The new GoPro Hero 4 Session release purports to be the most compact action camera on the market. It is certainly the smallest device that GoPro has ever released. Hitting the stores next week, this state of the art offering shoots 1,440p video at 30 frames per second, 1,080p up to 60 frames per second, and 720p up to 100 frames per second.
The new Hero 4 Session, which goes on sale July 12 for the price tag of $400, is also waterproof at up to 10 meters ensuring that underwater shooting is made more convenient than ever. This is an action camera that attempts to be all things to all people, while doing so more efficiently and conveniently than any of its competitors. But does it deliver?
With the new GoPro Hero 4 Session being 50 percent smaller and 40 percent than the flagship Hero 4 Black, the emphasis with this device is certainly on mobility. It also features a particularly striking cube-shaped design that creates an instant impression when one first witnesses it.
Another notable aspect of the GoPro Hero 4 Session is the dual-microphone system that GoPro has included to deliver the best ever sound quality in any of its devices. There is clearly an intention to ensure that this camera delivers excellence as well as convenience.
Foregoes 4K resolution
But there have to be some compromises in order to achieve this more compact design, and thus the 4K and 2.7K resolutions that are included in the Hero 4 Black and Hero 4 Silver are conspicuous by their absence.
It will be interesting to see whether the exclusion of 4K in particular is detrimental to this multi-billion dollar company. GoPro was only inaugurated in 2002, largely owing to the fact that its founder was enthusiastic about the concept. It was never intended to be a massive corporation with a huge influence over the industry, but that is the position that GoPro finds itself in today.
Thus, following the trends of the consumer electronics industry is essential, and some people might consider the absence of 4K resolution to be a serious oversight. Even if broadcasting in 4K resolution is still extremely rare, it is well-known that many professional video editors like to take higher resolution footage in order to crop it down to more commonly utilized resolutions. Indeed, this is how HD versions of older feature films are often produced, as cinematic footage has historically been produced at extremely high resolutions compared to those used at home.
However, the GoPro Hero 4 Session does offer some excellent photography capabilities to compensate. It can achieve 8-megapixel photographs at up to 10 fps in burst mode. These are said to be of comparable quality to smartphones, although many people might, of course, ask the question of why you would need a video camera to take photographs when most of the population now own cellphones.
Another aspect of the GoPro Hero 4 Session that could be open to criticism is the non-removable battery. Sealing the unit within the GoPro Hero 4 Session means that this aspect of the device is a little less flexible than some others. Although the unit delivers a very competitive two hours of footage on a single charge, if the camera does die when you’re out and about then the sealed nature of the battery will cause obvious problems.
On the plus side, this is definitely the most user-friendly GoPro product yet to be released. The large, solitary record button ensures that anyone can work out how to utilize this camera instantly. This aspect is clearly part of an overall strategy to ensure that this action camera appeals to a wide range of people; clearly this is intended to be a populist device.
Boot-up time is also notably increased from other models in the GoPro series, and pressing the same record button that initiates the device will also turn it off instantly. This provides a useful battery saving function, and results in an impressive battery life, regardless of the quibbles about its non-removable nature.
Micro USB and micro SD functionality is present for charging and storage respectively. It is worth noting that the unit only supports micro SD cards up to 64 GB in size, and certain older, slower memory cards also won’t work with this camera.
But despite some of the quibbles that can be levelled at the GoPro Hero 4 Session, it is still an outstanding action camera product. It would be hard, if not impossible, to find an action camera anywhere in the world that is easier and more enjoyable to use. It is lightweight, durable and enables outstanding footage to be shot in 1080p resolution, while providing excellent waterproof functionality.
The GoPro Hero 4 Session looks great, is affordable, and the company could ultimately have its first truly mass market device on its hands.