GoPro Hero4 Session - Tested 28 January 16

I have been a fan of GoPros from their early days and was very pleased with my Hero2, which I got for recording a bike trip in the Blue Ridge Mountains a few years ago. This replaced an old lo-res camera that no longer inspired me. The Hero2 was a revelation apart from the software and accessory backs, which were clunky. The video and sound with an external mic was incredible, but the camera could be a pain to use out in the wild.

In the Box and More
The HERO4 Session impressed me due to its tiny form factor and that it has built-in wifi, an optional back on the HERO2, which I could use to connect to my iPhone and a simple on/off button. The camera arrives with a bunch of accessories and mounting devices in the box. There are two housings with mounting points in different locations, a couple of mounting shoes with self adhesive and camera mount and a ball and socket camera mount. There is also the charging cable, manual, little anti-rattle gadget and stickers, not forgetting the display plate the camera comes on in the box that can also be used as another mounting shoe.

Setting Up
The HERO4 Session is easy to set up, plug the micro USB end of the charging cable into the camera and the other end into a regular sized USB power supply. When charged, pop a micro SD card into the camera, shut the door and the camera is ready to go. You could just mount the camera press the button and start shooting but you might end up with a poorly framed shot. The best thing to do is press the little button on the back of the camera three times to get the the wifi set up and then press the large button to activate it. Obviously, prior to this you will need to download the GoPro app to your device, go to your device's wifi set up page and select the camera. When you open the app it will take you through a set up procedure to give the camera a name and password. Then you can connect to the camera and see a live view, where you can frame the image and use your device as a remote monitor and camera control. There is only a small lag to the image so it is very usable for live viewing. You can also access a page for all the camera's settings, image quality, view angle, frame rate etc., I have favorite settings for the video and stills options so I just select these and leave it there.

With the supplied mounting options you can mount the camera in a load of places and there are a gazillion other mounting options available from GoPro or after market dealers with other specific mounting purposes in mind. I don't like adhering mounts onto my things so I look for other options, I use the Ram Mount system for my bike and car and a selfie stick for general photography. The image is self righting so it can be mounted any way up and the image will right itself, this can be turned off. The Session is up to 10 meters waterproof so you could even mount it to the bottom of your boat but I am not sure if the wifi would operate.

Recording and Viewing
The camera is a breeze to record video or stills with as long as you are using the app, the buttons on camera are too small. Having a phone as a viewfinder makes the GoPro easy to operate no matter where it is located. The quality of the video is a little pale compared to my HERO2 but is plenty good enough for what I want. I tend to use lower quality settings as I try and avoid the massive files of really hi-res videos and as I am only sharing them on YouTube etc., and not projecting them onto building walls, that is all I need.

There are no HDMI or video-out ports on the Session so viewing your shots on a TV isn't possible. You can use the app to view images on your device and optionally stream them to your TV, or another option is to download them to your computer. I found that watching them on my iPad with people round me was great.

Other Thoughts
The HERO4 Session has a build-in battery so when it is depleted that is the end of your shooting until it is charged again (approx 2 hours), it does have around 1-3/4 hours of shooting time though, and that should be enough for most people and situations.

There is no external microphone port on the HERO4 Session, which is a bit of a deal breaker for me when recording my motorcycle trips as I like to place a mic near the exhaust and give my movies a bit of ICE growl for better effect. The two built-in microphones that are supposed to cancel out wind noise do that to some extent but not good enough for a great sound experience at speed in the open air. See the video comparisons

The top button is flush and the back button is tiny so operating them with gloves on is not easy, I tend to set up with gloves off so this hasn't proven a problem especially as I use the record button on the phone's screen which I can do with gloves on either.

I really like the Hero4 Session as it so compact, easy to use and is a good price. It is not ideal for video recording fast activities like motorcycling where there will be wind noise but for as a general action cam I think it is absolutely ideal. I am actually using it more than I thought, and as it is really small I keep it in my bag so it is with me at all times. As they say, the best camera to have is the camera you have with you.

Sensor Size & Type: 8MP
Video Format: H.264 codec, .mp4 file format
Resolution & Frame Rate: 1920 x 1440 (30p, 25p); 1920 x 1080 (60p, 50p, 48p, 30p, 25p); 1280 x 960 (60p, 50p, 30p, 25p); 1280 x 720 (100p, 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p), 848 x 480 (120p, 100p)
Recording Media: microSD
Optical Zoom: None
Lens: Ultra Wide
Audio In: None
Audio Out: None
Video Out: None
Other Interface: USB Micro-B
Shot Assist: None
ISO: 400, 1600
Manual Exposure: None
Image Stabilization: None
Battery: Internal

Price: $200

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