How to use Go Pro Max : A smarter 360 camera
Updated: Feb 15
Each new 360 camera that hits the market carries with it the promise of being the one that gets immersive video right. None have yet delivered on this promise. We’ve looked to GoPro before to be the savior the format so desperately needs, but 2017’s Fusion, GoPro’s first 360 camera, left much to be desired.
It’s a step in the right direction for GoPro. However, the Max is haunted by the 360 format’s usual ghosts, and does little to propel the segment forward. 360-degree video still isn’t ready for serious editing. While the Max is $200 cheaper than the Fusion, at $500 it seems like a toy for early adopters, rather than a must-have creative tool.
Performance and image quality
The Max records spherical video at 5.7K resolution, but this number can be confusing. It sounds like a lot of pixels, but all of those pixels are spread across a spherical area, so any one point of view within that area is going to have a much lower resolution. Wide-angle perspectives will look the sharpest, but “zooming” in — which just digitally crops the image — leads to significant softening.
The Max does have a small edge over competitors because it doesn’t suffer from aggressive compression, but it’s certainly not perfect. Don’t expect the same level of detail you get from a GoPro Hero.
The perfect run-and-gun mix
GoPro has made use of the 360 capture to implement so-called “Digital Lenses,” which change the field of view, and adjust distortion to get at final results that can really change the look and feel of the video you capture.
On the plus side, image stabilization — dubbed “Max HyperSmooth” — is great. 360 grants an infinite range for video to be re-framed without having to throw away pixels, which makes for better electronic stabilization than what you can get with a traditional, fixed-perspective camera. Not only does this smooth out your most extreme mountain bike rides, but it also means hyperlapse videos — what GoPro calls TimeWarp — look incredibly polished.
GoPro’s Fusion was a compelling camera for a specific set of users, but the MAX feels like it might be flipping the script on the whole GoPro lineup. In short, the MAX seems like a great default option for anyone new to action cameras or looking for a comprehensive all-arounder that’s easy to learn, but becomes more powerful in time.
The MAX’s amazing stabilization is also probably better suited to vlogging and social video than it is to the actual action camera set, because it’s so smooth and refined. You can alter to what extent it triggers, of course, but overall MAX just seems like a device that can do magic with its built-in software for aspiring content creators who would rather leave the DSLR and the gimbal at home — or who never thought to pick one up in the first place.