Your GoPro is not Dead! The gritty on the GoPro HERO5 for Skydiving

Posted by Mark Kirschenbaum on

Now that the dust has settled, lets really delve into the GoPro HERO5 Black & GoPro HERO5 Session and see what it gives to us skydivers.

GoPro HERO5 for Skydiving



Both the GoPro HERO5 Black ($399) and GoPro HERO5 Session ($299) are due out on October 2nd. Inventory levels looks good so we don't think you'll have a problem getting one quickly. 

The GoPro HERO5 Black is using the same image sensor as the GoPro HERO4 so you're not going to see a huge difference between the image quality. With that said, the image processor has been upgraded to the Ambarella a9se so you will see more features and better power consumption. The black is still 12MP (Megapixel) while the Session has gone up to 10MP from 8MP previously. The GoPro HERO5 Session is truly a leap ahead from the original GoPro Session. 

Here are the bullet points of the new GoPro HERO5 Black hardware:  

  • Smaller size / Now requires a frame exoskeleton.
  • "One button start" default. Mode button is on the side. 
  • Addition of an 2" LCD with a new, simpler user interface
  • Waterproof to 10M without a case
  • Stereo audio with 3 microphones
  • A gyro for stabilization calculations
  • GPS chip for logging
  • New replaceable battery, minor 60 mAh increase
  • and Voice Control which is a gimmick for us

Trying not to repeat the Session disaster, GoPro is obviously working on winning back their fan base. A $100 price drop for their flagship camera has taken everyone by surprise. The GoPro HERO5 Black is now affordable.

GoPro HERO5 Session

The GoPro HERO5 Session is now a true contender with 4K video, the tiny form factor, and a $299 price tag. The lack of an LCD makes the GoPro HERO5 Session not the simplest camera to setup on the fly. However, the WiFi interface allows for complete configurability and opens up all modes of operation. In all reality, most skydivers just setup their GoPros once and never touch it again.

The killer 4k specs, along with the improved low light performance, and a tiny form factor, puts this camera on the top of our radar. The shear ruggedness of the platform and it's awesome image stabilization, clinches our buy into this camera. I foresee the GoPro HERO5 Session to be the standard camera of the 2017 skydiving season. 

The major arguments against the HERO5 Session for skydivers, are the lack of an HDMI port and no swappable batteries. Alternative methods for debriefing exist, but it is nice to walk up to a TV, plug in, and just press play. Although, the battery will last even the longest day of jumping, skydivers forget about the charger once that beer light goes on! Being stingy with starting and stopping the camera helps a ton too because in all reality our jumps only last 60 seconds. 

Features Concerning Skydivers

Overall Imaging Specs Unlike the rumors, the GoPro HERO5 Black has the same modes of operation as the GoPro HERO4 Black 4k@30, 2K@60, 1080@120. The GoPro HERO5 Session surprised everyone with 4k@30, 1080@90 video. Honestly, I rarely shoot in 4k because I don't deliver to anything in 4k yet. 2.7k@60 is still perfect for YouTube, Vimeo, and even national news during records. Let's be honest, a ton of dz's are still shooting in 1080@30/60 and delivering at 720. We don't see this changing within the next few years until our NLE hardware and internet connections at DZs catch up.

Image Stabilization - Unfortunately, we've become accustom to "shaky head" syndrome on our videos. The HERO5 lineup has a gyro assisted, electronic image stabilization (EIS) which apparently takes your "Pk-son's" away when flying head up. Remember EIS is a crop technique but their patented method looses phenomenally less than other EIS systems we've seen. On the Sony cameras, the EIS also killed the bitrate. From what we've seen, this is not the case. Just a note that image stabilization is limited to 2.7K as it needs some of the sensor to "Crop."

Watch as skydiver, and Image Quality guru, Alex Cashman, talks about Image Stabilization

Linear FOV  This is an exciting new feature that automatically corrects the "fish-eye" look of the video during encoding. It's only available in the 16:9 aspect ratio modes and not in all frame rates. With that said, I look forward to shooting in this mode! 

PIV (Picture in Video)  Unfortunately, the GoPro HERO5 Black & GoPro HERO5 Session can only take one frame every 5 seconds while recording video. However, it should be stated, that a simple post processing script could take a frame grab 1x per second and have the same output. PIV mode literally does this on the camera. 

