It is no secret that GoPro had a pretty bad 2016 in terms of sales performance and the Karma Gate battery off incident. The company is loosing money but still shows signs of life. In the 4th quarter of 2016 GoPro was profitable on a non-GAAP basis with income of $42 million. With the stock closing price today of $8.90, a far cry from the nearly $90 it was worth in October 2014, there needs to be a change of epic proportions if the company is expected to remain viable.
There are threats from new technologies like AR, VR and Snapchat Glasses among others that threaten to impede the company going forward. How can a camera company evolve overnight to survive in such a market. We believe the answer is by innovating it’s way out of the whirlpool that it finds itself in.
GoPro Hero 6 has to do more:
We are big fans of GoPro and they have built great cameras that for many years, were the de-facto standard for sports and action footage with no real quality competitor. That all changed with the introduction of the Sony Action Camera like like the X1000 and X3000. GoPro was no longer the only game in town and Sony entered the game with better image quality and optical image stabilization for about the same price. Then came Xiaomi with the Yi camera which for all intents and purposes is a direct clone of the GoPro Hero with now performance that exceeds it with 4k 60fps.
After that a plethora of other options from Garmin, Nikon and other clone manufacturers came into the market; further eroding GoPro’s share. Many use the same exact SoC components from Ambarella which is the GoPro electronics partner. In order for Ambarella to grow they licensed their technology to anyone that wanted it and that is the free market you cannot fault them for that.
Where we believe GoPro dropped the ball was with the introduction of the Hero 5 Black. It is essentially the same camera as the Hero 4 Black but with a smaller footprint, cosmetic changes and a touch screen. It has a new interface but capability wise it was a sideways move instead of up. GoPro upgrading the camera to lofty spec heights was the main reason people upgraded. The Hero 5 is not a product that warrants an upgrade if you own a Hero 4 Black. The market is pretty saturated with similar options and the way you move ahead of the pack is to force innovation forward with a camera that has technology ahead of it’s time.
The innovation step that GoPro needs to take with the Hero 6 has to be big and that means leapfrogging the competition. However we don’t really know what that will be aside from being hinted by Nick Woodman:
“Nick Woodman here. Yes, we can confirm there will be new cameras and other accessories released during the year and new camera namely being HERO6. But we’re not going to share any information as to the timing or any other details around the release of those new products as you can imagine.”
So with that said what will it take in our view to make the GoPro Hero 6 Black a must buy camera again?
Our GoPro Hero 6 Wish-list Specs:
- 4k 24p/25p/30p/48p/60p Continuous!
- Time Limited 4k Bursts at 96p/120p
- 1080p at 240fps
- 720p at 480fps
- Reduced lens distortion + Improved Sharpness
- Optical Image Stabilization
- Low Cost VR Rig Solution
- Longer Battery Life than Hero 5
- RAW Photo Mode
- Continue Pro-Tune Support
- Compatibility with Karma and Other Drone Gimbals.
- $499.99 Price
Nick Woodman already hinted at a 360 degree VR rig for the GoPro that clearly aims at establishing a footprint in that market. But will VR video continue to grow in spite of the lack luster sales and low usage % of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vibe? Augmented Reality AR seems to be the big next step forward with companies like Apple, Google & Microsoft pouring billions into it’s development and research. VR seems to be taking a back step to AR due to the not really ready nature of the technology. Nausea, headaches and complicated rigs are needed to make it work and the screen-door effect still takes away from the experience. It will get much better in the coming years but for now AR is where the hotspot for innovation is centered.
GoPro seems ill equipped to make AR a part of their platform at this juncture; hence why they have to revert to the basics and innovate hardware wise in the camera spec department if they wish to stay relevant.
The Karma drone battery power off debacle seems to be fixed now which created a flurry of business for rival DJI in the holidays. We really hope the Karma continues to be an option in consumer’s minds and that a Karma 2.0 drone with competitive specs to the DJI Mavic Pro is released. That means sensors, better flight options and in order to beat it the ability to fly a Hero Black 6 with killer specs.
GoPro Karma vs DJI Mavic & Osmo Mobile — In Depth Review and Complete Comparison [4K] by iPhonedo:
We found the image quality of the DJI Mavic Pro to be below the Hero 5 Black but DJI iterates really quickly and we expect that to be improved this year with a new Mavic release. GoPro needs to move faster with a Karma 2.0 with not only competitive specs but superior image quality.
What will GoPro Do?
In all honesty we feel GoPro will get 4k 60fps as a spec on the Hero 6 Black but not much else in the way of spec increases. We really wish that it will go ahead and leapfrog competitors but we doubt that will be the case. The Company will do a good enough camera to compete with Sony and Xiaomi this year with maybe the possibility of Optical Image Stabilization. Other than that we can’t be sure of any new increases.
With Sony now showing their 1000fps phone sensor it would make sense for GoPro to use that component in the Hero 6 Black in order to stay at the forefront of the game but the power requirements may be too harsh for a small battery action camera.
We will continue to follow GoPro’s evolution going forward and wish for the company to stay not only relevant but at the crest of the innovation wave to come. They have a bunch of work to do and many people to bring back to the platform, as an American brand it has a lot going for it with the new US government, lets see where the camera company evolves from here. -HSC
Disclaimer: This article is an opinion piece and contains speculative specs that have no substance or corroboration. Do not base your purchasing decisions based on this post’s content.