GoPro Hero4 Session review: enduring the unforgiving New Zealand terrain
It's significantly smaller and lighter, but how well does it record video?
- One of the smallest and lightest action cameras around
- Proficient video recording
- Easy user interface
- Waterproof to 10 metres without housing
- Strong range of mounts that don't add much bulk to its size
- No still-photo mode directly from the camera
- Can accidentally activate the wrong mode
Price$ 580.00 (AUD)
Ordinary cameras can’t capture some of our proudest moments. Most can’t withstand droplets of water, icy temperatures or sandy environments. They can’t follow us into the action. And this is why GoPro’s range has spawned a following of loyal, diehard fans.
The company’s latest camera is its most inspired yet. It is called the Hero4 Session, and because it is 50 per cent smaller and 40 per cent lighter, it can fit into places other GoPros find inaccessible.
It looks utterly inconspicuous. A tiny, black body harbours a digital display and two buttons. A small trap door casts protection over a micro-USB charging port and a microSD card slot. All of this has been crammed into the confines of a 74 gram cube, giving the Hero4 Session the look of a single die. You could pick it up and toss it around in your hand with the same ease.
Another party trick separates this camera from the range. It is the first GoPro camera that can be submerged in water without the need for protective housing. The company claims it will work in waters 10 metres deep; both in freshwater and saltwater.
The biggest problem facing such a small camera has to do with how it is used. Are two buttons really enough to cycle through a myriad of shooting modes and resolutions? GoPro makes it work, although there are teething gripes and imperfections.
It works by combining the functions of a power button with that of a record button. It powers on and instantly starts recording 1080p video at 30 frames. A longer, 3 second hold turns it on and commences timelapse photography. Stopping and turning off the camera happens when the same button is pressed again. It’s a bare-as-bones system that helps capture fleeting moments with minimal effort.
Matters do get a little complicated when the camera is mounted out-of-sight, such as when it is affixed to a helmet, as it is hard to gauge its shooting mode. It is easy to accidentally press the button for too long, or not long enough, and the result can be a bunch of photos instead of a video.
Any activity that involves gloves exacerbates this problem. The gloves we wore when snowboarding in New Zealand were large and numb. The camera's audio cues were drowned out by the gusty wind. Rarely could we tell if we were recording a video or a sequence of timelapse photos. We got it right — most of the time.
More functionality can be milked from the camera when it is connected to a smartphone. GoPro’s app can be used to change the resolution, tweak various settings and view the photos that have been taken. The display of your smartphone also doubles as a viewfinder to help frame shots. The two communicate over Wi-Fi direct and, when the GoPro has Wi-Fi enabled, it can be turned on and switched off remotely from the smartphone.
People considering using this GoPro as their primary camera should reconsider. It captures 8 megapixel still photos with varying success. The Session is a specialist camera and its speciality is landscapes. GoPro’s software renders bright blues and bold greens, all the while keeping image noise down to a minimum. Complex lighting challenges it, which is the case when a large shadow cuts through half the frame. The well lit side will be rich in colour and detail, while the other will be lacking, rendered mostly in a shallow shade of black.
It can be used to take the odd photo quickly if there’s no other camera around. Group photos and selfies are less convincing due to the camera’s extremely wide lens and its subsequent barrel distortion. When taking still photos, the Session is no better than the cameras found in today’s leading smartphones, which also edge ahead with an LED flash.
Videos are recorded with much greater success. The camera supports a wide range of resolutions, maxing at 1920x1440, and is capable of slow motion recording, with Full HD videos at 60 frames per second and HD videos at 100 frames.
Two microphones are used to identify, process and record audio. It will switch between the microphone at the front and the back for the best results, and because the housing for the Session is skeletal, the microphones are as close as possible to the action.
We tested the camera in a variety of situations while holidaying in New Zealand. The camera’s petite footprint meant its presence was barely intrusive. It was small and light enough for us to wear, mounted to a helmet, for a whole day without ever finding it inconvenient.
Recording a video when snowboarding down Coronet Peak was revelatory of the Session’s attention to detail. The sun shone on the snow for a shade of white that was blinding, and yet the camera captured all of its characteristics in clarity. There’s the large clumps, the fine grooves and the powder kicked up by fellow skiers. Sony’s rivalling X1000V camera proves better versed in its rendition of blue, with the sky captured by the Hero4 Session coming off as soft, but that is a camera several times greater in size.
We experienced the same softened colouring when riding a luge. The camera dulled the bright background in order to capture the details concealed in the shadowy track. All of the colours were softened as it strained to juggle the illuminated background with the dark foreground. It did achieve a commendable balance and managed to keep everything in focus as we raced towards the finish line.
The camera performed best during a jet boat ride in Lake Wakatipu, where the green of the foliage lining the river bed was bright and bold. It was mounted to ‘the handler’, a floating freehand grip, and although we were at pace and the camera was being helmed in all directions, the video was always crisp, with it quickly focusing and rapidly adjusting to suit the constantly changing light.Read more: Olympus TG-850 review
Water sprayed onto the camera as the jet boat was performing stunts. The few drops that drizzled onto its lens required a quick wipe only, as it continued to work as normal.
