GoPro has finally launched the Fusion 360-degree action camera. Like the Hero and Session, it's designed to be strapped to virtually any part of you, your bike, shoes, car or any number of accessories. It's just as much an action camera as the others, except this one shoots in 360 degrees and has some impressive features.
It's worth noting, that while the unit we've seen is the final production hardware, there are updates being made to the desktop and mobile software in order to make it more user friendly. Still, shooting is just as easy as any other GoPro.
GoPro Fusion preview: Design
- Camera on the front and back
- Small monochrome screen
- Square, monotone grey design
GoPro kept things fairly simple on the design front. It's a square camera that's noticeably larger than the Hero 5, but it is roughly the same thickness and has a similar finish. GoPro retained the dual-tone grey colour scheme and the grippy diagonal lines around the edges. As you'd expect, it also has the same two-button control system to keep things familiar and simple for existing users.
There's a camera on the front and the back of the Fusion, as well as the usual small, square monochrome screen on the front which shows basic information during shooting, just like the Hero does. The one thing it doesn't have is a touch screen or viewfinder. Arguably, having one on a 360-degree system doesn't make any sense, so it's a fair omission.
Using the usual mounts, you can attach the Fusion to most of the existing selection of GoPro accessories as well as some new custom designed ones, although due to its size, it obviously won't fit in the Karma mount. That means no drone flying for this gadget just yet.
The Fusion is built to withstand water up to 5m (16ft) too, which isn't quite as deep as the new Hero 6 Black can handle, but then it's not really designed for underwater shooting. Due to the fish eye lenses on either side, water refracts light too much and produces an unusable shot. The waterproofing does, however, mean that you can use it for shooting most water-based sports or activities. It's fine being splashed or temporarily submerged.
Two other important design features are the two flaps that cover the essential ports. Just above the power/mode button on the left edge is where you'll find the Type-C port sealed behind a small hinged flap.
On the opposite side, around two-thirds of the surface is the battery door. Open it, and you'll find the removable 2,620mAh battery and the two microSD card slots; one for each of the cameras.
On the whole, it seems well made. The hinges and clasps on these external doors seem to hold well in early testing, and can be completely removed if necessary. Similarly, you can remove the mount from the bottom edge. It has two hinges that flip upwards when you want to unlock it, then you just slide it out.
GoPro Fusion preview: Cameras and OverCapture
- 5.2K spherical video
- 18MP stitched photos
Being a 360-degree camera, the Fusion is equipped with two 180 degree lenses that capture everything all around the device. It shoots 5.2k video, and its sensors and optics make this one of the best action cameras we've seen. Strangely, it's not because its footage can be viewed in a VR headset like the Gear VR (as cool as that was). It's what it does to transform the 360 video in to a flat video that anyone can watch.
With so many consumers using their phones to consume media on the go, GoPro decided it made sense to develop a way to transform its 360 captures in to videos that look great on a flat screen. With 5.2k resolution and something called OverCapture, the company looks like they've cracked it.
Using its OverCapture feature, you can choose to have a nice flat shot of one part of the action, or select a wider one, or even have a "tiny planet" like experience that shows all of the video. More importantly though, when editing the footage you can pan through select parts, or transition between the tiny planet and more traditional flat video scenes smoothly in one motion.
As an example, you could have the Fusion set up on a tripod, completely still and have a bike or dog run past it, and in the edit, you can follow that action almost as if you were moving a regular single video camera. So when you go to show your friends, or watch it back on a TV, you don't miss any of the important action.
As you're watching it back, it looks as the the camera itself was being moved, but it isn't. It's all in the OverCapture technology and the way it can switch, transition and edit. It's pretty phenomenal.
What this does for regular consumers, and technophobes, is it gives them the ability to make amazing action videos. You'll be able to make professional looking, immersive video, and barely lifting a finger to do it. Arguably then, you actually get a better experience from it on a flat mobile or TV screen than strapped into a headset, although even then, the video quality was good.
For VR users, the experience is enhanced further by the 3-way microphone system built into the top of the camera. With headphones in, the 3D audio moves around as you move your head, changing your view within the video.
As for still photos, the entire stitched 360-degree image is 18-megapixels inside.
GoPro Fusion: How do you shoot and edit?
- Fusion Studio desktop software
- Premiere Pro plugin (for now)
- Mobile app OverCapture coming soon
Shooting with the camera will feel very familiar to those who have used GoPro cameras in the past. You switch the camera on be pressing and holding the power/menu button, then start recording by pressing the red shutter button on the front. You also use these two buttons to cycle through the shooting options, and various menus on the camera's little monochrome screen.
