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GoPro Whittles Down Hero4 Action Cam

By John P. Mello Jr.
Jul 6, 2015 3:34 PM PT
gopro-hero4-session

GoPro on Monday announced the Hero4 Session, a 1-inch cube video camera that weighs just 2.6 ounces -- less than half the heft of an iPhone.

Unlike previous GoPro models, you won't need a case to protect it from getting wet. It's designed to withstand a soaking in up to 10 meters of water.

However, while the camera is light in weight, it's also light on features -- and if you decide to buy it, it'll lighten your wallet.

At US$400, "I think the price is fairly steep," said Chris Chute, a digital imaging analyst with IDC.

"I'm surprised ... at that price point. I would have thought it would have been priced slightly lower, although GoPro can sustain a higher price point because its brand equity is so strong," he told TechNewsWorld.

"It's essentially the same price as a GoPro Silver, which has better specs," noted Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

Easier to Use

Some features absent from Session are 4K recording, a replaceable or swappable battery, and higher frame-recording rates.

Absence of 4K recording isn't likely to blunt sales of the new GoPro too badly, according to IDC's Chute.

"4K is slowly becoming relevant to consumers, but it's still very niche," he said, "so I don't think this is going to hurt this model."

Frame rates for the new unit are 30 fps for 1440p, and 60 fps for 1080p. Other Hero models have faster frame rates that let a shooter capture super-slow motion video at the camera's maximum resolution. The unit can capture 8-MP still images in single shot, burst or time-lapse mode.

Session is easier to use than other Hero models. For instance, it has single buttons for powering on/start recording and for power off/stop recording. The unit automatically rotates images to accommodate the orientation of the camera.

It has a dual microphone system, so if the front mic senses too much wind, for instance, the Session will switch to a rear-facing mic that's shielded from the wind. Underwater sound recording also has been improved.

Most Convenient GoPro Yet

A small LCD screen on top of the unit displays a minimum of information -- mode, battery life and connection status -- so settings need to be managed from GoPro's smartphone app.

Included with Session are GoPro's standard and low-profile frame mounts for increased mounting versatility, and a new ball joint buckle mount.

"With Hero4 Session, we challenged ourselves to produce the smallest, lightest, most convenient GoPro possible," said Nicholas Woodman, GoPro founder and CEO. "Hero4 Session combines the best of our engineering and user-experience know-how to deliver our most convenient life-capture solution, yet."

Drone Cam?

What kind of audience is Session likely to attract?

"It's essentially aimed at GoPro's existing target customer," Reticle's Rubin told TechNewsWorld. "It still focuses on sports enthusiasts looking to capture their extreme feats."

Nevertheless, the market for Session-like cameras is likely to expand.

"I suspect we'll start to see more and more of these types of cameras as time goes on," Chute predicted, "even to the point where if you buy a camera that's not in a phone, it's going to be this size and shape because it's so convenient."

One area where Session could gain some popularity is among drone users, suggested Andrew Amato, editor-in-chief of Dronelife.com.

"GoPros are frequently used on drones, and a lighter camera would mean a lighter payload, which could extend flight times -- a constant pain point for drone pilots," he pointed out.

"But the truth is, it's becoming more and more common for drone manufacturers to develop their own -- and sometimes superior -- cameras," Amato told TechNewsWorld.

It's doubtful Session will make much of an impact in the drone market, said Jaron Schneider, managing editor of Resource Magazine online.

"The Session doesn't really 'replace' the Hero4, which shoots 4K, because the Hero4 isn't really heavy by any means," he told TechNewsWorld.

"Sure, the Session is smaller," Schneider continued, "but the original was never really a problem for drone enthusiasts as it is."


John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.


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How do you feel about flying on a pilotless plane?
No way -- if there's a screw-up, you can't just jump out.
I'd do it -- flights are pretty much entirely automated anyway.
I'm skeptical but open minded, especially if fares would be much less.
I would try it if there were *someone* on board to take over in a pinch.
It's the wave of the future -- I'm resigned to it.