GoPro Session Review

The Ultimate GoPro Session Hero 4 Review

Travis GneitingReviews, Uncategorized


We reviewed the GoPro Hero4 Session from every angle to help you decide if the new lower price point matches it’s limited camera functionality, and lesser image and video quality. At a $199 price point, plus the new form factor, we still believe the GoPro Session to have a viable place in the action camera space. It still records great video for the average user. It’s so small it’s easy to take with you everywhere. However, if you are looking to get the best quality, and are willing to spend a lot more we suggest looking at the Hero4 Black.

We have been testing and reviewing the GoPro Hero4 Session for about 2 months now. It took some getting use to, both the new form factor as well as the on camera navigation.

As a disclosure, we were sent the reviewed Session directly from GoPro to try out and base our review on. Having received this review camera from GoPro will in no way affect our opinion or review of the product.

The Good

The new form factor, and huge price cut are the two main reasons you should buy this camera.

It’s super fast to navigate through the simplified and filtered menu. And we really like the one touch button pick for starting and stopping recording.

The Bad

With the new session, you are limited to video, or burst photo mode. You need a phone, or the GoPro remote control to change the GoPro to a single photo capture.

You will find yourself getting frustrated if you have owned a recent GoPro in the past, the features and functions you expect to see aren’t there.

The Verdict

The GoPro Session is really for the first time GoPro user on a budget. The form factor isn’t small enough to make a huge difference in and recording scenarios we used the camera for. The image quality is good, but not Amazing. But for $199 it’s a really good option.

1. Unboxing

The GoPro packaging for the GoPro Hero4 Session looks pretty much like all other recent GoPro boxes we have seen in the past. It has the little plastic top with the GoPro mounted, the sticky tape around the outside to remove, and the typical extreme photos on the front as well as stats and features wrapped around the box.

Opening the box there is a divider inside with two compartments filled with GoPro Mounts, Frames, Charging, Cable, General Instruction and Warranty material, and of course stickers.


  • GoPro Session Review Box Front
  • GoPro Session Review Box Front
  • GoPro Session Review Box RIght
  • GoPro Session Review Box RIght
  • GoPro Session Review Box RIght
  • GoPro Session Review Box RIght

If you have every unpackaged a GoPro before you know they can be a bit difficult. The packaging for the GoPro Hero4 Session is basically the same as previous GoPro packaging like the Hero3, Hero3+ and Hero4. The box is a little more narrow that previous GoPro boxes, but the same height and width. There is an outer sleeve that contains the majority of the camera specifications as well as some “extreme” looking photos to get you hyped up to use your new GoPro. There are two plastic circle stickers on the sides of the box attaching the sleeve to the top plastic.

Packed inside you will first find the condensed instruction manual and warranty information, as well as a couple GoPro stickers.

Under the first flap that contains the paper materials, reveals the mounts, clips, screws, charging cables and adhesive attachments.


Opening a GoPro packing for the first time can be a little confusing. Currently, most GoPro packaging comprises of a cardboard bottom sleeve, inner box and a hard clear plastic top. To unpack the Hero4 Session, first break the seal on the two circle clear stickers on the side of the box. This will release the specification sleeve. Once the sleeve is removed, there is a long plastic tape that runs around the entire plastic top, connecting it to the bottom cardboard box. Just pull the tap and the plastic top will separate from the box revealing the GoPro.

The GoPro Hero4 Session is attached to a base plate that is stuck to the top of the cardboard box with 4 adhesive points. To remove the GoPro unscrew the frame from the mount, there is also a small plastic lever that can be discarded that keeps the Session from rotating in the packing. Also, it can be removed by squeezing the tabs of the mount and sliding it off the box mount.

The GoPro is attached to the inside with a quick release and a base plate that can be removed with some work to use as an additional mount, so hang onto it. It’s great for placing on flat surfaces like a desk top to film with.

Opening up the inside of the box reveals the quick start guide, warranty information, and stickers. Under the paperwork are two separate compartments that hold all the mounts, frames, screws, cables etc.

