Hands-on: GoPro Max Review

GoPro Max Review
Review

Monday November 4, 2019

By Jeff Meyer

What is the GoPro Max?

The Max is GoPro’s new 360 camera, which replaces the Fusion. The GoPro Max builds on the groundwork the Fusion laid, offering 5.7K 360 video at

The Max also inherits the GoPro Hero8 Black’s HyperSmooth stabilisation mode and, crucially, can now stitch your 360 images and video in-camera.

GoPro Max Price & Availability

The GoPro Max price tag is £479.99 / $499.99. You can buy the GoPro Max and its accessories at retailers such as Adorama, B&H Photo Video, Park Cameras and Wex Photo Video.

Features

On paper, the GoPro Max is very interesting. It builds on the already impressive specifications the Fusion brought to the table, yet also rectifies that camera’s shortcomings. The Max is a 360 camera, yet it’s also an action camera and inherits a lot of the signature features from GoPro’s market-leading Hero Black range.

And it’s with these features, such as HyperSmooth stabilisation, that the Max really presents itself as a highly credible option for videographers, not just 360 enthusiasts. The biggest issue that many people have with action cam footage is that they shoot from one location and create dull moves.

The Max is really easy to use and you can create a video that cuts from one angle to another. This means anyone can create an interesting movie from just one mounting position. But lets take a closer look at some of its key specifications.

In-camera stitching

Thankfully, GoPro has recognised the biggest limitation with the Fusion and rectified it with the Max. The GoPro Max uses just one memory card and stitches all content within the camera. The Fusion was quite cumbersome. Each lens and sensor recorded media to a separate microSD card.

By default, the GoPro Fusion separates your files into GoPro_Front and GoPro_Back folders. But to stitch content you must make sure all files are in the same folder, and only then does it work.

If you’re one of the early purchasers, you’ll get a notification when setting up your Max that you need to make a critical firmware update before using the camera. You do this through the GoPro app, and this update adds the capability to stitch your 360 content in-camera.

I’ve only just started using the GoPro Max, but already it’s proving infinitely simpler to share your images and videos with the world. And it’s for this reason that I believe the Max will be a game-changer for 360 content.

Stills & Video resolution

The GoPro Max captures 16.6 megapixel still images (5760 x 2880) and can shoot 360 video in 5.6K resolution at 30fps. This is actually 6K footage, but it renders at 5.6K after it is stitched in-camera.

It’s worth noting that when shooting in Hero mode – where the Max functions as an action camera using just one of its dual lenses – resolution is limited to 1440p at 60fps or 1080p at 60fps.

In other words, you can shoot 360 video in 5.6K resolution or standard footage at up to 1440p, but you can’t record 4K.

The Max also supports HEVC video format, which produces smaller files while prioritising image quality.

Can the GoPro Max livestream?

Yes, the GoPro Max can livestream Full HD video video just like the GoPro Hero8 Black.

GoPro Max Audio

The Max features six microphones built into its body to capture spherical audio. What’s more, you can prioritise audio from one side of the camera.

New touchscreen display

There’s also a new dedicated touchscreen for playing back your footage, which is certainly a unique addition to a 360 camera. Most 360 cameras rely on your smartphone for this capability, so the addition of a touchscreen puts the GoPro Max in its own league.

GoPro Hero8 technology in the Max

GoPro has also taken the opportunity to include some of the signature technology of its Hero action cameras. First and foremost is its new HyperSmooth 2.0 stabilisation technology.

Max HyperSmooth promises to ‘remove the need for a gimbal’ by providing stabilisation across three axes. It also now provides an automatic horizon leveller and is available in all resolutions and frame rates. We’ve tested HyperSmooth extensively in the Hero Black cameras, so we will be very keen to see in these tests if the technology rates the same.

TimeWarp is another mainstay of the Hero Black range. You can click here to read how GoPro’s TimeWarp works. Max TimeWarp, in essence, provides fluid movements through time so that time-lapses aren’t jerky. It also features a built-in scene detection.

Other key features of the GoPro Max include a PowerPano mode for making 270-degree panoramic images, four digital lens sizes (Narrow, Linear, Wide and Max SuperView), 14 voice commands, built-in GPS and the ability to re-frame your 360 videos from any vantage point as traditional videos.

GoPro Max Review: performance

Build Quality

The GoPro Max is smaller than the Fusion and perhaps the most significant feature of its body design is that it uses the new folding fingers we saw added to the GoPro Hero8 Black. The folding fingers mean you can now attach different mounts and accessories directly to the camera.

The GoPro Max body is very reminiscent of the quality we’ve come to expect from the Hero Black cameras. It features the classic rubber grip and, upon closer inspection, some stylised upgrades over previous GoPro cameras. For instance, the GoPro logo, previously stamped on the front of both the Fusion and Hero Black cameras, is embossed on the Max. This is a small detail, of course, but gives the feeling of quality.

The Record button on top of the Max is also raised, making it easy to find with a blind finger. Next to it are two microphones.

On the front of the Max, above the textured GoPro logo, is a larger microphone and the front lens. On the back is the rear lens and another large microphone. These are situated above the new touchscreen LCD.

The new touchscreen display seems very responsive, and is quite bright. The display shows you which mode you’re in, your resolution and frame, your battery life, space on the memory card, a circular arrow for switching between lenses for your main point of view and even a self-timer icon for getting your hands out of the way before a shot is taken.

A lot of nice touches have gone into the touchscreen, and this is looking like a huge upgrade over the Fusion.

On one side of the Max is the Mode/Power button, and on the other is a robust compartment door that houses the Max’s removable 1600mAh Lithium-Ion battery. Inside is also the microSD card slot and a USB C charge port.

The Max comes with a cloth carry pouch, as well a pair of lens caps. One of these sets of lens caps is translucent and and be placed over the lenses to protect the glass in extreme environments; however, they will slightly reduce image quality.

Overall, the Max lives up to GoPro’s high benchmark of build quality and, again, gets right some of the things the Fusion got wrong. Recording content to one memory card greatly simplifies things, and the addition of the touchscreen display is worth the cost of the upgrade alone, even before you consider all of the new Hero Black technology inside.

Performance

I’m just getting started with my GoPro Max review, but already it’s giving clear indications that it’s a serious upgrade over the Fusion. The touchscreen is superb. Using it today in bright light it was clear and easy to see. The navigation within the LCD is very intuitive and very simple to use.

GoPro’s revamped app also makes the shooting experience so much easier. I couldn’t use my then-flagship Huawei P20 Pro to control the Fusion for a year after the camera launched because the app didn’t support my phone. That was incredibly frustrating. This time around, the app and camera connected instantly. All the camera controls are on hand, and it’s a very pleasant experience.

I’ve only shot a handful of videos and images so far, but the image quality looks great. Rich colours, nice dynamic range, detail in the highlights and shadows. I’ll put this to further scrutiny, but first impressions are that the Max could be something special.

I’ll be updating this page in the coming days with sample images, videos and rounding out my thoughts on its overall performance. Watch this space.

 

 

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
GoPro Max