If you watched the GoPro launch event from San Fransciso on Thursday, you will have noticed that CEO Nick Woodman was one happy guy.
And he should be. Just a year after a lumpy launch and recall for the Karma drone, GoPro was looking a little mired in an increasingly crowded (and maturing) camera sector with little room for growth.
Competition from made-in-China knockoffs of GoPro’s flagship HERO family of action cameras was eating away at market share. The Karma Drone stumbled out of the gate with a battery mechanism issue that caused batteries to not engage properly and lose power during flight.
But GoPro handled the issue with great leadership, managing the recall professionally and dealing with the problem promptly. Once resolved, the Karma returned to the shelves and it went on to become the #2 selling drone in Americal in the sub $1000 category.
At GoPro’s ‘The Moment’ event Woodman released two new action cameras: the Fusion and the HERO6 Black.
Courtesy of the rumor-mill known as the internet it wasn’t much of a surprise that these two models were being released. But we didn’t know how hard GoPro had been working behind the scenes to make quantum leaps in features and functions. As one GoPro news site commented, these new features “just parked all of it’s Chinese knock-off competitors in 2016.”
Fusion 360 Camera
Teased earlier in the summer, the Fusion has two offset spherical lenses capturing 360 degree video in up to 5.2K that allows you to capture everything around you so that later you can choose the footage you actually want.
GoPro has added functionality to its app, called Overcapture, to allow the editor to select the wide-angle sperical footage and reframe it from traditional flat output. This feature alone is incredible.
The positioning of the lenses allows for a capture mode dubbed ‘Angel view’ because it gives the impression of the camera being held in front of the subject by an invisible ‘Angel’. It truly changes the way we will capture and export video.
Retailing at $699, you can pre-order the Fusion at GoPro.com, shipping is planned for end of November.
Perhaps the biggest surprise from GoPro is that they could take the cubey action camera we’re all familiar with and not just make it relevant again, but incredibly awesome too.
Part of the reason the cheaper knock-offs had succeeded in chipping into GoPro’s market share was because they could access the same chip GoPro used in its cameras. Until now.
Because GoPro wanted to build in powerful new features to propel the HERO6 into a new segment without competition it became obvious they needed a new, more powerful chip. And they needed it to be proprietary to eliminate competition.
With that new chip, called the GP1, the HERO6 Black has built in image stabilization that makes your video look like the camera was mounted on a stabilizing gimbal. A rear facing touchscreen, more powerful wifi, and voice control round out the features that you would expect from GoPro.
But the biggest leap has been in video capture quality. The HERO6 nails video at 4K with 60fps, 2.7k at 120fps and 1080p at a whopping 240fps. As Woodman says, this results in “butter smooth” slow motion video.
Like many of you, we have a collection of older GoPro models sitting in a drawer that no longer get used. Two weeks ago I would have told you that I would never need to buy another GoPro. Or want to.
But today, I have already ordered the HERO6 Black.
The final piece in the GoPro launch event was tipping the hat to Karma and it’s new features incorporating the HERO6 Black.
Already a simple to operate drone with thoughful built-in features and flight paths, GoPro has added a follow me function similar to DJI’s ActiveTrack.
Improvements to the Karma’s gimbal now allow filmakers to actually tilt the camera upward toward the sky to capture a view that is not possible with any other drone.
While Karma lacks much of the advanced electronics and functions of the DJI Mavic and Phantom series drones, it’s that lack of complexity that will be appealing to users who just want to get out and shoot. And if you’ve ever held a Karma remote in your hands, you know that GoPro has built this drone to extremely simple for anyone to use.
Aside from the Mavic Pro Platinum version upgrade, we’re still expecting new hardware from DJI this autumn. To say the least, tt will be interesting to see how DJI responds.