It was while jet boating — and driving up Coronet Peak — that we noticed the GoPro’s software attenuating unwanted sounds. The microphones cancelled much of the engine noise and most of the wind. The soundtrack was legible, clear even, but certainly manipulated. Most will appreciate that the camera automatically tweaks the audio. Others might want to hear the engine burbling loudly. This is all a matter of personal preference.
Built into the camera is a rechargeable 1000 milliamp-hour battery. During a battery test, where we left the camera continuously recording Full HD video at 30 frames per second, it bested GoPro’s claims by lasting for 2 hours and 14 minutes.
GoPro pioneered the action camera category, and although rivals are clawing at its feet with competing iterations, the Hero4 Session is another large step forward. No competing camera can take it on in both performance and size. When it is worn, the small and light profile helps it hide in the background, for that sense of freedom.
Join the newsletter!
cloudandco Smart Cane
WD MY PASSPORT™ X Gaming Storage
Bang and Olufsen BeoVision 14
Panasonic OLED 4K Ultra HD TV - TH-77EZ1000U
Panasonic OLED 4K Ultra HD TV - TH-55EZ950U
Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44
Dyson Supersonic™ Hair Dryer Fuchsia/Iron
Apple iPhone X
SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™
WD MY PASSPORT™ Gaming Storage
Toys for Boys
Onyx Smart Walkie Talkie
Ubiquiti Network’s Front Row Camera
LaCie Rugged USB-C Portable Hard Drive
Leica M10 Digital Rangefinder Camera
UBTech First Order Stormtrooper Robot
Bose SoundLink Micro
Lego Mindstorms EV3
Google Daydream View VR Headset
Propel Star Wars T-65 X-Wing Drone
Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K
WD MY CLOUD™ HOME Personal Cloud Storage
Belkin Pocket Power 10,000mAh
Nest Protect Smart Smoke Alarm
Dearear Endear In-ear Wireless Earphones
Panasonic Hi-Fi - SC-UA7GS-K
Xbox One X
Toffee Bags Commuter Satchel
iRobot Roomba 980 Vaccum Cleaning Robot
Amazon Echo Bluetooth Speaker
PETKIG Go Smart Dog Leash
Kogan Bluetooth Soundbar
Tile Pro Bluetooth Tracker
Logitech Doodle Collection Wireless Mouse
Ikea NORDMÄRKE Wireless Charging Pad
Urbanworx Full HD Action Camera
Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse
Panasonic Portable Splashproof Fun - RF-D20U
Lexon Flip Alarm Clock
3SIXT 3-in-1 Smartphone Lens Kit
Raspberry Pi Starter Kit
Fallout Geeki Tikis
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Fitbit Ionic review: Impressive but not quite iconic
- 2 Acer Spin 5 review: Value for money but conditions apply
- 3 Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review: A solid winter flagship that cribs from the best
- 4 Sony LF-S50G review: Google Assistant and then some
- 5 Google Pixel 2 review: not quite 'pixel perfect' but damn close
Latest News Articles
- Panasonic Announces Compact, Lightweight ultra-telephoto LEICA Lens
- Panasonic announce still-shooter flagship G9
- Sony Announces Development of New G Master Super-Telephoto Full-Frame E-Mount Lens
- Sony Expands Full-frame E-mount lens lineup
- Sony’s New Full-Frame α7R III Interchangeable Lens Camera promises to delivers both resolution and speed
PCW Evaluation Team
I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.
It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.
Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.
The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.
The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.
The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic
- CES 2018: Belkin go big on wearables accessories
- CES 2018: Alcatel Embrace 18:9 Aspect Ratio In 2018
- OPPO Load Up A73 Smartphone With Flagship Features
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
Product Launch Showcase
- FTSenior Insights AnalystNSW
- CCSAP ABAP CRM DeveloperQLD
- CCHR/Payroll Solution ArchitectQLD
- CCSenior Business AnalystQLD
- CCProject ManagerQLD
- FTIntegration Technical LeadOther
- CCSenior Agile Project Manager - TelcoVIC
- CCIT Service Desk Specialist - BrisbaneNSW
- FTChange ManagerOther
- CCAIX System Administration ? UNIXVIC
- CCIncident/Service ManagerNSW
- PTAxway Policy developersVIC
- FTIOS DeveloperWA
- TPAgile Project ManagerQLD
- FTNetwork ArchitectNSW
- FTClient Delivery DirectorACT
- FTInfrastructure ArchitectOther
- CCSystems AnalystACT
- FT.NET DeveloperNSW
- FTBusiness AnalystOther
- CCSolution ArchitectQLD
- CCITSM Business AnalystNSW
- TPSenior Project Manager - Risk & ComplianceNSW
- FTLead Business AnalystOther
- CCHadoop DeveloperVIC