If you switch the setting on, you can also use the voice commands like "GoPro, take a photo" and have it shoot that way. Although, in our testing, this method was a little hit and miss. It worked roughly 50 per cent of the time. This is the kind of thing that should hopefully improve over time, with firmware updates.
One key part of shooting is actually an accessory that comes with the camera. The Fusion Grip is half selfie stick, half tripod, and is incredibly versatile. You can have it stand up on the floor, or you can hold it, and it's able to extend up to 56cm in length.
What's more, with the camera placed in the correct position (directly in line with the Grip) the cameras can magically get rid of the Fusion Grip from the footage, so it almost looks as if the camera was hovering in the air.
While shooting is mostly plain-sailing, the process of working with the footage is still a little too involved to recommend to just anyone. It is worth reiterating though, this initial launch still very much feels like a public beta. GoPro is still working on the software solutions to make it more consumer friendly, with updates due to arrive at the beginning of 2018.
As things stand, we weren't able to use the mobile app at all to connect with the camera, which meant relying on the desktop software and plugins for Adobe Premiere Pro (a professional video editing suite).
It starts with downloading the Fusion Studio desktop app for PC or Mac. Once that's done, you connect the Fusion camera to the computer and import the media. Depending on how much you have on the camera, this can take some time, especially since all the files will have captured in 5.2k resolution.
Once imported, you can then look through them, trim them, change angles, adjust colours and add any videos you want to a render queue. Once rendered, the final files are then automatically exported into a new folder in your computer's main image folder. If you don't have Premiere Pro, it's probably best to edit them and export in either a Tiny Planet or Fish Eye views if you want to watch them on a flat screen.
As part of downloading and installing the Fusion Studio software, you also automatically download plugins for Premiere Pro, and these are necessary to produce some of the editing effects that mobile OverCapture will in the future. And this is where the learning curve comes in. If you're already a whizz at using keyframes for adding motion into videos, you shouldn't struggle too much, but if you aren't, things might seem a little tricky (at least to start with).
Once footage has been exported to a file, you then need to import into a new project on Premiere Pro. Once you've added your first clip to the preview timeline (as normal), go to the Effects tab and find the GoPro plugins in the video effects menu.
To play with camera angles, and add animations, drag the GoPro Reframe plugin into the clip you want to edit and then access the controls in the Effects Controls tab. Now you need to manually adjust FOV (field of view), Yaw, Pitch and Roll to get the exact frame that you want at the beginning and add a keyframe.
To then smoothly go to your next chosen frame/view, you add another keyframe where you want it, and then adjust the yaw, pitch, roll and FOV here. Now when you play between those two points, it should move between them, almost as if the camera is being controlled directly. It takes some effort, practice and time to get it looking good, but it works.
Once that's done, you export the video as a regular 16:9 video if you want it flat (make sure that VR box isn't selected). The end result is a decent looking 1080p video, which - with the some colour correction - can look really good.
The amazing part of all this, is that - when it eventually launches - the mobile app will let you add these motion effects within the GoPro app, just by moving your phone to follow the action.
GoPro Fusion: When can I get it?
- Available now
Pre-orders for the GoPro Fusion launched in October, with orders already shipping as of the end of November. Desktop solutions for editing are already available, and the mobile OverCapture feature being built into the GoPro app for iPhone and Android will be live sometime at the beginning of 2018.
Being an advanced camera means paying more than you would for a Hero. In this case, you'll be ponying up a cool £649 or $699 to get the next big thing in VR capture.
Even though we've now pretty much seen the full spec list, it's the experience and end result that excites us the most. What's going to make this camera unique is its ease of use and the OverCapture feature. It's the future potential, rather than the current state that's going to make this really great for consumers.
As things are right this moment, it's hard to recommend to anyone who hasn't got at least some experience working with a 360-degree camera. Especially if you have no experience with Adobe Premiere Pro. If you're unsure, we'd recommend waiting until the mobile software is updated. Given how unfinished this process feels, £649 feels like a lot of money to spend.
With OverCapture, being able to smoothly switch between a regular sized photo or video frame to the tiny planet effect in a single transition, editing on the fly on a smartphone, it's impressive to say the least. We think this is the real story here and something which has the potential to shake up the VR camera industry, and reinvigorate the action camera market.