We knew it was coming, but today GoPro officially released the Hero 6 Black, the company’s new flagship camera, and the previously teased Fusion, their 360-degree camera. The Hero 6 will retail for $499 and goes on sale today, and the Fusion will sell for $699 and ships in November.
The specs for the 6 confirm what has already been leaked: It has the same form factor as the Hero 5, but shoots 4K video at 60 frames-per-second, which improves how smooth your footage looks. The 6 will also shoot regular HD 1080p video at 240 frames-per-second (twice that of the 5), meaning your powder day footage will look even dreamier when slowed down. The 6, like the 5, is waterproof to 33 feet and has a touch screen and voice control, but its WiFi is three times faster than the 5's. That will make it easier to control with the GoPro app and improve integration with the QuikStories feature, which automatically cuts together highlight reals.
Nick Woodman, GoPro's CEO, also confirmed that the 6 will run on a new processor called the GP1. This is the first time GoPro has used its own custom processor, which is sourced from Japan-based Socionext. That processor will help set them apart from other action camera manufacturers and allow them to develop custom features. The GP1 should improve image quality, low-light performance, dynamic range, and, perhaps most important, make the internal electronic image stabilization significantly better. That's a big deal: stabilization has always been the Achilles heel of action cams. It’s what separates all of your favorite ski movies from your buddy’s vomit-inducing “film” on YouTube. GoPro said the 6 will cut down on shakiness by cropping in on the image and utilizing three-axis electronic image stabilization. (High-end editing software uses a very similar process.) The resulting footage should look similar to what you'd get if you strapped an older GoPro to their stabilized Karma grip.
It's that improvement that we’re most excited about at Outside. (Well, that and the ultra-slow-mo 1080p at 240 fps.) The stabilization won’t replicate what you get from a bigger, more feature-rich video camera harnessed to an external gimbal, but it could make action cam footage much more pleasant to watch. We know the iPhone 8 already shoots the same 240 fps, but action cams like the GoPro, which you can strap to your chest or helmet, are better at capturing this kind of slo-mo footage, and we can’t wait to see what users do with it.
That brings us to the Fusion. The device, which we first heard about back in April, will be a spherical 360-degree camera that shoots 5.2K footage. It benefits from image stabilization as well, and users will be able to play the footage back as VR content or use an upcoming app feature called OverCapture, which will launch in early 2018, to pick an angle and play it back like a normal, fixed-perspective POV video .
In addition to the hardware launches, Woodman also announced a firmware update to the Karma Drone that gives it “Follow” and “Watch” functions. The first is something that other companies, like DJI, have had since 2015—it allows the drone to automatically follow anyone who has the controller. The "Watch" feature enables to the drone to hover in place and keep the controller in the frame, even if the person with the controller is moving.
Let's be clear: no individual product or feature launched by GoPro today is revolutionary. But taken together, all the hardware and software updates form an impressive package and should help the company continue to rebound after 2015’s rocky launch of the Session and last year’s Karma recall. The updates also keep them competitive with other drone and camera companies. Garmin just released a firmware update for their Virb 360 that already allows for users to pull normal POV footage from the 360 capture, and Sony recently announced the RX0, a new action cam that promises great image quality and several pro-level features.
We’re getting our hands on the Hero 6 this afternoon and will have an in-depth review sometime next week. Stay tuned.