I’ve never used a GoPro. So when I was approached to review the GoPro MAX 360 camera, I was intrigued. I had a few photoshoots coming up where I could definitely see me using it for some bonus content for clients. So how did it work?

As a standard video camera

My first time using the GoPro MAX was during a photoshoot for one of my regular clients, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. Every winter they host the “World of Winter” event series, which includes an all-day tournament of Human Hungry Hippos.

Yep — think the Hungry Hungry Hippos game you played as a kid. But on the ice, with laundry baskets and, well, humans.

After I received my GoPro, I ordered the GoPro Head Strap so I could easily attach the camera to one of the participant’s heads. I wanted a first-world look at the action on the ice.

I put the camera on a few heads throughout the day, and developed a few 30-second social media clips for my client. They were thrilled! The quality was great, and I was able to provide a cool wide-angle view that really captured a lot of what was going on.

As a 360 camera

I had some ideas for the 360 camera functionality, too, but then the Stay at Home orders went into effect in Michigan. But I still wanted to get out and try it!

I took the camera downtown and drove around, taking both a 360 video and 360 timelapse as the camera was recording from inside my car. I set it up on a Platypod Ultra and silicone pad so it would stay in place. It was pretty cool seeing the footage, as it was very wide and captured a unique view, different from anything else I had shot.

In terms of the 360 video, the quality was great and very similar to the standard video, just with a different view and obviously different options. I’d love to play with this in a big city like Chicago, as you could capture the buildings in all their glory!

But the 360 timelapse was what really interested me. I let this record for a while at 30fps, which produced just over a minute of timelapse footage. It was pretty cool seeing me drive around in fast-motion, and have it automatically switch views based on the direction I was moving (be sure to click and drag on the video below).

The colors on both the video and timelapse were great, and the recorded video was sharp. I did this test on a bright, sunny day (rare in Michigan) and didn’t see any issues with blown-out highlights.

The camera did a pretty good job of keeping the mount out of the footage. But because I had it connected to a Platypod, you were able to see the edges of it (and the silicone pad) while spiraling around.

I also took the camera to the great outdoors, to a park close to my home. Placed on a GoPro tripod, I played with using the camera at various different angles, for video. In this case it was a bit more realistic of a use case, as I was able to give a full view of nature, versus just what was outside my windshield and inside my car. It also did a great job of removing the tripod from the footage.

Both 360 videos are without any edits, showing that the details really shine through and the colors are top-notch.

Versus the competition

While I don’t have an Insta360 One R, the GoPro MAX is often compared to it. Both have similar specs including things like 6-axis stabilization, a Gyroscope, microphone and more.

At the same time, the GoPro MAX is missing a few things that has me scratching my head. For its 360 video capabilities, both offer 5K footage recording at 30fps. But when it comes to normal video, the GoPro MAX maxes out at 1440p at 60fps, compared to 4K at 50fps on the One X. The One X can also live stream in 4K, with the GoPro MAX limited to 1080p. Because I see myself using this as a traditional video camera for my clients, I really wish GoPro would’ve matched the competition here.

Further more, with the One R you can record RAW photos, but with the GoPro MAX you can only record JPEG. Not a deal breaker for me, but it might be for some who want to have this be their only camera on their next vacation.

I’ll be honest and say there’s not a ton of difference between the One R and GoPro MAX, in terms of footprint and a few specs. The One R finally added an LCD screen, something that was missing from previous Insta360 cameras, and it has a module design that you can add on to (which is definitely handy for some situations). When deciding between the two, it really comes down to what you need and what system you’re most comfortable using.

All in all, the GoPro MAX is a great option for those that want to explore with both traditional and 360 video for their clients, or just for fun. While it’s missing a few key features like 4K video and RAW photo capture, GoPro is still very new at the 360 camera game, and I expect it to improve pretty quickly. For most users, though, it’s more than enough power and capability to get the job done.

Me personally? I’m excited to use it once the weather warms up to capture some beautiful Michigan scenes!

The GoPro MAX retails for $499 and is compatible with a wide range of GoPro accessories.