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Hypoxic: Hero4 Session Review

Written by Kolla

Mark ‘Trunk’ Kirschenbaum of Hypoxic – makers of Extreme Electronics for skydiving (and other extreme sports) – has released a review of the GoPro Hero4 Session, focusing on its use in skydiving. He kindly gave us permission to share it – originally published July 11, 2015, on the Hypoxic blog.

GoPro Bomb Squad wingsuits

Photo from the GoPro Bomb Squad – click to visit their page!

GOPRO HERO4 SESSION FOR SKYDIVING

THE GOOD

With its 1.5″ cube form-factor and 50% smaller size, it’s great for skydivers worried about snag hazards. The new mounts and one-button recording make it a good camera for the weekend warrior. It’s waterproof even without an additional case, making it great for water-based sports.

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A sleek wrist mount is perfect for tandem instructors using hand-cams.

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THE BAD

The $399 price tag is expensive for its feature set (8MP stills / 1080@60fps – 25Mbps bitrate / Based on 2+ year old imaging core). The lack of interchangeable battery and HDMI limits its use as a primary camera or for debriefing. Once the camera is dead you are SOL for a few jumps. All settings must be changed over WiFi so that may limit last-minute adjustments on the plane.

THE VERDICT

We feel it’s overpriced for the quality of the camera. For the same price, you can purchase a GoPro HERO4 Silver with 12MP sensor, better lens, higher frame-rates and bit-rates. The lack of HDMI and interchangeable battery is a deal breaker for us working at boogies. However, the lower profile mounting and form factor may outweigh these limitations for some. We personally would choose the GoPro HERO4 Silver over this camera but with that said, the GoPro HERO4 Session is a sexy camera!

Our guess is we’ll see a cubic GoPro HERO5 with a better feature set in 2016 to coincide with the GoPro Drone launch. That is if they figure out how dissipate the heat.

Want more? Keep reading our in-depth review for the nitty-gritty.


IN DEPTH

The newly released, streamlined, GoPro HERO4 Session finally breaks the standard rectangular form factor we have all gotten used to from GoPro. This 1.5″ cube will surely fly better and inherently result in less shaking while in freefall. The new lower profile mount sucks the camera into the mounting surface and allows for it to be flipped 180 degrees for forward- or rear-facing video.

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The camera will automatically set “what is up” at the start of the video so you no longer have to set the camera’s orientation manually.

USAGE

The interface is different on the GoPro HERO4 Session than previous GoPro models. The top button powers on the camera and starts recording. A red light on the front of the camera and small display shows the status. Pressing the top button again will shut off the camera. All adjustments are now done via WiFi which is turned on with a small button on the rear of the camera. Pressing and holding the top button will switch to time-lapse mode which will be nice for those photos on the plane or after landing.

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SPECS

With a $399 price tag, this waterproof camera is not cheap. In comparison, it costs the same as the 10-month-old GoPro HERO4 Silver and its quality is greatly diminished. Limited at 1080@60fps with 25Mbps bitrate this pales in comparison to the GoPro HERO4 Black at 2.7k@60 with 60Mbps. The 8MP stills illustrate that the sensor and lens are subpar to the existing GoPro HERO4 product line. The GoPro HERO4 Session is basically a GoPro HERO3+ Silver in a new package with a slightly upgraded processor and one-button mode turned on.

Photo wise, the GoPro HERO 4 Session will take up to 10 frames in 1 second burst and two photos a second in time-lapse mode.
For extra geek points, tricks and hacks – click here.

WATERPROOF TO 10M/DUAL MICS

The body is waterproof to 33′ (10 meters) and the lack of an external case makes audio clearer. With that said, a front- and a rear-facing mic, supplemented with a wind cancelling algorithm, makes audio for high-speed sports crisper. The microphone’s special canal purges itself of water within seconds after its removed.

The waterproof glass over the lens is a nice bonus as it always protects the lens from scratches. We expect this to be user replaceable in the near future.

NON-REPLACEABLE BATTERY

Battery life is expected to be around 50 minutes of continuous filming at 1080@60. With the 4-second press-to-record lag, we feel most skydivers will be alright to press record at the green light before climb out. If you charge the camera fully at night, turn it off during canopy flight and do not debrief on your tablet, you may make it a full day of summer jumping. The non-replaceable battery really makes this a difficult sell for professionals making money off of this camera. It is just too much of a liability to not have a backup.

DEBRIEFING

We are saddened by the lack of HDMI out since this is how we love to debrief our footage after each jump. With GoPro’s shift to media transfer protocol (MTP: means the device acts like a camera vs. a drive when connected to a computer), stand-alone players will have a difficult time playing off USB. Tablet playback will be the means to debrief your students, with the unfortunate cost of killing your internal battery. Removing the card and placing it into a player or laptop will be our means to debrief footage off of this camera.

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SAFETY

No camera is “safe” but with the 50% smaller size and the tighter mounts, we see this camera as being safer than previous models. However, if you do tilt the new low-profile frame (seen above) up slightly there is a scary little gap that will just love to suck in lines. I personally would tape this off with a nice square of gaffer’s tape before my first jump with it. We foresee a bunch of manufacturers rushing to create new snagless mounts for these cameras but honestly a few pieces of gaffer’s tape will be just fine.

For those who are snag conscious, you might as well NOT use the included ball joint or the standard frame on your skydiving helmet. I personally would go to the hardware store and pick up a small M5 socket head to replace the thumbscrew and call it a day.

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Here is a short video showing how to mount this pretty camera:


Helmet manufacturer Cookie reports that they are working fast and furious to come up with mounting solutions for their line of products and expect to have them available before too long. [team_member image_url=”112467″ name=”Mark “Trunk“ Kirschenbaum” role=”Owner, Get Hypoxic LLC”]About the reviewer: Trunk is the owner of Get Hypoxic, LLC – more commonly known as HYPOXIC, or, that company that makes all the cool camera-related shit. [/team_member]

1 Comment

  • Hi Mark. Thanks for your great review, very helpful!

    For us the Hero4 silver is definitely the better the camera, mostly because of the built-in display, the replaceable battery and the better image quality.

    If your readers are still unsure if the new GoPro Hero4 Session is the right model for them, our GoPro Buyer’s Guide (http://1001unforgettabletrips.com/products/gopro-buyers-guide/) will help with the decision. It’s intuitive and easy: Answer just a few easy questions, and in 3 minutes or less we’ll tell you which Go Pro model is right for you. We just updated it. It now includes the new GoPro Hero4 Session and the HERO+ LCD.

    Maybe you would like to help all of your readers find the right model.

    Greetings from Hamburg, Germany
    Katja

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