GoPro HERO5 Session vs HERO Session

They look identical from the outside. And the similarity of their model names is unnecessarily confusing. But once you dig into the features and price, there are some significant differences. Here's how the GoPro HERO5 Session and GoPro HERO Session compare.

They look identical from the outside. And the similarity of their model names is unnecessarily confusing. But once you dig into the features and price, there are some significant differences between the GoPro HERO5 Session and GoPro Session. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how they compare.

Firstly, it’s worth clarifying this up front: The GoPro HERO5 Session and GoPro HERO Session are two different cameras. Both are current models; the old version was the HERO4 Session. Yes, it’s unnecessarily confusing. The very short version of how they differ is that the HERO5 Session has more features and is more expensive than the HERO Session. The HERO Session is the basic, entry-level camera.

Secondly, it’s also worth reviewing where these two models fit in GoPro’s lineup, because that has a direct bearing on how they compare. As you can see right off the bat, they’re both small cubes. Well, actually, they’re not perfect cubes–one dimension is just a shade shorter than it should be for a perfect cube, but you get the idea. They look quite different to the traditional GoPro shape.

GoPro first used this cube shape with the HERO4 Session, a camera was launched in July 2015, about nine months after the other two models in the HERO4 range, the HERO4 Black and HERO4 Silver. (Actually, Polaroid was first with their Cube). Despite being about half the size and weight of the Black and Silver, the HERO4 Session was a flop–it was overpriced and competed too directly with other cameras already in GoPro’s range. But the HERO4 Session gave GoPro the opportunity to branch out into the smaller form factor.

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The current HERO5 Session and HERO Session are both directly descended from the HERO4 Session. They share the external case and overall design. And in the case of the HERO Session, it shares even more. The HERO Session is the same camera as the HERO4 Session, just rebranded and priced at a much lower price point. So if you already have a HERO4 Session, you already have a HERO Session; so this post doubles as a comparison of the HERO5 Session with the HERO4 Session as well.

Left to right: GoPro HERO5 Session, GoPro HERO Session, GoPro HERO4 Session.

The HERO5 Session, though, is a more powerful and feature-packed camera and falls between the HERO Session and HERO5 Black as the middle camera in GoPro’s current range.

Battery Life Compared

I’ve found the battery life to be essentially the same. It’s pretty much impossible to give a definitive figure when it comes to battery life because there are a number of factors that affect it. Things like leaving wifi and Bluetooth on, the resolution and framerate settings, using stabilization or GPS, and even the outside temperature (lithium batteries don’t perform well in very cold temperatures).

But as a general idea, I’ve run them side-by-side a few times in 1080p60 video mode without any other options on (that is, Protune, GPS, wifi, etc, all off) and they’ve been getting in the 1 hr 45 mins to 1 hr 47 mins range. If you turn on any of the other features you’re likely to get less than that.

But the gist is that I’ve not found that one has an advantage over the other in terms of battery life.

And it bears repeating that the batteries in these models aren’t removable–they’re hardwired into the camera.

Housing and Handling

For all intents and purposes, they’re identical in terms of housing, ruggedness, and handling. Branding aside, there are only minute differences that make no functional difference, like a slightly different shade of black plastic and that the HERO5 Session has an every-so-slightly larger button on the back.

Both models are the same dimensions and have the same built-in rugged protection. They’re rated to be waterproof down to 33 feet (10 meters) without a separate housing.

They both fit in the same frame. You’ll need the frame if you want to mount your camera somewhere, because by itself the camera has no way to attach to anything else.

GoPro HERO5 Session on the left, with a GoPro HERO Session on the right.

They also have the same controls and most the same interface, with a large shutter button on top, a small power/wifi button on the back, and a very small monochrome text display screen on top. There are some minor differences between the text displays on top–the new version is slightly tweaked and has some refreshed icons, but they’re not much different. Neither of them has the kind of LCD screen that the HERO5 Black or HERO4 Silver have where you can see what the camera sees. If you want to frame your shot with any precision you’ll have to use the live view through the mobile app.

GoPro HERO5 Session on the left, with a GoPro HERO Session on the right.

By not having a back screen, having only two buttons, and having only a tiny two-line text display panel on top, the options for controlling the camera are pretty limited. GoPro’s marketing department prefer to emphasize the simplicity of it–just push a button and go–but if you’re looking to change settings or modes or it can get pretty tedious quickly. And you can’t do things like format the memory card in camera.

