I would like to share with you today a detailed GoPro comparison chart of the three Hero4 cameras (GoPro Hero 4 Silver vs Black vs Session) and the two Hero 5 cameras (GoPro Hero 5 Black vs Session). This in-depth review/comparison aims to help you choose the most suitable camera taking into consideration video, audio, features and price.
Hero 4 Black vs Silver vs Session + Hero 5 Black vs Session
I personally own most of the GoPro models, I have tested them in different activities from taking family photos to kitesurfing, hiking and many other adventures. I will try my best to give you a clear explanation so it will be easier for you to understand the differences in case you are planning to upgrade from an earlier GoPro model or to get a new one.
I will be talking about the three Hero4 models today, Hero4 Silver, Hero4 Black and Hero4 Session, along with two Hero 5 models – Hero5 Black and Hero5 Session. What I like about GoPro is that each camera has its unique features when it comes to the video resolution or the LCD display.
The cool thing about these cameras is that they are really small specially the Session BUT they have many features that make them better than many cameras you find in the market these days, specially if you’re using them for action sports then you will really get an amazing footage and feel like a pro photographer (it’s what I feel at least 🙂 )
Enough Talking, Let’s Compare GoPro Cameras!
I will divide the post in 6 categories, and under each category I will be talking about the differences between the models. Categories will make it easier for you to see the difference. If you already own an earlier version, you will notice that there are many improvements with both Hero4 and Hero5 series, like high resolutions and new features.
What remains the same is the battery life which didn’t improve in any of the new models, initially the battery will last up to 2 hours. You’ll need extra batteries if you are willing to shoot videos for a longer period. You will notice a big difference between the Hero4 session compared to the silver and black editions. Let’s scroll down to see the GoPro cameras comparison.
All three cameras produce the same video format (MP4, H.264), they can shoot full HD videos(1080p) with high frame rates, the silver and black can shoot videos up to 4K and 2.7K unlike the Session who can shoot only up to 1440p. The black however can handle 4K at 30 frames per second whereas the silver at 15fps which is not that great and that is due to the higher bitrate, 60Mb/s for the Black and 45Mb/s for the Silver.
Do keep in mind that you need high performance memory cards to handle this high bitrate, you cannot just use any memory card you have, I would recommend you get the SANDisk Extreme Pro 64 GB which has the highest speed (95Mb/s), so if you are willing to take 4K or 2.7K videos then the Extreme Pro is the one you need.
Let’s set all three cameras to 1080p at 30fps. You will not notice any difference between the silver and the black when they are set in the same video mode because they use the exact same sensor, but you will see a difference between those two and the session, here is a screen capture from a video comparing the silver and the session:
As you can see, there is a noticeable difference between the two when looking at the colors, the Session made the video more “Blue” and less “Green” compared to the more realistic colors captured by the Silver.
Coming to the Hero 5 series, the Hero 5 Black emerges as the superior camera by only a slight margin. Considering the fact that it combines the best features of all previous GoPro cameras into a single product, the Hero 5 Black is definitely the best of the lot when it comes to video specifications.
In comparison to the Hero 5 Session which has a lower resolution, 10 megapixel camera sensor, the Hero 5 Black boasts of an impressive 12 megapixel sensor. It shoots at a higher maximum frame rates than the Hero 5 Session, and, therefore, offers a smoother video.
At 4K resolution, both cameras have a 30 fps limit, but as you scale down the resolution, the maximum frame rates increase in case of Hero 5 Black. It can shoot 1440p at 80fps and 1080p at 120 fps, whereas the Session can only manage 1440p at 60 fps and 1080p at 90 fps.
What’s more is that the Hero 5 Black offers a lot more options like white balance choices, faster shutter speed, higher maximum ISO settings than its Session counterpart. You can even record an audio track separately with the Hero 5 Black.
Another important feature of the Hero 5 models that must be mentioned here is the electronic image stabilization, or simply, EIS. This is a feature that comes into useful when you are recording a video at a place where you are prone to a lot of camera jerkiness.
What the EIS does is that it crops into the image and compensates for the camera movement, thereby rendering a smooth, somewhat floaty at times, video. This is a new in-camera feature that was not available in the Hero 4 variants, and one that is bound to become popular with time.
Let me tell you that all three have good audio, the audio format on the Black and Silver is 48Khz AAC. 32KHz AAC for the Session. You wouldn’t notice any difference in the recorded sound, of course you need to make sure that the black and silver are not enclosed in the waterproof housing which kills the sound. The session doesn’t have an audio input compared to the other two, where you can use a mini USB to 3.5mm jack adapter to connect an external mic for better sound quality, which can be useful if you’re using your GoPro for live streaming or a webcam.
The microphones on the Hero 4 models, however, stand no chance in front of the Hero 5 series. Courtesy the waterproof design of the Hero 5 Black, its microphones have a far better audio capture ability, which when coupled with the wind reduction feature, makes the product a significant upgrade from Hero 4 Black.
As mentioned earlier, the Hero 5 Black even allows you to record a separate audio track and play it along with the video – a feature that is not available even in the Hero 5 Session model. It is justifiable, therefore, why the Hero 5 is regarded as arguably the best GoPro camera to be launched in recent years.
