360-degree video cameras are a bit like smartwatches. The novelty of the expertise will get us excited, even when we’re not sure how that expertise suits into our lives or if it brings tangible enhancements over our present units. Producers tout these merchandise as the subsequent large factor, however have regularly fallen quick on their guarantees to ship one other technological revolution.

On this analogy, GoPro is like Apple. It wasn’t the primary firm to place a chunk on the board, however now all eyes are on its subsequent transfer. We wish to know if the Fusion 360 camera can lastly reveal the true potential of immersive video, one thing that has escaped a lot of the different trade gamers. We’re in search of a cause to need this factor, simply as we appeared to Apple to provide us a can’t-live-without-it smartwatch.

Whereas it’s debatable whether or not or not Apple succeeded with the first-generation Watch, a typical chorus amongst reviewers and customers was, “It’s nice — for a smartwatch.” Our reward for the Fusion is equally reserved: It has the potential to be the perfect 360 digital camera on the market, however it’s nonetheless a 360 digital camera — in the event you didn’t want one earlier than, you in all probability nonetheless don’t. However in contrast to most 360-degree cameras, we are able to make a extra compelling argument for why you’d desire a Fusion.

Design and specs

Though the form is exclusive, the Fusion is unmistakably a GoPro. It shares a design language with the Hero5 Black and Hero6 Black cameras, being wrapped in the same grippy, soft-touch materials and completed within the acquainted, understated, two-tone matte grey. It options GoPro’s recognizable two-button interface and entrance LCD info show, however lacks a monitor or touchscreen. It has the same depth to a Hero digital camera, however is each wider and taller, and the ever present GoPro mount is hooked up immediately at its base, fairly than being a part of a separate case. That further dimension may make it a bit extra awkward to mount in tight areas, however you’ll be able to in any other case put the Fusion wherever you’d use one other GoPro digital camera. Two adhesive mounts are included within the field, together with a mini tripod/selfie stick (Fusion Grip).

Though the form is exclusive, the Fusion is unmistakably a GoPro.

One vital distinction between the Fusion and its Hero siblings is that it’s only waterproof all the way down to 16 ft, about half the depth a Hero can endure. This gained’t be a problem for many customers — the Fusion continues to be probably the most ruggedized 360 digital camera we’ve examined. Motion cameras are what GoPro is thought for, and the Fusion suits the mildew — simply take notice to watch out with these very uncovered lenses.

A part of the additional dimension is to accommodate a bigger battery, which GoPro states will final for as much as 75 minutes of recording at 5.2K decision. Nevertheless, for lengthy steady photographs, recording time is more likely to be restricted by warmth — or storage capability — fairly than battery life. We had no bother working the digital camera till we crammed the 2 reminiscence playing cards — about 59 minutes price of footage break up throughout two 32GB playing cards — however a number of unbiased checks with bigger playing cards confirmed the digital camera will shut down from overheating after about 1 hour and 10 minutes. (In our expertise, the digital camera grew to become heat to the contact after only a few minutes of being turned on, even when not recording.)

If you happen to do have to run the Fusion repeatedly, you’ll be able to bypass each battery and temperature limitations by powering it externally by means of the USB-C port. To do that, first be sure to take away the battery, which helps the digital camera keep cool. Whereas most customers in all probability gained’t have to make the most of this characteristic — or gained’t have the ability to, relying on how the digital camera is getting used — it’s good that GoPro included the choice.

In contrast to different dual-lens 360 cameras, the Fusion information footage concurrently to 2 MicroSD playing cards — one card for every lens. This can be to make sure the digital camera has sufficient bandwidth to write down the 5.2K/30p or 3K/60p video recordsdata, however it appears like an absence of refinement. Regardless, it’s not that a lot of a problem — whether or not transferring recordsdata through Wi-Fi to a wise system or connecting the digital camera on to a pc, the info from the 2 playing cards is merged seamlessly in a course of that’s invisible to the person. If you happen to decide to make use of a card reader, simply be sure to copy the complete contents of every card over to your pc, not simply the video recordsdata, because the related sidecar recordsdata are what inform GoPro’s software program how you can merge each halves of the video.

