Here’s a hands-on comprehensive look at the GoPro Fusion ($699.99), the first all-in-one 360 camera from GoPro, including a 10-camera photo and video comparison. I’ve been shooting with the Fusion since it launched and here is my hands-on review. WHAT’S NEW: added comparison between GoPro 5K vs. 4K .
– Background and history
– NEW! January 2018 updates.
– More information about OverCapture and how it differs from Virb 360’s HyperFrame and Insta360 ONE’s FreeCapture
– How to shoot with the GoPro Fusion
– Post-shooting workflow tutorial.
—- NEW! Comparison between 5K vs. 4K .
– Photo and video image quality comparison
– More sample photos
– More sample videos
– The lowest cost protection plan with no deductibles
– User manual
Updated: Februarp 19, 2018 – comparison between 5.2K and 4K
Updated: February 2, 2018 – low cost protection plan available from Amazon
Updated: January 19, 2018 – review, more sample photos and videos, Fusion Studio v 1.1 update.
Updated: November 29, 2017 – more sample photos, comments about workflow and stabilization.
Updated: November 22, 2017
Updated: November 17, 2017
Originally posted: September 28, 2017
BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
Ever since 360 cameras became popular starting around 2015, enthusiasts had been expecting a 360 camera from GoPro. GoPro first released two rigs, the GoPro Odyssey, a Google Jump 8K 3D 360 camera rig consisting of 17 cameras, and the GoPro Omni, a 6-camera rig that captures 8K video in 2D. GoPro also acquired Kolor, developers of Autopano stitching software.
Finally, in April 2017, GoPro announced the Fusion, their first all-in-one 360 camera which featured 5.2K video and the ability to frame a 360 video as a flat non-360 video, a feature which GoPro called “Overcapture.”
The Fusion was originally scheduled for release in 2018. However, on September 28, GoPro announced that the Fusion would begin shipping November 30, 2017 for $699. That date was later moved to November 24, 2017 in the US, and in fact began to ship sometime November 13, 2017.
Here is a video giving an overview of the Fusion’s key features, and how it complements GoPro’s line of cameras:
If you want to see the launch announcement, you can see it here.
Unlike other 360 camera companies, GoPro placed heavy emphasis on using the Fusion to take flat / cropped non-360 videos. The launch explained to GoPro shooters how they could could use a GoPro Fusion to capture their adventures in ways that would not be possible for a conventional GoPro camera. I commend GoPro for coming up with memorable names for 360 video techniques. “Angel view” definitely sounds catchier than “invisible flying camera.” 🙂
GOPRO FUSION SPECIFICATIONS:
Here are the Fusion’s specifications:
|Video resolution:||4992 x 2496 @ 30fps|
3008 x 1504 @ 60fps
|Photo resolution:||5760 x 2880. |
Can take photos in burst mode (up to 30fps). Can take photos in Raw format (The GoPro gpr format, based on the DNG format). Does not necessarily mean stitched in Raw.
|ISO (photos):||100 to 800|
|ISO (videos):||100 to 6400|
|Shutter speed:||up to 30 seconds. Long enough for light painting and night sky photos.|
|Storage:||two removable Micro SD cards|
|Connection:||USB Type C|
|Release date:||November 24, 2017 (however, it began shipping sometime November 13, 2017).|
You may have noticed that the video resolution is 4992 x 2496, yet GoPro describes the resolution as 5.2K. This is because they are using 960p per “k”. For example, 3840 x 1920 is widely accepted as 4K. GoPro is arguing that if 3840 x 1920 is 4K, then 4992 x 2496 is 5.2K. With this logic, the Garmin Virb 360 and Yi 360 VR would be considered as 6K (5760 x 2880) instead of 5.7K. Nonetheless, what ultimately matters is not the nominal resolution but the actual image quality.