Thankfully, you can also control both cameras with GoPro’s Capture app via wifi and Bluetooth. That’s a much easier way to change a lot of settings at once. You can also use GoPro’s Smart Remote.

Video Modes Compared

Overall, the HERO5 Session has far more options when it comes to video. It offers a number of features the HERO Session doesn’t. They include:

  • Up to 4K resolution. The cheaper model tops out at 1080p60. (Technically, there’s a 4:3 aspect ratio version that is taller–1440p30–but it’s not really considered a higher video mode.)
  • Faster framerates
  • In-camera stabilization. This helps smooth out jumpy and jerky footage. It can offer quite an improvement, as you can see in the example here:
  • I have more details on GoPro stabilization here.

Video Modes Compared. The HERO5 Session also offers a wider selection of resolutions and framerates. They includes 4K video, which the HERO Session doesn’t have.

Here’s a master list of the video modes each camera offers. There’s one minor difference in the way that the cameras describe their video modes. While the HERO5 models have SuperView and Wide fields of view, the Session refers to Super View and Ultra Wide. In the table below I’m treating the Wide and Ultra Wide FOVs as the same thing.

ResolutionFPSFOVDimensionsAspect RatioHERO5 SessionHERO Session
2.7K 4:330Wide2704x15204:3

Photo Modes Compared

Resolution. The HERO5 Session shoots photos at a resolution of 10 MP. The images measure 3648 by 2736.

The HERO Session shoots photos at a resolution of 8 MP. The images measure 3264 by 2448 pixels. It also shoots a cropped mode with a Medium field of view with 5 MP photos.

Here’s how those sizes compare, along with the 12 MP images generated by the GoPro HERO5 Black.

Burst Mode. The HERO Session can shoot in burst mode at 10 frames per second. The HERO5 Session offers more options, with up to 30 frames per second.

Night Mode. This mode keeps the shutter open longer to allow more light to come in. The HERO5 Session has it; the HERO Session doesn’t.

Timelapse Photo and Timelapse Video

GoPros have two methods of shooting timelapse (though not all of their cameras offer both methods, as in this case). One is the traditional method or shooting a series of still photos at intervals that you can then compile together into a video using software on your computer. It’s known as Timelapse Photo.

The other is known as Timelapse Video. Timelapse Video is far more convenient because you get a compiled video straight out of the camera, but Timelapse Photo gives you more control over the processing of anything from colors and contrast to resolution to framerate.

GoPro HERO5 Session on the left, with a GoPro HERO Session on the right.

The HERO Session can only do timelapse photo mode. It offers intervals of 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, and 60 seconds.

The HERO5 Session has the Timelapse Video modes. It offers the same intervals as the timelapse photo method. The video resolutions you can use are 4K, 2.7K4:3, and 1080p.

Night Lapse Photo. This is a special mode that keeps the shutter open longer to let more light in and can adjust the interval accordingly to make it continuous. The HERO5 Session has this mode; the HERO Session doesn’t have it.

Ports and Connections Compared

USB. Both use USB connections for charging and data transfer. That means they can be charged with regular USB chargers and external batteries as well as connected to computers by a cable. One thing to note, though, if you’re planning to use external power, is that to access the connection you need to open the latch door, and with the door open the camera isn’t waterproof.

While they both use USB, they use different cables. The HERO5 session uses the newer USB-C format connector. That opens the possibility of it being able to be charged more quickly with GoPro’s Supercharger. (Note that while USB-C is often used for USB 3.0 data transfer, the USB-C connection in the HERO5 cameras is still limited to USB 2 speeds.)

The HERO Session uses the older micro-USB connector for charging and data transfer.

HDMI. Neither of these has HDMI output. The HERO5 Black does.

Wireless. Both cameras offer wifi and Bluetooth connectivity that can be used for remote control via the mobile app Capture or with the Smart Remote.

Other Features

GPS. Neither of these cameras has GPS functionality. For now, that’s limited to the HERO5 Black.

Batteries. The batteries for both models are hardwired internally and can’t be replaced.

Voice Controls. This is something specific to the HERO5 models; the HERO Session doesn’t have it. Voice control lets you issue basic control commands verbally, such as “start recording” or “take photo.” It can be a little buggy, and there are a lot of situations you might not want to use it, but both HERO5 models have it.

