We recently announced that GoPro had planned to release their latest action camera, the GoPro Hero 4. The Hero 4 is set for release this month, and since at the time of our original article, we had little to no footage of what the Hero 4 performed like, specifically in a skydiving environment, we couldn't really make a call on value between the different editions.
Hypoxic has now however released a video showing a comparison between the Hero 4 Silver and the Hero 4 Black, and the initial results are a little surprising.
The video was recorded at 80fps for the GoPro Hero 4 Black and at 60fps for the Hero 4 Silver, though little noticible difference is seen in the smoothness of the video in standard playback. There are however some differences between the two cameras, as can be seen when comparing screenshots of the video. We decided to analyze the screenshots from the video and see who really comes out on top between the Hero 4 Silver and the Hero 4 Black. All example pictures are 1080p (1920x1080) cropped at 100%.
The first thing we looked at when examining the video, were the noise levels. In the example shots above, noise can be seen in the gradient of the sky. Noise levels for both these cameras were good, and it is difficult to pick a clear winner, though for this test I would suggest that the Hero 4 Black comes out on top, though still not a bad result for the Silver Edition.
Next we took a look at some of the primary aspects of image quality, focusing on sharpness and detail levels. This is where we were quite surprised, with the Hero 4 Silver taking a very clear lead over the Black Edition on sharpness and detail. This is an area where many would expect the top tier camera to perform at its best, and give the buyer a reason to spend the extra $100. Instead we find that the Black Edition lacks in sharpness.
In the image above, one can note the sharpness/clarity difference easily by examining the helmet and rig on the top two images. The "Mirage" text is sharp and easily readable on the Hero 4 Silver, while on the Black Edition it's blury and hard to distinguish. Also take a look at the buildings on the top images, on the right of the screenshots. Again the Hero 4 Silver is sharper, both with objects in close range to the camera and in the distance. Comparing the skydiver in the orange and blue jumpsuit on the bottom images, also show you that facial details are picked up much better by the Silver Edition.
Finally we looked at the contrast and saturation, and again we were a little surprised. It was much closer between the two cameras with this test and with regards to saturation, neither of the cameras look oversaturated and they both seem to handle the dark gray and black quite well. When examining the socks of the skydiver, it does seem to handle the whites a bit better on the Silver Edition, both are quite close and very much acceptable, but there appears to be a more crisp whiteness in the left image. This test however is hard to establish with certainty, as the increased sharpness in the left image may suggest crisper colours, while the Hero 4 Black's may appear a bit more washed out due to a lack of sharpness in the image.
It's important to note that in camera manufacturing, there are variables that can result in batches or individual cameras performing poorer (or better) than the standard. So it's possible that this was the case with the two cameras above. Though whether this is to blame for the Hero 4 Black's lack of image performance, will likely only be told with time, as more footage is shot and released.
A much more likely reason for the decrease in performance when looking at grabs taken from a video, as pointed out by the user "cbjetboy" in the comments below. Is that the Black is recording at 80fps as opposed to 60fps. This increase in frame rate is likely to have a negative impact on the result seen from a screenshot, as opposed to as if it had been recorded at a lower fps. It is difficult to say exactly how much of an impact this had on the results, but it seems we will need to wait for further comparative testing before we can come to a solid conclusion. Though when comparing the videos themselves side by side, there is little to suggest that the Black Edition comes out any better than the Silver.
Based on what information we do have though, if you assume that both these cameras are operating at their normal performance levels, unless you're looking to use the 30fps 4k recording that's available solely on the Hero 4 Black, these early tests suggest that you may be just as well of sticking to the Silver Edition and saving yourself $100. The Silver Edition also comes with the perc of having a touch screen for easier navigation and image/video previewing.