Why the GoPro Fusion, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and 360 is the Future of Photography

GoPro Fusion mounted on top of Lumix LX 100 with hotshoe mount
GoPro Fusion mounted on top of Lumix LX 100 with hotshoe mount

My GoPro Hero 3 was getting too old, so I went to the GoPro website and saw this new camera called the “Fusion”. At first I thought it was gimmicky (I didn’t really believe in 360/virtual reality stuff), but after using it for the last 3 days, I can confidently say: this is the future of photography, video, and visual storytelling.

What is the GoPro Fusion?

To start off, what is the GoPro Fusion?

Simply put, the Fusion is a 360 degree camera and video recorder, that has a front facing and back facing lens. It automatically stitches together the footage you shoot, and it is like magic!

Why I love GoPro

I honestly think GoPro is probably the most innovative “camera” company. A lot of people have been buying copycat GoPro cameras, thinking to themselves: “It’s the same thing.” I disagree. The strength of GoPro is in their software, ecosystem, as well as the ingenious simplicity and extreme attention to detail.

For example, the GoPro app for my iPad and Android device is awesome. It just works. I see GoPro as the Apple for cameras.

Another thoughtful thing I love about all GoPro cameras: stripping away the superfluous. For example, the GoPro cameras are extremely minimalist in their menu design, but it is intuitive to navigate. Even with the GoPro Fusion, the camera came with a simple quick setup pamphlet that resembled an Ikea manual: no words on it, only visual directions, which made the GoPro Fusion super easy setup.

GoPro is cutting-edge

I can fanboy about GoPro all day, but let me explain why I think the GoPro Fusion, as well as Virtual Reality, 360 cameras, Augmented Reality is the future of photography.

Overcapture is awesome.

First of all, the GoPro Fusion has this amazing thing called “Overcapture” which can be explained as this: you first record 360 footage, then you can replay your 360 footage and re-record it as a “normal” 2D/flat video. This allows you to reframe, rezoom on certain parts, and allows you to tell a more engaging story.

What is the implication for this in photography?

Imagine: you see an interesting scene, and you record it with 360 video footage. Then when you go home, you can replay reality, and reframe the scene how you want to. It’s like rewinding time.

Another example: let’s say you’re shooting street photography and you see an interesting street scene. Instead of shooting still photos with a “normal” camera, all you have to do is shoot 360 video footage, and extract a single still image from the footage. Not only that, but you can reframe the scene however you desire.

For commercial or wedding photographers, this Overcapture function would be phenomenal. Imagine, just keeping the GoPro Fusion rolling on a tripod during the first kiss. You can later extract the perfect “decisive moment” later, and reframe it however you desire.

It’s a little hard to explain in text how Overcapture works, without experiencing or seeing it in real life. I’ll try to do a video demonstration later to explain better.

GoPro Fusion and Street Photography

Also, the GoPro Fusion is hilarious to shoot with. Most people have no idea what it is, and aren’t sure how to react to it.

The GoPro Fusion has two lenses, one in front and one in back. There’s no LCD screen. Therefore if you’re recording video or shooting photos with the Fusion, most people have no idea what you’re doing. They don’t know if you’re shooting videos, and also they don’t understand the fact that a camera can have two lenses (one in front and back). So they’re not even sure it’s a camera.

This can have interesting implications for shooting street photography. I have found that when I’m shooting video or photos on the GoPro Fusion, there are very few negative reactions. However when I shoot still photos on a digital camera, people don’t like being photographed.

If you were walking around and recoding video footage on a GOPRO, most people wouldn’t mind. Why not? Most people don’t care being caught “in the line of fire” of a video camera, because they feel like they’re not the focus of the video. However if you shoot street photos of strangers with a still camera, they feel offended.

Therefore the lesson is this:

If you always pretend to be shooting video, most people won’t mind.

Specifically, you can shoot still photos with a GOPRO and get very close to people, but most people won’t react negatively, because they assume you’re shooting a video.

