Now more than two years ago, GoPro brought on the market its first action cam, 360 degrees, or the GoPro Fusion (here’s our preview). Unfortunately for the american company, it is a product that has never been the success hoped for, in fact, let’s just say that was perhaps one of the worst managed among the ones introduced up to the present. The generous dimensions by the standards of the segment, the need to use two micro SD card), the stitching that was only in post production, and an experience that is extremely frustrating in the editing of the videos made are only some of the elements that have made the failure.
Recently other situations you are trained in this undertaking, among the most popular are Garmin and Insta360, but none of these has ever achieved the popularity that it becomes a real point of reference. GoPro has then decided to try again this year and in the course of the month of October has come the announcement of the new Max, which relies entirely on the creativity of users and ease of use. It will be the right time?
Aesthetically this new Max offers the typical setup of the camera 360 through the two optical elements in opposite position separated from the central body. The latter has been greatly optimized in terms of size and weight compared to the old Fusion. We are speaking of a camera that is 33% lighter and about 20% smaller. In short, not bad for a product that must be easily transportable because it is often used in situations of extreme sporting activities.
The body is light always coated with a coating soft-touch rubberized that makes the camera extremely resistance to scratches and shock. As for the last Hero here also we have the certification that attests to the impermeability up to 5 meters without the use of shells airtight.
At the base of the camera we can find, as well as the Hero 8 Black (which we reviewed last month), the new pin retracts, allowing to fasten the GoPro to various accessories. The good news is that these pins are much more durable than you can ever imagine, and that their shape and their size make them compatible with all of the accessories for the GoPro that you already possess.
Through the body are then positioned six new microphones that let you record audio in 3 different ways. There is that 360-degree, more classical in stereo and finally the mode shotgun, perfect for the Vlog. Video selfie that is then made even simpler by the presence of a small touch display to colors, 1.7 inch diagonal that shows you what you are framing. This display offers good maximum brightness and a great precision in response to the commands.
The compartment for the battery is placed on one of two sides, covered by a door secured with a secure from accidental openings. In addition to the battery inside this compartment are placed the slot for the microSD and the USB-C for charging and, where applicable, for the transfer of the data.
We start from the assumption that this GoPro Max turn video 360 degrees , but which, in 99.9% of cases, these videos will be reviewed on the screen of a smartphone, a notebook or a TV. Very few people today possess, and use in fact of viewers for the virtual reality that allow you to actually enjoy the content to 360 degrees in their “sphericity”. The real challenge is then to allow the user to extrapolate to a standard video in 16:9 by content is spherical and in a more simple and intuitive as possible.
The challenge that had been sensationally lost with a Fusion because of too many complications in the editing stage and is instead passed with flying with this new Max. The application is made really well, the camera connects in a very rapid and afterwards it is possible to view and download the content contained on the microSD. I recommend, if possible, to download and always work on files in local in order to have a greater reactivity in the interaction with them.
At this point, you selected the clip that we want to edit mode is entered Reframe. In this mode we become real filmmakers. We can adjust the framing, moving to the inside of the spherical image with a swipe and zoom in and secure it with a tap on the timeline. This creates a keyframe on the timeline corresponding to the various shots that can then be removed or modified. By default, the displacement from one frame to the other takes place in a linear fashion but we can vary the transitions so as to make sharp cuts with the tool, all without ever leaving the application.
You really need a few minutes to familiarize yourself with this new system but once you get to grips you can carry on the installation with extreme naturalness. Once you have completed the reframe of the clip, simply press on the play button to see a preview of what is in the movie “mounted” with the different shots. If the latter is to our liking we will have to save it and download it in the gallery on your smartphone, or share it on social directly from the application.
The funniest thing of this whole process is that you don’t have to think where to aim the lens of the camera because of the fact you’ll have a resume that includes, always and however, everything that surrounds you. I want to give you then a tip: for even better results, use a selfie stick pointed in front of or above you, with the Max mounted straight above it so that the union of the two images hemispherical shots by the optics to eliminate the support, and make it appear to the camera as a sort of drone suspended in the air that follows or precedes the action.
Like every GoPro self-respecting, of course, also this Max offers a plethora of options, shooting modes and resolutions for the capture of the cinematics. Let’s begin with an overview of the available resolutions. Using it in the mode to 360 degrees , we can turn to a maximum resolution of 5.6 K at 30fps. To tell the truth, the full resolution would be a 6K, but at the stitching you lose some pixels, and the result is a spherical image with slightly lower resolution.
In addition to the mode at 360 degrees you can activate the so-called “Hero Mode” or the setting that basically lets you use Max as if it was a GoPro. In this case, you can choose between two different resolutions: a 1440p 4:3 , or a classic, fullHD in 16:9. In both cases, with a framerate of 60 fps.
