GoPro has been making a killing with their action cameras as of late and it is causing the competition to fight back with some fold action cameras of their own. Some of these cameras have bullet designs but GoPro insists that their boxy designs are winning formulas. Over the years, GoPro has been reducing the sizes of their GoPro action cameras to make them more portable while having just enough battery life. With the GoPro HERO4 Black and Silver editions having the same sizes as the HERO3+ models and even sharing the same waterproof casing, it looks like GoPro is comfortable with these designs. But just recently, GoPro shocked the world with a new member of the HERO4 family and it is even smaller. Meet the GoPro HERO4 Session.
About the GoPro HERO4 Session
The HERO4 Session is a result of a new challenge set by the company – to produce the lightest and smallest GoPro possible without sacrificing convenience. GoPro certainly achieved that with the GoPro HERO4 Session as it is about 40% lighter and 50% smaller than the other HERO4 models. It is also the first GoPro action camera to have a different form factor. All GoPro HERO models had rectangular form factors while the Session resembles a cube. All sides of the cube measure about 1.5 inches. Like the HERO4 Silver edition, the HERO4 Session is priced at $399 so this isn’t a successor to the budget GoPro HERO3 White edition.
One of the interesting things about the HERO4 Session is that it doesn’t need a separate case. It is only waterproof up to 10 meters but it is still nice that you can use it on a rainy day and then go for a little swim with it without worrying about case installations. It also means that the camera is easy to operate no matter what the conditions are. There are only two buttons on the GoPro HERO4 Session with the power button turning the device on and automatically starting the recording. Pressing it again stops the recording and goes back to its off state. Just take note that it takes around 4 seconds to start so it is possible to miss a key moment. Long pressing that power button activates the time lapse mode. The button found at the rear of the camera serves as the Wi-Fi function and also shows up the current video mode.
While the HERO4 Session does have a very small status screen, you can’t exactly configure the camera settings unless you have smartphone with the GoPro app installed. Fortunately, the GoPro app is available across iOS, Android and Windows Phone platforms. If you don’t like the smartphone approach, your only other option is to buy a Wi-Fi remote. For a camera that costs the same as the GoPro HERO4 Silver, the remote isn’t really worth the extra expense. Besides, pairing the GoPro HERO4 Session with a smartphone is nice and you get to enjoy the same interface as other HERO devices and you can frame shots since the app acts as a remote viewfinder.
The cube form factor offers a pretty unique advantage over the other GoPro models. The package comes with a standard and low profile frame designed to perfectly fit the HERO4 Session. But since the action camera is a cube, you can install the camera on to any of the frames at any orientation. You can even mount the camera to the side of something without needing an elbow joint mount. You don’t have to worry about correcting the orientation of the video either because the camera handles it automatically. If you have any other official GoPro mounts, these mounts should work just fine with the GoPro HERO4 Session as well.
The HERO4 Session might look like the odd brother of the HERO4 family but it is still worthy of the HERO4 name to some degree as it has some common features like HiLight Tag function. This function lets you add markers to your videos for easy reviewing and this nifty Auto Low Light mode so you won’t have to worry about changing the frame rate when lighting conditions change. The Time Lapse mode takes two 8-megapixel shots per second and it is capable of burst shots at 10 fps.
Video quality is the weak point of the GoPro HERO4 Session and it may convince some folks to sacrifice the size and go for the vastly superior GoPro HERO4 Silver edition. You can shoot at 1080p or 960p at 60 fps or turn it down to 30 fps to shoot 1440p video. You can bump it down to 720p if you want to record at 100 fps. Sharpness, contrast and color levels are noticeably worse than the other HERO4 cameras but might be considered good when compared to the latest smartphones. If you want to get the best quality possible, it is best to use the neutral Protune mode and it is up to your post-processing skills to make the quality much better. You also have access to GoPro’s popular “Superview” mode which is essentially a 4:3 ratio mode that compresses it down to 16:9 so the video looks a bit stretchy but has added detail on the lower and upper parts of the video.
The dual microphone option somewhat makes up for the video quality shortcoming and they are cleverly positioned so that the water drains out quickly when the camera gets wet. It also helps in reducing wind noise.
Battery life is also a strong point despite the smaller battery because stopping the recording also turns off the device. You cannot swap the battery out for a new one. The HERO4 Session has a micro-USB port which means that any smartphone charger should able to easily charge the device. This also means that powerbanks and solar panels can charge the Session.
• Very small, very light and fully waterproof.
• More orientation possibilities.
• Compatible with other GoPro mounts
• Decent battery life.
• Impressive audio quality.
• Subpar image quality.
• $399 a bit pricey considering the larger GoPro HERO4 Silver is vastly superior.
The GoPro HERO4 Session could be the perfect companion for surfers and swimmers since it is waterproof. But with a $399 price tag, the HERO4 Session is only for the select few that believe that form factor is more important than image quality. It is still a technological marvel nevertheless.
Update: There is a newer model > GoPro Hero5 Session