GoPro Hero 5 Session review: Small but mighty, and now on offer

£249
Price when reviewed

DEAL ALERT: This nifty little camera is currently on offer at Argos. The price has come down from £199 to £129, saving you £70 off the RRP. You can claim the offer at this link. Also, with any purchase at Argos over £100, you currently get a free £10 voucher. 

Our original review continues below

Last year, GoPro went out on a limb with the GoPro Hero Session. It was the first time the company had overhauled its action camera chassis, and the first GoPro you could use in the wet without having to stick it in a case.

This year, the firm has applied the lessons learned in the production of the Session to the Hero5 Black, making it fully waterproof too, yet it has also found the time to update its baby action cam: enter the GoPro Hero 5 Session.

READ NEXT: Our Hero 5 Black review.

GoPro Hero 5 Session review: Build quality and features

The key upgrade is the move from Full HD last year to 4K capture this year, more on which later, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the design of the Session. It’s still cute and cube-shaped, weighs barely anything at 74g, and is much smaller than the Hero 5 Black, measuring 38 x 38 x 38mm in size.

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This year’s Session is still waterproof up to a depth of 10m, meaning you don’t need to worry about popping it in a case unless you plan on taking scuba diving. It’s also £100 cheaper.

The key difference between the Session and the Black in terms of its capabilities is that this Session lacks a colour LCD for framing and playback. Instead, you have a basic, monochrome LCD screen on top, which displays modes and status, while on-device controls are limited to physical buttons. On top is a dual-purpose power and shutter button, while a button dedicated to switching shooting modes can be found at the back of the chassis.

Another big difference between the Hero 5 Black and the Hero 5 Session is that the latter has a non-removable 1,000mAh battery, which limits its practicality for professional videographers. With no way to quickly swap out depleted batteries once you’ve run out of juice (more on this below), you’ll need to rely on a power bank if you want to keep on shooting, or buy two cameras, since a charge takes just over an hour.

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Thankfully, the Hero 5 Session has better battery life than its Hero 5 Black counterpart. Through stop/start footage, I was able to squeeze 1hr 40mins out of it with 40% battery remaining. The Hero 5 Black only managed 1hr 45mins in total.

Video is recorded to microSD, but you won’t find a bundled card within the packaging, and charging and data transfer takes place via a USB Type-C port. The camera supports up to 128GB cards, allowing you to save all your pictures and videos – depending on your storage needs – and you can find 32GB cards for as low as £10 on Amazon.

Thankfully, you do get a USB Type-C to USB cable in the box so you can charge up the camera, and there’s also a simple helmet mount supplied. You can supplement that with a range of optional mounts if you want to take it surfing or mountain biking.

GoPro Hero 5 Session review: Image and video quality

The Hero 5 Session is very easy to use. Pressing the shutter button at the top powers on the camera and allows you to start recording within seconds. If you press the button again, it will save your recording and then power off the camera to conserve battery life.

By pressing the mode button at the back, you can cycle between video and photo modes, and you’ll be able to see which setting you’re in alongside battery information and remaining storage on the LCD display. The new Session also supports the same set of basic voice controls as the Hero 5, allowing hands-free control over play and pause, mode switching and stills capture. Handy if you’re skiing and don’t want to take your hands out of your mittens.

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Because the Hero 5 Session doesn’t have a colour touchscreen, you’ll need to connect to it via the GoPro Capture app on your phone to change settings and review footage. I do like the Hero 5 Black’s touchscreen, but given the features found within GoPro’s suite of apps, the touchscreen isn’t a feature I missed all that much.

The Hero 5 Session’s best new feature is its ability to record 4K video at 30fps. It isn’t as capable as the Hero 5 Black, which offers 60fps 4K recording, but nevertheless the video quality is impressive. If you’re looking to achieve higher frame rates, you can drop down to 1440p at 60fps, 1080p at 90fps or even 720p at 120fps for those slow-mo video recordings. You can see a full breakdown of the modes on offer on GoPro’s website.

Videos are sharp and detailed, offering a significant step up over last year’s Hero 4 Session. This is in the main part due to the increased resolution, but also comes down to the improved video-recording bit rate, which is now up to 60Mbits/sec versus last year’s 25Mbits/sec Hero 4 Session.

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Just like the Hero 5 Black’s camera performance, I found the colour saturation a touch cold, and low-light performance was slightly problematic with noticeable image noise. Still images are captured at a resolution of 10 megapixels and colours were vibrant, but lack the detail of a good smartphone camera.

I also found images were underexposed compared with images taken on the Hero 5 Black, and the lack of RAW support means that fixing those images won’t be quite as successful either.

GoPro Hero 5 Session review: Verdict

It clearly has limitations compared with the Hero 5 Black, but the adorable Session packs one hell of a punch for such a tiny action camera. Its video quality is excellent, it’s waterproof and compact, and battery life is good. I also love the voice controls, and the app works beautifully for framing and playback.

However, while it is £100 cheaper than the Hero 5 Black, even better value is on offer via the still-on-sale Hero 4 Session. That remains a cracking camera, only lacking 4K support and voice controls, yet it’s a whole £100 cheaper.

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