GOPRO FUSION FEATURES
Here are GoPro Fusion’s features:
Image stabilization: GoPro has confirmed that Fusion has gyro-based stabilization. Stabilization is very important for 360 videos because it ensures that a viewer can look around the video smoothly. Stabilization also makes it possible to hold the camera
OverCapture – This is one of the most important features of the GoPro Fusion. It lets you use the 360 video to create a traditional 16:9 video in 1080p resolution, with full control of the perspective. First, you shoot a 360 video. After the video is recorded, you download the video to your Fusion phone app. From there, you frame the video by moving the phone around, as if you had been shooting the video with your phone. The end result is a 16:9 full HD video that looks like it was shot by a professional cameraman.
OverCapture therefore appears to work more similarly to Insta360 ONE’s FreeCapture, as opposed to the Virb 360’s simpler HyperFrame or Insta360 Studio, which shoot virtual camera perspectives through sliders that you control with the mouse. The practical difference is that with OverCapture (and FreeCapture), virtual camera movements appear more natural instead of robotic.
Between OverCapture and FreeCapture, there seem to be a few differences. First, with OverCapture it appears you can tilt the virtual camera whereas with FreeCapture (as of version 1.0.7 of its app), the virtual camera is always level.
On one hand, tilting the camera gives you more creative freedom. On the other hand, a camera that remains level will have a video that looks more stable. Then again, the sample video shown by GoPro looks pretty stable.
Another possible difference is that with FreeCapture, you can zoom the camera smoothly from telephoto all the way to tiny planet and anything in between. In the GoPro OverCapture demo video, I did not see any zooming, although this OverCapture video, posted months before, does show zooming:
But this demo video showed panning movements that were too smooth and seem to have been generated from a desktop-based slider interface and not a handheld smartphone interface.
OverCapture will be available via an app update in “early 2018.”
Surround audio: The manual states that the Fusion has 3 microphones on top plus one more microphone not shown in the diagram (4 total). UPDATE: as I predicted, GoPro has revealed that Fusion will have surround audio!
Protune mode: you can set the ISO limit. It doesn’t have a flat color mode in-camera (for maximum dynamic range) but the Fusion Studio does have a flat mode.
Waterproof up to 16 feet without a housing like a Hero5 Black. However, just because a camera is waterproof doesn’t mean it can take good underwater photos or videos. UPDATE: GoPro has confirmed that the Fusion underwater stitching will not be smooth. I don’t know yet if they will produce a separate waterproof housing to enable smooth stitching underwater.
Voice control. This feature is similar to GoPro Hero5 Black and Hero5 Session. Voice control is a useful feature for an action camera such as the Fusion because it allows hands-free operation of the Fusion when you might otherwise be occupied
GPS location tagging. This feature is useful mapping, among other things. However, the user manual did not mention Google Street View. Nonetheless I suspect the photos will be compatible with StreetView.
Quikcapture: When Fusion is in standby, you can quickly capture a spontaneous moment by pressing the shutter button. This will automatically wake up the camera and begin recording. Alternatively, you can hold down the shutter button from standby to use Quikcapture with a time lapse photo.
Video highlights: You can bookmark highlights in your videos that will later make it easier to edit the video. Highlights can be marked either by pressing a button on the Fusion, or with a voice command, either “GoPro Highlight” or “That was sick” (:D).
In addition to a time lapse video mode, Fusion has an intervalometer (time lapse photo mode). The intervals can be as short as 0.5 second to as long as 60 seconds. There is also a separate night lapse photo mode that can take sequential photos with long exposures. This can help create photos of star trails.
Remo waterproof voice activated remote: Fusion is compatible with the Remo waterproof voice activated remote for the Hero5 Black (see below under “How to shoot with GoPro Fusion”).
Can record while charging. The side door can be removed to make it easier to connect a USB cable while recording.
NEW! Remote activation. You can remotely turn on the GoPro Fusion. Make sure your phone’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are on. Launch the app and tap on the Fusion. The app will be able to remotely turn on the Fusion. You can also remotely put the Fusion on standby.
