The new GoPro MAX starts shipping in a few days, here’s everything you need to know about the dual-lens, 360º action cam…and why you’re going to want it. To be fair, most of us never looked at the GoPro Fusion because we weren’t into making 360º or VR video, right? But having played with one recently, there are some powerful reasons we should have. The new MAX takes all of those reasons and amps them up with the ability to act like a Hero, a Vlogging selfie cam, and a full featured 360º camera, too. And it’ll spit out the video faster, letting you edit directly on your smartphone. Here’s the deal…
HERO mode, 360 mode…and Vlogging mode?
What separates the MAX from the HERO 8 is the 360º capability, so we’ll start there. The two cameras will simultaneously capture 6K video (or 18K photos) of everything around it, then stitch it all together in camera to create a 5.6K30 video, or 16.6MP still photos. That last bit is new, the in-camera stitching, which means it can output the video to your phone in a useable format for quick editing and sharing. More on that in a minute.
Where the HERO 8 gets HyperSmooth 2, the MAX goes a step further with MAX HyperSmooth. How? Because it’s capturing 180º in all directions for each camera, so no matter what you’re shooting, it’s oversampled. So whatever you want to look at in post production, it’s perfectly smooth.
Can you use the GoPro MAX like a regular action camera? Yes. Yes, you can.
In HERO mode, you choose which camera you want recording, then it captures it with MAX stabilization. And automatic horizon leveling, which is something the HERO 8 won’t do in camera. Basically it no longer matters if you even mount the camera on a level surface, it’ll figure it out and spit out video that maintains a steady level…even if you shift it during recording.
The only potential downside is if you want that cornering lean to show up for visual effect, which is something we’ll explore when we get our review sample in soon. Both MAX and HERO modes have TimeWarp, but in HERO mode, it can automatically adjust the speed based on motion, scene detection and lighting…and you can manually change the speed when editing the video to create some very cool effects.
Well, actually, there are some other downsides to using this like a HERO, keep reading.
Technically, using the MAX for Vlogging is really just putting it into HERO mode and realizing the features that make it perfect for selfie video. The front and rear facing mics act as shotgun mics in HERO mode, helping it capture your voice (or whatever you’re pointing it at) with clearer sound. They say it has more advanced wind noise reduction, too.
The front-facing, full color touch screen is a big plus for making sure you or your subject stay in frame. This is where the MAX HyperSmooth will pay dividends…it’ll keep you perfectly stable and eliminate that shake from holding the camera at arms length while walking around. And it does that while live-streaming, sending perfectly solid, level 1080p video to Facebook Live, YouTube and other services.
It’ll live stream from either camera, and you can switch back and forth between them while recording.
So, is the GoPro MAX better than the HERO 8?
Not so fast. Yes, the MAX is better at some things. Basically all the things we mentioned above. But, there are a few things the HERO 8 does better. In HERO mode, the MAX will only capture video up to 1440p60, but the HERO drives that up to 4K60. And the HERO records both 2.7K and 4K at 100mbps, meaning it’s capturing more color and detail. The MAX bitrate is 78mbps and records up to 1440p.
And it can do 8x slow motion, where the MAX has just 2x. For TimeLapse videos, both devices can record in 0.5/1/2/5/10/30/60 second intervals, but the HERO 8 adds 2/5/30/60 minute interval options, too. The HERO 8 has auto low light adjustments, the MAX does not.
The HERO 8 also has their SuperPhoto HDR for stills, will capture Raw photos, has double the waterproof depth rating and gets all of the external housing options (that, arguably, the MAX doesn’t need, but they do offer additional protection…except the Media Mod does offer a standard 3.5mm audio jack for external mics, which is sweet).
So, GoPro MAX versus GoPro HERO 8?
We’d say the MAX is best for getting creative and making it easy to get the right shot, all the time, every time thanks to it’s 100% over capture. The HERO 8 is for those needing higher resolution, ultimate image quality and slower slo-mo.
GOPRO MAX tech specs & other features
Couple other things worth mentioning:
- It only needs one MicroSD card, which is a big update over the Fusion’s two SD card system. The GoPro MAX requires a minimum Class 10 or UHS-1 MicroSD card speed rating.
- While you could change the field of view on prior GoPros, the new ones make it easier to toggle through them on screen and choose the right one for your session. Called Digital Lens, there are four options on the MAX.
- New MAX SuperView is their widest ever field of view at 149º, which is 26º wider than the traditional GoPro SuperView.
- Six microphones capture 360º audio, too, so your sound will be just as immersive as your video.
- Takes 270º panoramic photos in a single shot with automatic horizon leveling, producing a single 6.2MP photo.
- Uses a removable rechargeable battery, but it’s larger than the HERO’s batteries, so you can’t share them.
Other tech and feature highlights include:
- Folding Fingers mounts work with all existing GoPro compatible mounts
- 16ft (5m) waterproof
- 1.7″ (43mm) color touch screen, front facing
- Shotgun mic, front facing
- 1080p Live Streaming
- 360º audio capture
- Latest GP1 processor, just like HERO 8
Cool, but how do I edit GoPro MAX footage?
With an app, of course. The GoPro app has been upgraded with new features to take advantage of the MAX’s capabilities. Power users will still want do move things to the desktop, but they say you can manipulate and edit the 360º footage in app.
Reframe lets you literally reframe the 360º footage to show the part you want, key framing the shots you want and letting the app smoothly stitch it together into a watchable video.
There’s also a new desktop version that does all that and gives you more control over clip trimming, scrubbing and playback. Sharing a sick clip to Insta? Do it on your phone. Uploading a full video to YouTube, move it to desktop because you know you need that sick thumbnail for anyone to click on it anyway.
The mobile app is available now for iOS and Android. The desktop app is available for Mac now, and a Windows version is coming in early 2020 (but you can use a provided exporter to convert Max footage into standard equirectangular format for editing on 3rd party programs in the meantime).
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