GoPro Max review: the most accessible 360 camera

GoPro Max review: the most accessible 360 camera

November 18, 2019 100 By Kailee Schamberger


(mellow piano music) (upbeat music) – This is the GoPro MAX. And it’s GoPro’s second attempt at a consumer level, 360 camera. (upbeat music) (camera whirring) Last year, Insta360
came out with the One X, and it totally revolutionized the idea of what a 360 camera could be used for. First off, footage shot with the One X was stitched in camera, and then you were able to
edit it right on your phone and upload to social
platforms almost instantly. Secondly, they market it
not as a 360-degree camera but instead a camera that
could shoot 360 degrees of possible angles. Now fast forward a year
and we have the GoPro Max, which is the successor to the GoPro Fusion that came out in 2017, that was filled with all of
the headaches of 360’s past. It required two memory cards. You had to stitch the
footage on a desktop. But they overhauled all
of that with the Max, and they in turn made a
really accessible 360 camera, which makes me believe I might continue to actually use this thing. ♪ We wag, we wag, we wag, we wag, we wag ♪ ♪ This is the widest angle GoPro’s made ♪ ♪ This is the wide ♪ The GoPro MAX has dual 180-degree lenses that shoot 16.6-megapixel,
360-degree photos, 5.5-megapixel single lens, or GoPro is calling Max SuperView photos, and the super cool 6.2-megapixel panoramic
photos called PowerPanos. Video-wise, you have 1440p60
video with a single lens and 5.6K30 spherical video,
just like the Insta360. There are mics on all but one side and it shows the same super
satisfying rubber buttons and button layout as the Hero8. On the bottom, you have these
new stowable mounting prongs, which alas, you no
longer need that housing, which I somehow always
manage to forget anyways, and it also makes it compatible
with all GoPro mounts. The touchscreen on the
Max is a bit smaller than the touchscreen on
the back of the Hero, but its menu system is identical. The big plus here is if you’re
vlogging or taking a selfie, you can see yourself much
like on the DJI Osmo Action because, well, there’s
lenses on both sides. The Max is waterproof up to 16 feet. But that proofing is merely
for protection at this point. GoPro claims that it’s really difficult to stitch underwater footage, but they are promising some
sort of waterproof housing in the future. The screen is super responsive, but you can’t scroll around
your frame in 360 mode since the screen has swiping gestures such as swiping down
to reach the main menu. You can however switch between lenses but only while not recording. Once you hit that record button, the screen has no functionality other than just being a
viewfinder to the lens that you chose before rolling. The image on the screen
will however stay level with the horizon no matter
which way you turn the camera. And it does so with
almost no noticeable lag. If you lean into that
warped, super fisheye look that only a 360 camera could
give you, the footage is sick. Skin tones are true to
life and it’s not afraid to overexpose the highlights of it. I prefer this to the flatter
color grade of the One X, especially for users who
won’t be color correcting. And how even if you are color correcting, I find that the Max and the
One X have very little latitude in the coloring process. Now, if you’re only gonna
be showing these photos on social platforms that you’re
gonna look at on a phone, who cares, but for a
camera that costs $500, I hope it’s going a little
further than that. (laughs). The Max’s 360° video is
stabilized in software. It bobs up and down as
you’d expect from walking and it can be really
jittery, especially at night. The stitching is most
noticeable at the top and the bottom of the frame. And since most of GoPro’s mounts
typically have a wider base than the camera itself, there’s almost always a bit
of artifact from the mount in the footage. Over-all though, once you
export the 360-degree footage, the stitch is pretty clean. The audio, however, is
probably the best I’ve seen on a camera this size. The wind reduction can
add a lot of compression, and enough wind can sound like, well this, (wind blowing) Guys, when I say it’s windy out, it’s like actually very windy out. I am about to blow over. This might make some really
good footage as I fly away. But when you’re not in
25-mile an hour wind, it actually reduces the sound of wind while prioritizing voices. So while hiking with Alex, I
love that the GoPro picked up on the crickets and footsteps, while also keeping our
voices at the forefront no matter where the camera was in space. ♪ Yeah, and I think it’s
gonna be a long, long time ♪ And then there are those PowerPano photos. I gotta be honest guys, I had a tough time not showing you these photos
before this video dropped. I mean first and foremost, they make taking a panoramic
photo a lot easier. And you don’t have to
stand there and slowly and robotically move your
phone across the landscape. I was really surprised at how crisp these photos turned out to. Even on a desktop, they
still look really cool. The time warp feature in 360 mode, which is when the Max just
records the time lapse, is really cool, but it’s
a total battery killer. I saw my battery drop
15% off a fresh charge while shooting this time warp. And I let it record for all of 10 minutes. I think it would help if
the screen would go off a bit sooner while shooting
these to save some battery. Otherwise, the battery
performance is on par with the Hero8. Even though it is a different battery. So yes, you will need to buy extra spares if you plan on heavy use. I was able to get through
a full day of heavy use using two of these batteries. 360 cameras are only accessible though if you can do something with the footage. So the software has to be sound, and GoPro’s app makes it really
easy to edit this footage. Max uses the same GoPro app as the Heroes. Now, I’m no stranger to keyframes, but I think even a
casual non-video director from the verge.com could
edit the Max’s 360 footage. And I actually enjoyed
editing it on the app. GoPro also has a 360 desktop
app called GoPro Player, which mirrors the mobile app experience with added codec options at export. You have H.264, ProRes, HUVC, and as far as 360 editing goes, I was blown away by its ease. Okay so there’s this whole
other mode on the Max called Hero mode. And it’s basically just when
the camera’s using one lens as opposed to two. It has more mic controls
and it even boasts GoPro’s most stable video
called Max HyperSmooth. And it also has the widest field of view called Max SuperView. But I gotta be honest,
while it does sound good and the footage is stable, the fact that it maxes out
at 1440p60 is noticeable. Especially in how much
smoothing is being done when the subject is close to the camera. I also noticed the camera struggled to keep the footage
level with the horizon, choosing to instead focus on
keeping the footage stable. So when climbing down this trail, which to be fair, is a slanted surface, the horizon kept tilting
further and further from level to almost a dizzying point. GoPro has become a household name. I mean they’re specced out, durable, tiny, portable beasts of cameras. And the Max is no different. And while the Max has great
features such as PowerPano, it also has great hardware and
a really good touch screen. But for me, it came down to
the ease of use of the app that made me wanna keep using this thing. 360 footage used to
mean high-end equipment and tons of headaches and post, and that always pushed
me away from using it. But when you put all of that into the form factor of a GoPro, a workflow I’ve been using for years, it’s way more approachable. Now, is all of that
enough to make this thing more than a novelty camera
that will ultimately end up in my forgotten type bed in my basement? Time will truly tell. But it is the most fun and
user-friendly 360 camera I have used today. And I’m excited to see
this thing as specced out. (coughing) 4K Hero mode? (coughing) Please? All right, so for 499, you
can pre-order a Max today. They start shipping on October 24th and will be on shelves October 27th. The 360 space is getting kinda nuts and the One X versus the Max
deserves its whole own videos, so I guess I’ll see you guys next time.