Two years ago, GoPro created a whole new category of action cameras—360 cameras. With the launch of its Fusion 360, one could capture 360 degree footage and changeperspectives endlessly in the post processing stage and get some crazy photographss as well as videos.
But Fusion had its own set of issues. Its two lenses, on the front and back, were highly scratch-prone. It was rather bulky and required two micro SD cards. It was also difficult to extract 2D shots and videos after transferring the data to either your phone or a PC.
Indeed, it tested one’s patience Moreover, the best model was priced at Rs 60,000. Clearly, it wasn’t for everyone.
GoPro then decided to go back to the drawing board and completely reimagine a 360 action camera. The result - the new GoPro Max.
Priced at Rs 47,000, the Max gives you a lot more for a lot less. Most importantly, it comes with a built-in 1.7-inch touchscreen, something that every single 360 camera in the market lacks today. The screen lets you frame shots better, change settings on the fly and scroll around the full 360-degree world.
When holding the Max for the first time, it felt lighter than the Fusion. The lenses were not protruding the way they did with Fusion and it seemed more rugged despite the slim profile. It also comes with two transparent lens protectors. This allows you to shoot in tough terrains without worrying about dust or stones damaging the lens.
Max cuts down on the need for two micro-SD cards. It does not require a case to attach accessories to it as it has stowable mounting prongs — a nifty trick! One wonders why didn’t anyone think of it before!.
And yes, the Max is compatible with all current GoPro accessories. So don’t throw any of your old GoPro accessories away.
Shooting with the Max
GoPro Max is not merely a single 360 camera but a combination of three. You can use it as a GoPro Hero 8 Black by enabling only the back lens; you could use it as a 360-degree camera, with both lenses enabled or you coulduse it in the selfie mode for vlogging, clicking selfies or to see how you look.
This is achieved with the help of dual 180-degree lenses that shoot 16.6-megapixel 360-degree photos, 5.5-megapixel 4:3 shots from just one of the cameras. You could also click 270-degree panoramic photos called PowerPanos at 6.2-megapixel.
While the pixel density may seem quite low, GoPro’s software now gives you sharper images than before, truer to life colours and minimum distortion at wide angles, making it great for social media feeds. All this can be done using the same old GoPro camera sensors.
In the previous versions of the GoPro, night time photography was abysmal. But the Max makes it more tolerable with better use of software. It still isn’t at par with some of the best smartphone cameras when it comes to noise reduction or reducing pixelation, but it’s a major improvement, nevertheless.
But the real advantage of the Max comes when you start shooting videos. This is where the Max turns into a Pro. With mics on all sides, except one, the GoPro Max records sound like no other portable camera. You also have the option of selecting the mic, cut down the noise of the wind or have it capture everything so you could edit it later, if you’re clued up on editing. The videos are recorded at 1440p 60 fps with a single lens and 5.6k 30 fps spherical clips.
With the Max you can also permanently bid adieu to all the gimbals. GoPro has enhanced the software to large extent. Once you enable the horizon lock, the camera locks in the horizon and no matter how much you try to move or turn it around 180 degrees, the recording will have zero impact. That’s especially useful when you’re shooting with the Max mounted on a bike or a car while travelling on a rough or uneven road.
Since it is a GoPro, the camera comes with waterproof capabilities of up to 16 feet. Butit isn't ideal for underwater shoots as stitching 360 videos underwater is still a challenge for the mighty device.
Freeze the moment
Software has been the biggest strengths for GoPro and it's no exception with the GoPro Max. The new touchscreen makes it all the more convenient with a small screen providing everything that a GoPro Hero 8 Black does.
The warp mode in the Max allows you to create timelapses that also mean something really cool. Tap the screen while shooting and that part of the video becomes a video shot at the regular frame rate. Tap it again and it gets back to high speed timelapse. The end result leads to a fast moving video that slows down to highlight the most important elements of the video and freezes the moment.
The wide angle lenses used in the GoPro resulted in distorted images and videos which gave you some creative shots, but at the same time it had unnecessary distortions at all times. That has, now, been fixed with a software upgrade.
The Max’s audio capture is truly the best you'll find without any external mics required. It also cuts down on wind noise but keeps the voices of people in the video intact. We tested it in high wind conditions and the results were phenomenal.
GoPro has also improved its battery technology to get more out of the existing battery. But with more video processing happening in-camera, you'd still require an extra battery if you're planning to shoot the whole day.
The coolest part is that you can now edit the entire footage on your mobile phone. It took us a while to get to understand it. But once you do, it is quick and fun to use.
For more professional quality videos, you'd be better off using GoPro's desktop app called GoPro Player. The ease of editing now eliminates the need of third party software like Adobe Final Cut Pro to edit your videos.
Is it for everyone? Yes and No. If you're passionate about videos and action photos, GoPro Max is your go-to device for everything. But it still does require some getting used to and will not be as simple as using a point-and-shoot camera. But, in the end, the crazy perspectives and infinite capabilities of a 360 world is well worth that effort, if you're up for it.
Price: Rs 47,000
Pros: Shoot now, pick later, in-camera 360-degree video stitching, preview capability for both front and back lens on camera, best video stabilisation ever, great price
Cons: Battery drains quickly, still some learning graph required for editing, lack of night mode, low image resolution compared with GoPro Hero 8 Black