The temperature is plummeting and the slopes are blanketed in a beautiful white powder. Whether you snowboard or ski, it is worth trying to capture the fun on a digital camcorder and we’ve just taken the HERO4 Session for an icy spin.
GoPro needs little introduction, having taken over the digital camcorder scene with the same gusto as the many extreme athletes who helped make the camera famous. To date, each evolution of the device has followed a similar footprint, but the just released HERO4 Session is a vastly different beast.
What's trending on the slopes this year?
Only a glance is required to know this is a bold new direction for GoPro. The small black cube with the one big button on top looks childishly simplistic, but that is the point. Ease of use is a big focus for the H4 Session, and its simple tap to start, tap to end, hold to take a still photo instruction manual isn’t going to flummox anyone. For a detailed write-up of the specification for the GoPro, read our features review here.
One question you may be asking yourself is whether this is the best action sports camera to take with you to the snow, where it’s wet, cold and it’s going to get banged around a lot. finder.com.au was lucky enough to escape down to Perisher in New South Wales this past week to take the HERO4 Session on a test run, and we think it’s an excellent choice for you winter exploits. Here’s ten reasons why;
1. No waterproof housing? No worries
It’s waterproof straight out of the packet. Unlike the other GoPro devices, the HERO4 Session needs no case to survive the elements. In fact, it’s capable of going 10m below sea level, far beyond anything it’s likely to experience on the slopes. Snow brushed straight off it without hassle, and you couldn’t fog the lens no matter how hard you tried.
2. Ski-gear friendly
It’s got a far lower profile than the other digital camcorders out there, and new mounting options allow it to get even closer to your body or equipment. I found this quite the blessing when moving my bulky ski clothing and kit around the device when it was mounted. The rounded edges and sleek design don’t catch on bulky jackets, and I could still wear a head mount without it disrupting my beanie or goggles.
3. Keep those gloves on
You can operate the GoPro HERO4 Session with gloves or cumbersome mittens with ease. It was a concern when I first set out up the hill as I was wearing the fingerless mittens, but it was stupidly easy to start and stop the camera without freeing my hands from their warm embrace. A huge plus if you ask me!
4. Durable is an understatement
Despite being tipped off that the GoPro HERO4 Session could survive a blow from a golf club, I was worried that, without a case to protect it, it would be vulnerable to damage - instead it held up impressively. I had a number of big crashes - with the camera either mounted in a high impact zone or in my hand – and frequently on hard ice, too. I also collected a couple of rocks and banged it on chairlifts and other patrons. After a solid few days of such activity I can honestly say it looks brand new; the device is complete unscathed.
5. Despite its standard image quality, it still takes stunning footage
The image quality is excellent. The visuals don’t quite go to the extremes of the HERO4 Black (the premium model with 4K), but I happily filmed at 1080p 60 frames per second and the footage looks incredible. It’s worth noting that the weather was stunning during the entire trip – all blue skies and no clouds - so light was great, but you can’t deny how crisp it looks.
6. No case + Dual mic system = unrivalled audio
Its sound capture is impressive, too. It benefits greatly from having no case, as the audio is not muffled like other camcorders. The GoPro HERO4 Session has front and back microphones, with the hardware intelligently moving from one to the other if it’s getting the better recording (say, due to wind resistance). You can clearly pick up the sounds of my board scything through powder drifts and skipping over ice. Shouted comments like “get out of my way” came through no problems at all, and you can hear the air rush from my lungs every time I slam into the ice.
7. The Session’s self-regulated battery is prepared for the cold mountain air
Cold air is famous for impacting battery life, and it doesn’t get colder than the snow. While I am sure the HERO4 Session didn’t go as far as it would on a nice summer’s day, I still got a good four hours of slope time in with a lot of filming - this was enough to get me through to lunch where I could give it a top up. As soon as you’re not recording, the HERO4 Session turns off and burns no juice, which elongates its usefulness considerably. ProTip: Make sure you deactivate Wi-Fi before hitting the slopes, as this will drain the battery even when it is off. You can also keep the GoPro in a warm pocket when hanging out in queues or on lifts to reduced cold drain.
8. Freedom to experiment
There are dozens of mounts now available for the GoPro range, all of which can now get into tighter areas compliments of the HERO4 Session’s smaller physique. During my time on the slopes I used a head strap, which provided great footage, but did pop off a few times – to be honest I was lucky for good Samaritans behind me for picking it up. In hindsight I think I should have worn a helmet and simply mounted the Session to its side. I used the new wrist strap, which provided a unique perspective, especially when doing grab airs and low carves. The chesty and board mounts are definitely serviceable, but I actually enjoyed using the tripod 3-way pole, as holding the camera out while I snowboarded allowed me to get in the frame, and also experiment on the fly with angles.
9. Connect with ease
It’s not unique to the GoPro session, but I couldn’t help but be impressed by how well the GoPro app connects to the HERO4 Session and allows you to not only use it as a remote screen and to change settings, but to browse and watch existing footage over Wi-Fi. It loads so quickly and streams with very little wait. The steps to then load it into the GoPro Studio (downloaded for free from the website), edit it and prepare it for upload are so user-friendly, it’s definitely feasible to tackle a day’s footage during the evening while you’re rugged up in your chalet.
10. Lifties' Seal of Approval
I had one of the first HERO4 Sessions in Australia when I was at the slopes, and it was amazing how many other GoPro users noticed it and commented. From the lifties to the pros, everyone was excited about the lack of a case, the ease of operation and the small profile. As I looked at the bulkier GoPro cameras mounted on their helmets and boards, I knew I had it good with the bite-sized pocket rocket that is the Session. If the interest it generated in existing, snow-bound GoPro enthusiasts is anything to go by, the Session is a knockout for the slopes.