While GoPro’s Hero 8 Black sucks up a lot of the air around action cameras, its new Max 360-degree action camera is arguably a much bigger upgrade with a more novel feature set.
Like its predecessor, the GoPro Fusion, the Max uses two 180-degree fisheye lenses to capture basically anything in its direct line of sight. The Max, however, stitches these two hemispherical video files together automatically, which is a massive timesaver, and the GoPro smartphone app has been updated to let you edit and publish spherical media from start to finish on your phone.
The app update includes GoPro’s OverCapture reframing software which can crop your 360-degree video into a 2D format, giving you the ability to retroactively track, frame, zoom, pan and tilt towards anything captured in the spherical video. This means that if you’re happy for videos to be rendered in Full HD, then you can simply press record on the camera and forget about shot composition or framing until you are ready to edit.
This novel shooting process really expands the types of shots media professionals will be able to create and it’s a feature that is particularly well suited to an action camera – since it saves you from worrying about getting everything in-shot and lets you focus on what you’re actually doing.
The Max has a lot of the new features seen on the Hero 8 Black, but GoPro is keen to point out that the Max pushes these a little further with even greater HyperSmooth digital stabilization, bigger 360-degree TimeWarp time lapse sequences and wider SuperView shooting formats.
The Max also gets decent 16ft (5m) water resistance, in-built retractable mounting fingers and is now compact enough to be compatible with GoPro’s entire range of mounting solutions.
To round out the top-line features, the Max has a new six-microphone audio array that captures a truly three-dimensional soundscape. The additional microphones also provide a surplus of audio information that can be used to cancel out background noise and hone in on voices or other desirable sounds.
The Max even offers the same quality 1080p live streaming as the GoPro Hero 8 Black, which is a unique feature set that will be appealing to any professional action junkies. Unfortunately, the avant garde spirit of the Max can cut the other way at times, with parts of the app feeling far less polished than the Hero 8 Black and the occasional stitching issue in wider shots. But the real question is: is the Max good enough to be a one-stop-shop for all your action camera needs?
If you don’t need anymore convincing the GoPro Max has been available online and at local retailers since late October for US$499.99 / £479.99 / AU$799.95. If you’re not quite there yet, read on.
- Auto stitched videos
- Max HyperSmooth
- In-camera Horizon Levelling
- SuperView Max digital lens
- Max TimeWarp
- 1080p Livestream
If we compare it to the Fusion, the GoPro Max has a long list of new and improved features that take the best bits of spherical video capture and build on them. The most immediate is automatic, on-camera stitching. For the Fusion this process had to be done using post processing software, but the Max now stitches the two hemispheres together and saves it as a single spherical video file. It doesn’t always line up the shots perfectly, but it’s generally good enough for home video purposes and makes it much faster to edit.
Image stabilization has also been improved on the Max. The new digital stabilization software from the GoPro Hero 8 Black is blended with the Max’s full 360-degree perspective to eliminate basically all shaking and rattling from your footage. This combines with new on-camera horizon levelling to output video that is already stitched, stabilized and has a flat horizon from the moment it leaves the camera.
To test the limits of the image stabilization we recorded in 360 mode and threw the Max up in the air with as much spin on it as possible, but the camera’s internal gyroscopes work with the image processing software to output 360-degree video that doesn’t actually rotate at all. You do lose a little clarity when the camera is rotating quickly, but it is a good demonstration of the extremes you can push this camera to when attempting to capture stable and level footage.
Where these stabilization features really come in handy is the TimeWarp functionality. This is GoPro’s stabilized time-lapse photo/video mode that allows you to condense large time periods into concise, punchy video. While the Max misses out on the ‘Auto’ speed setting form the Hero 8 Black – unless you are shooting in a 2D Hero format – you still have the option to manually select whether you want your time-lapse video to run at a handful of intervals from double speed to 30 times faster than life. The Max also has the bonus of full 360-degree TimeWarp shooting which allows you to capture absolutely everything happening around you and output it as a 360-degree video, or as a reframed 2D video where you choose what is in shot.
If you’re looking to just take stills, then GoPro has dreamt up an awesome PowerPano feature that allows you to take a full 270-degree panorama in a single image. This shooting mode incorporates the on-camera horizon levelling to take a single 6.2MP super widescreen shot that is perfectly aligned and has no stitching errors or artifacting from movement.
The Max also gets the same live-streaming update as the Hero 8 Black, letting you record 1080p 2D footage and push it straight to a Facebook, YouTube or custom livestream feed via your phone’s data or a Wi-Fi connection. YouTube’s live streaming safeguards mean that you need over 1,000 subscribers before you can Livestream anything, so this is really only useful for professionals, but it is possible to livestream to Facebook or set up a custom livestream to a number of other video hosting sites like Twitch or Vimeo.