Then there is the mode, TimeWarp, available in 360 degrees or “Hero Mode”. As we have already seen with the last Hero 8 Black it is a kind of timelapse from this year, offers the possibility of slowing down the action in the highlights and so better highlight. On the Max option is not available which slows the movie automatically, depending on the movements detected but it is necessary to act manually on the appropriate command. The clips that we get are always very special and impressive with the excellent stabilization that helps to make the most of this mode in every situation.
As for the clip normal even with the TimeWarp you can then go on to act in post-production on the footage captured in 360 degrees to make the reframe by varying the shots and exporting at the end of a classic 1080p in 16:9.
And finally, speaking of photos, that are by default recorded with a resolution of 16 megapixel, 360-degree and 5-megapixel camera in the classic format. The real treat, however, is the mode “power-pano”, thanks to which we can shoot panoramic images with a single shot. Unlike what happens with the smartphone , in fact, it is not necessary to make a panning with the device. The photo 360 degrees is substantially cropped to be a panorama with a very wide vision angle. The advantage is that, since it is a single shot, even in the case of subjects in motion, you will not have problems of frames repeated or unpleasant artifacts.
You will not be surprised if I tell you that the image quality of footage from this GoPro Max is not at the same level as that of the Hero 8 Black but in spite of this remains on a good level, definitely superior to that of all the cameras 360 degrees at the same level of marketed up to now.
Many of the products tested in the past falling foul in the management of high lights and shadows, the operation is far from simple, if we consider that these parameters should be balanced for the whole of the spherical image is captured. Max is undoubtedly the product which best succeeds in this matter, allowing us to then do the reframe by pointing to the framing in any direction while always maintaining a quality all-in-all good. The same applies to the colour balance and exposure adjustment, parameters for which I have never noticed any differences between the frames shot by the two lenses.
Needless to tell you that, like all the action cam, the new Max from the best in optimum light conditions and is in the gloomy days with grey skies and the light that illuminates the mist the shooting condition more unfavorable. All this, however, is partially mitigated by the presence of an electronic stabilization incredible. Both the 360-degree movies that shooting standard 16:9 are incredibly firm in any situations. You can run, you dive headlong from a mountain, mountain bike, or attach the GoPro to a car, off-road, but, in any case, you can be sure that your videos seem to always be taken with the aid of a gimbal ultra high-end. In post-production, or directly in the room in the case of video in Hero mode, we can then also decide to block the line of the horizon to further accentuate the effect of stability.
The other challenge they face the cameras at 360 degrees is that of the stitching. Also here I have not yet found a product that manages to combine perfectly the two hemispheres without creating artifacts, but overall, I can say that this Max is one of the solutions that hides better the intersection; provided that you follow some simple rules.
The first is the one to turn always towards us, or, more in general, towards the subject of one of the two lenses, so that the line of union is not cutting exactly in half the main element of the shot. The second is that you always use the support parallel to the chamber so that it disappears from the shots engulfed in the portion of the superimposed image. The third and last concerns the distance of the subject from the camera. The longer the arm of the support on which you place the Max the better will be the effect that you will get. By following these simple concepts you will have in most of the cases an optimal result, and you will notice only a very slight blur at the point of union of the two images.
And finally, I speak to you of the microphones that perform really a very good job. GoPro has included well 6 in the body of this Max and, as already mentioned, we can select three modes of audio capture. In all three of these modes you will have good results and, in general, the feature that most impressed me was the effectiveness of the cancellation of the environmental noise, like the rustle of the wind when we are in motion. Prime example is the clip, which you can find above, where we can feel extremely clean, the engine noise of the bike, without, precisely, the annoying rustling of the air that inevitably slams against the room.
And here we come to the conclusions. In terms of the action cam 360 degrees this GoPro Max is undoubtedly the most interesting product among the ones I have tried up to now. It is not a record that relies solely on the quality of the images is better than that of many of the competitors but lower compared to some of the most popular action cam “standard”. The real killer feature is, according to me, the ease with which GoPro has been able to make available these contents to 360 degrees to the common user.
Anyone can buy this to the Max, and fun to re-mount the video captured in post-production, choosing among the shots that meet. In some cases the result seems to be a movie obtained with such a configuration, multi-cam, and the simplicity and directness with which he brings the operation to make this GoPro a product accessible to a large majority of the users.
There are still some limits, such as the resolution of the final movie that is “only” fullHD, but in general, we are still facing a more than satisfactory.
The price can be another obstacle. Currently, the list speaks for 529 euro, which are undoubtedly many, but which are, according to me, justified by an overall quality that is worth the hundred euros more in price compared to the price of the best proposals from competitors.