Above: GoPro 5 Session. And photobombing river bird.

An upgraded GoPro camera has been on my wish list for a while now. Why? Because I’m a fan boy, of course! But also because the transition to 4K/UHD production necessitates cameras that can capture footage at better-than-HD resolutions. I own two: a battered and bruised Hero2 that survived a mildly serious motorcycle crash and still works hard on a many of my shoots, and a Hero3+ (that the missus crash-tested on her bike) that can top 2.7K at 25fps. GoPro 4K at a full 25fps frame rate has therefore eluded me thus far.

Fortunately a recent project gave me the opportunity to acquire a new GoPro and I opted for a GoPro 5 Session. The most compact camera in the GoPro range, this little monster is just packed with features that I love.

GoPros have been a standard part of my regular equipment since the beginning. One is always charged up and ready in my camera bag. I shoot a lot of GoPro footage that never makes it into the final edit, but I always keep one running on a shoot somewhere. On more than one occasion I ended up filming a few seconds of GoPro footage that proved invaluable to a project. 

The Session has been around for a while and you can probably find loads of in-depth reviews online. My writeup is focused solely on the features that I find useful. Without checking I’ll guess that most gripes have been around limited battery time and the Session’s lack of a removable battery. However I don’t view this as a limitation as the Session has a very specific place in my shooting arsenal. Need to run a GoPro for extended periods? Then set up the older models and just swop batteries and SD cards. But if you need to film a few seconds of super crisp beauty shots with something that will fit in your back pocket, right there on the spot, then the Session is your go-to camera.

I put mine through its paces on recent kayaking holiday and I loved it. The camera itself will stand up to knocks and splashes without issues although I would rather look at a fully waterproof scuba case if I have to submerge mine in water for extended periods. I mounted mine on GoPro surfboard mounts permanently fixed to my kayak. The flexible arm that comes with the GoPro claw mount proved especially useful when I needed to mount it close to the cockpit but out of the way of my paddle.

There’s an (improved) app for that…

The Session has no viewfinder and your smartphone and the GoPro app will be essential to operate the camera. Personally I always hated the older versions of the GoPro Android app. Fortunately with its last update GoPro has really improved this. The camera and phone app connects easily and most importantly, STAYS connected. Random disconnections were a major source of irritation for me in the past. I was able to also switch between the GoPro app and my S7’s phone camera, something that in the past would have caused all kinds of problems. Shooting at 4K and Protune mode also no longer turns off the real time video display in the app as it did with older models, proving just how much more robust the connection between the Session and the new app is.

Above: want to grab one frame of awesomeness from your video? Then a) copy footage to phone b) select frame and c) send to mom

From the app you can change any of the camera settings as well as perform regular functions such as formatting memory cards. A super useful feature to me is the ability to now copy footage to your smartphone on the go and capture still frames from it, ready for Whatsapp or any other social media you might want to use. Simply copy the footage to your phone, and then from the app play the clip, choose a frame, adjust one frame left or right (by swiping) and save. Done! Crystal clear screen capture produced at 4K frame size that you can send to your mom on Whatsapp as soon as you have signal again.

Above: behold the clarity of UHD...one frame of video grabbed through the GoPro app (view full screen)

The Session charges from a USB port and this again is a feature that I feel makes the limited battery life less of an issue. Keep a USB power bank on hand for when you’re worried you’re going to run out of juice.  

Above: charge it from your USB phone charger or a power bank.

Anything I don’t like? Not much,  really. The tiny little display on top of the camera is rather useless and you are going to need a smartphone and the app to operate this properly, but you’re going to need that anyway. Perhaps the only issue is that because it is a smaller size than the “regular” GoPros, a few of your accessories won’t fit. I’ll have to invest in a flotation device if I want to take this on serious river paddling trips, and I can’t use it with my other frame mounts. But really the pros outweigh the cons for me with this one.

Edited footage coming soon to my YouTube channel. In the meantime check out www.gopro.com and more of my GoPro posts