7 July 2021
From 379.98 to £479.99 | www.gopro.com
The funky new views you can get
Very impressive stabilisation
Relatively quick edit and export
Touchscreen user interface can be fiddly
The world of action cameras has been getting wider and wider over the last few years, both in terms of product range and field of view. The latest trend is 360° cameras that give some unique, and often nauseating, views of the world.
The basis of a 360° camera is two lenses on opposite sides of a body, with a bit of clever software (there’s probably an algorithm or two involved), which can make the view almost uninterrupted around the sphere of view. This sounds great, or maybe too much, so what’s the point? Well, if you’re flying is relatively dynamic then you can get some great footage, with horizon-levelling that makes the aircraft rotate around the camera’s seemingly fixed point of view. It’s also handy for shooting normal cockpit video and shifting the view around, giving the impression of more than one camera, for the price of just one. If you’re flying with a friend and having a conversation, you can quickly and easily swap views between each person – or you’ve got the option to go wide and fit both in. However, stabilisation technology is really designed for tumbling, spinning, looping and other gyrations. Just look at the GoPro promotional video to see skiers, bikers and surfers flying around rock-steady horizons.
If you have a virtual reality headset you can rewatch your videos in ‘VR’ mode on platforms like YouTube for extra immersion – just make sure you’re sitting down!
The camera will shoot in spherical mode at 5.6K and 30 frames per second. You might think that 5.6K sounds an awful lot, but remember that figure is shared around a full sphere – apparently it’s called equirectangular projection. It actually records in 6K but because of how power-hungry the rendering is, the camera actually processes two postbox-shaped channels and then stitches them together. You can also shoot in standard rectangular modes at 1440p (4:3) or 1080p (16:9) at upto 60fps, so it can act as a traditional GoPro with narrow, wide and superwide fields of view.
That 60fps is almost becoming the new 30fps, so if you’re wanting to slow your videos down then you might want to try the GoPro Hero 9. Generally speaking, though, in-cockpit videos don’t require slowing down, so there’s not much likelihood of you wanting anything more than 60.
It also comes packing a total of six microphones, one of which acts as a shotgun mic, ideal for selfie-style vlogging, although we haven’t tested the effectiveness of this yet. The screen on the back will display one half of the 360 view, so if you do want to frame your shots you can.
Video editing can be time consuming as it is, so having a full sphere of video seems quite daunting, at first. You can actually edit 360 footage straight from the GoPro Quik app on your phone, or use the desktop software. If you’re a serious video editor you can import the files into the likes of Adobe’s Premiere Pro, but if you’re just after a few quick cuts then the app works wonders. As long as you understand the theory of keyframes to position where you want the ‘view’ to be looking, it takes only a few moments to start a sequence of panning, tilting and flipping the video how you want it to. Keyframing is simple – just pinch and squeeze on the screen to set the shot – hit the keyframe button to log that and then move onto the next. The software will transition from one to the next in a nice smooth flow. You can export video and screenshots in a number of different aspect ratios from portrait to square and wide angle, all at the relative touch of a button (and squeeze of a screen).
Overall this is a neat package, compared to some of the rivals that look ungainly, and one with very little setup required.
If you’re interested in trying 360 video it’s a good bet. Rather confusingly the standalone price is £479.99 new or £379.98 if you buy it with a year’s GoPro subscription, which includes no fuss camera replacement if it gets damaged, discounts and cloud storage.