After the triumph of the hero 4 black two years ago, last summer GoPro brought out the Hero 4 session – a camera that had the potential to be incredible, but wasn’t. What followed was 15 months without a product release and then the september 19th release of Karma and the Hero 5 cameras.
The reason I and many others found the Hero 4 session lacking was simple, it had poor image quality. Stacked against the silver and the black at the time it just didn’t match up, not even close. regardless of the great form factor, one couldn’t justify the shoddy image.
I say ‘justify’ because thats what all GoPro cameras are, they are a justification of image quality vs functionality & size (and for some, price). In the market, there are many cameras that offer superior image quality, but there are few other cameras that offer GoPro’s image quality at a similar size and with similar functionality.
The hero 4 session’s size, functionality and price didn’t win out against that of the silver and black at the time, now though with the hero 5 session, it DOES!
Here’s 8 reasons why I think the Hero 5 Session is the best GoPro camera yet and why for most people, it is a better choice than the Hero 5 black.
1 – Screen isn’t needed
I honestly believe the screen is not important in a camera of this nature. A camera screen is used for 3 main reasons, shot exposure/focus, shot review and framing. I believe none of these are needed with a GoPro:
//Shot exposure and focus:
with infinity focus and auto exposure / shutter there is no manual work that needs to be done to prepare the shot.
I truly believe this takes away from the experience. Capturing meaningful life experiences means the camera comes along for the ride. It isn’t and shouldn’t be a distraction. Check out the footage after your hike/run/skii/surf session. Seeing what you’ve captured afterwards is the fun of it, meanwhile keep yourself in the action and enjoy it!
Using the camera for a period of time quickly hones you in on expected FOV, I know roughly what the camera will see based on where I put it. Anyway, it has a huge field of view, it’s unlikely to miss anything! For those rare specific shots where you just can’t chance it – there is always the wifi app which gives you a direct view of what it sees.
2 – Battery is plenty
Not having an interchangeable battery is unlikely to cause you issue with normal use. With very simple on and off recording, the session is very prudent with it’s 1000mah internal battery. A solid recording time of between 1.30 – 2 hours may not seem a lifetime on paper, but it is in practise. Most users shooting a large selection of typical short clips throughout a full day adventuring / activities for a cool video montage will be left with battery to spare.
*Sidenote – Wifi will effect battery more than anything else. I would strongly suggest not using Wifi whatsoever with the Session.
3 – One button is more powerful that you think
One button simplicity encompasses everything that a GoPro should be and makes things all together easier. It doesn’t take you out of the action. It doesn’t distract you. One button on and start recording, 1 button off and forget until your next big moment. It’s ready to go whenever you are, nothing more and nothing less.
4 – The image quality / settings of the 5 black really aren’t any better than the session for most users
With many many tests between the two, there is no discernible difference in image quality between the two whatsoever when shooting in the same modes. Speaking of modes, they are nearly identical throughout both cameras. Top of the list, both have 4k 30fps, both have electronic image stabilisation (read about that in more detail here), and both have the same voice activation settings.
I’ll quickly address a few further settings difference concerns you may have:
The black does, the session doesn’t – BUT, you absolutely will see unbelievably minimal difference in a well processed Raw image from the black to a well processed Jpeg from the session. The difference is nothing like what you would experience with Raw from a DSLR vs Jpeg from a DSLR.
12mp vs 10mp photos?
Much like the above, it really won’t effect most. For every single use other than printing out at particularly large sizes you will simply not need the increase in resolution.
The black can ramp up to 120fps vs the session’s 90fps. Is this a problem? I’d say for some, it may be a consideration, 120fps is cool (I did a video that won a GoPro award nearly all in 120fps and loved it). However, 90fps still gives a great 3-4x slow mo effect and has more data per frame, therefore better image clarity. (the 60mb bitrate stays the same in both settings, either divided by 120fps or 90fps). Is having no 120fps a deal breaker? No, I’d say its unlikely to effect the vast majority of users.
5 – GPS? What GPS?
Sadly this really is a non-feature and absolutely nothing to be missed at this stage. In fact, the minor benefit of having this turned on on the 5 black to geotag images is largely outweighed by marginally faster battery drain.
6 – The Price is right
I don’t usually let price sway me too much, as I usually want to find the best tool for the job and the price is a secondarily consideration. With that said, the session is a cool $100/£100 less than the black. That’s a good chunk of cash you could put towards getting you on your next adventure.
7 – Size is the prize
The session’s slim size and weight make it absolutely great for lightweight sports. Running / hiking is my number one example. The session doesn’t have any bulk or anything unnecessary included, that is makes it a satisfying choice when you want to go ultra minimal or ultralight. This ties really well into my next point, 8:
8 – The session has the perfect, free, mount
The session is compatible with my favourite and IMO most effective mount – putting it in your mouth. holding the session in your mouth is absolutely awesome for POV, video especially coupled with EIS is very good. The mouth is the most stable mounting point on the body during movement and so happens to be in the ideal place for POV. The black is just a bit big to fit by itself, and will need an additional mouth mount attachment.
So there it is, those are the reasons I would choose the session. I can only think of one instance I’d choose a black over it: shooting for a client. For everything else, everything personal, and everything recreational (i.e. most GoPro customers) I feel the session wins over the Hero 5 black. For me, it tips that justification of image quality vs functionality/size. I love it!