The GoPro Fusion has the best image quality of any 360 camera in its category. Moreover, the inclusion of what GoPro calls OverCapture, which lets you use your phone to frame up a traditional HD video out of your 360 footage, makes the Fusion stand out far above the rest. That isn’t to say it doesn't have its flaws — it does — but for the money, the Fusion is on good footing.

The GoPro Fusion costs 700 dollars. It shoots 360 video up to 5.2K in 30 frames per second (fps) and up to and 60fps in 3K. It shoots up to 18 Megapixels (MP) spherical stills and is waterproof down to 16 feet. It can be controlled via its mobile app, but also allows for control without the app. Using standard GoPro mounts, it works with the ecosystem of supports GoPro already offers. It comes with an extendable grip with legs that fold out to make it a miniature tripod.

Announcement and First Impressions

GoPro announced the Fusion at the same time as the HERO6 black. We were there in San Francisco for that announcement. GoPro had already teased the Fusion months before, so the world knew it was coming, but the details were limited. However, within the presentation, GoPro announced OverCapture, a surprising addition to Fusion. With this feature, the Fusion is essentially two GoPros in one. This addition had us saying wow.

What is OverCapture?

Overcapture is arguably the biggest standout feature of Fusion. Here’s how it works: as you play back your 360 footage, you use your phone to frame up an HD cutout for traditional screens. For instance, you would be able to follow a subject around the 360 space to keep them in frame, then export that view in HD. Although OverCapture is a clever feature, it does have some quirks.

Overcapture is arguably the biggest standout feature of Fusion.

First of all, OverCapture used in this way is only possible when exporting your video from the phone app, which means the app will do the stitching. Stitch on a computer and you will get much better results, but you will not be able to use OverCapture framing from your phone. You are able to take an HD cutout from 360 on your computer, but that doesn’t have the same intuitive ease. We wish that you could write the moves and framing you desire and import them into the desktop app so that you can get the best of both worlds; a great stitch and easy usability. There is one other issue we discovered while using OverCapture with a phone: the stability of the framing is the same you would get with a phone alone. That means that if your hands are shaky, you will see this in the HD cutout.

If the OverCapture data could be imported into the desktop app, or at least smoothed out in the app, only then would it be ready for pro use. The other idea we had is mounting the phone to a gimbal, so the movements would be stabilized from the get-go, but it’s likely that any tilting up to the sky or down at the ground would be difficult to execute.

Since we’re after the best quality final product, stitching with the desktop app is a must. Using the GoPro Fusion Studio desktop app gives a stunning stitch. It’s by far the best stitch we have experienced with a two lens 360 camera. We reviewed the GoPro Omni — a six camera rig that gives high resolution and full control over all the camera and used the same stitching tech for both cameras. Even with six cameras, the software did a great job.

There are two ways to get the data off the Fusion. Firstly, you can remove both SD cards and offload them into Fusion Studio. Or, Fusion can be plugged directly into the computer with Fusion Studio importing directly from the camera. We discovered an issue when first trying to offload connecting the computer to the Fusion. Make sure to use the cable that comes with the Fusion — other cables won't work. We grabbed the wrong cable when first attempting offload and after a few hours of reading forum threads, we discovered that the cable is special. It’s not proprietary, but it’s not as common as you think.

Two SD card slots

Since the stich was significantly better when using a computer, we would recommend using one whenever possible. If you use your computer, it’s assumed you will take it into a program to edit. Otherwise, you would have used the app. The app, although giving a sub-par stitch, is easy to use and makes publishing much faster.

Testing the stitching ability, we shot while looking directly at the side of the Fusion, where we assumed the stitch would be. I was able to get inches away from the camera, and it didn't mess up the features of my face. It did, however, affect what was behind my head in the background. The face looked great; the tree behind it did not. Lines in the background warped and bent as I physically moved around the camera. This is subtle and if watched on a phone or tablet, is not overtly noticeable. On a TV or computer screen, on the other hand it’s very noticable.

