The consumer 360-degree camera that GoPro’s been talking about since CES 2016 is finally coming to market. Today, the company took the Fusion camera out of its summer-long pilot program and, later this month, it will put it on store shelves. As CEO Nick Woodman teased onstage at the company’s event in San Francisco, there’s potentially much more than meets the eye to Fusion.
First of all, we knew some of Fusion’s specs coming into today’s event; GoPro hasn’t exactly been hiding it since it started to tease more of the camera earlier this year. Here’s the full rundown: it uses two lenses to shoot up to 5.2K video at 30 frames per second, can take 18-megapixel spherical photos, and capture 360-degree sound. It’s waterproof up to 16 feet out of the box, and is compatible with “most” GoPro mounts, according to the company.
Fusion also has all the requisite sensors and radios, like GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, as well as an accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass that the camera uses in concert to stabilize the spherical footage. There’s even voice control. And compared to GoPro’s professional 360-degree solutions, it’s a much more approachable camera. It looks like a GoPro.
While 360-degree cameras are a fairly exciting idea, that excitement tends to flame out pretty quick as soon as you’re stumped for reasons to use it. It’s the same problem GoPros originally faced, where the camera’s associations with extreme sports became as intimidating as they were exhilarating, only multiplied in literally every direction.
But Fusion might change that. GoPro says the Fusion “marks the beginning of a new creative era, and that’s because of something GoPro’s broadly calling “OverCapture,” which is a term that actually refers to a few different ways that users can manipulate the footage they shoot with Fusion. Instead of shooting in 360 degrees and posting in 360 degrees, OverCapture allows users to reimagine all that visual information in more traditional, flat, 1080p videos.
That could mean the cute “tiny planet” videos and photos that have been bubbling on the internet for a decade or so. But the more interesting idea in OverCapture is the ability to punch out a 1080p frame, or a still photo, from the 360-degree sphere of imagery. It’s an idea that, if it works well, truly turns the camera into a “shoot first, frame later” kind of tool, which would open up all sorts of wild, creative possibilities. CEO Nick Woodman called it “arguably the most versatile creative tool,” and that you “shouldn’t have to point” your camera anymore.
GoPro’s not the first to do this — the Insta360 One performed a similar trick earlier this year — but it’s one of the few, and it has the best chance of executing the idea, as long as the software experience is good. The good news is that GoPro’s been working on building up that part of the company for a while now. The bad news is these software features are apparently not coming to the mobile app until 2018, so until then, users will have to stick to desktop editing.
Update September 28th, 1:12PM ET: Fusion’s Overcapture feature is coming to mobile in 2018, but will be available on desktop at launch. This story has been updated.