NEW! Find my camera. If you misplaced your Fusion, the app can help you find it. When the app is connected to the camera, there is an option in the settings to “locate my camera.” This will cause the camera to beep until you turn off the option. Hopefully the beeping will help you find it.
It has TWO micro SD cards, one for each lens. Incredibly, you can nonetheless get a fully stitched live preview (see below under “How to shoot with GoPro Fusion”).
January 2018 update
In January, GoPro released a major update to the Fusion desktop and mobile apps just in time for CES.
– Stabilization performance has improved tremendously. It appears that you can apply the new stabilization to previous clips. Another benefit is that it appears stabilization drifting has been fixed. See a sample video under stabilization below.
– There are now two stabilization modes. One mode will lock to a fixed compass direction, and the other, called “anti-shake” will stabilize while maintaining the camera orientation.
– The image quality for the GoPro color mode has improved. Whereas before, “flat” sometimes looked better for me, now I consistently prefer the GoPro look. See sample photos below.
– Importing media directly from Fusion now works correctly. Previously, when I connect the camera to my desktop, the app usually could not find the media. Now, it is consistently able to find media.
The mobile app has improved as well. Most importantly, they added the overcapture feature. And the Android version of the GoPro app is now able to connect to Fusion, although compatibility is rather spotty. For example, on my Samsung S8+, I can connect to the Fusion and see a live preview, but if I try to view photos or videos, the app disconnects from the Fusion. I am assuming that GoPro will be able to fix these issues.
How to shoot with the GoPro Fusion
In general, shooting with the Fusion is pretty straightforward.
Shooting without a remote:
The camera has only two buttons: a power button / menu button and a shutter button. The menu button is used to move from one option to another, while the shutter button is used as the OK button.
There are a few ways for shooting without a remote:
1. You can switch to the photo mode or video mode or intervalometer (time lapse) and press the shutter; or
2. Use voice control and say “GoPro take a photo,” or “GoPro start recording;” or
3. If the camera is sleeping, you can use Quikcapture. With the camera off, press the shutter to record a video or hold down the shutter button, to begin interval shooting. After you stop the video or the interval shooting, the Fusion will go back to sleep / standby.
Shooting with Remo voice-activated remote or Smart Remote:
Fusion can be controlled by Remo or Smart Remote. Remo is both a shutter and voice activated remote. Smart Remote is a remote with a display and offers the same controls as the Fusion itself. Smart Remote has a range of up to 180 meters (600 feet) and can control up to 50 cameras simultaneously. However, unlike Remo, it does not have voice control. Both remote shutters are waterproof to 10 meters. For sports, I prefer to use the Remo. For more controlled environments, I prefer to use Smart Remote.
Shooting with a phone:
As of January 18 2018, GoPro Fusion is compatible with both iPhone and Android (. Hopefully, the Android version of the Fusion app will be available in the future. The Fusion’s app is the same GoPro Capture app for GoPro Hero.
After installing the GoPro app and adding the Fusion as a new camera, the GoPro app can control the Fusion reliably. Surprisingly, there is a fully stitched live view, although swiping the screen causes the preview to move in unexpected directions.
Exposure controls: if you want to control the exposure, you tap on the settings (wrench icon), and in the next screen, activate Protune. This allows you to specify the exposure compensation and the ISO limit. For video, the ISO limit is 6400. For photo the limit is 800. However, it seems you cannot control the shutter speed in normal photo mode. In Night Photo or Time Lapse mode, you can select the shutter speed from Auto (up to 2 seconds), 2, 5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds. There is no self-timer.
After taking a photo or video, you can go to the gallery to see a thumbnail. However, on my iPhone 6, I could not download the photos or videos.
Some smartphones can stitch photos and videos from the Fusion using the GoPro app. An iPhone 6 can’t stitch but an iPhone 5 SE can stitch, up to 4K resolution in .mp4 format. There are simple controls such as for trimming the video, and sharing the video to Facebook or YouTube. I was surprised that the video didn’t take very long to stitch, yet the stitching quality was decent, and the stitched video was stabilized.