The Fusion’s  waterproof capability means you don’t need to worry about damaging the camera due to water. As a rule of thumb, underwater 360 doesn’t work. Because light refracts in water, stitching the two images together so that they match can be very difficult. There are two problems created. The first issue is color temperature, because of the auto white balance. Each camera can have a different color cast, exaggerating the stitched area. Additionally, to get sharp and clear underwater footage, you need a flat lens door and the lenses on Fusion are domed. Although the Fusion is waterproof, we don’t recommend using it underwater.

Sharpness, Dynamic Range and Image Quality

The Fusion has the best picture quality of any of its competitors. This is a combination of sharpness, dynamic range and color. GoPro has packed loads of Intellectual property in to the Fusion, giving it an edge over its competition. From compression to the image processor and optics, GoPro made the Fusion with loads of their own tech. It's not going to be as easy as it was for the world to copy this GoPro as it was the original.

Off-set dual lens design

Marketplace

The 360 camera marketplace is big and getting bigger. From multi-camera cinema rigs that offer super high resolution to consumer two-lens cameras, you’ll need to know the end use for your videos to choose the best tool for the job. We are going to stick to the consumer marketplace with cameras that can shoot 4K or higher to evaluate the value of the Fusion.

The first is the only 360 camera we are going to look at that isn’t positioned as an action camera. The Ricoh Theta V costs 430 dollars and can shoot up to 4K 360 video. Shooting up to 12 MP stills, it has four internal mics for more immersive audio. The Theta V is capable of live streaming, through the process is convoluted to say the least. Where the Theta V falls short is with its non removable media and battery. If you fill up the internal storage or run out of battery life, shooting will have to stop. The big strength of the Theta V is its form factor and easy workflow with either its iOS or Android app.
 
Next up is the Nikon KeyMission 360 for 500 dollars. It captures up to 4K 24fps 360 video and has internal stitching. That means you can capture onto the internal microSD and immediately post it to Facebook or YouTube. Its biggest weak point is its app, which is overly complicated. The KeyMission 360 is waterproof down to 100 feet without a hoursing and captures 29MP stills.

Last up is the Garmin Virb 360 for 800 dollars. It captures up to 4K 30fps 360 video or 5.7K 30fps unstitched. The Virb 360 is waterproof down to 33 feet without a housing. The Virb also has four-channel spatial audio, app control and even has environmental sensors.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

The Fusion has a great looking picture, dynamic range and color reproduction. OverCapture is a great new way to get more from a 360 camera than just spherical video. We wish that overcapture data could be imported in to the desktop app and could be stabilized or smoothed, but all in all, the Fusion is a strong camera, arguably the best in its class.

GoPro
www,GoPro.com

PRICE: $700

STRENGTHS:

  • OverCapture is ingenious
  • Great Image Quality

WEAKNESSES:

  • OverCapture control only works with in-app stitching

SUMMARY:

GoPro came out swinging with the Fusion. With great image quality, workflow and stitching The Fusion might be GoPro’s best product yet.  

RECOMMENDED USERS:

  • Corporate & Event Videographers
  • Indie filmmakers & Documentarians
  • YouTubers & Social media enthusiasts
  • Journalists & Travel videographers
  • Educators
  • Action sports enthusiasts

TECH SPECS:

Sensor: 2 x  CMOS
Sensor Resolution: 9.3 MP
Focal Length: 3mm
Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
Stitching Resolution: 5.2K
Stitching Location: External Stitching
Supported Spherical Projection Types: Equirectangular
Recording Media: microSD (128 GB Maximum)
Video Format:

  • 5228 x 2624 at 25, 30 fps
  • 3000 x 1504 at 50, 60 fps

Still Image Resolution: 18 Megapixel
Built-In Mic: Yes
Image Stabilization: Digital
Waterproof Depth Rating: 16.0' / 4.8 m (Camera)
Wi-Fi: Yes
Inputs: 1 x USB 2.0 Type-C
Battery: Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack, 3.8 VDC, 2620 mAh
Charging Method: USB
Dimensions: (W x H x D): 2.9 x 2.9 x 1.2" / 7.4 x 7.4 x 3.0 cm

Chris Monlux drinks lots of coffee. It’s yummy in his tum tum. He is also Videomaker’s Multimedia Editor. 

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