February isn’t traditionally a big time for GoPro news, but this year was an exception thanks to the action-cam king’s recent earnings call. Unusually, GoPro has made some big predictions about its plans for the coming year, including a commitment to branch out into new “types” of action cameras.
In a revealing earnings call, transcribed by financial website The Motley Fool, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman said that “By the end of 2022, we expect to increase our hardware offering of both types of products that we have today, Hero and Max, down to four separate products. This won’t be the end of growth either, with Woodman adding that “we plan to expand it further by the end of 2023.”
So what new GoPro cameras can we expect to see? Naturally, the company didn’t reveal any specific details, but it did drop some vague hints. Woodman contrasted GoPro’s new approach with the previous one, which he called “good, better, better”. The latter led to the creation of three variants on the same concept – the Hero 7 Black, the Hero 7 Silver and the Hero 7 White – which offered different prices but were aimed at the same type of user.
This year will be very different, it seems. Woodman explained in the earnings call that “we believe in creating highly differentiated, specialized solutions for different use cases to appeal to entirely new user groups.” This would help GoPro avoid Hero’s current problem: potential customers looking at the one-size-fits-all action camera find it’s “more than they need, or not enough of what they need”.
As Woodman explained. GoPro already makes “a Swiss army knife” that can be adapted for extreme sports, vlogging or scuba diving. But that versatility also means its Hero cameras come with “a lack of specialization that some spearhead customers really need or want”. Alternatively “for other users, this is not enough”.
These honest reviews, and GoPro’s conclusion that it “needs an expanded product offering, a broader portfolio, more tools for more people,” have sparked much speculation about what he might have a wingsuit up his sleeves for this year. So we’ve rounded up the most likely contenders for these “four distinct camera products”, and added our thoughts on how likely they are.
(Note: All model names below are purely speculative and placeholders for products that we believe may materialize, based on feedback from GoPro on its recent earnings call).
Session GoPro Hero 10
When GoPro talks about new form factors, it’s hard not to immediately think of a revival of its Hero Session from 2015. The small, cube-shaped camera comes with the slogan “GoPro Performance, Simplified” and was designed to fit into nooks and crannies that standard GoPros couldn’t squeeze into.
But we’re not convinced that’s the kind of camera GoPro has in mind when it talks about “specialty knives” to complement its flagship Swiss Army Knife. First, the Hero Session range – which was discontinued in 2018 – still aimed at the same non-specialist audience as the standard Hero series. Plus, as our GoPro Hero 5 Session review noted, it was “difficult to use” with “poor battery life.”
Still, it’s possible that GoPro may be able to overcome these issues and make a more premium DJI Action 2 rival. If so, we reckon it would be suitable for a more specific use case, however, most likely FPV drone flyers, rather than the average action camera fan.
A pro-level GoPro seems like the most likely candidate for one of the four product categories the action maker talked about in its earnings call. CEO Nick Woodman said “we’re looking to develop high-end solutions” and that “I think it’s sometimes forgotten that GoPros are used by professionals all over the world, whether it’s for film, TV, their own commercial purposes, their own research purposes”. .
Indeed, Ridley Scott used GoPros to make The Martian, with the director stating that the cameras “became a character in the film; they were mounted on the astronauts; Matt’s character actually records all of his video logs on them in the habitat.” But despite those occasional lead roles, there’s no doubt that a more specialized GoPro in the vein of a Sony RX0 II would sit well with filmmakers. .
That doesn’t necessarily mean a 1-inch sensor, like the RX0 II, as GoPro would likely want to retain its excellent electronic stabilization. But user-friendly features like 10-bit video recording and timecode synchronization would be, even if the GoPro Cinema (or whatever it’s final name is) is twice as expensive as the GoPro Hero 10 Black.
On paper, GoPros seem like ideal dash cams – they’re small, have wide-angle lenses, and take great stabilized video. But in practice, their limited battery life, tendencies to overheat and lack of bespoke software means they can’t quite compete with the best dash cams.
So could GoPro prepare a version suitable for cars in its Hero range? It is certainly possible; GoPro has talked about adding dash cam-like features to its GoPro Labs software, like adding start/stop capture when the camera detects USB power. And that would fit with the CEO’s observation that he has to do things that “for years we just couldn’t do with a Hero camera due to certain physical constraints.”
But GoPro would have considerable ground to catch up with Nextbase. And that’s perhaps just a step too far, given that the company has already been burned by over-exertion in niche areas like drones where it had no heritage.
One of the most interesting action camera concepts we’ve seen recently is the Apeman Seeker R1 – it’s basically an all-in-one safety system for cyclists, including a camera for monitor and record the road behind. Could GoPro create something similar for your bike?
GoPro certainly already has the camera tech, but there aren’t currently any accessories in its ecosystem that add a 50-lumen taillight or anti-collision laser bike track, like Apeman’s newest creation.
This technology is certainly not beyond GoPro’s reach, but the bigger question is how big is the market for an all-in-one system like this. We feel that’s a bit too niche for a dedicated GoPro camera, but perhaps the company has spotted a wearable security solution that would also fit in well with the growing electric scooter boom.
The traditional camera giants are falling over themselves to become the default choice for streamers and vloggers, a market that already numbers 50 million people (and counting) according to data analysts SignalFire. And it’s certainly not impossible that one of the “professional” use cases GoPro has in mind is Twitch and YouTube streamers.
You can already live stream directly to Twitch with any GoPro from the Hero 7 Black onwards, while those with a GoPro subscription can also stream directly to their audience via a private link. But GoPro’s current live streaming limitations mean there could be a gap for a dedicated device.
There’s currently no way to boost the low bitrate of GoPro cameras when you’re live streaming, and they still lack the finesse and feature set of a dedicated choice like the Elgato Facecam, which offers excellent 1080/60p output. But there might be a shortcoming for a premium GoPro alternative, especially for home streamers who want something just as comfortable to venture outside.
Analysis: GoPro is preparing to spread its wings again
The rise of smartphones has forced all camera makers to think outside the box with their traditional offerings, and GoPro is no different. The launch of GoPro Hero 9 Black seemed like a big evolution for action cameras as its GoPro Labs software broke new ground beyond the usual dirt trails. Now it looks like GoPro is gearing up to take advantage of this newfound versatility with new forms of hardware “in late 2022”.
While it’s fun to imagine next-gen GoPros, the company doesn’t have unlimited resources. It may have generated record year-end cash balances and revenue up 30% from 2020, according to its earnings call, but the lack of overt action during the pandemic hasn’t really helped his results.
GoPro is also likely suspicious of what happened the last time it tried to expand into new territory. In the mid-2010s, it expanded with launches like the GoPro Karma drone, a costly decision that eventually led it down the more focused path that produced today’s streamlined product line: just the Hero and Max action cameras.
Still, while it’s unrealistic to expect GoPro to suddenly return to its boom days in the 2010s, there are new possibilities for its small stabilized cameras. We reckon the most likely scenario for these “four distinct camera products” is the addition of a new premium professional GoPro and streaming-focused camera, to join the Hero and Max. But we can’t wait to see what comes out of it later this year.