3/29/18 update: GoPro has released the new camera, simply called GoPro HERO, for $199. GoPro is releasing a new action camera, as was first seen on Reddit. This time it’s an entry-level camera with essentially the same features as Hero 6 (which has 4K video), but with a video resolution of 1440p at 60fps or 1080p at 60fps and a lower price. I believe this strategic move has important implications for the 360 camera market.[Note: this is an updated version of article first posted 3/15/18.]
The new camera looks like the Hero 5 or Hero 6 but will have 10mp photos and the video will be only 1080p at 60fps. It is available now for $199.
Here is a video showing the new GoPro Hero:
It has the same features as Hero 5 and Hero 6, including being waterproof without a case, voice command, touch screen, and compatibility with Quik stories. The only difference is that the sensor is limited to 1440p at 60fps or 1080p at 60fps, and the photos are 10mp instead of 12mp.
360 shooters may be interested in using it for a rig or for a GoPro panoramic head such as the Panohero H5B or Pano5+1 Mk II.
Implications for 360 camera market
I don’t know whether the new camera will succeed. But allow me to speculate on why GoPro is releasing this camera. I think GoPro has figured out that the majority of their users watch videos on their phone or a laptop or a computer monitor, not a large screen TV. With a laptop screen or smartphone, at normal viewing sizes, 4K is not noticeable. Even on a 20-inch screen, the difference should be noticeable only if you have 20/20 vision. If most people won’t need the 4K resolution, why not get a lower cost 1080p camera instead? Besides the lower camera cost, it will be faster to upload the video, it will take up less space on a drive, and easier to edit.
Now hold that thought. If 1080p is “good enough” for most people this means that the threshold for acceptable image quality might not be as high as we previously assumed. To get the equivalent of 4K resolution in a 360 view, a 360 image must be around 32K. To get the equivalent of 1080p resolution in 360 view, however, you need only about 8K.
In fact, the GoPro Fusion is only 5.2K but comes close to the detail of the 8K Insta360 Pro. I’ve also compared the Fusion to 1080p videos from a smartphone and a Hero5, and found that the Fusion videos could at least be somewhat similar, when you use a suitable field of view.
In turn, this reinforces the idea that consumer 360 cameras — or at least the GoPro Fusion in particular — have reached a video quality that is “good enough” for most people, especially if they are viewing videos on a smartphone, laptop, or typical computer monitor.
If the Fusion offers similar image quality to the new GoPro Hero, the question is, would a consumer pay around $500 more to get similar image quality but with new capabilities, such as the ones I showed in my GoPro Fusion review? I think it’s a reasonable proposition, and as 360 cameras increase in quality or decrease in price, the proposition can only become more attractive.