Albert Einstein famously observed that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same result”. Fortunately for GoPro, its team appear to have taken this sentiment to heart with the impressive upgrade to the company’s tiny Session camera, the Hero5 Session.
Words and Photos: Ritchie Tyler
When the original Session was released two years ago, it was regarded by some as the first misstep from the most famous name in the action camera genre. Compared side-by-side with the GoPro’s Hero range, consumers baulked at the compact, waterproof-without-a-case Session.
Fast forward to today and plenty has changed inside the tiny shooter. The Hero5 Session has proudly moved into the middle of a simplified three-camera GoPro lineup, between the Hero5 Black and the current iteration of the original Session.
The latest Session retains the square form factor of its predecessor. Filling the floorspace of a 50 cent coin and weighing in at 73g, one of the biggest strengths of the camera is the range of mounting options it provides for getting that perfect shot.
A sturdy mounting bracket allows the camera to be rotated at 90 degree intervals and is easily hidden away under a stem, saddle or any tube on the bike using a range of mounting accessories. Out of the box the camera comes with two stick-on mounts that are perfect for helmets. GoPro also provided a brand new mount with our test unit that provides a secure and lower profile option for handlebar and seat post mounting.
It’s worth mentioning that if you are going to mount it, you will need to use the mounting frame; there’s no direct mount on the camera body itself. So pack the mounting frame, or plenty of electrical tape.
What’s on the inside counts
Whilst the Hero5 Session looks the same from the outside, inside a lot has changed with a range of new features which have brought the Session series a long way forward.
The Session still cedes some ground to the Hero5 Black in terms of available resolutions in shooting modes. For professionals, this makes the Black the clear choice. However, for mere mortals, even with the Session you’ll get some incredible high resolution footage. All that being said, GoPro deserve much of the credit for blurring the lines between the pros and amateurs when it comes to videoing action sport.
Other technical changes include a tune up of the camera’s shooting ability for crisper images, as well as improved stabilisation. Both changes are incremental, but noticeable.
The camera relies on a simple two-button control system. A record/shutter release and a power button which also controls the menu system. A tiny LCD screen provides details about menus and function. If you’re more familiar with the Hero series (as I was) it does take some getting used to, but within a few minutes of playing around the controls quickly become second nature.
“GoPro, start video”
At the launch of the Session 5 and its elder sibling, the Hero 5 Black, much was made of the voice control features. In a competitive camera genre that relies heavily on marketing hype, there’s always a sense of cautious optimism about new features. I’m pleased to report this is one new feature that nails it; the sort of innovation that GoPro’s reputation has been built on.
The camera's 12 voice control commands are easy to setup and simple to use and cover its four shooting modes (video, photo, burst and time lapse). Simply saying “GoPro, start video” and “GoPro, stop video” are all it takes to begin and end recording - and it works exactly as it says on the tin. It’s a boon for cyclists whose hands are somewhat critical in the operation of their chosen equipment. For those worried about being caught talking to an inanimate object: relax, you’ll quickly get used to it.
One of my favourite things about the Hero5 Session sat outside the camera itself: GoPro’s Capture app.
I’d found GoPro’s original camera-control app so frustrating I’d rarely used it in the past three years. Within two minutes of downloading Capture on my phone, I had full control over the Hero5 Session, alongside a WiFi stream of the camera’s viewpoint.
Given the basic nature of the camera’s in-built controls, the advantage of this can’t be understated and made setting up shots and tuning the picture simple. The ability to save videos and photos straight to your phone for upload on social media is a joy.
A great Session
It might look the same as the original Session, but the Hero5 Session is in a different league. Technically superior and easy to control in so many truly user-friendly ways, it is one of the most versatile options whether you’re considering your first action camera or simply upgrading.
- Control. Voice control and the Capture app make using the camera crazy simple.
- The form factor. Tiny, light and waterproof. Versatility is arguably best-in-class.
- Some compromise in shooting modes. Hero5 Black is still the go-to for pros and serious amateur action photographers.
- USB-C charger/transfer cable. Faster, but frustrating when you forget and only have mini-USB cables to hand.