Video Quality

Click here to download the original clip (43.7 MB).

Video quality from the GoPro HERO4 Session is pretty good, but it is bested by the likes of the GoPro HERO4 Black and Silver editions, in addition to the Sony X1000VR 4K Action Cam (to name a few), all of which are capable of 4K capture. That said, footage will be more than acceptable for most users, and with a little bit of time spent in GoPro Studio, it can look even better.

We were able to push the Session to its limits in a couple of scenarios, resulting in less-than-desirable footage. These scenarios include very-low light capture, and mounting the unit to the front fender of a motorcycle, which you can see in the footage below, was vibrating rapidly.

Jello Effect and Rolling Shutter

The above clip demonstrates the 'jello effect.' It's something nearly all action cameras suffer from and is not unique to GoPro's.

In the clip above, you’ll notice the footage seems to scrunch up in an ugly and unnatural manner. We call this the 'jello effect', and it is the results of the GoPro’s rolling shutter coupled with a fast moving scene and some serious vibrations (the result of being mounted on the front of a motorcycle).

A rolling shutter refers to the way in which the GoPro HERO4 Session reads the data off of the sensor: cameras that have a rolling shutter read info from the sensor line by line starting from the top (as opposed to a global shutter that reads all of the info from the sensor at once). As the unit records, because the sensor is only exposing a line at a time, there is a chance that the a subject will have moved or a scene may have changed over the course of the image being captured. This results in some interesting/ugly anomalies.

This is not a problem for relatively static scenes, but can be very problematic for fast moving subjects, or when the unit is mounted to something that may vibrate rapidly, like the motorcycle in our clip above.

Low Light Video 

Click here to download the original clip (55 MB)

We already discussed the Auto Low Light feature on the GoPro HERO4 Session, which can only be employed when the camera is set to a resolution of 1280 x 960. But what about low light video shot at 1440p or 1080p? Take a look at the above video and see for yourself.

Keep in mind that low light capture is something all action cameras struggle with, and the GoPro HERO 4 Session is no exception. The above clip isn't great, but considering the circumstances -- mixed lighting, lots of shadows, being mounted on a bike moving rapidly along bumpy streets -- it does not look all that bad either. By the way it was shot at default settings at 1080/30p.

Lack of Image Stabilization 

Built-in image stabilization would benefit this clip tremendously. Unfortunately, no GoPro's offer IS. Sony Action Cams do, though.

A beef I have with the Session, and most action cameras for that matter, is the lack of any type of stabilization. Sure you can smooth out footage in post, but a lens or sensor-based IS system would go a long way to improving the quality of the average users’ footage. Sony’s line of action cameras have image stabilization, so it obviously can be done.

Stills and Time-lapse

Still images from the Session look ok by action camera standards, and poor by ILC standards. But that is to be expected; after all, the camera uses a 1/3.2" 8MP sensor (with an F2.8 maximum aperture). The above JPEGs were all lightly-processed using Adobe Lightroom 5 (mainly to brighten the shadows and add a bit of saturation). Click on each to see the full resolution file.

Click here to download the original clip (20.1 MB).

The above time-lapse was taken at an interval of 1 frame every 5 secs. It was then sped up 5x using GoPro Studio. I also adjusted the cropping and added a bit of saturation in post. It's worth noting that when shooting a time-lapse, the camera will break up images into folders of 999, which will show up as individual clips in GoPro Studio. Simply drag and drop the clips to your timeline, in order, to reassemble the entire time-lapse.

Audio Quality

Watch the above video for three different samples demonstrating the Session's audio quality, moreover, how it handles wind noise when recording while traveling at various speeds via a car, motorcycle and snowboard.

Audio quality from the Hero4 Session is pretty good. The dual microphones do a solid job of cutting down on wind noise. The camera automatically picks which of the two microphones to prioritize to get the best-sounding audio. One of the microphones is located on the front, in the upper left, the other on the back in the lower left.

In the three examples shown in the video above, I slightly pulled down the audio levels in GoPro Studio to avoid clipping. In the first clip, the Session was mounted to the outside of the car, in the second, it was mounted to the front fender of a motorcycle, and in the last is was hand-held.

Wind noise is always going to be an obstacle action cameras need to overcome, and the Session does so fairly well.