The GoPro’s new Max 360-degree action camera is hell-bent on bringing spherical video to the masses. A new suite of on-camera processing removes the major pain-points from 360-video production, and integrates editing and reframing tools into smartphone apps of the GoPro. Unfortunately, the limited 2D shooting modes are still a long way off competing with single lens action cameras.
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.