With the debut of its Karma aerial drone, GoPro also released two new action cameras. One is the company's new flagship, the GoPro Hero5 Black, and the other is the Hero Session's more-refined brother, the Hero5 Session.
GoPro took two years before releasing these cameras and hence, expectations are quite high. So now that they're out and available, what does the public think of GoPro's latest action camera offerings?
Aesthetically, the Hero5 Black is noticeably different from its predecessor, the Hero4 Black. Gone are the sharp corners as they are replaced by smoother, rounded edges. Moreover, the Hero5 Black is slimmer compared with the Hero4 Black with the LCD display mounted to its back. The difference is further amplified when the Hero4 Black gets fitted with its waterproof housing.
Note that the Hero5 Black doesn't need a bulky waterproof case, for basic water sports at least, since it's already waterproof. Moreover, it has a built-in touchscreen just like the Hero4 Silver. Think of the Hero5 as a combination of the the Hero4 Silver, Hero4 Black and Hero4 Session.
"[The Hero5 Black] has a drastically different design from its predecessor," says YouTuber Dom Esposito. "It feels like it's got a rubbery feel to it... It feels like it's gonna be easier to grip... This just feels more durable than the Hero4 Black."
Design-wise the Hero5 Session looks almost identical to the Hero4/Hero Session and maintains the rugged 1.5-inch cube form factor. Just like its older brother, the new minimalist compact action camera has the one-touch-recording button, which, when pressed, turns on the camera and starts recording. Likewise, it also only requires a single press to stop recording and turn off the camera in order to conserve the battery.
"They're different colors but they're exactly the same size," says Digital Tech Reviews and Tips.
Being waterproof is perhaps the biggest feature of both the Hero5 Black and the Hero5 Session. Just like the Hero4 Session, both action cams do not require a separate housing, at least for depths down to 33 feet (10 meters).
"[Thirty three] feet. That should be good for surfing, snorkling, most watersports other than scuba diving," says Wired's Brent Rose. "That means you can get away with just a smaller frame case for it. So it's a little bit lighter and it preserves much better audio."
Note that both cameras have mics that are designed to clear themselves of water.
For depths that go beyond 33 feet, a waterproof housing will be needed.
The Hero5 Black sports a 12-megapixel camera while the smaller Hero5 Session has a 10-megapixel one. Both can shoot 4K and 2.7k videos at 30 fps, but the Black manages 80 fps at 1440p while the Session gets to 60 fps on the same resolution. This extends down to the 1080p where the Hero5 Black manages 120 fps with the Hero5 Session at 90.
"For a small camera, the Hero5 Black is able to record smooth videos with nice details and colors," writes Digital Trends' Les Shu. "Compared to the Hero4 generation, the Hero5 Black seems to handle bright conditions better, as images don't look as washed out."
Both the Hero5 Black and Hero5 sessions sport five field of view options — SuperView, Wide, Medium, Linear and Narrow — and will do 30 fps for Burst Time Lapse.
"It's amazing that this small camera can record in Superview now for extra-wide video," TechRadar's Matt Swider notes of the Hero5 Session. "Linear is also clutch because it goes wide while reducing barrel distortion."
"The [Hero5 Sessions'] low-light performance is touted as consumer grade, compared to pro-level Hero5 Black video, and there aren't as many frame rate options among the various resolutions," Swider adds.
Video stabilization is another feature that both the Hero5 Black and Hero5 Session headline. It's a software solution that smooths out jerkiness found in unstabilized captured videos.
"I've found it to work reasonably well, so long as you're realistic about it," says David Coleman of Have Camera Will Travel. "In many cases it does make the footage smoother, but it doesn't perform the same magic that a good-quality gimbal can. Which makes sense considering that GoPro is launching their own gimbal."
Bear in mind that with video stabilization turned on, the captured footage gets cropped a bit. Moreover, video stabilization cannot be used when capturing 4K.
There are about 10 commands that the GoPro Hero5 Black and Session will accept, such as "take a photo" and "record video." Voice control encourages less interaction with the camera and eliminates the need to physically press the record button to start the capture. This can be great for capturing intense moments that require the use of both hands.
"The microphones picked up on my voice easily enough, although I had to repeat myself for several commands," comments Nate Mitka of GearJunkie. "While most commands may occur during still moments, screaming for the GoPro to start recording as the wind is blowing violently is less certain."
GoPro's voice control for both the Hero5 Black and Session supports seven languages.
The Hero5 Black has a 1,220 mAh battery while the Hero5 Session sports a 1,000 mAh one — the same battery capacity as the Hero4 Session. However, it's important to note that the Hero5 Black's battery is completely different from its predecessors' and thereby, not interchangeable with them. Moreover, GoPro designed its camera with a chip that will only allow official GoPro batteries, which are listed at $20 a piece.
"In my tests, it managed just over two hours of constant recording at 1080p/30fps without GPS or any of the other energy-draining modes. Incidentally, this is almost exactly the amount of time it'll take to fill up a 32GB SD card. The Hero5 Session faired worse, clocking in between an hour and a half and an hour and 45 minutes," reports James Trew of Engadget.
The GoPro Hero5 Black retails for $399 while the Hero5 Session is listed at $299. GoPro also kept the Hero4 Session in its lineup of offerings for $199.