GoPro Max 2: What we want to see

The GoPro Max 360 camera on a green background
(Image credit: GoPro)

The GoPro Max 2 is overdue – the original GoPro Max is now well over three years old, and while this 360-degree camera holds up fine today, it has been overtaken in a few key areas by cameras like the Insta360 X3

Early reports suggested that GoPro would announce the Max 2 in late 2022; that didn’t happen, but we do hope to see it in 2023. 

Very little information on the camera has leaked out thus far, so we’re basing much of this preview on what the GoPro Max 2 needs to become one of the best action cameras, and what we know/imagine to be possible using today’s/ tomorrow’s technology. 

GoPro Max 2 release date

If you’d asked us in early 2022 when the GoPro Max 2 might arrive, we’d have said September or October of 2022 – and of course we’d have been wrong. 

Based on what we’ve seen from GoPro in previous years, the camera now seems unlikely to arrive before September 2023. Virtually all the company’s cameras have launched in September or October, and the few exceptions, such as the 2018 GoPro Hero, were lower-tier models rather than flagships. 

Now, let’s get onto the good stuff. 

The GoPro Max on a green background

(Image credit: GoPro)

A fresh approach to editing

A patent registration document provides best available information pointing to possible GoPro Max 2 features. In July 2022, we reported about a 29-page document published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. 

The gist of these patent applications is that GoPro is looking at new software trickery that automatically reframes 360 footage into standard flat videos, based on AI-powered analysis of what's happening in the scenes. 

GoPro’s current software could do with a refresh, as it’s starting to be shown up in a few areas by Insta360’s fast and intuitive approach. However, the document also hints at specific features, such as the capability to dynamically zoom in on the faces of people who are speaking. 

This could be very handy for quick editing of podcast-like conversations or interviews, with no need for a dual camera setup. Patent filings often amount to nothing but, well, this stuff makes sense. 

The GoPro Max profile with dual cameras on a split green background

(Image credit: GoPro)

4K flat footage

One of the best traits of the GoPro Max is that it’s geared up to be all the action camera you need. The modes that capture flat video, like the footage captured by the GoPro Hero 11 Black, are given just as great prominence as the 360-degree modes.

However, the quality of flat footage from the original Max is just okay, capped as it is at 1080p or 1440p. And that’s 1920 x 1440 pixels for the latter, not the 2560 x 1440 resolution you might hope for. The quality is the same as 1080p; the frame is just taller. 

The Max 2 is going to need a flat 4K mode to become a class leader in 2023, not least because the Insta360 X3 already has such a mode. GoPro will need to use an additional new higher-resolution sensor to make this happen, though. 

The original Max has a pair of 12.3MP Sony IMX577 sensors. To capture unassailable 4K footage we need 8.3MP’s worth of pixels after cropping into one of the sensors fairly heavily; we don’t have that at present in the Max, which is why there’s no 4K mode. 

GoPro Hero 11 Black

(Image credit: Future)

Dual 1/1.9-inch sensors

What would be the perfect new sensors for the GoPro Max? While this may be overreaching, how about a pair of 27-megapixel 1/1.9-inch sensors, as seen in the Hero 11 Black?

The Sony IMX677 is another option, as seen in the GoPro Hero 9 Black and 10 Black. This 23-megapixel sensor is the same size as those in the original Max's, 1/2.3-inch, but makes a classic action camera view at 4K resolution much more viable. 

The sensor used in the Hero 11 Black models is actually a custom version of the IMX677, called the IMX677L. It’s larger, and has an unusual 8:7 aspect ratio. If GoPro gives us a pair of either of these, we’ll likely be happy. 

HDR and improved general dynamic range

We would need to see a larger sensor in order to facilitate one of the other improvements we’d like to see: increased native dynamic range. This would mean less blowing-out of highlights in skies, particularly when there are lots of big, bright, white fluffy clouds about. 

However, even if the GoPro Max 2 ends up using the smaller IMX677 sensor, there is still a way in which GoPro could improve dynamic range – by using HDR video. All current GoPros use basic tone mapping to maximize dynamic range in footage, but the IMX677 sensor also supports DOL-HDR. 

This is where two versions of each frame are generated on the fly, at two exposure levels, to avoid ghosting. These can then be merged to preserve highlight detail and bring more information out of the shadows. 

We find this particularly useful for 360-degree cameras, because exposure metering is a bit of a nightmare with this style. You can’t move your view to radically affect the auto metering, as everything is always in the camera’s field of view, and it’s not as if action cameras have easy-access manual exposure dials. 

The downside of DOL-HDR is that it halves your maximum frame rate. And that brings us to our next point. 

The GoPro Max angled front on a green background

(Image credit: GoPro)

Slow-mo and 60fps 5.7K

The original GoPro Max does not have a particularly high maximum frame rate. 30fps is the max at the top 5.7K resolution, rising to 60fps at 3K. 

The GoPro Max is likely to offer 60fps at its maximum resolution, which would also allow for 2x slow-mo. But we’d also like to see more pronounced slow-mo too. 

120fps at 5.7K? While we can hope for that, 120fps at a step-down resolution somewhere around 3K is perhaps more realistic. 120fps in the ‘flat’ 4K mode we expect from the GoPro Max 2 is also likely. 

GoPro GP2 processor

What do we need in order to get those kinds of frame rates? A better processor than the one in the original GoPro Max. 

Such a processor is already found in other GoPro models – the GoPro GP2. The GoPro Max 2 will have this processor, at the very least. 

There is a chance that we could see the GoPro GP3 in 2023, but we don’t think that’s particularly likely. The GP2 was only introduced in 2021, and GoPro will only switch to newer silicon when that chipset has been wrung dry. For a little context, the GP1 was introduced with the GoPro Hero 6 Black in 2017, and was used all the way up until the Hero 10 Black in 2021. 

The original GoPro Max in the hand

(Image credit: TechRadar)

A higher-resolution capture mode at 8K?

All the stuff we’ve mentioned so far will make the Max 2 a tidy upgrade over its predecessor. However, a higher-res 360-degree capture mode is a must if we’re going to see real progress in the quality of consumer-grade 360 cameras in general.

This is not down to a need to see more detail when fully zoomed out, but to make footage look better as you reframe and digitally zoom in. The original Max’s quality breaks down fairly swiftly at 5.7K resolution. 

What could we get? We’re going to have to do some rough calculations.

The IMX577 of the first GoPro Max has a horizontal resolution of 4,056 ‘active’ pixels; two cameras therefore means a maximum lateral resolution of 8,112 pixels. The actual horizontal resolution of the Max is 5,760 pixels, 0.71x that combined pixel count. 

The active pixel count of the Sony IMX677, a possible Max 2 sensor, is 5,599 pixels. Double that, multiply it by 0.71, and we get 7,951 pixels. This suggests the next Max could offer ‘8K’ capture. Sounds pretty good, right?

As testers of tech, 8K consumer-grade 360-degree video is something we’d like to see above all else in the GoPro Max 2. However, we’ll have to wait until later this year to see if we actually get it, and to see what other upgrades the Max 2 brings. 

Andrew Williams

Andrew is a freelance journalist and has been writing and editing for some of the UK's top tech and lifestyle publications including TrustedReviews, Stuff, T3, TechRadar, Lifehacker and others.