Camera

GoPro Max great for capturing 360-degree action

The GoPro Max is essentially a GoPro Hero8 action camera, but one that is able to shoot 360-degree still and moving images instead of just 2D ones.

The Max has two 180-degree lenses and shoots 16.6-megapixel 360-degree photos and 5.6K 360-degree videos at 30 frames per second.

At its bottom are built-in lugs - also found on the Hero8 - that can be prised open to form the GoPro mount that has become universal for all action cameras.

The Max is water-resistant to a depth of 5m with its included protective lens covers, though GoPro has said it is not an underwater camera.

Design-wise, the Max looks somewhat like its predecessor, the Fusion, with its two 180-degree cameras that are sited asymmetrically. But its shutter-release button is at the top, not at the front like the one on the Fusion.

On one side is the power button. On the other side is a compartment that houses a battery - which can be swopped out - and an SD card.

The Max has a front touchscreen display - not found on the Fusion - that makes it easy to change shooting modes and settings by swiping and tapping.

With the Fusion, navigating the menu interface requires you to press both the power/mode button and shutter-release button - not exactly intuitive.

The display lets you see yourself clearly in single-lens mode, which is great for video bloggers or taking selfies.

There are two SD card slots in the Fusion. Each SD card records the information of one sensor and sends it to the GoPro app for stitching. With the Max, stitching is done in-camera, thus saving time. I think this is probably the best improvement in the Max.

Transfers for the Fusion can take hours, or at least it feels like it. But with the Max, I am able to transfer a one-minute 360-degree clip into the GoPro app in less than a minute.

  • FOR

    • Superb video quality

    • Great video stabilisation

    • User-friendly interface

  • AGAINST

    • Visible stitching lines at times

    • Low-light stills and videos disappointing

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $740

    IMAGE SENSOR: 2 x 9-megapixel

    LENS: 2 x 180-degree f/2.8

    CONNECTIVITY: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C

    WEIGHT: 163g

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3.5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3.5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The Fusion app is also not very useful and quite limited in terms of editing tools. For instance, it cannot do free capture - a feature that lets you choose the angle to use at a certain point in the footage and mix angles to make a 2D video clip look like it has been shot with multiple cameras.

On the other hand, the GoPro app (available on Android and iOS) for the Max allows free capture and is far more intuitive to use when editing 360degree videos.

For instance, you can choose the angle you like at a point in a clip, add a keyframe marker, repeat the steps until you are satisfied and save the resulting clip. You can then share your masterpiece on social media.

The video quality is superb, with razor-sharp details, accurate colours and great dynamic range.

The microphone picks up my voice and ambient noise clearly. The video stabilisation is excellent and feels almost gimbal-like.

On the downside, the stitching lines in the Max's 360-degree stills and videos are easily discernible.

However, this is something you can probably "hide" if you compile a free-capture video by choosing a scene that does not show the stitching lines.

What cannot be hidden, though, is the grainy quality of both the photos and videos shot by the Max in low light. This is not a camera to use at night.

Battery life, rated at 78 minutes when shooting 5.6K 360-degree videos, is slightly above average for a 360-degree camera and the rating proves to be spot-on in my testing. Shooting a time-lapse video for 10 minutes, the Max's battery level dipped from 80 per cent to 68 per cent.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2020, with the headline 'GoPro Max great for capturing 360-degree action'. Print Edition | Subscribe