The new GoPro Hero4 Session camera is half the size and weight of its predecessors. The little cube-shaped camera is easier to handle, fully waterproof and has much improved battery life.
However, all this cool design has come at a price. The picture quality and feature set doesn't match the similar GoPro Hero4 Silver, which also costs $400. GoPro is betting that the simpler design will appeal to a new customer base less concerned with picture quality than convenience and ease of use.
"I think this is going to expand our customer base," GoPro CEO and founder Nick Woodman says. "I think a lot of people still scratch their head when they look at our cameras."
The big positive for the Session is obviously its size. The 1.5-inch cube weighs just 2.6 oz, making it 50 percent smaller and 40 percent lighter than the Hero4 Silver. It's also fully waterproof out of the box, including the microphones, so it doesn't require extra casing that adds more weight. The cubic shape also means that you can mount the camera closer to a surface, pointing in any direction you please, all of which makes it feel even lighter. The Session is waterproof to 10 meters (32.8 feet), and the microphone produces better sound than previous models, which could sound muffled when in the external cases.
The built-in battery is a big improvement, with some reviews reporting double the life of the Hero4 Silver. This is largely because the camera switches off when not recording. The problem is that the camera has to start up each time you hit the record button, resulting in a four-second delay, which can be a long time when trying to capture an action shot. Also, the built-in nature means you can't bring a spare battery.
Early reports suggest the image quality isn't nearly as good on the Session as on the Hero4 Silver and Black. There's no cinematic 24 frames per second (fps) mode and it can shoot 1440p video at 30 fps, 1080p up to 60 fps and 720p at 100 fps, which gives you less options than previous GoPro cameras. The Silver can film up to 2700p at 30 fps and shoots higher resolution stills (12 MP compared with 8 MP) at faster speeds.
There are only two buttons on the little cube, one to turn recording on and off and another to enable Wi-Fi. Holding the record button for three seconds triggers a time-lapse photo mode, but apart from that, all other options and settings changes have to be made from the GoPro app on your phone. This could be a serious irritant for users on the go who try making adjustments when they are used to the touchscreen on the larger GoPros.
However, for people just looking to point and shoot, the Session is certainly handier and simpler to use, which will no doubt appeal to many. Certainly, the quality of the ad below would be more than enough for most people.
"With Hero4 Session, we challenged ourselves to produce the smallest, lightest, most convenient GoPro possible," said Woodman.
The new camera also "conveniently" works with all GoPro accessories, including a few new mounts that allow you to strap the camera directly to your body, a musical instrument and one called the Floaty (pictured) that stops your camera from sinking. The new mounts will be available along with the Hero4 Session ($399.99) starting on July 12.