos that are both more evocative and more three-dimensional,” says photographer and lighting instructor David Hobby. “For that reason, I would suggest to any serious-minded photographer that she get an off-camera lighting kit—and learn how to use it—before even getting her second lens.” Hobby even recommends getting a second light before getting a second lens: “With a second light (even cheaper than the first, because you don’t need a second wireless trigger) comes the ability to control your subject in layers. Or to create a lighting environment in the absence of any good quality ambient light at all.”

Hobby recommends choosing a reputable third-party flash—something made by a manufacturer different than the one that made your camera—because they are often more affordable. Camera companies enjoy large profit margins on their flashes to make up for the slim margins on their camera bodies and lenses. By buying third-party, Hobby explains, you can put together an entire kit that includes a flash, light stand, swivel adapter, lighting umbrella and a wireless remote trigger for less than the cost of a basic first-party flash.

Another thing to be aware of is that if you buy a high-end light with a proprietary accessory mount around the bulb to affix different light modifiers, not only is the light expensive but the accessories are more expensive too. If you buy gear with a Bowens Mount (the standard mount for the vast majority of third-party accessories) then buying accessories will be less expensive, which will encourage more freedom to experiment with different options.

A Good Entry-Level Flash

Godox TT660 flash

Photograph: Godox

At just $65, this is the flash David Hobby recommends for an entry-level one-light kit. (This flash is also sold as Flashpoint Zoom R2 with US warranty) You can mount this directly on your camera or you can buy a mount to use it on a light stand with modifiers such as an umbrella or softbox. This is the flash included in the complete $229 kit Hobby recommends on his Strobist website.

Get a Remote Trigger Too

With an off-camera flash or strobe, you need a remote trigger to make the flash fire remotely when you press the shutter button. This remote trigger must be compatible with both your flash and your specific brand of camera. If you use Godox or Flashpoint, this one is easy to read your adjustments on thanks to the large backlit screen. If you use a smaller mirrorless camera such as a Fuji, the smaller version is what Hobby recommends. It’s the same price.

A Flash Upgrade Option

Flashpoint EVOLV flash

Photograph: Flashpoint

This hybrid flash is also sold as the Godox AD200 Pro, but the Flashpoint version has a US warranty. This 250-watt strobe comes with both a flash head and a bare bulb head, the latter offering a better light spread for use with a softbox or umbrella. (See our recommendations for these add-ons below, and learn more about them in our comprehensive guide to lighting.)

Affordable and highly portable, this light is far more powerful than a typical flash without adding much more bulk to your kit. If you’re choosing between this and a regular flash, bear in mind that this will not mount on your camera like a flash will. It includes a swivel mount for a light stand, but the $25 Glow S2 mount bracket (or Godox S2) will allow you to mount this (or any flash) onto a light stand. The S2 also has the added benefit of having a mount for an umbrella and a mount for softboxes.

Continuous Lights for Video

Amran COB60x flash

Photograph: Aputure

This new 65-watt continuous LED video light from Amaran comes ready to plug in, or it can run without a power cable if you use Sony L-Series (or compatible aftermarket) rechargeable batteries. When shooting video plugged into AC power, the locking connector will ensure you don’t accidentally pull it out while you’re in the middle of a shot. Using a companion mobile app, you can control up to 100 Aputure and Amaran branded lights with your phone or tablet, dialing in your entire multi-light setup all on your mobile device.

The 60d and 60x were both just released. The 60d is less expensive by $30 and offers more brightness at full power. But the 60d’s color is daylight balanced whereas the 60x is bi-color, which means it can be adjusted to emit light ranging from the bright white of daylight to yellowish light more akin to candlelight. I appreciated that versatility in practice more than the added brightness of the 60x. Both versions have a standard Bowens Mount, so they should work with a vast array of affordable third-party light modifiers such as softboxes.

The 8 Best Drones for Every Budget

The 8 Best Drones for Every Budget

It’s no exaggeration to say that drones have changed the way we view the world. They’ve taken once difficult and expensive moviemaking techniques and made them accessible to anyone. Videos that once required a camera crew, expensive cranes, and hours of filming can now be done in minutes by the best drones with the tap of a single Auto Takeoff button.

Drones aren’t just flying cameras, though; they’re also the modern version of remote-controlled vehicles. And again, they’ve made flying easier and more accessible, thanks to intelligent collision sensors that protect your investment from mishaps. There are a dizzying array of drones available, but there is a basic division to be aware of—cheaper drones, while fun, will never fly as well or deliver the kind of video and photo results possible with more expensive models. You get what you pay for. That said, if you’re not worried about wowing YouTube with your sweeping panoramic masterpiece, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good, fun drone. Here are the best drones I’ve tested for every budget.

Be sure to check out our many other buying guides, including the Best Action Cameras, Best Compact Cameras, and Best Mirrorless Cameras.

Updated December 2021: We’ve added the DJI Mavic 3, removed a sold out Potensic drone, and updated pricing and links throughout.

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more. Please also consider subscribing to WIRED