From Toddlers to Grandparents, a GoPro for the Entire Family – GoPro Hero4 Session

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

We’ve been a GoPro family for several years now. As my pack of boys head off for any adventure, from skiing the black diamond slopes an hour from our house to hiking mountain peaks with the family dog, they almost always grab a GoPro to take along. We also use our cameras for important events, like the day we adopted our shelter kitty.

A few days ago GoPro introduced a whole new kind of camera, the Hero4 Session. It’s still the same quality footage, but there are a few important changes. For one thing, it’s square. This makes it pretty adorable, and an easy photo op for the GoPro creator, Nick Woodman, as he holds it between his teeth like a big black ice cube. But the way its new shape changed the way I’d use it were not immediately evident to me.

After I received a review sample in the mail, the benefits became clear. Yes, it’s smaller and lighter than any other GoPro. That helps expand its uses (more on that in a bit). But the thing I immediately loved was that there was no need for a plastic case.20150720_145344

I’ve never been brave enough to use our GoPro cameras without the waterproof cases. There are too many things that can go wrong in the hands of rough and tumble teen boys. I couldn’t risk it. This not only affected the profile of the camera, but the audio quality.

When we attended Winter X Games, I found myself popping the case open in somewhat safe situations, so I could catch the cheers from the crowd. But for most of the day I felt more comfortable keeping the case closed, to keep my camera dry.

The new GoPro Session is fully waterproof (up to 33 feet) without a case. You can literally drop this little guy into a glass of water and film the ice cubes floating around. For those of you with little ones, this means you can have it rolling around in your diaper bag, toddler backpack, or even the kiddie pool, and not worry about getting it wet. Think of the fun footage you could get just by handing it to your toddler and having him roll it around in his hands, peer into it, and capture his view of the world. It’s literally like a wooden building block that happens to be filming.

I would imagine there are many science experiments that could be done with this camera, along with unique science fair projects.

It will be a new toy at the pool for any aged kids. It feels a bit weird to literally play catch with this tiny black cube, in the water or out, but the footage your kids can catch while not worrying about hurting their camera will be exciting to play with in the editing stages.

Here’s a little sample of what we came up with from the Water Day at the camp where I work. This was a half an hour of playing with filming (handing it around to kids and counselors), and about a half an hour of editing in GoPro Studio. It will be fun to see what I can make with more quantity of raw footage.

As small as the regular GoPro cameras are, there are still times you might be wishing for something even a bit smaller. It’s now here. My kids were immediately brainstorming about attaching it to a kite on a windy day. Or rigging it up on our cat, to see his view of the world as he stalks through the grass in our backyard. We’ve used the Fetch to attach our other GoPro to the dog, but finally the cat gets his turn.

Its size makes it easy to transport. You can literally carry it in your pocket. It comes with a housing that allows you to attach it to the other GoPro accessories (including the popular chesty), but it films just as easily when simply held in your hand (although be aware that it does pick up some extra shakiness if used without a case, so in many circumstances I’d pair it up with one of the many hand grips that are available).

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

I can imagine how fun it might be to pass it around the picnic table at the next family reunion, like a hard plastic toy block, having each person look into it as it passes through their hands. It would make some great heirloom footage as those faces change in the coming years.

I work at a large parks and recreation center. I took it to work and tossed it to a young camper, in the middle of their Water Fun Day. He filmed himself, then his friends, as they navigated the water balloon fights and rides on the slip and slide. The footage, with the bright blue sky behind those precious faces, turned out awesome.

On the same day, I tossed it to our gymnastics coach. Her students did flips on the balance beam and jumped into the foam pit. Then it moved on to the pool, where the swim coach had his students tumble through the water with it, taking video and time release shots. These kids have seen and used GoPro cameras in the past, but this little guy was just too fun to resist. Once they had a chance to hold it in their hands, and toss it around, they were convinced they needed one of their own.

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

One of the main things I love about it is how easy it is to use. There is one big red button. You push it once, the camera starts filming. Hold it a second longer, it starts taking time release pictures. A small display lets you know which mode you’re in. When you are done filming, one more push of the red button and it’s off. This feature also makes the battery last a lot longer than in other GoPro cameras. That’s a huge plus for this busy mom.

By syncing it up with the cell phone app, you can see what’s being filmed as it’s being filmed. I was able to change settings easily on my phone and review the files as soon as they ended. By the time the swim team was passing by my desk on their way home with wet hair, I had pictures printed out to show them.

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

There are exciting changes to the audio too. Our family videos, especially the ones on the ski slopes, were usually dominated by wind noise. Of course you can delete the audio and put music to your footage, but in a lot of cases, you want the audio to stay. I loved hearing the voices of the little campers as they passed around the Session on the wet sidewalk next to the slip and slide. The Session has two microphones. If it senses that one is distorted (like wind noise) it automatically switches to the other. This is a genius fix that I never saw coming.

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Photo: GoPro

Because it’s square, you can mount it in many more ways. There is a ball and joint mount that gives you 360 degrees of options. The camera recognizes if it’s upside down and flips the footage accordingly.

Even though my gang uses their GoPro cameras for sports, I’m very interested in how this product fits the family/mommy market. My first GoPro post was titled “Why You Need a GoPro in Your Diaper Bag”. After years of raising our four kiddos, I knew that there were thousands of options for the average family if they could see beyond the videos of ski flips and surfboards.

GoPro has been doing a great job of getting video samples out there, from a baby in a walker to that adorable dog on the beach who won’t let go of that stick. Just as important as knowing a GoPro will fit your family’s filming needs, I want them to be easy to use. Product development has continued to make changes that have me excited.

I’m a huge fan of the new Hero4 Silver that has a built in view finder. I know that the wide angle pretty much captures what I want, as my GoPro rep continues to remind me, but I am used to the feedback I get from my cell phone, and I’m spoiled with seeing what I’m filming/photographing. The Hero4 Silver version is a gem, in my book.

This is why I’m a bit surprised by how much I love the Session. I expected to not like that it’s too small for an LCD screen. But when paired with the app on my cell phone, I get the instant feedback and review capabilities that I want. Then the new options available, because of its small size, open up.

I have a house full of little people coming to visit this weekend. I have lots of new ideas for this camera that I plan to try on them. Add that to the ideas my older kids are brainstorming, and my desire to use it in some way with my prosthetic leg, and I feel a video packed post coming soon to GeekMom.com.

For now, I give this new edition a two thumbs up. It’s packed with new features I didn’t realize I wanted. I can’t wait to spend more time playing with these options, and seeing what new kinds of footage I can come up with. Stay tuned for the update next week.