Photo Mode Raw / WDR  The GoPro HERO5 Black has added RAW photo capture and a new feature called Wide Dynamic Range (WDR). RAW capture takes the data straight off the sensor and writes it directly into a lossless file. Post processing will be necessary and fortunately the latest Adobe Lightroom 6.7 and CC 2015.7 support this new GoPro RAW format. Unfortunately, you can't shoot RAW in time-lapse (photo every second) mode yet. 

The WDR allows more detail to be resolved during difficult lighting conditions. At this time little is known about this feature.

USB-C / Lack of HeroBus®  We're surprised no one is talking about this, but it is a fairly big change. USB-C is now one more cable you'll have to keep in your kit. However, by definition, it will allow for more control and accessory options in the future. The Karma and Pro 3.5mm Mic Adapter connect via the USB-C. We suggest you buy a few extra USB-C cables to stash in your car and dropzone. I also put a white out dot on my cable since they are rather hard to pick out from the rest of the crowd. 

The removal of the HeroBus® takes no one by surprise. It's been around since the GoPro HERO HD. 

Required Frame  Even with the frame for the GoPro HERO5 Black, the complete setup is still smaller than the GoPro HERO4 form factor. Basically all skydivers will be using the camera with the frame or a 3rd party capture option like ours

Battery Life  Not much has been said about battery life, but with the sealed waterproof body, we can infer the camera generates less heat to prevent thermal runoff. Therefore, I anticipate slightly better battery life than the HERO4 even with the onboard GPS and Gyro. 

GPS (HERO5 Black only) This track allows for speed, acceleration, altitude, and distance overlays. GoPro Capture for the desktop allows you to add cool widgets based upon this GPS information. 


If you have a GoPro HERO4, and are not seeing much shake in your videos, I see no reason to upgrade. Heck, the HERO3(+) Blacks are still stellar cameras.

We feel the GoPro HERO5 Session is a must have for B-Roll and people wanting to get an additional awesome shot. It's perfect for a foot and hand-cam and small enough to throw in your bag to use on a whim. I personally just gaffer tape or zip-tie mine all the time in a flash; it's that small! With all this awesomeness, the lack of HDMI, and a removable battery, makes this not a great primary camera. However, if I was to buy a camera as a fun jumper, it would be the GoPro HERO5 Session.

The GoPro HERO5 Black is an excellent new platform. The Image Stabilization, RAW, 60Mbps and linear FOV is what sells me on this camera. Of course we're going to get one for testing, but with the same imaging specs as the GoPro HERO4, I wouldn't run out to buy one if I already owned a GoPro HERO4. 

Trunk's other insights for those who care

Cinema & Professional Solutions  The GoPro HERO4 Black will remain the de facto camera for this market space for a sometime going forward. With the recent addition of timecode, multi-cam, and broadcast 3rd party solutions, we don't see the GoPro HERO4 going away quickly. The cinema market doesn't gain much from the GoPro HERO5 release and they are already tooled for the older form factor. They tend to turn off all image processing found on the camera and perform it in post anyway. 

Multicam  With the lack of a HEROBus® and not much movement on the GoPro Odyssey and GoPro Omni fronts, we do not foresee them releasing a genlock method for the GoPro HERO5 quickly. In fact, other than bitrate, the quality hasn't changed much. These arrays are not out of date. In the future, GoPro Inc. can use the additional pins on the USB-C port to provide V&H Syncs, but not expecting this any time soon.

3rd Party Devices  We never did sign up for the Developer Program, but seems like GoPro Inc. likes to keep parts of the API to underwraps. With that said, be on the look out for Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) solutions to come your way. We expect telemetry and biometric options in the next few weeks. For instance, Polar's heart rate solution has been overdue for a months now. 

GoPro Plus  The new, pay-per-month, media storage service has been in the works for years and is finally coming to fruition. With this, we hope the GoPro HERO5 will allow you to join your own wireless network SSID for control and preview. Connecting to an Ad-Hoc network has always been annoying. We foresee a slight modification to the internal json file to allow your camera to automatically upload to your personal server. 

Thank you for listening,

If this article has been helpful please support Hypoxic for all your photography needs. We look forward to designing more awesome products for human flight! 

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

Hypoxic Products