Everything Inside

Inside the box includes the Hero4 GoPro Session Camera. There are two frames for the camera that are included. One has the mounting for the back of the camera, that is great for mounting the camera out in front of objects, or nested mounting. The other frame is the standard frame, which is used to mount the GoPro Session from the bottom. This is great for flat mounting, or side mounting. Also included is a curved offset mount, and a flat mount used that work with both frames. The offset mount provides a bit of a nested feel while the other stands the Session up higher off an object like a helmet or handle bar. There are two adhesive mounts, one curved which is perfect for a helmet and another was flat for flat objects. New for GoPro’s is the Ball Joint buckle. It provides stiff resistance to a ball joint that allows for about 15 degrees of angle and 360 degrees of rotation for the camera mount.

  • GoPro Hero4 Session
  • Horizontal Mounting Frame
  • Vertical Mounting Frame
  • Ball Joint buckle
  • Nested buckle
  • Standard buckle (display mounting buckle)
  • 1 thumb screw
  • Charging Cable
  • Vibration dampener
  • 2 GoPro Stickers
  • Quick start guide
  • “Important” Product + Safety Information

What’s Not Included

It’s worth pointing out that a battery is not included like with previous models of GoPro’s, that is because the battery is self contained inside the GoPro Session and is not designed to be removed.

Also, a microSD card is not included with the GoPro Session, so be sure to pick one up before planning to go out and use your new Session camera.

Lastly, only the general mounts are included. Some of the fancy mounts you may like to use are not included in the box.

2. Size & Weight

The Session is currently the lightest and smallest GoPro ever released. This has attracted a lot of attention to this new camera. And with the new $199 price tag, it has become a real contender for that price point.

GoPro Session Size

The Hero4 Session measures almost perfectly square at 38mm tall, 38mm wide, and 36.4mm deep. This in contrast to the GoPro Hero4 which is 41mm tall, 59mm wide, and 29.6mm deep, without the case, and 71.3mm tall, 71.1mm wide, and 39mm with the housing.

Claimed size without case: 38mm x 38mm x 36.4mm
Actual size without case: 38mm x 38mm x 36.4mm

Size with Case: 44.6mm x 44.5mm x 36.4mm

GoPro Session Weight

The camera weighs just 2.6oz, 74g, or 0.163lbs. It is very light weight, we used it on the end of a GoPole and found that it’s so light that it’s a little harder to hold steady that the GoPro Hero 3 or 4. That is in contrast to the of the Hero4 that weighs 3.1oz, 89g or 0.196lbs.

Claimed Weight: 2.6 oz
Actual Weight: 2.6 oz
With Case: 3.1 oz

3. Price

When the GoPro Session was announced on July 6, 2015 and later for sale on July 12, 2015 ( it’s MSRP was $399.99.

Later in the year, GoPro reduced the price to what they claimed was what they though was the “Sweet Spot” to $299 ( Apperntly, that wasn’t the sweet spot because just a few months later in December the price was again lowered to $199 which they claim in almost the same veriabage the this is the “Sweet Spot” (

We believe the price will remain at $199 and the next iteration will likely be along the lines of $399 again, and hopefully have the specs to match the price point.

4. Quick Start Guide

A great feature to the GoPro Session is it’s simplicity of use. It’s a camera I could hand to by mother and ask her to film something without much instruction. After a few guesses she would identify that the red circle button starts recording when pushed. Also, when the red circle button is pressed while recording. It is stopped. Pretty simple, I wouldn’t however ask much more from her. The simplicity of the Session can’t be overlooked, and should be identified as one of the strong features of the video camera.

If your camera doesn’t not start recording when you have it out of the box chances are that the battery is not charged. Simply connect the goPro to a computer with the USB cable plugged into the computer and the micro-USB connected to the camera just above the microSD card slot.

*[Helpful Hint] There are some USB ports that will not charge the GoPro session, if the first one you try on your computer doesn’t light up the charging status lights, try another USB port on your computer.

*[Helpful Hint] When storing or packing the camera around rotate the camera so the record button is upside down. This will prevent the recording button from being accidently pressed.

*[Helpful Hint] To prevent marks on the camera leave the latch on the frame open.

4a. Inserting microSD

The first time we opened the flap and tried to insert the microSD card we had some trouble. Here are a couple tips when inserting the microSD card into the camera.

