If you thought the GoPro cameras were already tiny, get ready for something even smaller, the new GoPro Hero 4 Session. GoPro challenged themselves to build the smallest, lightest, and most convenient GoPro they could and after taking a look at it, it seems they did a pretty good job. This camera is essentially a cube approximately 1 ¼ inches wide or about the same size as the lens and sensor on the Hero 4 Black and Silver models. This is quite remarkable. I was already impressed with the size and video quality of the Hero 4 Silver which I used this past ski season. Making a new camera significantly smaller and more durable will make the Hero 4 Session the most versatile action camera available on the market. With Kodak coming out with some competition, GoPro has dramatically drop its price on the session from $399.99 to $199.99
Even though I am very impressed by the camera, whenever a company reduces the size of something like a camera, some features need to be removed or reduced to make it happen. Let’s take a look at what GoPro did with the Hero 4 Session compared to the Hero 4 Black and Silver models so that you can decide which is the best action camera for you.
The biggest change to the camera is the size. The GoPro Hero 4 Session is a small cube and compared to the Black and Silver models is 50% smaller and 40% lighter. One of the biggest reasons they were able to get it this small is by making it waterproof without the need for the housing. By eliminating the housing, it reduces the size significantly making it easier for camera owners to place these cameras in places they never could before.
In order to make it waterproof, they enclosed the battery, making it no longer possible to quickly swap a fresh backup when your battery dies. For some, getting a couple of hours of recording time seems pretty good and they are happy just charging it overnight. But, skiers and snowboarders that spend a full day on the slopes, may not care for this. There is an advantage to being able to change batteries in a couple of minutes and not having to stop recording. However, many people will be happy with a pretty decent battery life of about 2 hours.
One feature related to the battery that I do like is that GoPro has eliminated idle time. Basically, if the camera is ON, it is recording. If it is OFF, then the battery is not being used. I can’t tell you the number of times that I thought I shut the camera off, but didn’t. Only to find out on the first trail the next day that the battery was dead.
The GoPro Hero 4 Session has only 2 very simple buttons compared with 3 on the other models. One button is for the shutter. If you press the button, the camera goes on and starts recording. If you do a long press of 3 seconds, the camera turns on and it will do a Time Lapse photo capture. Pressing the button again will save what has been recorded and then power the camera off. Pretty straightforward and efficient. The other button is used to connect to Wi-Fi. If you need to change any settings on the camera, you’ll need to connect to the camera using a smart phone with the GoPro App or with the GoPro Smart Remote (purchased separately). I think this is a nice improvement since it helps battery life and simplifies the recording process which is usually just recording or not recording.
If there is a place where the Hero 4 Session is not as good as the Silver and Black models, it is video and images. But, that is because the Silver and Black models are simply very high quality. The Session still has excellent video capabilities that the majority of users would not notice a difference with the other models.
The GoPro Hero 4 Session can record video with 720p100 (for smooth slow-motion), 1080p30, 1080p60, and 1440p30. Like the Silver and Black models, it also has the two popular features: ProTunes and SuperView. The optics on the GoPro Hero 4 Session are not as good as the other models and also not as good in low-light. For images, the Silver and Black both can produce 12MP files whereas the Session can do up to 8MP. This is still a high amount of resolution for most users but the Silver and Black will produce higher quality photos.
One very cool feature on the Session is that the camera automatically recognizes its orientation. So, you won’t need to worry about upside-down footage as you are trying to squeeze your camera into tiny places.
One of the biggest changes to the camera is the audio. First, by removing the need for the housing there will no longer be something standing in the way of the microphone. But what is really nice is that there are now two microphones (one in the front and one in the back) working together to give you the best sound possible. The software has been improved to work with the two microphones and select the best one based on vibration and high audio levels. This means that wind noise will go down significantly when recording high speed action or just recording on a windy day.
Ball Joint Mount
One nice thing that the GoPro has done is to make all of the mounts on the GoPro Hero are the same. Many companies would have taken advantage of the new design and change the mounts forcing customers to buy even more. But, credit to GoPro, they didn’t do that. One mount that they have come out with that is worth noting is a Ball Joint Mount. The mount is very similar to a standard quick-release mount, with a sturdy ball-and-socket joint. This allows users to fully rotate the camera and make small adjustments to where it is pointing. This will be a popular one giving people a lot of flexibility on camera angle.
- GoPro Hero 4 Session - $399.99
- GoPro Hero 4 Black - $499.99
- GoPro Hero 4 Silver - $399.99
Summary of the GoPro Hero 4 Session
It is important to note that GoPro is not marketing the GoPro Hero 4 Session as a replacement for the Silver and Black. It is merely another model with different features that may or may not suit your needs. Both the Silver and Black Hero 4 models are excellent action cameras that are already ultra-compact and produce high quality video and images. The Hero 4 Session model is geared for those wanting to take action video to the next level and are willing to sacrifice a little quality and some conveniences with a LCD Screen or being able to access options directly on the camera.
With the 50% smaller size, users will be able to mount the camera in new and different ways which will lead to some interesting camera angles. This alone will entice many to get the new camera. But, the Hero 4 Session also has some significant improvements.
- No need for the camera housing and waterproof.
- One button recording and On/Off saving battery life.
- Automatic recognition of camera orientation (combined with the Ball Joint Mount gives you the capability to get accurate camera angles)
- Two microphones with noise reduction technology.
In all, the new Hero 4 Session is sure to be very popular. If you are looking to buy the GoPro Hero 4 Session, the camera sells for the same price everywhere ($199 US). The best deal out there is through Amazon and buying the camera through a bundle which includes a memory card and a mount for almost the same price. This offer basically gives you about $37 to $70 worth of accessories for a small amount. Why would you even consider buying the camera alone?
They have two different bundles: Starter Bundle and the Surf Bundle. Both bundles give you the GoPro Hero 4 Session and a 32GB memory card. The Starter Bundle also includes a headstrap mount and quick clip while the Surf Bundle includes a Bodyboard Mount. Either way, these bundles are the way to go.
BEST VALUE: GoPro Hero 4 Session Starter Bundle
- GoPro HERO4 Session Camera
- Lexar High-Performance MicroSDHC 633x 32GB UHS-I/U3 (Up to 95MB/s Read) w/USB 3.0 Reader Flash Memory Card
- GoPro Headstrap Mount + Quick Clip