Aug 20 , 2018
GoPro may have jump started the action camera market, but the Fusion is different than all the GoPros that came before it: it's a true 360 camera. Instead of using a single forward-facing lens, its two ultra-wide angle lenses capture a full 360 spherical image of everything around it.
Unlike most 360 cameras, the Fusion is designed to create both spherical and standard HD videos, potentially offering action camera users more capability than they can get from their current action camera – something that's become progressively difficult in a highly commoditized market. If action/adventure is your game and your workflow is geared towards mobile and web, the GoPro Fusion may be the camera you’re looking for.
Key Features of GoPro Fusion
- 360 video: 5.2K/30p, 3K/60p
- 360 photo: 18MP 5K 360 photos (5760 x 2880)
- OverCapture for creating HD videos
- Image stabilization
- Spatial audio (4 microphones)
- Waterproof (5m/16ft.)
- Wi-Fi + Bluetooth
- Smartphone app + desktop software
- Includes two 32GB SD cards (75 minutes record time)
- Removable battery (75-80 minutes record time)
What makes the Fusion most exciting, and what is arguably its main selling point, is 'OverCapture', a feature that allows you to pull standard 1080p HD videos from anywhere within the 360 sphere.
This is an entirely different way of producing video content. Since you're capturing every single direction at once, you can frame your shot after you've shot it. For an action camera user, this unshackles you from the confines of recording a single, unchanging perspective and opens the doors to generating complex camera moves for more compelling footage.
OverCapture is an entirely different way of producing video content. You can frame your shot after you've shot it.
You can do all of this - and share it - from the mobile app. You can do the same with the desktop software, though as we'll see, there are some glaring differences between the two and OverCapture does have its limitations.
Despite being GoPro’s first foray into the 360 camera space, the Fusion gets a lot of things right and performs well.
In fact, one important consideration when using OverCapture is that while the camera may be high resolution, you're exporting a 1920x1080 HD video (if shot on 5.2K), or 1280x720 HD video (if shot in 60fps 3K). Furthermore, if you zoom in, you’re losing more resolution relative to how much you’re punching in on that OverCapture frame, so if 4K is essential to your needs, or you’re interested in the Fusion primarily for action footage using OverCapture, those are things you might want to think about.
Despite being GoPro’s first foray into the 360 camera space, the Fusion gets a lot of things right and performs well. The things it doesn't do well could, for the most part, be remedied by firmware and software updates.
GoPro Fusion Design
The Fusion isn't exactly the prettiest thing to look at. It's basically a grey rubber square with two off-centered fisheye lenses bulging out on either side, but it’s not built to be a looker. It’s designed to be rugged and functional in extreme conditions, and it wins there.
- Lenses are exposed and non-replaceable
- Standard GoPro mount
- Included selfie-stick / tripod a nice addition, but you might want a taller tripod
- Dual MicroSD cards required
- Voice commands a useful feature
- Stabilization is excellent
- Some manual control with 'ProTune'
- No external charger in box (must charge in-camera)
The Fusion uses the same standard mount as other GoPro cameras, so it’s compatible with all of your existing GoPro accessories. While a little bulky, and noticeably so when mounted to a body-mount, it's not so much that you couldn’t get accustomed to it and eventually forget it’s there.
However, if you’re capturing 360 video for headset viewing there's one consideration to be aware of. A best practice when shooting 360 content is to position the camera at the height of an average viewer, essentially treating the camera as another person. If you rely on the included GoPro tripod/selfie stick, which reaches a maximum height of about 18 inches, you'll force your viewers to experience life as a 1-year old. Unfortunately, to set the camera at an optimal level on a tripod, you’ll need additional accessory.
The one questionable aspect to the Fusion's design is lack of protection for the lenses. The Fusion is intended to be used as an action camera, but the lenses are fully exposed to the elements as well as anything you bump into or scrape past. (Maybe a reason to consider a protection plan when buying one.) Most previous GoPros allowed you to replace the front lens cover in the event of damage.
One slight disappointment is that the Fusion won’t operate without two microSD cards, one for each camera. This, along with the specific required folder structure and desktop stitching process, seems archaic in a day where there are several 6- to 16-camera stereoscopic VR rigs on the market that shoot directly onto a single card.
The Fusion, like most GoPros, proved very easy to use; simply choose 'photo' or 'video' from the menu, pick your settings and push the red button to start recording.
GoPro makes a big deal about the camera's 5.2K resolution, but there's a catch. You can record 5.2K/30p, but if you want to record at higher frame rates you'll have to drop the resolution to 3K/60p. This is a major limitation, especially if you plan to use slow motion.
You can record 5.2K/30p, but if you want to record at higher frame rates you'll have to drop the resolution to 3K/60p. This is a major limitation, especially if you plan to use slow motion.
Still image quality is great. It shoots 18MP photos at 5760 x 2880, can shoot in burst mode (up to 30fps), and also in Raw format (GoPro’s .gpr which is based on .dng). Sharpness is fairly consistent throughout the image, with a slight loss towards the stitch-lines.
One thing that comes in extra handy are the 12 voice-control commands, which work remarkably well. The phrases "That was sick!" and "GoPro Highlight!" proved especially useful as they embed a digital marker at the point they’re said for easy recall. Say you’re wearing the camera while snowboarding or skateboarding. You can yell “That was sick!” when you’ve landed a trick, knowing you now have a marker to find that exact piece of footage quickly and easily.
Stabilization in the Fusion is excellent. It’s almost on par with a gimbal. This is important for action cam video, but it's especially true if you decide to shoot 360 video for use in a head mounted display (HMD) such as the Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream, HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, where any unnatural or jerky movement can create physical discomfort for the viewer.
Mobile and Desktop Apps
GoPro provides both a mobile app and desktop software for editing Fusion video. However, the two provide very different sets of capabilities and user experiences.
- OverCapture through the mobile app is fun and effective
- There are still some bugs that hamper the user experience
- Desktop software offers additional control in some ways, far less in others
GoPro has also provided Adobe Premiere CC plugins to work with 360 footage that offer a lot of advanced control, even more so than the mobile app, the caveat being you need fairly advanced knowledge of key framing in order to effectively use them.
Premiere users should also note that in order to work with the files in Premiere, they must first be stitched through the mobile app or, if you desire the highest quality outputs, through the desktop Fusion Studio application.
If you use Final Cut Pro X, be aware that the application can edit stitched 360 video, but GoPro doesn't make any specific plug-ins for it.
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