Having the same 12Megapixels sensor on both Hero 4 Silver and Black, no noticeable difference when it comes to still shots at 4000×3000 pixels, you can also set still shots to other modes like 7Mp and 5Mp.
The Hero 4 session has an 8 Megapixels sensor and can take photos at 3264×2448 pixels.
You might want to keep a steady hand when taking still shots with a GoPro because of its slow shutter, so you might not get a smooth photo if you’re moving. You may need to stabilize the camera by using a tripod if you are taking still images in order to have the best quality possible.
The Hero 5 Black also provides 12 MP photos, while the Hero 5 Session offers 10 MP only. The images are sharp, free of noise, and having clear details. The colors are vibrant as well. Interestingly, the Hero 5 Black stands out in its ability to save pictures in RAW file format, thanks to the GPR file extension.
The RAW support gives you more control over the editing and post-production processing of images. This is actually great for photographers who are serious about their passion and are willing to put in that extra bit of effort in order to personalize their images.
This camera also has a Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) mode which is essentially similar to HDR, and is designed to emphasize shadow details and highlights. These are, however, exclusive to the Black variant since the Hero 5 Session, unfortunately, supports neither RAW mode nor WDR mode. Both Hero 5 models allow you to save your pictures as JPG files though.
All three Hero 4 cameras have Bluetooth and WiFi which enables you to connect to your smartphone using the GoPro App so you can control your GoPro, change settings/modes and playback your videos and photos.
It basically acts as a remote control which is pretty cool. You can also connect it to the GoPro Smart Remote that also lets you control and capture footage remotely without the pain of using the buttons on the camera.
Protune for videos and stills is available only for the Black and Silver editions, the Session has only Protune for still shots.
The three GoPros can take time lapses in photo mode. Time lapse in video mode and night time lapse are only available in the Hero4 Silver and Hero4 Black. So if you’re like me and love to shoot night time lapses of the milky way then the silver and the black are your best option.
Burst mode is also available in all three, 30 photos per second in the Black and Silver and 10 photos per second in the Session.
Coming to the Hero 5 cameras, GoPro has changed the name for its companion app to Capture. Just like the Hero 4 models, these cameras also permit you to pair your device or connect to the Wi-Fi in order to transfer your images and video files to your smartphone or tablet. Interestingly, you can grab still images from video captures via the app, resulting in high quality images, thanks to the recording in 4K resolution.
There are two more apps – Quik and Splice – that make editing and sharing your files easier. Splice is only available for iOS though.
The Hero 5 Black allows you to overlay telemetric metadata onto your videos via GPS in addition to the basic geotagging feature. In comparison, the Session variant does not possess GPS functionality.
The new voice activation system is another major upgrade. It lets you begin and stop recording, take photos, and change modes when you are away from your camera or your hands are occupied. The Hero 5 Black, in fact, can understand commands in seven different languages.
Both Hero 5 models offer Protune for videos as well as photos, but the Black variant, understandably, offers more options. For instance, the Hero 5 Black lets to set a minimum ISO in addition to the maximum ISO, which is not the case for Hero 5 Session. Both have night mode, and both can take bursts up to 30 photos per second.
Ok, so here is where the Hero4 Silver beats both the Black and the Session. The Silver has an integrated LCD display! Yep, I know what you’re thinking, you just decided that the Silver is your best choice, well you might be right, but hold on, let me continue, it’s better to read all the features before taking the final decision 🙂
So yeah, we are used to having cameras with displays on the back but it’s not the case with GoPro. The Silver being the first ever model that comes with an integrated LCD which is honestly beneficial. You can change settings/modes and playback directly from your camera. But the LCD needs power which means that using it all the time will drain your battery at a faster rate. What you can do is turn it off when you’re not using it to save battery.
If you want to buy the Hero4 Black but still want an LCD then you can get the optional GoPro LCD BacPac that attaches on the back of your camera. This additional LCD makes the GoPro bulkier so you need to use the backdoor housing that comes with the LCD because it won’t fit in the standard one. You might also need to turn off the display when not in need to save battery life.
The only way to remote control your Hero4 Session is by using your smartphone and the GoPro app as I mentioned earlier.
The Hero 5 Black also comes with an LCD display, but it’s a significant improvement over that of the Hero 4 Silver. It bright and clear, and has a more intuitive touchscreen interface. You can now swipe in from the edges just like you would do on your smartphone. You can even lock the screen before going down to the pool so that there are no unintentional clicks.
Having said that, the touchscreen may seem to be a bit on the slower side for the average user. It is not as responsive as smartphones, and that may cause a few problems during navigation. Also, the screen becomes vulnerable without a protective housing; so you have to careful about that too. These are not deal-breakers though, and the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks this product possesses.
The Hero 5 Session, on the other hand, does not have an LCD display.
I’m sure you have now realized that the battery on the GoPro is not that great. You can always get extra batteries for the Black and Silver in case you are planning to shoot videos for longer than 2 hours. Unfortunately, the Hero4 Session have a builtin battery so once its drained you’ll need to plug the camera. It can be a downside for some people but hey the Session is a great camera compared to its features, size and price!
