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GoPro Hero5 Session review: A good action camera for the price but needs improvement
GoPro Hero5 Session is the latest ‘action’ camera launched by GoPro in the Indian market earlier this year. Session 5 is the mid-tier action camera with the premium GoPro Hero5 Black on the top as the premium offering by the company. The GoPro Hero5 Session is priced at Rs 29,500.
Action cameras are used to shoot sports, bike journeys, among other things that are dangerous for devices like DSLRs or smartphone cameras to shoot. The danger here refers to the equipment getting damaged while biking, swimming or engaging in other types of adventurous sports. This is the first time I have extensively used an action camera as my early encounters were limited to shooting with DSLRs and smartphone cameras.
GoPro Hero5 Session is supposed to be aimed at consumers who want the performance and feature set of GoPro action cameras, but at an affordable price point. So let’s jump in to see how Hero5 Session fares in the review.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
The build quality of Hero5 Session is sturdy and top notch for an action cam. The rubberised top along with solid plastic exterior on the sides works perfectly in securing the internals of the camera.
One thing to note is that you don’t get anything remarkable in terms of design except the form factor. Hero5 Session is shaped like a small cube along with a microSD card slot and USB Type-C slot to charge in through a push door on the left side from the back.
The GoPro Hero5 Session does not come with a microSD card out of the box and you need to use a high-speed card, Class 10 or more for smooth 4K recording.
The action camera is waterproof, up to 10 meters in water, without any need for a special case which is impressive in itself. However, it does not come with any accessories out of the box except for a case and two adhesive mounts. I was expecting more in terms of mounts out of the box.
The main highlight of the GoPro Hero5 Session is its 4K recording capabilities in such a compact form factor. The 4K recording is at a standard 30 frames per second. The camera comes with an extremely wide angle lens with 10 MP image resolution for photos with effective dimensions of 3648 x 2736 pixels. The shutter button is located on the top along with the menu switching mode at the back of the camera.
You need to use both the buttons to change the modes and cycle through the options given which becomes easier to operate after initial confusion. The camera gives you the option to shoot 4K at frame rates of 30 and 25 frames per second in Wide; 2.7K at frame rates 48, 30, 25, and 24 in SuperView, Wide, Medium and Linear along with the option to shoot 2.7K in 4:3 aspect ratio from the default 16:9.
Other modes include: 2K at 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, and 24 frames per second in Wide mode; 1080p in 90, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, and 24 frames per second and 960p in 100, 60, 50, 30, and 25 frames per second in Wide mode.
The Camera gives up options to choose modes from Wide, Medium and SuperView while shooting 720p video at 100, 60, 50, 30, and 25 frames per second. You can not go below 720p while shooting with the camera which is weird at best because going down would have given us the option to shoot at higher frame rates for potential use in slow motion videos.
The camera comes with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for you to connect it to the GoPro ‘Capture’ app for Android as well as an iOS device. You can use the app to record, review or transfer the images and videos that you shot using the camera from the Wi-Fi connection. You can also control all the settings of the action cam and get a live video of what the GoPro can see at any given point.
The camera does support video stabilisation, but that is only limited if you shoot videos up to 2.7K and it is not available if you are shooting 4K. You can use the voice control to tell GoPro to shoot or start recording by saying “GoPro start recording”.
GoPro Hero5 Session comes with a monochrome display located on the top which only gives us limited information about what is the mode you are shooting in, along with the number of shots left considering you are in ‘Photo mode’ or the amount of time left in terms of hours or minutes while shooting a video depending on the storage space.
Other indicators include the all important battery indicator and an indicator to tell you if the Voice command mode is turned on or not.
GoPro has launched a healthy ecosystem of software to compliment its hardware. This includes the GoPro Quik to organise and edit the videos and photos for both Android as well as Windows desktop. One thing to note is that the Desktop version is a bit segregated where ‘Edit’ view is different than that of ‘View’ mode.
You need to login to your GoPro account to start managing your media. The editing capabilities provided in Quik are limited to a certain extent in comparison to the capabilities given by GoPro Studio. however, the desktop app comes with its own set of problems. The first one being that the desktop app, GoPro Studio threw the ‘Out of memory’ error a number of times even if I had sufficient RAM as well as storage on my system. The app flagged file format incompatible despite the file being straight out of the Hero5 Session. The company needs to improve its desktop apps.
Quik for Android seems to boast a large number of features in comparison to its desktop counterpart. The app has built-in templates where you only have to choose the videos and the title of the video. But one problem that I ran into during my testing was the fact that while using the mobile app, transferring an hour long 4K video would eat up mobile storage for editing and the output was low resolution despite enabling the export in full resolution option.
The app then presents you with different styles where transitions, design changes, text and music is already applied to the videos selected in the previous step. The user can change all aspects of the video right from the length of the video to the style, arrangement, music, font style, filters and other things. The company has a separate app, GoPro Capture to shoot, transfer and manage the videos to the smartphone though a hotspot connection.
The image quality from Session was not that amazing as one would expect from a standalone camera but considering the form factor and the mere fact that it is not supposed to be focused on taking stellar images. But still, to talk about the images, they lack detail and are grainy at best despite ideal lighting conditions. I was disappointed by the quality and hope that they can improve on it in future versions. Do check out the gallery attached below for photo and video samples from the device.
One thing to note is that the camera does come with a low light capture mode which essentially decreases the shutter speed of the camera while taking photos in that mode. In SuperView and Wide mode, the images have extreme distortion which is typical for GoPro cameras. The distortion in SuperView mode was distracting while Wide mode maintained a healthy ratio between distortion and the image as a whole. You need to shoot in Linear mode if you want to get rid of the image distortion but the mode simply crops the images to remove the distortions.
The video quality along with a number of options in terms of resolution and frame rates is great to have. With more practice and experimentation users will hit the sweet spot between shooting in decent quality while enabling longer shooting times. The video stabilisation of the camera is stellar and I was impressed by what a camera in such compact form factor could achieve. The performance of voice control is decent given there is not much background noise.
Despite the positives of the camera in terms of capabilities and form factor, battery life is horrible in GoPro Hero5 Session. Even after taking in account the form factor and how much processing this camera has to do, I could only get 1.5 hours or at most 2 hours of video recording from this camera while shooting in 1080p or 720p. When shooting in 4K, the battery life dropped to 1 hour. Another important thing to note is that it gets insanely hot while shooting 4K.
If you are shooting 4K, make sure you do that in a shade region because it becomes unbearable hot with temperatures reaching 45 degrees after shooting for 25 minutes. My unit stopped recording past 40 minutes and I had to wait for it to cool a bit before resuming the recording. The temperatures hovered around 39-40 degrees after shooting for 12-15 minutes in shade.
Hero5 Session uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone and both of them are big offenders in terms of battery drain. So if you are not connecting your device to your phone, it is better to turn off the Wireless mode.
Verdict: 7/10Pricing in India: Rs 29,500
Pricing in India: Rs 29,500
Even though the price point puts the GoPro Hero5 Session action camera in somewhat affordable range, the company needs to improve the battery life of the action camera. I did not have the action cameras offered by competition like Xiaomi and Nikon but regardless, the company is taking into account, the cheaper alternatives available in the market.
Apart from that, Hero5 Session is a stellar action camera with 4K recording for the someone looking to get a budget GoPro action camera. If you are an adventure fanatic, this action camera will definitely help you capture some unconventional footage, provided you buy the right accessories to go with it. It makes for a good investment if you are sold on the GoPro promise.