GoPro is giving the 360 camera thing another try, this time with the Hero Max, a $500 dual-lens camera that the company swears is a far more user-friendly device than its previous consumer version, the GoPro Fusion.
It’s fair to say that 360-degree panorama video has so far failed to catch on in the mainstream. The feature is just a bit odd and less straight-forward than cameras that shoot in just one direction—there just aren’t that many typical situations where you really need to shoot 360 degrees. You have to go out and find it or create those situations intentionally, which is why the Max, a descendent of GoPro’s Fusion 360 camera from 2017, is taking aim at the influencers, artists, and other insufferables among us.
Packing two different lenses, the Hero Max is capable of shooting 360-degree panorama video as well as shooting in “Hero mode,” which includes many of the capture options you’d get with the Hero8 Black that the company also announced today.
Unlike the Hero8 Black, the Max has a selfie screen, six microphones for capturing “ambisonic spatial audio” in 360 videos, and a higher-end version of the HyperSmooth image stabilization than you’ll get in the Hero8. At a press event in August GoPro’s VP of management and user experience, Pablo Lema, even claimed it’s the first image stabilization that can make footage captured while attached to a dog look stable. You also get a built-in shotgun mic, four different shooting lens options including extra-wide Max SuperView, and panoramic photo capabilities.
The Fusion, which was GoPro’s first consumer 360 camera, was just not that easy to use compared to a standard GoPro. Plus, it required the use of desktop software to make the 360-degree footage usable. With the Max the processing is moved in-camera, and you can fully edit the footage and share using the fully overhauled GoPro mobile app. We haven’t had the chance to test out the Max just yet, so we’ll have to wait to see just how easy it really is.
Given that the Hero Max is just $100 more than the Hero8 Black, is it worth spending the extra dough get what is effectively two cameras in one? Well, not necessarily. For one, the Max’s “Hero mode” lacks a few options that you’ll get in the Hero8, such as 4K capture. It instead taps out at 1440p and 60 frames per second. (Although you do get the bonus of 5.6K at 30 frames per second with the Max.) The second, as Lema explained to me in August, is that the Max can’t take quite as much of a beating as the Hero8. It’s still waterproof, it’s still meant to be strapped to a mountain bike or a snowboard and sent down a mountain, but it’s not going to hold up to extreme wear and tear the way the Hero8 should.
So unless you’re a vlogger or simply want to get really weird with your videos, the cheaper Hero8 is probably a better choice. That said, if the ease-of-use is really there with the new app, it may be worth giving the Max a try. The 360 video does look incredibly cool and can probably make even a boring vacation look even more of an experience than it actually is.
If you don’t want to wait on reviews the GoPro Max is available for pre-order today. It ships October 24.