GoPro Hero 4 Session...sports camera review

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Josh Greer

DFP Vendor
Jul 31, 2013
907
63
Central Missouri
As mentioned in another thread, we tested out the Hero 4 Session at a baseball tournament this weekend. Sorry...softball is over for the year for us, but I hope you will still find the content to be helpful if you are in the market for a new camera.

I'm still trying to be non-biased, but I'm personally not a fan of this camera when used for recording full ball games. The quality isn't near as good as my Hero 4 Silver, but the biggest issue is the ease of use. I've grown quite accustom to using the LCD on all of my GoPro's. So without an LCD, I tried to embrace the WiFi control. I don't know how you guys deal with WiFi on a regular basis....it is maddening! Every time your smartphone dims for power save, you lose connection to the GoPro. So trying to quickly start and stop between innings is somewhere between cumbersome and impossible. I missed so many start of innings that I finally gave up on WiFi and went back to manually starting and stopping between innings. But even that has its issues. The record button is also the power button on the Session. Stopping a recording shuts the camera down; starting a recording turns it back on. This is an attempt to save power, which I'm told works well (I used external power since I have more external batteries than kids, cats, and dogs combined). Stopping the recording works OK, but restarting sometimes, well, doesn't. And it is such a slow process that you don't know that it doesn't come back on until about 5 seconds have passed. So, again, I missed so many inning starts that I finally just left the thing running between innings. This is a pain to post process, but was better than losing data.

As for quality, it isn't horrible. The video is clearly more compressed than the Silver. I knew this going into it because the estimated record time was a little over an hour more than what my Silver will hold (approximately 18% more) on the same 64GB SD card. But as I reviewed the recording from this weekend, I could see that a lot of the detail in the video was "mushy". Not a lot when compared with each other (Session vs Silver), but certainly noticeable. The audio seemed to be on par with the Silver. We, however, did not have much wind this weekend. The Silver tends to pick up a lot of wind noise since the microphones are on the sides. They are on the front and back of the Session. In theory, the quality should be better than the Silver. But this did not translate in the testing this weekend.

As for the size, I was really expecting great things here. Since the camera is shaped like a cube, with the lens in the center of the of the rotational axis, I was hoping side view shots would be substantially easier to deal with. Since the lens on all other GoPro's is left of the axis, getting a side view on the first base side is difficult. When you rotate the camera towards the plate to get the shot, the lens pulls away from the fence and you get fence in the shot. Since the Session lens is on axis, you don't have this problem. But the problem is the USB charging port on on the left side of the Session; along with a non-removable door. So the door must remain open and the USB cable sticks out on the left side, making it horrible to get a shot from the 3rd base side. Without using external power, this is a non issue. But since their isn't a removable battery, once the camera battery dies, the camera will be unusable until it recharges. That's sort of a deal breaker for me.

So for recording full games from the fence perspective, we cannot recommend this camera. This really isn't a surprise to us, however. The main purpose for the Session, as described by GoPro, is to provide a smaller camera to be mounted to the body for better POV (point of view) photography. So in that context, if you only want one GoPro and you know you will be mounting the camera to your player at times (say, in the case of a catcher's mask), then it might be a viable option for you. Just recognize the limitations mentioned above; the least of which is quality. You have to keep quality in context with these cameras. You are sacrificing quality for size and ruggedability when you choose any of these sports cameras. I would love to mount my $5000 DSLR setup on my fence, if quality was the only variable; it would make for beautiful videos. But an impact and the environment would kill it. We choose GoPro because we want an easy to use device that can look through the fence (not at it) and can handle the rough environment. All GoPro cameras do that well. But in my opinion, the Hero 4 Silver does that specific thing better than the Session.

Here's a breakdown video showing the results of both cameras side by side. Note the scale of each segment. In order to get both cameras to align for the purpose of this illustration, I had to zoom in 125% of the original 1080P. So the overall quality will be lesser than what you would normally expect for both cameras. The first thing you will note is the white balance. The Silver tends to produce a nice warm color (orange-ish). The Session is pretty cold (blue). This can be adjusted in post production to nearly match each other, but is an added step.

[video=youtube_share;4FJsbaOVpRQ]http://youtu.be/4FJsbaOVpRQ[/video]

LSHeroSession.jpg
 

Josh Greer

DFP Vendor
Jul 31, 2013
907
63
Central Missouri
Have you tried the hero 4+Black for night games

I have not. But I would not expect the Black to perform better at night than the Silver, when recording 1080p. The black has a higher bit rate, which might help you. But the biggest limitation is the lack of light. This will generally lead to blurry images. If shot with ProTune, you can in theory capture more data for better night shots, but the post production would be prohibitive.
 
Jul 21, 2015
167
16
While I'm still fond of the Hero 4 Silver as the primary camera, GoPro is now offering the Session for $199. For that price, it makes a lot more sense for a whole lot more things. Not sure if this will be the new price or just a holiday special. Either way, great deal on a good camera for the money:
https://shop.gopro.com/hero4/hero4-session/CHDHS-101.html

Sports Authority had the session for $160 yesterday (after 20% off coupon). Looks like they're sold out now, but a great deal. I'm guessing the prices are going to continue to fall on these and the regular GoPros. The chinese knockoffs are getting better and can be had for around $50-$60.
 

Josh Greer

DFP Vendor
Jul 31, 2013
907
63
Central Missouri
Sports Authority had the session for $160 yesterday (after 20% off coupon). Looks like they're sold out now, but a great deal. I'm guessing the prices are going to continue to fall on these and the regular GoPros. The chinese knockoffs are getting better and can be had for around $50-$60.

I think it has more to do with the unpopularity of the Session. The other models are sticking to their prices and are still selling well.
 
Jul 21, 2015
167
16
I think it has more to do with the unpopularity of the Session. The other models are sticking to their prices and are still selling well.

Probably. But I have seen the others cheaper the past couple months as well (not nearly THAT cheap). I think GoPro had a fantastic idea and implemented it well. But they've only recently had competition. As more players get into the game, prices are bound to fall. The technology itself doesn't warrant the high prices at this point.
 

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