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GoPro MAX Hands-On Review: GoPro's Second, Much-Improved 360 Camera

The GoPro MAX is much more than a 360-degree video camera

(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The GoPro MAX ($499) is a versatile 360-degree video camera designed for all kinds of action.

For

  • High-quality video and photo
  • Automatic 360-degree stitching
  • Excellent app upgrades

Against

  • Can’t toggle between lenses in Hero mode
  • Bulkier than other 360 cameras
  • Expensive

GoPro wants you to absorb the world in all its 360-degree glory with its GoPro MAX camera. 

The GoPro MAX is a combination of the HERO 8 and the 360-degree Fusion, with some exclusive new features that put a major emphasis on "MAX." The camera packs Max HyperSmooth stabilization, Max TimeWarp-lapsing and Max SuperView wide-angle recording. The MAX can do everything that he GoPro HERO 8 can, plus more. 

But priced at $100 more than our best 360-degree camera, the Insta360 One X, we wonder if the GoPro’s latest device can provide ample value. We went hands-on with the GoPro MAX to find out. 

 GoPro MAX price and availability

The GoPro MAX costs $499 and will be available on October 25, but you can pre-order it now through GoPro.  

GoPro MAX design 

(Image credit: Future)

The 2.5 x 2.7 x 1.6-inch GoPro MAX looks like the company took a GoPro Hero 8, stretched it into a square, and added a second camera to the back side. It’s a stark contrast to most other 360 cameras, such as the Insta360 One X, which has a stick-like design. 

The GoPro MAX’s shape means that you’ll need to use it with a selfie stick. Fortunately, the company added folding “fingers” to the bottom of the Max, which means you can connect it to GoPro accessories without the need for a separate case for the camera itself.

(Image credit: Future)

The MAX comes with a small tripod stick that attaches to the camera base with a single screw. But GoPro recommends investing in the $60 MAX Grip Tripod if you want stick-free video every time.

The GoPro MAX has a 1.7-inch color touch screen that functions as a viewfinder. It’s easy to see in direct sunlight and offers an accurate preview of what you’re capturing. 

GoPro MAX video features 

(Image credit: Future)

The GoPro MAX provides three different camera modes: a single lens (as with any GoPro Hero), a front-facing perspective and immersive 360-degree capture. You can’t switch between them while shooting, but in between shots it’s easy to switch settings to capture a variety of clips. 

While using HERO mode with both the front and back-facing cameras, there are four different digital lens options. The narrow, linear, and wide lens debuted on earlier GoPro models, but the Max Superview lens is new with the GoPro MAX. It’s 26 degrees wider than versions of the superview lens on previous GoPros. In a video I took from a pier facing the Boston harbor, you can see impressive clarity and coverage.

You might notice how stable the clip looks, too. Though my hands shivered in the brisk late-October air, the Max HyperSmooth setting stabilized my shot pretty well. 

Another new ‘Max’ feature is Horizon Leveling, which maintains a stable horizon when shooting video. In a demo, I saw the effect in action – strapped to a cheetah. Without Horizon Leveling enabled, the camera wobbled to a dizzying extent, but with Horizon Leveling, the far-off edge of the grassland remained stationary. Insta360’s One X has a similar feature; we’re interested to see how the two compare.

As for 360-degree recording, the GoPro Max does an excellent job of stitching surroundings together right on the camera. A clip I captured during rush hour inside Grand Central Station was available for immediate spherical playback on my phone. There was a slight stitch where I’m standing beneath the camera, but it’s an overall solid video. 

Though I didn’t test it, you can also use Max TimeWarp while recording 360-degree videos. TimeWarp started on the GoPro HERO 7 Black, but the GoPro MAX is the first time the technology can be used in immersive videos. Max TimeWarp lets you capture stabilized time lapse videos while you move about a scene. 

GoPro MAX photography features 

You can use the GoPro MAX to take images of anything you see through the viewfinder, but 270-degree panoramic photos captured at 6.2MP is where the device’s photography skills shine.

(Image credit: Future)

The GoPro MAX captures artifact-free shots, meaning that you’ll get a panoramic photo with a single press, rather than the physical pan motion you need to get a similar photo on a mobile phone. This is ideal for action or movement shots, or if you just want to avoid contributing to the dreaded caterpillar-dog meme. 

You can see how inclusive the GoPro MAX’s panorama shot is compared to an iPhone’s take on the same scene.

Pictures stitch automatically in 360-degree mode, too. You can see in a minor break where my hand is in this 360-degree shot I took in Bryant Park, but it still looks great. It's packed with colors and contrast, providing a bright render of my surroundings. 

I'm less impressed by this 360-degree shot inside Grand Central Station. The details of the ornate, dark-lit transit center look blurry. And there's something wacky happening where the images stitched beneath the camera. 

GoPro MAX app integration 

The GoPro MAX pairs with the GoPro app to mirror what the camera is capturing on your mobile device. When the app is connected to the Max's Wi-Fi, it functions as a remote control for the camera. You can record video, take photos and even set up a Facebook live stream hands-free from the GoPro Max.

The app also allows you to edit and share footage straight from your phone. You can pull non-GoPro content from your phone’s gallery for your projects, too.

GoPro recently pushed significant updates to its editing studio. Users now have access to preset themes, single-clip editing and more filters. You can also reframe 360-degree video and cut the clips to your liking. Simply select your desired field of view and the GoPro app will automatically pan for a smooth video output. In the demo we saw, GoPro was able to edit a 360-degree recording into an engaging action clip in mere minutes.  

(Image credit: Future)

GoPro MAX outlook 

The GoPro MAX merges all of the excellent features of the GoPro HERO 8, with respectable enhancements and 360-degree capabilities. At $500 it’s a rather pricey camera, but you’re getting more than just a GoPro or only a 360-camera. This device delivers the brand’s expected quality when it comes to video, and we also like its new video settings, added microphones, and automatic 360-degree mode stitching. Plus, the editing opportunities of the companion app are awesome. We're putting it to the test against other 360 cameras to see how well it performs, but so far it seems that the newest product from GoPro is living up to its MAX name.