Exactly one year ago today I ordered my GoPro HERO Session for $199 from Amazon. I was frustrated with trying to diagnose a problem I was having while shooting. Long story short, while shooting under stress, like in a shooting match or while running timed drills, I was trying to muscle the gun during recoil. Basically I had developed a flinch. I could write a whole article on that alone but for now I’m going to focus on what helped me find the issue. Firearm instructors were unable to notice it because it wouldn’t happen under slow fire and under rapid fire everything is moving too fast to see such fine movement. Unless you’re a camera.
I have repeatedly told people “Aside from private 1-on-1 training the single biggest help to my shooting came from my GoPro.” When you slow down the video, even going frame by frame, you can find all the hidden gremlins in your shooting. A flinch is not a manly thing to have in shooting. Truth be told it’s extremely common and something everyone in one form or another eventually deals with it, they just don’t like to admit it. When you see it on video though there’s no denying it.
After a year of use.
I had some concerns about how the camera was going to hold up in the Texas sun. Being black it absorbs a lot of heat and gets quite toasty. I have used it for multiple days in 80 – 90 degree sun with no ill effects to its operation. It may not sound like much but 85 in the direct sun all day plus being black means it’s interior temperature is much higher. I’ve had cellphones with black cases overheat and shut down when left in the sun. My GoPro keeps on going though.
That’s not to say it’s always been perfect. The camera has frozen up a couple of times and needed a forced reboot. Which is not difficult, you just hold the required buttons a certain amount of time and it resets. They have an app you can install on your wi-fi enabled device to control the camera. It does a good job but can be slow to respond and operate at times.
I encountered one self-inflicted issue as well. I had several videos on a memory card I wanted to erase. I didn’t have a computer with me so I used my cellphone and a memory card to micro-USB adapter. I deleted the files and moved the memory card back to the camera. Somehow that caused a big issue, and I did safely eject the memory card. The video would only record for a few minutes before shutting off. It also caused several errors in the GoPro’s operation, causing it to freeze. When I swapped in a spare memory card it immediately started working properly. It only occurred in that one instance, every other time I’ve used a computer to transfer files and format the memory card it has run perfect.
The GoPro’s weak point, in my opinion as a ‘regular guy’, is the editing software. I’m a reasonably tech savvy person, I can usually sit down to a program and if it’s designed to be intuitive I’m off and working. GoPro’s software was nothing but frustrating. On my only computer at the time, an older laptop, it took everything the computer had to run the program. I found the actual use of the program to be annoying difficult and not user-friendly. I think I lasted all of 5 minutes before bailing. I’ve since learned I’m not the only person who really dislikes the included editing software.
I went on a quick search and found a simple program called Movavi Video Editor. It was cost-effective and offered a good range of options for what I needed. I tried a demo and then went for it, at $39.99 it wasn’t a big gamble. I’ve been happy with the decision, it has served me well for the past year.
Mounts. So many mounts.
You’ll find no shortage of ways to attach a GoPro. I’ve tried several and rotate depending on what my goal is at the time. While wanting to see if my support hand was being used properly while shooting I used a left side mount. This got me the angle I was looking for and I could clearly see everything my support hand was doing. I generally end up using the head strap. If offers the closest a person can reasonably get to first person and is quite comfortable. When worn over a baseball cap it doesn’t shift due to the grippy material on the inside of the straps. Nearly any (reasonable) way a person wants to mount it can be accommodated for. Oh and if you go with the sticky bases, don’t skimp, get the 3M versions.
Extended running time.
The Session will run for around 2 hours, give or take, on its own battery power. Unfortunately if you’re like me and want to record an all day shooting class this is nowhere near enough time. With the Session not having a removable battery you’d normally be out of luck but thanks to today’s tech we can make it last. Enter the battery bank. You can find a good 10,000 mAh bank for around $16, I’ve been using EasyAcc for a couple of years now.
Combine the bank with a left 90 degree angled micro-USB to USB cord and you can record all day. I put the bank in my hip pocket or thigh pocket if I’m wearing cargo pants. I run the cord under my belt, up my back, through the head strap and into the camera. Keep in mind that having the little door open with the cord plugged in means your water protection goes away. When it started to rain I would just disconnect the bank and run on battery power until it stopped raining. With the bank connected the camera stays charged so if you need to unplug you’re good for a couple of hours.
The final ingredient is a few 64 gig memory cards. I’ve been using the SanDisk Extreme 64GB microSDXC UHS-I card. It isn’t big enough for the whole day though, at lunch I swap in a fresh card. I keep a third spare card with me just in case I run into an issue. At night after class is over I transfer the data to my laptop, wipe the cards and I’m good to go for the next day.
Is is still worth buying?
At this point the HERO5 Session is available for those wanting 4K, it’s running $299 on Amazon right now. The standard HERO Session, now selling for $149, will shoot 1080p in 60 frames-per-second which is more than enough for my uses. I’ve done all my slow-motion video at this frame rate and it turns out pretty good with no fancy software. If I go in wanting to specifically shoot something in slow-motion I can change to 720p at 100 frames-per-second.
I really can’t overstate how beneficial the camera has been for my shooting. There are other camera systems out there but when I was researching what to buy last year none had the flexibility, specs and reputation of the GoPro. I had previously never considered one because of their price. Their cost is due to their quality, you aren’t just paying for a name. At $149 for the Session I think it’s a great deal. I’ve been tempted to pick up a second one so I can start recording multiple angles.
Just keep in mind you’re probably going to need a couple of accessories and some new editing software. But the accessories are surprisingly affordable and Movavi Video Editor is a solid program at a good price. With certain things you really do get what you pay for and cameras have never been a place where you want to cheap out. If you’re looking for a good cost-effective option consider the GoPro Session, viewable here. In closing here is a couple of videos I’ve shot with it over the past year.