  • The card should be facing upside down, with the metallic strips pointing up
  • Insert the card at a downward angle
  • Use a fingernail or small object to press the SD card completely into the slot until you feel it latch in.

4b. Charging the GoPro

The battery is integrated into the camera and cannot be removed. Charging the battery is pretty straight forward. A micro usb is hidden under the door on the side of the camera. It can be accessed inside or outside the frame. Included with the GoPro is a short USB to micro usb designed to be used with a computer. The Session is the first GoPro that uses the more common micro USB. We finally get to let go of the Mini USB cables!

Typical laptop USB 2 and USB 3 can deliver 5V. USB 2 delivers around 500mA while USB 3 can deliver 900mA. Any phone charger can work, some deliver less mA and may charge slower. Additionally, a higher power charger can damage your Session.*

With our testing, charging from a computer and phone charger it took about an hour and a half to completely charge the camera. When the camera is attached to a charger, the front and back red light turn on. When the camera is charged, the red light turns off.

In comparison to previous GoPro cameras and removable batteries, it may require some additional planning. You may need to pack a portable power pack, or be more conservative in your recording. While the loop feature is a nice way to just keep the camera running, it can quickly run down a battery. The quick power on and record feature of the Session helps to save some battery by instantly turning on and shutting off when not in use, but still more enficase needs to be placed on preserving battery on longer filming.

*GoPro states that you should not use any charger that delivers more than 5V 1A can damage your Hero Session.

4c. Video Recording and Photos

If you are just looking to get started quickly, make sure you have followed the steps above, and have an microSD card inserted into the camera, as well as making sure the camera is charged. Then simply push the button on top with the red circle on it, wait about 4 seconds, the camera will turn itself on and start recording. To stop recording, just push that same button again.

If you want to take pictures right out of the box, your only option (without the remote control, or a phone connected to the GoPro) is to use the time lapse feature. To start the time lapse taking pictures, hold down the button on top with the red circle on it for about 5 seconds. Time will be displayed with the photo mega pixel as well as field of view, total seconds, and seconds remaining.

5. GoPro Hero 4 Session Use and Menus

The session is very simple to use, however there are a few gotchas that are helpful to know about before beginning. The red button on top is used to start and stop recording video with one push to start (audible chime will sound when recording starts, usually about 4 seconds after the button is pushed) and push again to stop recording (also the audible sound will indicate that recording has stopped.) One frustrating issue we found right away was the lag when pushing buttons. It seems to take a lot longer than expected for the camera to respond to these presses, so be patient as you are starting to use the Session.

Buttons – There are only two buttons on the Hero Session, the record/photo button on top and the small menu button on the back bottom. Additionally, there is a lever to open the latch that hides the microSD card as well as the charging plug.

Audio – Audiophile might be excited to know there are two microphones on the Hero Session. One forward facing and one rear facing. According to GoPro, these are “smart microphones” that are not only waterproof, but also can turn on and off as they become distorted by wind or other interruptions. This is often a feature overlooked when comparing the GoPro Hero4 Session to the GoPro Hero 4.

5a. How to Record Basic Video Recording

Additionally, while recording the menu button on the back of the camera can be used to tag

-How to Start Recording
1. Top (Power/Record Button) (4.5 Seconds to start recording after pushed) – Displays FPS, View Angle, flash back and forth.

-How to Stop Recording
1 Push while recording will strop recording (Almost immeditly stops recording) – Then displays the Video Number

-How to tag a Highlight
Highlighting a video is a great way to save time when editing. GoPro Studio allows you to see where these highlights are in the video timeline. This can save a lot of time when cutting and splicing a lot of video on your cutting room floor, and a great feature we fell in love with. Right before heading off to try some crazy stunt, we could reach up on our helmet and feel for the menu button and click it once to know our video would be flagged. We also used it as we were filming on hikes in the mountains to capture interesting items.

5b. How to capture time lapse photos

Additionally, while recording the menu button on the back of the camera can be used to tag

-How to Start Recording
1. Top (Power/Record Button) (4.5 Seconds to start recording after pushed) – Displays FPS, View Angle, flash back and forth.