Consumer expertise:

It’s attainable to regulate the Fusion from the digital camera itself, however you’ll save your self loads of bother by interacting with it by means of the GoPro app. After utilizing the touchscreen interface of the Hero5 and Hero6 Black cameras, attempting to navigate the Fusion’s varied menus and settings utilizing simply the mode and report buttons feels extremely sluggish and cumbersome. The GoPro app, nonetheless, stays the perfect digital camera management app on the market, and is leagues forward of most of the different apps particular to 360 cameras. And in the event you personal different GoPro cameras, you’ll be able to management all of them from the identical app, so it pays off if you wish to play solely in GoPro’s ecosystem.

The GoPro app stays the perfect digital camera management app on the market.

Holding the digital camera by hand, or on the included selfie stick/tripod, doesn’t really feel a lot totally different than working with another GoPro. Mount it to a motorcycle body, helmet, or perhaps a automobile dashboard, nonetheless, and also you’ll undoubtedly discover the additional bulk. Whether or not or not we truly have been, we undoubtedly felt like we have been drawing extra consideration to ourselves when utilizing the Fusion in comparison with a Hero.

Whereas the digital camera is waterproof, that is principally simply to guard it on wetter adventures like rafting or browsing. Really attempting to movie underwater gained’t work effectively for 360 content material, because the water acts as a lens, altering the angle of the view and making it so the 2 hemispheres now not sew collectively properly. You’ll be able to nonetheless use it underwater, however you’ll have to restrict your perspective to only one or the opposite lens — so, you’re higher off merely going with a Hero in order for you a digital camera for snorkeling or diving.

Consumer expertise: Software program

GoPro’s cell app has at all times helped differentiate it from the competitors. It’s as simple and simple to make use of with the Fusion as it’s with another GoPro digital camera. It additionally contains ProTune so you’ll be able to set an ISO restrict, publicity compensation, and select a flat coloration profile in order for you extra room to make changes in publish. Video recordsdata are fairly giant, and a 30-second clip took a minute-and-a-half to switch over Wi-Fi, so that you’ll wish to maintain that in thoughts earlier than you obtain a day’s price of video recordsdata.

What the app gives particularly for the Fusion is OverCapture, GoPro’s instrument for creating conventional fixed-frame video from a 360-degree supply clip. Primarily, it allows you to “reshoot” a scene nonetheless many instances you wish to. Simply press report, then pan across the scene both by dragging on the display screen along with your finger or holding the cellphone and easily shifting it round to vary your perspective, simply as you’d when viewing a 360 video. You may also pinch to zoom and even pull again right into a “little planet” perspective. Your entire actions are recorded as digital digital camera strikes and saved in a flattened 1080p video. Drop the video (or movies) into GoPro’s Quik app, together with clips out of your different Hero cameras or cellphone, and you may shortly create a full video, with titles and music, in a matter of minutes.

Whereas OverCapture is extra intuitive than related techniques we’ve seen on different cameras, just like the MADV Madventure 360, it isn’t all the things we have been hoping for — but. There is no such thing as a capacity to set keyframes and have the software program easily transition between them, a characteristic that basically impressed us on the less-expensive Rylo 360 camera. This implies the pans and zooms within the ensuing flattened video aren’t as easy or exact as they may very well be, and if you wish to make even a tiny change, it’s a must to redo the complete shot. There’s no strategy to simply skip alongside the timeline and change up the angle at a particular level. That is linear, real-time enhancing in a nonlinear world, and that’s simply annoying. Positive, it might be initially extra approachable to customers who don’t have any video enhancing expertise, however the Rylo already proved keyframe animation system (albeit one disguised underneath the less complicated time period “Factors”) may be introduced in a really easy-to-understand trend.

Fusion Studio on desktop performs the cleanest stitching of any two-lens 360 digital camera we’ve seen.

We wrote “but” as a result of it’s not unusual for GoPro so as to add new options through firmware updates, judging from our expertise with Hero cameras. OverCapture was truly unavailable to customers when the digital camera went on sale in late 2017; it wasn’t till early 2018 when it was made out there by means of an replace. GoPro has stated it’s persevering with to work on enhancing the app expertise, so hopefully OverCapture will achieve extra capabilities down the street.

