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GoPro HERO4 Session for Skydiving

Posted by Mark Kirschenbaum on


(Photo from GoPro Bomb Squad Like them!)

Good

With its 1.5" cube form-factor and 50% smaller 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. Waterproof without an additional case is great for water based sports.  

Sleek wrist mount is perfect for Tandem Instructors using hand-cam.

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 using it as a primary camera or 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.

Verdict

We truly feel it's over priced for the quality of the camera. For the same cost, 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 out weigh 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.


In Depth

The newly released, streamlined, GoPro HERO4 Session finally breaks the standard rectangular form factor we have all gotten used to from GoPro Inc. This 1.5" inch cube will surely fly better and inherently result in less shake 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.

Automatically the camera will set "what is up" at the start of the video so you no longer have to set the camera's orientation manually.

 Usage

The GoPro HERO4 Session interface is now different. 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 by a small button on the rear of the camera. Pressing and holding the top button will switch to timelapse mode which will be nice for those photos on the plane or after landing. 

Spec's

With a $399 price tag, this waterproof camera is not cheap. In comparison, it cost 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 illustrates that the sensor and lens are sub par to the existing GoPro HERO4 product line. The GoPro HERO4 Session is basically a GoPro HERO3+ Silver in a new package, 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. 

Waterproof to 10m / Dual Mics

The body is waterproof to 33' / 10m 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 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 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 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 MTP (acts like a camera vs. a drive when connected to a computer), stand alone players will have a difficult time playing off of 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 our laptop will be our means to debrief footage off of this camera. 

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 gaffers before my first skydive. We foresee a bunch of manufacturers rushing to create new snag-less mounts for these cameras but honestly a few pieces of gaffers tape will be just fine. 

For those that 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. 

Thank you for reading this quick review. 

Here is how to mount this pretty camera

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