-How to Stop Recording
1 Push while recording will strop recording (Almost immeditly stops recording) – Then displays the Video Number

-How to tag a Highlight
Highlighting a video is a great way to save time when editing. GoPro Studio allows you to see where these highlights are in the video timeline. This can save a lot of time when cutting and splicing a lot of video on your cutting room floor, and a great feature we fell in love with. Right before heading off to try some crazy stunt, we could reach up on our helmet and feel for the menu button and click it once to know our video would be flagged. We also used it as we were filming on hikes in the mountains to capture interesting items.

5c. How to capture other Video types

There are many other options for video capture, time lapse photos, different frame rates, metering, etc all need to be changed through the mobile application. Once connected the settings are very easy to change, however it does take some patience to get the GoPro and phone or tablet connected for the first time.

6. Battery

When we unboxed the GoPro Hero4 Session for the first time, the battery was charged to about 80%. It only took about 20 minutes to charge the battery completely. The battery in the Session is a lithium-ion battery. The battery is rated at 1000mAh, 3.8V, 3.23Wh. It is not removable, or replaceable. It is sealed in the GoPro unit.
The chart below indicates the approximate continuous recording time (hr:min) you can expect when shooting in various video modes using a fully charged battery.

6a. Battery Run Time

Below is a list taken from GoPro’s website on the estimated run time with various uses and features of the camera. We have found them in our personal testing to be fairly accurate, and good guidelines to go by.

6b. Battery Run Time Chart

Wi-Fi Off Wi-Fi On + Wi-Fi Remote Wi-Fi On + GoPro App

1440p30 fps 1:55 1:45 1:35
1080p60 fps 1:45 1:35 1:30
1080p48 fps 1:50 1:40 1:30
1080p30 fps 2:05 2:00 1:45
720p100 fps 1:50 1:45 1:35

6c. Battery Charging

When the battery is completely drained a message “Battery Empty” will be displayed if you try to record. The unit will then shut off and not turn back on or display the message again.

As a word of caution, the instruction manual has very specific instructions not to use chargers with a higher than 5V 1A charger, and to use the USB cable that is included with the camera when charging from a computer to avoid damaging the battery or GoPro itself.

7. GoPro Mounts, Cases & Frames

  • DSC_0213
  • GoPro Session Ball Mount
  • GoPro Session Mounts Compaired
  • GoPro Session Mounts Compaired
  • GoPro Session Mounts Compaired
  • GoPro Session Frame Compaired
  • GoPro Session Frame Compaired

In the box is included 2 mounts plus the one the GoPro is mounted on in the packaging for a total of 3. The packaging mount is basically the same mount you are use to with previously released GoPro’s. The other two are a little newer. The vibration reduction clip (nose plug looking thing) is now built into the mount. It’s also now black and not white.

Another thing to love about the new mounts is the cap screw has been flattened out and glued into place. We were always losing these, or stripping them out on the previous mounts. Time will tell if these will hold up, but for now we like the improvement.

There are basically 3 ways to mount the camera, Horizontal, Side, and Vertical. Utilizing the Vertical mount buckle, ball joint buckle you can achieve any of these positioning.

*[Helpful Hint] If you mount your GoPro upside down, the camera will automatically change the orientation of your image to face the correct way. If you for some weird reason want to film upside down, simply start recording, then orient the camera upside down. Once the camera is recording it will not auto correct orientation.

The Session comes with 2 frames one for mounting from the bottom and one for mounting from the top. One feature we really liked with the new frame is the lanyard or tether attachment points. There have been more than one time we have see GoPro’s come off helmets and bikes. Now there is a little recessed loops that can allow you to attach a tether to the frame just in case the mount fails.

The frames closes similar to other GoPro frames with a snap in place latch.

The camera should only be mounted in the forward facing direction of the frame. There is a little ridge inside the frame that catches the camera as it’s seated in the frame. If you mount the camera backwards in the frame there is a chance it could wiggle itself out, though highly unlikely. Because the camera is not a perfect cube, mounting the GoPro sideways in the frame will not work.

The back or side mount frame has a cutout in the back as well to allow the microphone to be unobstructed by the frame.