The Fusion Studio desktop program isn’t significantly better. Right here, you’ll be able to apply coloration and perspective correction and output both 360 or flattened movies for sharing to social media or enhancing in one other program. It handles the stitching routinely (though, this may take a really very long time) however Fusion Studio’s implementation of OverCapture is much more restricted than what’s within the cell app. You’ll be able to choose both “little planet” or “fisheye” views, select a single angle of view, and… that’s it. You’ll be able to’t report your actions or set any keyframes so as to add movement into the ultimate video, both.

If you wish to create the sort of thrilling, adrenaline-fueled edits you see in GoPro’s sample videos — with retiming, easy pans, and ideal zooms — you’ll want Adobe Premiere Professional. GoPro gives plugins for Premiere Professional and After Results to provide them native Fusion help. That is all effectively and good for Premiere Professional customers, and whereas it’s true that any digital camera goes to be extra succesful when used with skilled enhancing software program, we’re a bit dissatisfied that the characteristic we have been most enthusiastic about is one thing we are able to’t really make the most of with out utilizing third-party software program. We have been trying to GoPro to ship its typical best-in-class options mixed with the chic ease of use and polish of the Rylo, however the Fusion isn’t there — once more, at the very least, not but.

Picture high quality

Whereas most 360 cams place their lenses back-to-back, the Fusion’s are offset barely. GoPro claims this enables them to carry out more accurate stitching between the hemispheres and create an invisible stitching line. Nevertheless, the stitching high quality differs drastically relying on whether or not you edit in Fusion Studio on the desktop or the GoPro cell app.

In Fusion Studio, GoPro’s claims of an invisible stitching line virtually maintain up. Whereas we nonetheless observed the road on close-up objects, we couldn’t see it on each body or in each path. For instance, with the Fusion mounted on a motorcycle’s handlebars, we noticed stitching errors pop up on the left facet, however not the fitting. Nonetheless, it’s by far the cleanest stitching of any two-lens 360 digital camera we’ve seen, and gives an amazing start line for editors.

gopro fusion review sample image

The story is totally different on cell. Right here, the stitching line remained clearly seen each throughout preview and after export, and was no higher than different 360 cameras we’ve examined — and maybe a bit worse than some. Once more, distortion attributable to the road is extra noticeable on objects nearer to the digital camera (similar to your fingers) and fewer so with issues farther away. Capturing 360-degree content material requires some planning and placement to be able to decrease the looks of the sew line, so chances are you’ll wish to prep through the use of the reside view within the GoPro app.

The products new, although, is that stitching and exporting from cell takes a lot much less time. Efficiency will clearly rely on the age and specs of your system, however we had no points on an iPhone 7 Plus.

It appears respectable on a cellphone, or at broad angles, however it begins to interrupt down on bigger screens or as you zoom in

The Fusion does job of mixing exposures throughout each hemispheres, however we nonetheless observed totally different brightness ranges from one half of the scene to the subsequent in some conditions. It additionally has good coloration, and whereas excessive highlights (like the realm of sky surrounding the solar) will seem fully blown out, it does a commendable job of balancing publicity and capturing element from mild to darkish. (We set publicity compensation to -Zero.5 EV whereas outdoors.)

One other space the place the Fusion appears to do higher than many 360 cameras is chromatic aberration (also called coloration fringing) which regularly reveals up round high-contrast edges or alongside the realm of the scene captured by the periphery of the lenses. Whereas it’s actually nonetheless current, it’s minimal compared to cheaper cameras which might be usually suffering from it.

Sharpness is one other frequent low level of 360 cameras and the Fusion hasn’t fully mounted it. It does profit from its 5.2K decision, however it falls in need of the standard we’ve seen from conventional motion cameras. It appears respectable on a cellphone, or at broad angles, however it begins to interrupt down on bigger screens or as you zoom in. If you wish to seize element in one thing comparatively distant, overlook about it. This may be significantly troublesome for OverCapture movies, the place zooming out and in is a part of the enjoyable.

To be clear, this isn’t worse than different dual-lens 360 cameras, however we would have anticipated extra for the Fusion’s $700 price ticket. It’s additionally the primary cause why it may well’t really substitute a normal motion digital camera. If you happen to can choose just one, you’ll must determine if the pliability of 360 is well worth the tradeoff in sharpness in comparison with a Hero6 Black.