Coming to the Hero 5 models, the Black version uses a battery that is physically different from that used by the Hero 4 Black. You would expect some improvement in performance with that, but the fact remains that both run out of juice in approximately the same time. So it’s probably wise to carry an extra battery if you are planning to record for a long period of time with your GoPro camera.
Unlike its Black counterpart, the Hero 5 Session runs on a non-removable battery, so carrying an extra one won’t make much of a difference in this case.
Both cameras feature USB Type C ports for recharging. This is yet another improvement from the previous models. None, however, come with AC adapters. There are small cover doors over the ports that make the cameras waterproof.
The Silver and Black editions use the same waterproof housing since they are the same size, on the other hand, the session doesn’t have a housing but the camera itself is waterproof. Basically, GoPro accessories are compatible with all three cameras except of course some that were made for specific models, like the LCD BacPac and the GoPro Battery BacPac as I mentioned earlier in the article. All other accessories are the same since all GoPros have the same base. Keep in mind that you need to buy a MicroSD card because it’s not included with the camera.
Similar to the Hero 4 Session, both the Hero 5 products have waterproofing incorporated into the body of the camera. No longer do you need to carry around a waterproofing case with you, thus making the camera smaller and lighter. Moreover, the lack of a covering case helps in getting a better sound capture too. The Hero 5 Black is waterproof up to a depth of 10 meters; so you will need a case if you are planning to dive deeper. Further, the trap doors covering the ports may get loose and allow seepage of water, ultimately destroying the product.
The physical difference between a Hero 4 Black and a Hero 5 Black is the mild increase in size in the latter. The edges are more rounded, and the rubbery coating feels better. This difference, however, comes with its own disadvantages. You can no longer use your Hero 4 mount with the Hero 5 Black; nor can you use the batteries from your Hero 4 models.
None of the Hero 5 cameras have mounting points on their own. The wrap-around frame that comes with them can serve the purpose of mounting, but does nothing to protect the device.
Gimbals are also available for GoPro, you will find a lot of models in the market. I have compiled a list of 12 best GoPro gimbals for 2017, it’s worth to have a quick look at the list before making a purchase.
The GoPro Camera Comparison Chart
Hero 4 Black
Hero 4 Silver
Hero 4 Session
Hero 5 Black
Hero 5 Session
|Video: 4K30/ 2.7K60/ 1440p80 fps||Video: 2.7K30 / 1080p60 / 720p120 fps||Video: 1440p30 / 1080p60 / 720p100 fps||Video: 4K30/ 2.7K60/ 1440p80 fps||Video: 1440p30 / 1080p60 / 720p100 fps|
|Video: 1080p120/ 960p120/ 720p240 fps||–||–||Video: 1080p120/ 960p120/ 720p240 fps||–|
|Photo: 12MP / 30fps Burst||Photo: 12MP / 30fps Burst||Photo: 8MP / 10fps Burst||Photo: 12MP / 30fps Burst||Photo: 10MP / 30fps Burst|
|WiFi: Control/View/Share||WiFi: Control/View/Share||WiFi: Control/View/Share||WiFi: Control/View/Share||WiFi: Control/View/Share|
|Protune for Photo and Video||Protune for Photo and Video||Protune for Video||Protune for Photo and Video||Protune for Photo and Video|
|TimeLapse Video||TimeLapse Video||–||TimeLapse Video||–|
|–||–||–||Video Stabilization||Video Stabilization|
|–||–||–||Voice Control||Voice Control|
|–||–||–||Auto Upload to Cloud||Auto Upload to Cloud|
|Auto Low Light||Auto Low Light||Auto Low Light||Auto Low Light||Auto Low Light|
|Waterproof to 131 feet (40m)||Waterproof to 131 feet (40m)||Waterproof to 33 feet (10m)||Waterproof to 33 feet (10m)||Waterproof to 33 feet (10m)|
|–||Built-in Touch Display||–||Built-in Touch Display||–|
So as you saw in my above detailed review, all three Hero 4 cameras are great. Of course the Black and Silver have more features and flexibility but that doesn’t make the Session a bad camera, on the contrary its size and features makes it as awesome as the other two, it really gives you value for every dollar spent on this camera.
I personally pick the Black, but hey it’s my personal decision. If you want to have an LCD then go with the Silver. If you need to take ultra HD 4K videos then go for the Black and if you need a small camera that can shoot 1440p and don’t care about the LCD then go for the Hero4 Session.
The Hero 5 Black is, undoubtedly, the best among all of these. It is a solid piece of technology that incorporates the best features from the Hero 4 models, and improves on several fields. Further, it gives you a lot more authority on how your pictures should turn out. The Session variant lags in some departments, but still offers value for money if you are on a budget.
You now have it all so it’s up to you to decide! 🙂
So ladies and gentlemen, I hope you liked my comparison of the GoPro Hero 4 and Hero 5 cameras. Which one would you choose? Let me know in the comments section below 😀