FLYING over the Great Barrier Reef in a helicopter I couldn’t help but think: “if only my Mum could see me.”
Thankfully I had the perfect means to capture the moment and make her think her son was a big shot, or at least assuage her many thoughts to the contrary.
In my hands was GoPro’s new Fusion camera.
The latest innovation from the adventure sports camera company seeks to shake up the emerging 360 camera market, and it does a seriously good job of it.
The Fusion consists of two 180 degree spherical cameras, positioned back-to-back, resulting in a compact square camera (78 x 67.40 x 24 mm) that’s able to capture everything around it.
The fish eye quality of each lens captures spherical video and photos, recording everything so later on you can essentially manoeuvre within that sphere and find the best angle or shot to recapture.
It is the very definition of a point and shoot camera.
It puts you in the middle of the action, allowing you to capture and then change, tweak and cut from any angle you fancy after the fact.
And thankfully the pretty impressive built-in stabilisation technology that GoPro refers to as “gimble-like” ensures the footage is never shaky or jerky.
Depending on where you export the footage, the camera automatically stitches the two lots of video together fairly seamlessly, although sometimes with varying degrees of effectiveness.
Depending on the shot and how you decide to manipulate it in post production, you can sometimes see the line where the two bits of footage collide, which can ruin the shot.
However after a bit of time with the camera it gets easier to understand the best position to hold or place the device to mitigate against the potential of the seams showing up.
You can see at the end of the clip below how the seam creeps into the shot at the end, distorting the image.
You might notice from the above that GoPro’s software automatically edits out the selfie stick attached to the camera which makes for a far nicer aesthetic.
While it might look a bit strange that you’re constantly holding out your fist, it’s a nice touch.
The Fusion is a high resolution camera and shoots in impressive 5.2K, ensuring the footage still looks sharp even after you’ve zoomed in and stretched it in the editing room.
When filming in 5.2K the Fusion shoots at 30 frames per second. You can push it to 60 frames per second but the resolution will then drop to 3K, meaning your videos won’t look nearly as sharp.
So if you’re really keen for some slow motion capabilities and you need to shoot at 120 or 240fps, you’re better off going with something like GoPro’s regular camera, the Hero6.
The fish-eye style lens of the Fusion means you can create some other-worldly effects when editing in the accompanying GoPro app.
When zooming out from above, it looks like the action is taking place on top of the world — a similar effect to that which featured heavily in Kendrick Lamar’s recent Humble music video. When done right, it can look very cool.
The real star of the Fusion camera is GoPro’s mobile OverCapture editing software.
In the company’s bid to make an easy end-to-end user experience, you can synch your GoPro with your iPhone via the GoPro app and all your footage automatically appears inside the app ready to edit or share. From there it’s super simple to explore to best way to reframe or reposition your shots.
By tilting or moving the phone around in any direction, it’s as if you are immediately transported back to the middle of the scene where it was filmed.
It allows users to reshoot their 360 video moments in a flat, traditional video format from “infinite perspectives,” GoPro says. To achieve the best outcome, the company recommends a 1080p output resolution for OverCapture videos.
GoPro’s promotional video below shows the potential of the OverCapture app. However there’s still some kinks to be worked out, as not all of my videos were able to be played in the editing app, rendering them useless in this aspect.
The app is easy and intuitive and relies on familiar gestures like pinching and swivelling the screen with your fingers to edit clips.
You certainly don’t have to have any video editing experience to get the best out of OverCapture and by many accounts it is simpler and easier to use for quick editing compared to rival 360 cameras like the Rylo or the Samsung Gear 360.
However the speed and simplicity it offer means it’s a rather limited way to edit clips. To get the best results you’ll want to edit the footage on desktop editing software like Premier Pro which you can use in conjunction with GoPro’s Fusion Studio software.
Currently the app is only available in iOS for iPhone and iPad but an Android version in on the way.
As you’d expect from a GoPro, the fusion is built to be durable.
The camera is encased in a hard rubber shell that can withstand drops and the general rugged treatment that action cameras are expected to endure. And of course it’s waterproof up to five metres.
The battery life for the camera is good for 75 minutes of continuous shooting at 5.2K.
The camera has a USB-C port which is used for data transfer and charging. It also requires you to use two microSD cards, one for each lens — and you’ll want to use cards with at least a Class 10 or UHS-I speed rating.
The camera also ships with a snug protective case to make sure either lens doesn’t get damaged when transporting the device.
Shooting 360 video opens up the option to produce quality virtual reality video experiences. If I wanted to subject my poor friends or family to a video of me jetskiing around Hamilton Island, I could. At least in a visual sense, they would be able to experience it in much the same way I did.
The 360 degree camera market has quickly become competitive but it remains to be seen if the new capability will really take off among mainstream consumers.
For $999.95, the GoPro Fusion isn’t exactly cheap but it’s probably not going to break the bank either.
It does expand the potential creativity for filmmakers and offer some cool new capabilities but whether the added functionality is worth the money is only a question you can answer. It’s not the kind of camera you want to shoot everything with but it does add something special to your repertoire.
If you’re mad about filming adventure sports and you never want to miss that perfect shot, it’s certainly worth a look.
GoPro Fusion can currently be pre-ordered online and from April the camera will be available instore at select GoPro retailers.
The author travelled to Hamilton Island as a guest of GoPro.