The GoPro camera was originally designed by current CEO Nick Woodman as a compact means to capture photos and videos of him surfing. While the devices are often still used for this purpose, the company has come a long way in the 15 years since its initial inception, and GoPro cameras are now used by all manner of extreme athletes and adventurers, in addition to more casual users.
And sure, those options could include your waterproof and crack-resistant smartphone, but keep in mind that the best action camera is designed for this kind of shooting. Plus, just because your phone is tougher, it doesn't mean you should risk losing or damaging the thing that keeps you connected to work, family and friends. It's also way easier to mount one of these to your body, car, bike or anything else than your phone.
Typically, this is the part where I would say something like "GoPro's only real competition is itself." Of course, there's the Sony Action Cam line, which has some dedicated followers but isn't quite as versatile as a GoPro, thanks to fewer mounts and the slim-but-tall form factor. There's now a new rival from DJI. I already thought the Hero 7 was a better overall camera than the Osmo Action, despite strong competition on the stabilization front (and that second, forward-facing "selfie" screen). The Hero 8 just makes that decision a little clearer.
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However, dumbing down the features while using the same touch-based interface has created some oddities. Trying out the Hero after using one of its more capable siblings feels like returning to your hometown after being away for a while, only to find everyone has closed up shop. All the buildings are still there, but many of them are simply empty. The user interface is the exact same as the Hero5/Hero6 Black, but tapping on some settings loads menus with a just a single choice where the other cameras had many.
Two new features -- Digital Lenses and Capture Presets -- make their debut on the Hero 8. Both are really shortcuts to existing things, but like everything else on this camera, they do a good job making things easier to use and understand. In short, Digital Lenses is a new home for all the different fields of view settings (SuperView, Wide, Linear and -- new for the Hero 8 -- Narrow) while Capture Presets are exactly what they sound like: preset settings for popular use cases. (You can also define and save your own.)