GoPro Hero5 Session review

A powerful miniature masterpiece, but it's fiddly to use

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  • USB charging
  • GoPro app is comprehensive
  • Easy to produce engaging videos

We spent a long time with the GoPro Hero5 Session, taking it on hikes along Portuguese cliff tops to capture the local surf, attaching it to a motorcycle and putting it to good use at a local skate park, and the results were always impressive.

Granted, it can be annoying and fiddly to access menus using just the tiny screen atop the unit, but many users will find video and stills settings that work for them and just stick to those.

Tethering to a smartphone is an easy solution to interface issues, but it does have an adverse effect on battery life. Regularly having to find a power outlet to charge the device was probably one of the most vexing aspects of our time with the Hero5 Session.

Many users will find video and stills settings that work for them and just stick to those

The GoPro app is comprehensive, and allows for imagery and video to be browsed and downloaded to a smartphone for later editing in Quik Stories, arguably one of the simplest ways to produce engaging short films to date.

This separate free app requires the user to feed in the desired clips and the software will then do all the hard work, offering a variety of edit styles, background tunes and font types to create neat short films that can be directly uploaded to social platforms.

Image quality

  • Generally slick-looking video
  • New Linear mode provides less barrel distortion
  • No raw file support for stills

GoPro has a reputation for delivering some of the best video and stills image quality in the action camera market, and the Hero5 Session doesn't let the side down.

With ProTune, users can adjust color settings (GoPro Color or Flat for easier post-production), adjust white balance, shutter speeds, ISO limits and EV compensation settings to get the results they want.

Unfortunately, all of this has to be done via the app, which can be time-consuming, especially if the Wi-Fi connection between camera and phone is proving temperamental, although a recent software update should have corrected this.

There's also a burst mode that fires off an impressive 30fps at 10MP, which should prove invaluable for those wanting to grab the perfect shot of some high-octane action.

Still images are fine for snaps, but there's no raw support

Still images are fine for snaps, but there's no raw support

The same ProTune options are available for still images, while field of view choices include wide, with the classic GoPro barrel distortion, or Linear, which aims to reduce the fisheye effect.

The resulting shots look good, but the lack of a raw format option will be slightly annoying for those who like to enhance their shots in editing software such as Lightroom or Photoshop. 

Also, the more expensive Hero5 Black features a WDR (wide dynamic range) photo mode, which uses a similar technique to smartphone HDR technology to create perfectly exposed snaps, and it's sorely missed in this device.

That said, footage recorded in 4K at 30fps is as smooth and indulgent as you'd expect, while there are multitude options of frame rates and resolutions to suit most situations. 

Colors appear bright and vibrant, with good contrast between light and dark areas, while numerous field of vision modes makes it really easy to capture the action.

SuperView can feel a little extreme, but manages to cram in a remarkable amount of action for such a small lens, while the Linear and Narrow modes are good for those wanting to move away from the typical – and slightly tired – action camera POV.  

Finally, the additional noise reduction is noticeable, particularly during our high-speed motorcycle test, where the sonorous exhaust note was clearly picked out over the wind noise that usually blights action cams.

Leon Poultney

Leon has been navigating a world where automotive and tech collide for almost 20 years, reporting on everything from in-car entertainment to robotised manufacturing plants. Currently, EVs are the focus of his attentions, but give it a few years and it will be electric vertical take-off and landing craft. Outside of work hours, he can be found tinkering with distinctly analogue motorcycles, because electric motors are no replacement for an old Honda inline four.