On the other hand, the app would very often fail to connect to the camera’s gallery (I could use the app to control the camera but when viewing the camera’s contents, the app couldn’t show the gallery.)
In the January update to the app, GoPro added overcapture to the iPhone version which allows you to extract a static (non-360) full HD video from the 360 video while you choose the angles and perspectives. (As of February 19, the Android version doesn’t have overcapture yet.)
It works as advertised. However, one limitation seems to be that I can’t do a ‘cut’ and I can only pan (by contrast, the Insta360 ONE’s FreeCapture allows not just pans but also cuts). Another limitation is that the app can sometimes crash (I tested with iPhone 7). According to one beta tester, a future version of the Overcapture will allow cuts.
Fusion Studio is GoPro’s desktop software for stitching Fusion photos and videos. Fusion Studio is available for download here, for Windows or Mac (scroll down — thanks to Matt Smitherz and Meng Fye for bringing it to my attention) but you can’t use it without a Fusion camera connected to your PC.
There are two ways to import photos and videos to Fusion Studio: you can connect the Fusion to your PC or Mac, launch Fusion Studio, and click on “Browse Camera Media.” The photos and videos from the camera will be imported into your preferred folder (under Edit… Preferences). As of November 22, 2017, this method of importing media does not work reliably (it works only about 10% of the time).
The second way to import media is to copy the files from both Micro SD cards into the import folder. Each file has a prefix for GPFR (front camera) or GPBK (back camera) and a number suffix. Photos or videos from the same shot will have the same number suffix. As long as you don’t change the file names, Fusion Studio will be able to match the files automatically.
After the media are imported, using the app is pretty easy. Here is a 3-part tutorial on Fusion Studio by Al Caudullo of 360 VR Voice.
Some quirks with the Fusion’s workflow:
1. As Al’s video showed, you’ll have a few choices for output: H.264, Cineform or Prores. H.264 is the most widely supported, and takes up the least space, but is limited to 4K. If you want 5.2K, you’ll need to use Cineform or Prores. Cineform is supported in Adobe Premiere and even YouTube, but not in consumer video editors such as Cyberlink PowerDirector or Magix Movie Edit Pro, and not in Facebook (as of November 2017). Another issue with Cineform is the huge size. A 23-second video will take up 1.6GB of space and takes my low-end VR-ready PC about 4 minutes to stitch.
2. The Fusion’s vertical correction is a little bit inconsistent, especially in the anti-shake stabilization mode (instead of the full stabilization mode). You have to manually level the horizon for each photo and video as part of your work flow (fortunately Fusion Studio does have a built-in tool for this). This makes it harder to batch-process several videos.
3. One idiosyncrasy of the Fusion is that the settings for adjusting the image are somewhat unpredictable. For example, Fusion Studio doesn’t have a simple exposure or brightness slider. Instead it has “shadows and highlights,” which seems to be somewhat of a mix of contrast and tone mapping. In terms of the color and tone curve profile, Flat and GoPro profiles also seem unpredictable. I haven’t found a general rule where I can say with certainty which profile will look better in particular situations. The practical impact of this is that when editing many photos or videos, you can’t simply apply a single setting to a series of them en masse (unless they were shot in identical lighting conditions). Instead, I find that I have to customize the profile and shadow/highlight setting for each photo and video.
GoPro Fusion Comparison 5.2K vs 4K
Given the additional requirements for 5K (limited to Cineform or Prores, more demanding hardware), you may want to consider using 4K instead. I did a comparison between 4K and 5.2K to see the difference between them. I rendered a video clip in 5.2K and in 4K, both in Cineform, and then viewed them with GoPro VR 3.0 in 360 mode. Here is a comparison of 100% crops from the 5.2K and 4K samples. Can you tell which one is 5.2K and which one is 4K?