General, we’d say the picture high quality is enough for outputting to mobile-friendly companies like Instagram, however full-screen playback on a pc or TV will certainly begin to present the imperfections. If you wish to use OverCapture, simply bear in mind to maintain your field-of-view broad to be able to maintain as many pixels on the display screen as attainable.

Just like another 360 cameras, the Fusion additionally incorporates gyroscope-based picture stabilization, and it really works rather well for 360 content material, producing almost completely easy photographs. Nevertheless, we found a problem when it got here to utilizing OverCapture within the cell app: As we reframed the shot by shifting the cellphone, we launched new “digital camera shake” which was then recorded and saved to our flattened video. This makes your completed video seem like it was shot handheld even when the digital camera was stationary and locked down for the unique shot. This isn’t massively distracting, however it’s one other argument in favor of the keyframe strategy to reframing 360 content material.

Whereas we didn’t carry out an intensive audio high quality check, we have been pleasantly stunned right here. Wind noise is cancelled out effectively, and issues like seat belt buckles, automobile doorways, and engine sounds have been all clear and crisp.

Guarantee

GoPro gives a one-year warranty on all cameras. The corporate additionally gives GoPro Plus membership for $5 per 30 days, which incorporates cloud backup and reduced-cost alternative of broken cameras.

Our Take

For a 360 digital camera, the Fusion is as full as they arrive, however it hasn’t fully propelled the class to the subsequent stage, as we had hoped after we had our preliminary hands-on with the product. Sure, it gives a rugged design, principally nice expertise, and sufficient management to maintain energy customers pleased, however it leaves unsolved many issues inherent to 360 cameras. Significantly on cell, picture high quality continues to be a sore level, and OverCapture, for now, isn’t fairly the 360-to-fixed-frame answer we have been hoping for, shortly rising irritating with every new try at “reshooting” the video to get an ideal outcome.

However one factor we credit score GoPro with is that it’s one of many few 360-degree digital camera makers to supply a and software program answer. Not solely are you able to seize content material, however GoPro gives the instruments for truly turning that footage into one thing you’ll be able to share. Most 360-degree cameras present the seize answer, however the software program is both lackluster or left to a 3rd occasion, like YouTube or Fb.

Nonetheless, when all is alleged and completed, the Fusion stays the 360 digital camera to beat — we simply can’t assist however really feel it may have been higher, and we’re unsure it brings sufficient worth to the desk to justify its excessive worth — besides, maybe, for knowledgeable video editors who’ve the time and know-how to sew in Fusion Studio and edit in Premiere Professional.

Is there a greater various?

Sure and no. In case your aim is to output digestible, fixed-frame movies for social media, we nonetheless just like the Rylo. Its streamlined, in-app enhancing instruments are less complicated, quicker, and result in a extra polished outcome than GoPro’s OverCapture. It’s additionally solely $500.

Nevertheless, of all of the 360 cameras we’ve examined, the Fusion in all probability has essentially the most potential. It actually gives essentially the most rugged (if not essentially the most enticing), and it holds some highly effective options inside its drab grey exterior that make it interesting to high-end customers. Hopefully, informal customers may also achieve higher picture high quality and enhancing controls sooner or later. Once more, OverCapture was simply launched on cell earlier this 12 months, and GoPro will undoubtedly enhance it within the coming months.

How lengthy will it final?

Like all GoPros, the Fusion is constructed to take a beating. We don’t count on this to be a digital camera that receives annual refreshes, as do GoPro’s flagship Hero fashions, so in the event you purchase now, you in all probability gained’t be outmoded for an additional 12 months and a half or so.

Do you have to purchase it?

If you wish to give your movies a definite look, and your price range permits, then certain. Immersive video will present a novel perspective in your adventures, and there isn’t a compact 360 digital camera higher suited to such actions than the Fusion. Likewise, in the event you’re prepared to place the time into postproduction, the Fusion gives the very best quality stitching you will get from a two-lens digital camera.

Nevertheless, in the event you’re simply in search of a enjoyable 360 cam and don’t want superior management or waterproofing, then we might look towards the Rylo. Or, simply wait it out and see how the Fusion’s options evolve over time.

Both manner, know that 360 video nonetheless has many limitations and is much from excellent. It might produce some eye-catching visuals, however the novelty could put on off after some time.