The action camera — CEO Nick Woodman prefers “lifestyle” instead — company released a trio of solid products last year (Hero5 Black, Hero5 session, and Karma drone) with the sole goal of rejuvenating the brand and doubling down on its new mission to make video editing effortless for everyone.
At this year’s Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado, GoPro gave a very select group of media a first look at its next game-changing product: the GoPro Fusion 360-degree camera.
GoPro’s been talking about the vast potential of 360-degree cameras for years. In 2015, Woodman told me: “It’s gonna happen. We’re making spherical cameras.”
That camera is the Fusion. First teased in April, the Fusion is the company’s first consumer 360-degree camera. That’s an important distinction from the GoPro Omni, a 360-degree/VR cube rig that holds six Hero4 Black cameras capable of capturing footage in 8K resolution, and costs a whopping $5,000.
Though I was able to touch the Fusion, GoPro is still withholding many key details for a later date. We don’t know much of the specs or the price, but since it’s aimed at the mass market, I’m hoping it’s competitive to favorites like Samsung’s $230 Gear 360 or Ricoh’s $350 Theta. My guess is the Fusion will cost more than those two since it shoots higher resolution spherical videos.
Like the Omni, GoPro says the 360-degree videos captured by the Fusion’s two spherical lenses are the equivalent of six GoPros cameras. No details on the field of view, but they’re most likely fisheye.
360 videos are captured in 5.2K resolution at 30 frames per second. GoPro showed me the “Relive Reality” 360 video trailer with a Samsung Gear VR, which made the footage look even more impressive than it did on YouTube through a web browser.
Perhaps, the most extraordinary feature is the Fusion’s stitching. GoPro says it’ll share more deets later, but from what I saw in the Gear VR, there’s none of the usual patchiness at the base of the 360 camera, where most 360 cameras can’t see. This patchiness usually horrifically stitches the tripod or your hand; some 360 videos cover this up with a circle or a logo, but it’s hideous and breaks the immersion that 360/VR videos are supposed to bring to the table. If you’re confused, take a look at this video I shot with the original Gear 360 and drag the viewpoint down and you’ll see the ugly distorted tripod it sat on.
Design-wise, the Fusion fits right in with the Hero5 Black and Hero5 Session. The square-shaped 360 camera is roughly the size of two Hero5 Black cameras (palm-sized) and just as thick, too. Look closely at its profile and you can see a slight taper.
It’s got a grippy rubberized and ribbed dark and light gray pattern. There’s a latch for the battery and presumably a microSD card slot for storage and a USB-C port. There’s a display about the same size as the one on the Hero5 Black and a record button on the front. You’ll also find a Mode button on the right side and what appears to be holes for a microphone on the backside.
And if you’re worried about scratching or damaging the lenses, not to worry! The camera comes with a little soft pouch.
But what if you buy a Fusion and still want to capture regular flat, non-spherical video. Well, good news because the Fusion’s got a killer feature called “OverCapture” that lets you pluck out flat video from any viewpoint in a spherical video. In other words, you’ll never have to worry about cinematography again.
GoPro reps shot with a few Fusions at the Mountain Games and I’m told I’ll get some of the footage soon, so stay tuned for that. As for release date, Jess Foley, the product lead on Fusion, told me it’ll launch soon; whether that’s in a few months or by the end of the year, she wouldn’t specify.
Although I only got to play with it for a little bit, I’m already excited, especially for OverCapture. I know you probably have a lot of questions that I can’t answer right now, so I’ll leave you with a few images. Here’s some comparison shots of the Fusion with the new Gear 360: