A little late to the party on this one?
Yes, and no.
The GoPro 4 is about two years old now, but is it still worth looking at, even with the recent release of the new GoPro 6?
I’d say so, particularly with the cheaper price tags on them.
Why The Review On An Outdated Device
I recently landed back in Australia after spending some time away on a tiny Fijian Island with my wife for our honeymoon. As with any holiday, I took my full DSLR kit along but, due to the nature of the trip, I didn’t get much use out of it.
Fortunately, I had the Session 4 packed in with the rest of the gear. I hadn’t really used it much before so I only had a rough idea of what the quality was like and how it would hold up, particularly compared to using the Hero 5. But I’m damn glad I’d brought it along.
The little thing is surprisingly good.
|Video Resolution||1440p/30fps || 1080p/60fps || 720p/100fps || 480p/120fps|
|Photo Resolution||8.0mp – 3264 x 2448|
|Video Format||H.264 codec – mp4|
|Audio Format||32kHz sampling rate|
|Storage Compatibility||microSD – UHS-1 Rating or Class 10|
|Wi-Fi & Bluetooth||Built In|
|Waterproof||Down to 10 metres without additional underwater housing|
As shown above, you’re not going to be shooting any 4k with this thing, it maxes out at 1440/30fps.
But, does that even matter?
Most people don’t yet have 4k televisions or monitors, and 1080p is still the standard format. It’s likely to remain that way for another few years as well. So, unless you’re really intent on future proofing your footage, desperately require the flexibility of scaling footage, or film professionally, it’s probably not such a big deal anyway.
Along with your standard 30fps, it shoots up to 60fps at 1080p and 100fps at 720p, perfect for some silky smooth slow motion. You can also up the frames to 120, but this will limit you to 480p which is kind of useless.
As with previous models, you’ll also have the option of shooting in a medium, wide or superview field of view.
By default, the Session records video in full auto mode, but it does have ProTune built in which offers some manual control over settings like ISO and white balance. But, the kicker; ProTune is only available when shooting in wide, a bit of a letdown because I used the medium FOV almost exclusively to avoid too much of a fisheye effect in my final footage. In saying that, if you use After Effects, you could capture your footage in the wide POV to make use of ProTune and then correct the fisheye effect using the Optic Compensation plugin.
To be honest, I only used the photo mode on a few quick occasions since I mostly shot video, so I don’t have too much to comment on here. But, from the limited use, the quality is perfectly fine for you normal travel snaps. In terms of size and photo quality, the 8mp camera offers 8 million total pixels across a 3264px by 2448px grid, more than triple the amount you’d need for standard digital use. You’ll also be fine printing 300dpi images at 10 x 8 inches or below without loss of quality.
As with previous models, the Hero Session does have a time lapse mode built into it, accessed by holding down the single button for three seconds. I can’t comment much on its performance here, I preferred using my DSLR for the few timelapses I did take.
The Session has a built-in 1030 mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which is the same battery used in the newer Hero 5 Session. The obvious downside here is that it cannot be replaced, although it’s not something I’d be overly worried about. You’ve got a warranty for that.
As for the performance, it’s impressive!
On the video side of things you’ll enjoy between 2-3 hours worth of recording at 30fps and up to an hour and a half at 60fps. I ended up recording about 4 and a half hours worth of footage, a mix of 100fps and 60fps, with two full charges.
The charge time, when plugged into a wall outlet, took around an hour for a full charge and, when plugged into a MacBook via USB, it was closer to two hours. These times looks to be pretty much on par with what I’ve seen reported online from other users.
Considering it was designed for, as the name suggests, “sessions”, the battery life goes above what I was expecting from a unit of this size.
Here’s The Major Downside
There’s two of them actually.
There’s no LCD screen! Unlike full-size GoPro’s, the Hero Session does not have an LCD screen, which can make it difficult to compose both your video and photos. You can, of course, overcome this by connecting the device to your smartphone and monitoring everything from there. Obviously, this is fine for still shots, but it isn’t the best solution if you’re moving around while filming or shooting underwater. But, that’s the compromise for the smaller lightweight size.
The other downside, at least from my point of view, is the absence of any built-in video stabilization. The newer GoPro 5 and 6’s include it, which just makes your life easier when working towards smooth video. Obviously, you could drop the extra money on the Karma grip, or comparable 3rd party stabilizers but, if you’re purchasing the Hero 4 Session, it’s probably to keep costs down in the first place. If you want some smooth handheld footage you’ll have to stick with the heel-toe walk and fluid body movements before adding some digital stabilization during post.
Considering its size, waterproof design and general toughness, it comes in pretty handy as a throw around camera. Bonus points for having the cheaper price tag compared to some of the higher specced versions. In saying that, if you have the money to drop on a new Hero 6, Hero 5 or even the upcoming Fusion, definitely go for it and make the most of those higher specs.
If you’re looking to grab a new Session, they’re currently available at most photography, sports, electronic stores and, of course, Amazon.