While the main course at GoPro’s September press event was undoubtedly the Hero6 Black, the company also shared new details on the Fusion, its first all-in-one 360-degree camera. We were treated to a short hands-on experience of the Fusion previously, but much of the camera, including its specifications, remained secret.
With the specs now official, and having had a second opportunity to try it out in person, we can offer up our first impressions in our GoPro Fusion hands-on review. Note: The camera will not be available until November 2017, and our impressions are based on prototypes and beta software, so a lot can change between now and the camera’s release.
Design and specifications
The camera hasn’t changed its appearance since we first saw it, but we now know it houses the expected USB Type-C port beneath a removable door (GoPro now uses USB-C across its entire camera lineup except for the Hero Session). Behind a second door lies the battery, which is larger than that of a Hero5/Hero6 Black, although we can’t say for sure at this time if it offers improved battery life. The Fusion has to power two cameras in one, after all.
Spherical video can be recorded at either 5.2K at 30 frames per second, or 3K at 60 fps.
Spherical video can be recorded at either 5.2K at 30 frames per second, or 3K at 60 fps. This sounds like a lot, but as immersive video is stretched across a spherical field, you’re only looking at a fraction of those pixels in any one moment. Still — as far as we could tell from reviewing footage on a phone — image quality looks very sharp. The Fusion can also save 360-degree still images at 18-megapixel resolution.
Where other dual-lens 360 cams make due with a single memory card, the Fusion actually records footage to dual MicroSD cards, one for each camera module. The software is smart enough to match the correct files and stitch them automatically, so we imagine this won’t be a significant hassle, at least if you choose to transfer files to your computer via a direct USB connection, rather than taking the cards out and putting them in a reader.
If it isn’t obvious from the photos, the Fusion also looks quite a bit different from the Hero series cameras. It is waterproof, albeit only to 16 feet, about half the depth of the Hero6. Despite the different form-factor, it still uses the same mount that is now ubiquitous throughout the action camera industry, but it won’t be compatible with the Karma drone or grip. The removable USB door makes us think that it will connect to some sort of accessory in the future, however. CEO Nick Woodman said that while the Karma Drone can technically accommodate the Fusion through creative DIY, the company can’t endorse it.
OverCapture and Angel View
Even if virtual reality isn’t your thing, you could still put the GoPro Fusion to use thanks to OverCapture. Just like we saw with Garmin’s Hyperframe Director mode, OverCapture grants you creative freedom in how you want to fit the spherical video into a standard fixed frame. It lets you pan, zoom in and out, and even pull all the way back into a “little planet” perspective.
If you want to mount the camera away from your body, you can do this using the included telescoping pole. And thanks to Angel View, the pole won’t even show up in your footage. We weren’t able to test this feature yet ourselves, but if it works anywhere near as well as it does in GoPro’s sample footage, then we’ll be impressed.
Basically, Angel View automatically erases the pole from the frame, making it look like the camera was floating in front of you. It’s a very neat trick, and we expect people will produce some breathtaking content with this and OverCapture combined.
We did get to test out OverCapture and found it to be very easy and intuitive to use through the mobile app. Simply transfer the footage to your phone, preview your video, and hit the OverCapture button. As it plays, you can manipulate the camera by touch. The app will then process the video, finalizing all your directorial decisions and outputting a fixed-frame video that you can share to social media. OverCapture will also be available in an upcoming desktop app available at launch.
While the Fusion will ship in November, OverCapture on mobile won’t be arriving until early 2018. At that time, a firmware update will also bring 5GHz Wi-Fi to the Fusion, which until then will rely on slower 2.4GHz signals. As GoPro announced with the Hero6 Black, the faster Wi-Fi will improve transfer times by a factor of three, which is probably all the more important with 360-degree video.
Compared to the Omni rig, which costs $5,000 when outfitted with six GoPro Hero4 Black cameras, the $699 Fusion is a bargain. However, it is considerably more expensive than most other all-in-one 360 cams (the Samsung Gear 360 has fallen to $166). If it pays off with better image quality and functionality, though, it will be worth it. OverCapture is quite possibly the missing link in editing and viewing 360-degree content. If all goes well, the Fusion could be the first 360-degree camera that is worth pursuing.