Will the Fusion Turn Around GoPro's Fortune?

It is fair to say GoPro have been struggling in recent years. Will their latest device, the GoPro Fusion, restore them to their former glory?

Like so many others, I have been a GoPro fan since they first brought out their HERO range of cameras, way back in 2006. I loved the way they just seemed to work. Sure the two-button menu system was just awful and the software was full of bugs. But the cameras were small, lightweight, and tough enough you could pretty take them anywhere. Back then, GoPro was just killing it, so it was no wonder their products flew off the shelves all over the world. For a while it was as though they had a license to print money.

But thanks to the cut-throat world of the tech industry, it was never going to be long until other camera companies were on their heels, eating away at their market lead. Suddenly the action-cam market was jam-packed with a host of new competitors, offering alternatives which were not only cheaper, but, crucially, also a lot better. Seemingly overnight, GoPro found themselves playing second fiddle in a sector they pretty much single-handedly invented themselves. The result was a torrid couple of years for the California-based camera company, during which time the intense pressure to score another hit product caused them to rush new devices to the market before they were fully ready, and with disastrous results (looking at you, GoPro Karma).

It is against this backdrop that the company has released the GoPro Fusion, a 360-degree action camera which they hope will revive their good fortune. The question is, do they finally have the hit they have been so eagerly searching for, or have they once again rushed out a product not quite ready to release? This is the question Tony Northrup sought to answer in his detailed real-world review as he took the Fusion to document his recent trip to Morocco.

The video he captured with the Fusion was certainly impressive, but was it impressive enough?

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14 Comments

Paul, you have two ‘but now’s in the last sentence.

Paul Choy's picture

Thank you Mick.

Michael Holst's picture

What doe's he think creates the 360* view? yeah it's a bit exposed but the glass needs to poke out to get the field of view.

That being said, GoPro is stuck because DJI is running away with the drone market and GoPro didn't take it seriously enough. One of the draws to action camera's was that they were able to mount to most drones before DJI started to build them into the drone itself.

Paul Choy's picture

Agreed. Personally, I do wonder whether GoPro got stuck in the complacency trap. For a while there they had an entire sector pretty much to themselves, and simply weren't ready when competitors appeared on the scene.

Add to that the pressure of needing to score a hit product, to justify the share price after their IPO, and they found themselves releasing a series of half-baked products onto the market.

Michael Holst's picture

They rode the complacency train and it's usually a short ride.

Tony Northrup's picture

I discuss this in the video... Obviously I understand that in 2-lens designs for 360 cameras that each lens needs > 180 degree view, and thus would need to protrude. But the lenses could be serviceable, or GoPro could not market it as a durable action camera. Or, at least, they could not make all the action camera design sacrifices (terrible waterproof mic, awful user interface) to make the body rugged when the lens design is the opposite of rugged.

Paul Choy's picture

I feel like this issue here is GoPro may have gotten away with the unservicable lens set up, OR a dodgy waterproof mic, OR user confusing user interface, etc, but not all of them.

As with their other product releases in recent years, it feels like the pressure to get the Fusion to market resulted in them releasing it before it was really ready.

David Moore's picture

Am I the only one that avoids 360 video? Man I am old.

Jordan Parker's picture

Picked up a Fusion about a month ago as a new story telling device for my day job. While the files/conversion time is insane (even on a specc'd 2012 Mac Pro) the workflow now is so incredibly easy compared to the gopro cube method of the last few years. Quality is adequate though not superb, and I can't mention enough the fact that the camera is "forgettable." People just don't stare at it like they do larger rigs. Definitely a great product from GoPro especially for the price. Hopefully they will get Fusion Studio working better as that is the weakest point in the workflow right now.

Paul Choy's picture

Interesting you mention the price. My initial instincts was that the Fusion was a little over-priced to become a mainstream consumer product. You think they have it about right though?

Jordan Parker's picture

If we are talking mainstream consumer I agree that this is a little out of reach for most people. In the context of pros and pro-sumers I think it's very reasonable. I got a whole 360 setup for about a grand from B&H. Includes: Cards, 2 extra batteries, case, slimline super portable light-stand, and a couple extra 1/4-20 mounts. Since it is the only capture device I need besides a microphone/recorder for this method of story telling I'd say that's pretty awesome considering the workflow simplification and image quality vs. other options on the market (kodak, go pro omni, and nikon all fall short in certain areas).

David Love's picture

Whew was relieved after him showing that fish eyed madness that he got real with the review and along with the rest of us, basically says "Bye gopro." The days of expensive tiny cameras labeled action is slipping by and they need to start getting real with the prices. For $300 more you can grab a drone.

The Fusion may help GoPro a bit, but in reality GoPro needs to begin competing on price with the Chinese action-cams that are very slowly creeping up to duplicating every aspect of a GoPro, from quality of the footage, to quality of the camera itself. They need to do this with all of their products.

When the no-name clone camera does exactly what the GoPro does for about one quarter of the price, Nick has got to start thinking of cutting profits in order to sell way more GoPro cameras.
I suppose though that, because we don't know for sure what GoPro's profit margin is, we also don't know if it's possible to cut prices ... although I suspect much of what we pay for a GoPro is pure profit.

I've maintained from the beginning that GoPro is Nick's company to lose. Their drone was a perfect example of how they are more than capable of making bad decisions ... but ultimately have an amazing product of very high quality.

Paul Choy's picture

I'm with you on that. From my own experience, a few years ago I realised I could buy 6 (yes SIX) Yong Nuo YN560 strobes for the price of just one Nikon SB800, and honestly the YN strobes did just as good a job.

Given my style of photography, which often sees me in less than ideal environments where my equipment is often exposed to risk, those price differences count.