The answer is that Sample A is 5.2K, while Sample B is at 4K. You might say that the 5.2K sample has very slightly better definition. The difference between them is extremely subtle. When both are uploaded to YouTube, they are even harder to distinguish:
If you want to compare both samples side by side, you can do that with the Ultimate 360 Camera Comparison Tool. You can find both samples at the bottom of the playlist.
What I think this experiment shows is that the Fusion workflow isn’t necessarily difficult. Rendering as 4K is a feasible option and yields image quality that is nearly identical to the 5.2K version.
GoPro Fusion photo and video image quality comparison
I compared the GoPro Fusion’s photo and video image quality against nine other cameras:
– Garmin Virb 360
– Insta360 ONE
– Kodak PIXPRO Orbit360
– Nikon Keymission 360
– Ricoh Theta V
– Samsung Gear 360 2016 (original version)
– Samsung Gear 360 2017
– Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere
– Yi 360 VR
- Video comparison:
- Photo comparison:
My observations so far:
– Stitching is generally excellent, although sometimes the stitch line is visible in videos. It is definitely not always as seamless as the demo video first shown by GoPro.
– Sharpness and detail is excellent but seems to drop slightly toward the stitch line.
– There is a little bit of purple fringing near the stitch line (more noticeable if you use the GoPro color mode).
– Highlight range is excellent, among the best I’ve seen for consumer 360 cameras.
– The shadow areas seem to have low bit depth, and there is a loss of detail in darker areas, especially when using the GoPro color profile (as opposed to the flat color profile). This is also the case for shots in low light taken at a high ISO. To mitigate this, you can use ProTune to limit the maximum ISO in either photo or video mode.
– Excellent flare resistance, possibly the best I’ve seen. I plan to do more tests.
– White balance is excellent and usually accurate. I seldom find a need to adjust the color temperature or tint too much, except in indoor artificial lighting.
After shooting with the Fusion in various lighting conditions, I have found that the Fusion excels in showing high contrast lighting conditions where you want to ensure that there is detail in both highlight and shadow areas, notwithstanding the loss of some detail in deep shadows. There were several high-contrast scenes I shot where I was pretty sure the detail would be lost in the shadows or highlights, only to find out that the Fusion was able to cope with the difficult lighting conditions. To me this is the most impressive and defining characteristic of the Fusion, even more than its excellent stabilization or its smooth stitching.
One of the key features touted for the GoPro Fusion is its stabilization. Stabilization is an important feature for 360 cameras because it keeps the horizon level and avoids discomfort for viewers. Moreover, stabilization can enable the shooter to use the Fusion at any angle, and when used with a sufficiently slim monopod, the camera can appear to be an invisible flying camera, an effect which I first demonstrated back in May with the Xiaomi Mi Sphere, and which GoPro has called “angel view.”
When the GoPro was first released, there were issues with stabilization. First, sometimes, videos sometimes looked unstabilized. Another issue was that when stabilization was active, the video would drift (it will gradually roll to the right). The drifting is noticeable in as little as 20 seconds of video. (Incidentally, the Xiaomi Mi Sphere also had drifting when it was first released, although recent updates to its software have removed drifting entirely.) Drifting can be fixed in 360 video editors that support keyframing for horizon leveling, such as Adobe Premiere Pro and Magix Movie Edit Pro Plus 2018 (but note that Magix cannot ingest Cineform). Here is a tutorial.
In the January 2018 update, the stabilization improved tremendously. Here is a sample. It is admittedly not a particularly challenging stabilization test, but you can see that the video looks level and more importantly, there is no noticeable blur.
Here is a video from a Fusion attached to a dog, shot by Dan Jesse. The video looks surprisingly watchable despite the bouncing of the camera. On the other hand, there’s a similar Rylo demo video where the video looks noticeably more stable.
Here are some sample photos from GoPro Fusion. For photos rendered with Fusion Studio 1.1, I specified that in the description. You can see the subtle difference between 1.1 and 1.0 in the photo of my daughter wearing her skates. The photo processed in 1.1 has better shadow rendering.
