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GoPro takes a smaller step to bolster market position

GoPro Inc. added a smaller, simpler-to-use camera to its Hero line, part of its strategy to maintain dominance of the action-camera segment it has popularized in recent years.

Called the Hero4 Session, the camera is 40 percent lighter and 50 percent smaller than GoPro’s Hero4 Black and Silver models, the company said Monday in a statement. The device doesn’t have a screen for visually setting up shots like other models, but records video when the user pushes the only button and turns off when it is touched again.

GoPro’s shares soared to almost $94 last year after its initial public offering in June 2014, but tumbled to $38 in March on concerns that growth for wearable action cameras would slow. Shares have gained to $51.75 at the close July 2 in New York after the San Mateo, Calif.-based company announced plans in May to introduce a drone and a device for capturing 360 degree videos for use in virtual-reality applications.

Adding models may help GoPro maintain its dominance of the $2 billion action camera market, by filling more price points and customer requirements. Last month, the company introduced a $300 version of the Hero.

“At some point, they needed to broaden their product portfolio to generate excitement among current users and drive interest in new segments,” said Christopher Chute, an analyst at IDC.

Chute said GoPro’s share of the market grew to 70 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 from 60 percent the previous year despite a push by competitors including Sony Corp. and Xiaomi Corp.

The new Hero4 Session, to go on sale in the U.S. on Sunday, is priced at $399, compared with $130 for older cameras and $500 for the newer Hero4 Black. The model also can take still photographs. It will likely appeal to existing GoPro customers who feel comfortable recording video without being able to see what’s being captured on the device, the company said.

The new model doesn’t require a waterproof case because water can drain via the microphone aperture. While the device has battery life of only two hours, it will require less frequent charging because it automatically goes off when finished recording, spokeswoman Kelly Leggoe said in an interview.

Videos must be viewed on a personal computer, GoPro’s mobile apps or on a remote control device, sold separately.