GoPro managed to fuse together what they couldn’t with the Fusion - a 360 camera without 360 complications of a 360 camera. How easy is it to use? How is it any better than the other 360 cameras? Can we finish this review without saying 360?
Surprisingly compact and a lot more fun to use, the GoPro Max is maximising what an action camera can be capable of and that’s mostly thanks to its in-device stitching and excellent companion GoPro app. It makes a wild difference for all the wild action you’ll capture, even if it’s treading the risky pothole-laden roads of Mumbai.
GoPro Max: Body
Hello Fusion, my old friend, I was thinking why your name changed again. Ok Adele, we know this has GoPro’s Shotgun-level performance microphone built-in, but let's focus on the other sides - all 360 of them.
This time the size of GoPro’s 360 action camera has a cleaner design over its predecessor but it’s still larger than the Insta360s or the Ricoh Theta, which is the size of a toothpaste tube. It also has foldable fingers like GoPro Hero8 Black, which makes mounting a lot easier now.
It’s a lot easier to check your frame because it comes with a display and neat software wizardry that we’ll come to in a bit. Aside from lens covers, you get a pouch and lens cap for keeping your lens safe in and out of water. In typical GoPro fashion, the full body is cladded in rubberised finish and it’s just a meatier device to hold.
GoPro Max: Is it for you?
First things first, do you really need a 360 action camera in your life? Will this be catching dust every time someone tries to push you into an office chair rather than off an airplane? We like to think that the GoPro Max is an action camera for people who know their use over and above its general appeal as a 360 camera.
It’s easy to get swayed into the Max’s abilities because it drops at a cool ₹47,000, which is astonishingly cheaper than the Fusion and ₹10,500 more than the GoPro Hero8 Black. So when GoPro yelled ‘It works like a singular Hero camera too’, we chimed AYY! Presumably thinking that the Max is just two Hero8 Blacks slapped together, but oh, how far from the truth that actually is.
It’s true that the GoPro Max can serve three different purposes. One as a full-fledged 360 action camera, another as a standard Hero camera (in Hero mode) and lastly as a vlogger’s respite with a bright and visible screen to frame and six microphones to capture the social babble at the utmost fidelity capable. Does it do all three as advertised? Very capably in its own 360 focused way.
GoPro Max: Features
This is the widest a GoPro camera has ever been and even the Hero8 Black can’t match the frame that a single lens from this 360 camera can capture. It allows for neat photography stuff like PowerPano (a 270° panorama shot at the push of a button) and MaxSV (basically the widest field of view at 149° in Hero mode).
The 16.6MP camera is only waterproof up to 5m, so you can capture reef sharks but not shipwrecks.
It takes full advantage of its 360 nature, cramming six microphones for spherical audio and even placing a dedicated microphone next to the screen, which, according to GoPro, understands your vlogging jabber and focuses on speech.
Being a dedicated 360 camera, it also doesn’t get many things that the Hero8 Black can provide. No Night mode, No Night lapse video or photo mode, you can’t make presets, Slo-mo is only up to 2x (8x in Hero8 Black), no supporting mods, resolution is locked to 5.2k at 30fps on 360 mode and 1440p/1080p at up to 60fps on Hero mode (also, 1440p is locked to 4:3 aspect ratio).
In the photo department, the Max misses out LiveBurst, Night Mode, Burst Mode and HDR mode. On the flipside, it can do Max TimeWarp and Max HyperSmooth unlike any other GoPro camera, making tiny globes all over your Insta feed.
GoPro Max: camera
Now that we’ve told you all the things that the Max can’t do, allow us to tell you all the things it can do.
Max TimeWarp and Max HyperSmooth are TimeWarp 2.0 and HyperSmooth 2.0 on steroids. This thing is crazy stable, but that’s also because it’s capturing places where you eyeballs don’t and stitching all of those inside the camera. Horizon Leveling is also done within the camera this time. It keeps your frame upright even if you shake the camera harder than your inebriated self on a Friday night.
Without any dedicated Night Mode, the GoPro Max is essentially a potato after the sun’s down. City lights are enough to shed some light on dark scenes, but that also comes with a lot of noise. Unless you know exactly what to capture and then use Protune to tweak the settings accordingly, a simple point and shoot is not its best attribute in the dark.
It’s not a blue alien but it’s clear that the Max works like Jaadu when you feed it sunlight. Photos come out clear and colours pop in typical GoPro fashion. This being as wide as it is, it’s sure to give a chameleon a scare, but the drawback is noise and lack of sharpness that’s synonymous with all ultra-wide lenses. Albeit, that’s a trade you’ll happily make to capture some unique shots and frames. Just take a look at our sample photos – the first seven photos are actually just a single photo which can be reframed to your heart’s content.
Videos work the same way and the GoPro app lets you easily change angles and edit the footage quite effortlessly. The stitching line is concealed very well, too. It’s remarkable how seamless the stitched footage comes out from the camera without having to sit through the ordeal of converting the footage. Shoot, transfer, edit on the GoPro app and save. Dealing with 360 footage is monkey-easy. Here's a sample video we shot on the Max and edited on the GoPro app.
GoPro Max: Verdict
We have had you, our dear reader, ask us which is the better camera of the two, and to be honest, both are very different from each other. The difference between GoPro’s poster boy and the 360 action camera is quite vast. That said, the GoPro Max is on par with other 360 cameras in the market and, honestly, it’s one of the few that can take a kick and a dip.
Its slight premium price over the Insta360 and Ricoh Theta is justified with a better battery life, seamless 360 footage editing on the app and it doesn’t heat up as fast. GoPro is also going to release Adobe codec for Adobe Premiere Pro editors.
If you’re an early riser, photo quality is great and the audio is even better. Just don’t whip it out at night.