Memory Card Compatibility

Both cameras are compatible with microSDHC and microSDXC cards. That means that both support cards ranging from 16GB to 256GB and above.

The HERO5 Session supports 4K video capture, so it has higher demands of the memory card’s write speeds. You don’t necessarily need the fastest microSD card, but you do need one that’s fast enough. I have a separate post on recommendations for memory cards for the HERO5 Session and HERO5 Black.

Because the HERO Session doesn’t record 4K video, it isn’t quite as demanding on the speed of the memory card. Most of the current crop of microSD cards–especially those from well-known brands and sourced from reputable retailers–will work just fine. If in doubt, the SanDisk Extreme is a good choice.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Both cameras can get quite hot, especially when recording longer videos at the higher framerate and resolution settings. The hottest part is the metal rim of the lens port, which can become hot enough to be uncomfortable to hold.

Pricing Compared

The GoPro HERO5 Session’s MSRP is $299. The Session’s MSRP is $199.

After some initial hiccups with production delays on GoPro’s end, both of these models are now widely available at places like Amazon and B&H Photo.

Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2020-02-17 at 08:58. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

More GoPro Tips & Tricks:

This post was last modified on July 10, 2019 10:48 am

View Comments

  • If I set the Hero5 to the same mode and viewing angle as the Hero4 will the resolution and angle of view be exactly the same? I need to run two that record the same format, and was thinking maybe I would upgrade to the 5 for the second one if matching is possible.

    • Sorry for the delay. I wanted to test it specifically to be more confident in the answer. I mounted a HERO5 Session and a HERO4 Session in a side-by-side frame mount that puts them practically in the same position and viewpoint. So far as I can tell, they have identical perspectives when both in the same shooting mode (in this case, 1080p30 wide). If you use stabilization on the HERO5 Black, it cuts down the field of view slightly.

  • Hi,can anyoHi,I have a Go pro hero session 5 which has a cracked "inner" camera lens and i was wondering if you know where i can source one from.The outer didn't save the lens.i think a stone must of hit it ! Many Thanks Paul ne help me with this problem.I have a session hero 5

    • Sorry, no, I don't know. Not sure that's user replaceable without cannibalizing from another camera, and even then, not sure how possible it is. Not something I've tried, I'm afraid.

    • Out of these two models, yes. The in-camera stabilization will come in handy. Better yet would be the newer HERO7 Black. It's bigger than the Session models, but it has better stabilization. It's also more expensive, but if you have an old digital camera lying around that you're not using or doesn't work anymore, you can trade that in for the HERO7 Black and get $100 off, which helps. You can find more about that here.

  • What’s best for skiing? Can you play back to watch on computer? Leaning towards GoPro session.

    • There's not really anything about them that would make one better specifically for skiing. They're both the same size and will put up with the same amount of water and bumps. The HERO5 Session does have stabilization, which can mean that the footage that comes out of the camera is smoother and less jerky. It also has many more features, including higher video modes. But if you don't plan to use those higher modes anyway, the HERO Session is a little simpler to use (because it has fewer options to get lost in), usually cheaper, and still captures very good video.

      Yes, you can play back on a computer. You can also use the free GoPro mobile app to play back on a smartphone.

  • I have the session 4 and while recording mounted to my motorcycle helmet the sound is useless. It's supposed to switch between front and back microphones to assist with wind noise, but the Audio is unusable. Has the hero 5 session addressed this issue?

  • Hi I was wondering whether to get the hero5 session or the hero4 session I will mostly be using it for filming motorbikes,cars and wakeboarding. It will be my first action cam.

    • Both are same size and will give similar quality recordings. The newer model has some improvements on that front, by the HERO4 Session still produces very good quality. The newer model does have a couple of extra features that might (or might not) be things you'll find useful for these kinds of uses: built-in video stabilization and voice control. The stabilization works reasonably well but still has its limits. Here are some examples. The voice control is something I've been underwhelmed by, but there are people who find it useful, especially when your hands are otherwise engaged. The HERO5 models also have better integration with GoPros cloud services, which can be useful for uploading/sharing the footage.

  • Hi! I was womdering if there was any option in hero 5 session in which photos and videos where directly moved to your phone cloud ,and gopro 4 session didin't so you necessarily need to pass data to your computer