Bottom Frame Mounts

There are two frames that come with the GoPro session. The bottom mounted frame is great for mounting the gopro on top of stuff when it doesn’t matter if it’s sticking up or not concealed away. One thing I love about the new frames is the built in wire to tether the frame and GoPro to another object just in case it breaks away. The frame closes with a simple single clasp that is pulled down. It opens in the same way but pulling up on the clasp. There are large openings in the frame to allow for access to the record button and screen from any angle the camera is placed in the frame. It’s also worth noting again, that the session is self aligning. So if you put the Session in sideways or upside down it will start filming as though it were right side up. If you desire to record from upside down, or sideways you first need to start recording, then rotate the camera.

Back Frame Mounts

The back mounted frame is great for concealing the GoPro up against an object. However it does limit the rotation and adjustment but does provide a more compact recording case. The back mount has a cut out for the rear microphone so that it not obstructed by the case. It also, like the bottom mounted case has cutouts on all sides for accessing the record button and screen as well as the SD card (although this is kind of difficult to access with the case on). The clasp is identical to the bottom mounted closure.

Adhesive Mounts

Nothing has changed with the adhesive mounts for the Session mounts. They still use 3M VHB ( (Very High Bond) (™) super sticky tape to attach either the supplied curved mount, or flat mount

9. Video

The video settings are very frustrating if you are use to previous models of the GoPro. They are limited and stripped down functionality (Although more functionality and settings are available with the remote control or connected to a smartphone). We tried to justify this by saying we always have our phone with us, but we don’t. Especially when in the water, I’m almost positive we will see these capture settings in the future with updates to the Session, and with newer models to com later this year.

Without a phone or remote control connected to the GoPro you can only select video capture or time lapse photo.

The other capture setting settings that are available with the GoPro app installed on a phone are:

Video Recording
Looping VIdeo
Single Photo
Time Lapse Photo
Burst Photo

Some of the ways that the GoPro Session is suppose to shine is with it’s low light and under water capabilities. The real benefit is not having to worry about the extra housing, and GoPro realized this with the new release of the GoPro Hero 5 now loosing the housing as well.


10. Photo

The camera takes 8MP photos and will take them in 10 FPS burst. The new GoPro Hero5 Session takes 10MP Photos and will do 30 FPS burst. The photos have the classic GoPro fish eye look to them, and the under saturated look, but with a little post production work, they look pretty good considering the device they are coming from.

Again, the photo quality far surpasses any other camera in it’s category for size and function. Low light photos still get grainy and noisy, but again far better then other cameras in the same category.

11. Audio

The photo quality of the gopro.

(Modes, Types, Settings, Day/Night, UnderWater)


12. How to Connect your GoPro to Other Devices

12a. How to Connect your GoPro Session to an Android or IPhone

To pair the camera up with your phone for the first time,

Push the menu button on the back of the GoPro
Continue pressing until you see “APP”

*[Helpful Hint] If you use your phone to change a setting, it will be remembered the next time you use it. This avoids having to always have a phone with you when wanting to change settings. However, you will need a phone (or GoPro remote control) to initiate the change.

12b. How to Connect your GoPro Session to the GoPro Remote

(Connecting, Files, Phone/Computer)

Press the info/wireless button
Press two more times until “Select Control RC” appears and press Shutter/Select button
You should see “Paring” with a flashing time count down on the menu.
On the Remote Control push the “Mode” button once to connect

-Connecting after you have already paired
Press the info/wireless button
Press the Shutter/Select button (Blue light should start flashing)

12c. How to Connect your GoPro Session to a Computer or Laptop

To connect your GoPro Session to your desktop computer or laptop computer, use a USB cable.

12d. How to use the App and Remote once connected

To connect your GoPro Session to your desktop computer or laptop computer, use a USB cable.

15. SD Cards

The GoPro Hero4 Session camera can only take up to a 64GB microSD card. With SD cards so cheap now, we wish that we could use larger. Currently, you can pick up a 128GB microSD card on Amazon for around $40 that meets the GoPro Session requirements. Those requirements are that the memory card is rated at least a Class 10, or has a UHS-I rating.