11/29/17 update: GoPro Fusion has ProTune settings (which can be used to customize the settings). I’ve used ProTune to limit the auto ISO to 100 and the photos look pretty good. I’m testing to see how photos perform with auto ISO at 400 or 200. However, I do not recommend leaving it at 800, nor do I recommend turning off ProTune because at high ISOs, the bit depth drops noticeably, especially in the shadows.
Here is another sample 360 photo with long exposure by Sascha Endlicher, M.A..
Here are my observations:
– The stitching is perfect! This looks as good as the stitching of the Theta S, and looks better than the stitching of the Theta V. It looks seamless even at close distances.
– Sharpness is about as good as can be expected for a 360 camera of this resolution. The sharpness is pretty consistent throughout the frame, although there is a very slight drop at the stitch line.
– In this long exposure sample, the noise seems quite low.
– Very good flare resistance. It’s not immune from flare, but the flare artifacts aren’t objectionable, and there is not a lot of reduction of contrast.
– There is some green fringing in high contrast areas.
– There is some posterization noticeable in the sky.
GoPro Fusion Sample Videos
Here is a sample 360 video from the Fusion:
The Fusion has excellent image quality for photo and video. Optics are close to perfect, with consistent sharpness throughout the frame. The detail is very good, and when a 360 video is cropped as a full HD video, the video looks somewhat similar to a native 1080p video from a consumer camera. What’s most impressive about it is the dynamic range, which can capture both highlights and shadows even in high contrast lighting conditions. With the January 2018 update, stabilization has improved markedly. While the stabilization might not outperform some cameras such as the Rylo (or the Insta360 ONE with the upcoming update), the stabilization is easily one of the best among 360 cameras of the same generation.
The Fusion’s weakest area at the moment is the workflow. First of all, when you import videos and photos, it generates preview files but doesn’t save them. This means every time you start the app and look at a directory, it has to regenerate the preview files. Second, you have to manually level each photo or video. This makes it harder to batch process files. Third, when you work on files and make changes to its settings, those settings are only kept for that session and disappear when you close the app. This means you must finish the job and stitch it. You can’t edit half way and close the app to continue another time. Fourth, at 5.2K, files can only be saved in Cineform or Prores (there is no export for H.265, and H.264 export is limited to 4K). On the positive side, rendering times are reasonable (comparable to Virb 360 and much faster than Yi 360 VR). My workaround is to simply to stitch as 4K for casual shooting, and it still looks very detailed.
Android compatibility is also spotty. As of GoPro app 4.2, the app crashes on my Samsung S8+ when viewing photos or videos. The silver lining is that the Fusion is usable even without the smartphone app because its in-camera menu gives access to all available settings, as does the optional Smart Remote accessory.
WHERE TO BUY; PROTECTION PLAN
GoPro Fusion is now available on Amazon, and that’s the best place to buy it for three reasons. First, when you buy the Fusion from Amazon, you can get a 4-year accident protection plan for around $57 (covers drops, spills, and product malfunctions), with “no deductibles or hidden fees“:
Normally, I never buy those warranties. But 360 cameras are not like other electronics or cameras or lenses — if you scratch the lens, the scratch will definitely affect the image quality because of the extremely short focal length. And the Fusion lens is not user-replaceable (unlike the Virb), and there’s no external housing yet for now. At the same time, if you buy the Fusion from GoPro, their GoPro Plus protection plan is $5 per month ($60 per year) AND there is a deductible (I heard it’s $150). The Amazon protection plan is a no-brainer. Second, when possible, I buy from Amazon because of their customer service and very pro-consumer return policy. Third, if you live outside the US, GoPro doesn’t ship outside the US yet but Amazon does. Thank you very much for using this affiliate link to support 360 Rumors at no additional cost to you so I can do more tests and reviews! In the meantime, I will keep updating this page with more info on the Fusion, so please bookmark it and please share it with interested friends (there’s a sharing button on the upper left corner).