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The GoPro Max is a reboot of the company’s attempts at a spherical camera

The GoPro Max is a reboot of the company’s attempts at a spherical camera

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With a $499 price tag that’s easier to stomach

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GoPro’s new Hero 8 Black camera is here, and it didn’t arrive alone. The company also announced a new 360-degree camera today simply called Max. The twin-lens spherical camera costs $499, and it will ship on October 24th.

GoPro’s history with 360-degree capture stretches back a couple of years. It designed a wild 16-camera rig meant to shoot virtual reality scenes on Google’s Jump platform back in 2015, and it released a more compact six-camera version called Omni the year after. Then, the company tried to kick off a “new creative era” with its first 360-degree camera for consumers, Fusion, in 2017.

It’s smaller and way easier to use than the Fusion

But while the Fusion was capable of capturing some truly wild footage, it was too cumbersome and difficult to use to ever become more than another seldom-used tool for professionals. It was essentially two Hero 5 Blacks reassembled inside a big tooth-shaped housing, and each side of the Fusion had to write to its own separate microSD card. This meant all of the stitching had to happen off-camera, which — combined with the file sizes and inherent extra file management — made it sort of a nightmare to work with.

The Max is meant to upend all of that, down to the fact that GoPro opted not to continue using the Fusion branding. It’s also a waterproof square-ish twin-lens camera, but it’s one that should be far better and simpler to use.

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“We didn’t want to make a Fusion 2, because it’s not what people want,” Pablo Lema, GoPro’s head of product management and user experience, told The Verge. “What people want is the benefits of what Fusion used to do in a different camera.”

One of the biggest differences about the Max is its size; it’s not actually all that much bigger than the new Hero 8 Black. This makes it less cumbersome to use, and it means it can be mounted to whatever you like using GoPro’s standard mounts. Another key difference is that Max saves all of the footage to one memory card and does all of its stitching on camera. The Max also comes with a dedicated touchscreen for changing settings or reviewing footage, something Fusion didn’t have (and something most others lack).

“We didn’t want to make a Fusion 2.”

GoPro is positioning the Max as a more well-rounded camera than the Fusion, calling it “three cameras in one” — a reference to the ability to use just one of the opposing cameras on either side of the Max at a time, as well as the combined 360 capability.

This was an idea the company teased with the Fusion. But trying to use that camera as “just another GoPro” didn’t work all that well — not merely because of Fusion’s size, but also because it was also using outdated Hero 5 internal hardware.

The Max, however, is powered by similar internals as the new Hero 8 Black. It also has integrated mounting fingers, just like the new Hero 8 Black, meaning it won’t need any extra housing (though there are caps to protect the lenses). GoPro also claims the Max will have even better stabilization than the company’s new flagship camera, and it can automatically level the horizon, largely owing to the wider field of view of the two lenses on the 360 camera.

It’s worth asking why anyone would want a 360-degree camera when 360-degree footage has always mostly felt like a gimmick. GoPro’s answer to this is that, with the Max, the company thinks it will deliver on another promise that Fusion didn’t quite live up to: allowing you to shoot in all directions at the time of capture and select your viewpoint later.

So the pitch for the Max, then, is that you can spend $100 more for what is sort of a Hero 8 Black that can shoot in all directions. But there are limits. While the Max will shoot up to 5.6K 360-degree video at 30 frames per second, it’s capped at 1440p and 60 frames per second when shooting with just one of the twin lenses. So if you want to shoot in 4K or at higher frame rates, the Hero 8 Black (or any of GoPro’s previous cameras) will still be a better option.

It’s sort of like having a Hero 8 that can shoot in all directions

The reason GoPro thinks a 360 camera work this time is because the use of desktop software is no longer required; Max footage can be reframed within GoPro’s own mobile app. The app also lets users play around with keyframes that can reframe the footage mid-clip in really interesting ways, much like the Insta360 One X.

It’s an alluring promise, though GoPro didn’t have any Max units ready for testing like it did with the Hero 8 Black, so it’s one we’ll have to wait to put to the test. If GoPro nails the software experience, the Max could be the camera to beat in this niche slice of the photography world.

GoPro Max /

Available October 24th for $499.99

Pre-Order on GoPro

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