18. GoPro and Other Accessories

18. Other Accessories

The GoPro 3 Way:

The Remote Control

The Floating Handle

The Handlebar Mount

The Jaws Flex Clamp

16. GoPro Studio

17. GoPro Files and File Types

18. Upgrade

When the Session was released it came with firmware version.

A new release of

19. Older GoPro Models

It’s worth pointing out the history of GoPro camera and looking into the future of what we can expect to see from the POV Camera.

2005 GoPro Hero 35mm, all season sports camera
2006 Digital Hero
2007 Digital Hero 3
2008 Digital Hero 5 & Digital Hero Wide
2010 HD Hero
2012 Hero3
2013 Hero3+
2014 Hero4
2015 Hero4 Session

  HERO4 Session  HERO4 Black  HERO4 Silver  HERO+
Max Video Resolution


4K (UHD) 2160/30p

4K (UHD) 2160/15p

Photo Resolution 3264 x 2448 4000 x 3000 4000 x 3000  3264 x 2448
 Waterproof (without a housing) Yes  No  No No
 Max Still Burst 10 fps 30 fps 10 fps 5 fps
 Weight 74 g 152 g 147 g 123 g
 Street price $200 $500 $400 $200

20. What’s next from GoPro

As you may have heard, for 2016 GoPro is planning on announcing a few new products. We will likely see the highly anticipated KARMA quadcopter drone. Our guess is that it will include a GoPro with the drone, and have some sort of following capability like the AirDog ( Additionally, we suspect that KARMA will be in the $1500 price range.

Also, in recent interviews Nick Woodman has hinted that we will be seeing a new version of the GoPro Hero4 Session in the second part of 2016. Maybe the GoPro Hero4 Session+ or the Session 2, or GoPro Hero5 Session? Not sure what they will call this new version of the session. Woodman has also hinted that GoPro’s going forward will follow the Session form factor.

We will likely see added feature, and capabilities of the new Hero4 Session when released. Our speculation would be that it will include 4K recording, with additional frame rate options, as well as better on camera navigation.

21. Advice on Buying a GoPro


22. Making the Most of your GoPro Purchase

So after you buy your GoPro, you soon realize that you won’t be jumping off any buildings, Hucking huge cliffs in the backcountry, Ice climbing, or landing that triple backflip. So what are you going to use your GoPro session for? Here are some ideas for making the most out of your GoPro purchase.

-Make your own mounts
Get creative, one of the most increadiable things about the GoPro Session is it’s mounting options. Not only does GoPro offer a bundle of mounts, it’s very rewarding to build your own. Do it yourself (DIY) mounts are fun to make, just grab some PVC pipe from your local hardware store, fashion your own gymbal, strap it to your dog.

-Take it swimming
One of the most underutilized features of the GoPro is the use of it in water. It’s hard to think back when we had video cameras that had to stay away from any moisture, or required a huge housing just to take it in the water. Think about the mounting options, surfing, wakeboarding, kids running through sprinklers, run it through a car wash, film yourself taking a drink of water from inside the cup, or from inside your mount (if you have an abnoramlly large mouth). Even stick it in a dishwasher, or washing machine…

-Edit It
Once you start stacking a lot of footage, you will quickly start running out of room on SD cards, hard drives, and cloud storage. So you have to do something with it. Get editing that footage. It’s no good on your computer, plus your friends aren’t going to enjoy 14 hours of you cruzing around the skate park on a scooter.

GoPro Studio is a great post production software suite, and it’s free. Having used Adobe Premier and Final Cut Pro in the past, it’s refreshing to have a quick fast way of cutting clips, doing a little color correction, and adding some music and titles.

-Share It
Become an internet sensation, make millions on Youtube, or just post to Facebook for your friends to like. Videos are best when shared. We know your edit might not be the next million view viral sensation, but there is always a chance.

-Organizing your content
One problem when always carrying our GoPro with us is that we end up with a lot of footage. Video footage can stack up, but time lapse photos can really stack up. Choose a way to organize you photos.

We choose to organize ours by year and month. That’s just what works for us. We can usually remember around when the photos and videos were taken so we can find them. Trying to tag them, or categorized them just got too messy. Our advice is to just come up with a method that works for you and stick to it.

Keep coming up with new ideas, new mouting options, new field of views.

23. Final Conclusion