Also, if you shoot with a still digital camera, pretend like you’re shooting videos (if you want to be more “stealth” or have fewer negative reactions in street photography).

Public Reactions to the GoPro Fusion / 360 Cameras

Even more interesting about GoPro Fusion and street photography is this: People cannot “hide” from you either recording them, or shooting photos of them. By having a 360 degree camera, you capture a full spherical view of any scene (what’s in front of you, behind you, and to the sides). Therefore to me this is interesting, because it reminds people: If you’re in a public space, you cannot expect privacy, and you cannot expect to not be recorded or photographed.

So I’m curious… in the future as 360 degree consumer video/still cameras become more mainstream and popular, how will public notions of “privacy” change? Will there be new laws which prohibit 360 degree cameras?

I’m not sure, but this is certain: Right now is the best time to experiment with 360 cameras, the GoPro Fusion, before the public starts getting offended.

An interesting aside: in the early days of photography (1910s, 1920s), most people didn’t know what cameras were, or how they worked. This is before the days of social media where there was an over-paranoia about online privacy and pedophilia. Therefore in the early 20th century (and even a few decades ago), it was a lot easier to take photos. Nowadays, it is more challenging for us to shoot photos in public, and more difficult to shoot candid street photography without permission.

New forms of visual storytelling

When you watch an immerse virtual/augmented reality 360 video (like using the YouTube app on your phone when watching GoPro Fusion or 360 videos), you become a lot more engaged! Why? You can control the direction of the camera! Watching a 360 video makes you feel like “you’re really there.” I saw a Casey Neistat video he did 2 years of going to some awards show where Leonardo Dicaprio won. It was awesome, because the 360 footage put me inside a fancy hotel room, inside a refrigerator, inside a convertible driving around Hollywood, directly on the red carpet, and inside the theater. As a viewer, I was able to live vicariously through Casey Neistat. And I didn’t just feel like a passive viewer; I felt like an active participant.

Imagine, that you as a visual storyteller with a GOPRO fusion can make videos that can empower your viewer. Already right now, YouTube and Facebook has 360 and virtual reality support. Obviously Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality is the future. We already use rudimentary versions of it for Google Street view, there are lots of epic Augmented Reality video games foe the iPad and iPhone. Also if you’ve ever used the Google Translate app on your phone with the camera translation/augmented reality tool, you will know what I’m talking about.

Practical tips for the GoPro Fusion

I actually encourage you: if you’re curious about the GoPro Fusion, or Virtual Reality/360 technology, invest in one, and play around with it. If you don’t like it you can always return it.

Experiment using the GoPro Fusion with hotshoe mount (buy it separately), and mount your GoPro Fusion on top of your digital camera, and shoot your own “POV” videos in street photography or something else. I’ve mounted the GoPro Fusion on my RICOH GR II, and Lumix LX100, and had a ton of fun shooting/editing the footage.

For software, I recommend NOT using the desktop/laptop Fusion Studio application. Instead use the GoPro app on the iPad or phone; it processes video footage much faster.

Also when shooting 360 footage, don’t record the video longer than 1 minute and 30 seconds, or else you cannot directly upload it to YouTube from your mobile device.

Where do you upload and share your 360/virtual reality footage that you record on your GoPro Fusion? YouTube is your best bet; upload directly YouTube via your GoPro app on your phone/iPad. Also you can share still 360 photographs shot on the GoPro Fusion onto Facebook. Facebook also supports 360 video, but their time limit when uploading from the GoPro app is less than 30 seconds.

If you do in fact use the GoPro Fusion Studio app on your laptop to process your 360 footage, run it overnight. 15 minutes of footage processing on the MacBook Pro 2016 (maxed out specs) took 9 hours! But the benefit of processing 360 videos on your laptop, is that your upload limits to youtube and Facebook are much higher (not sure the time limit for YouTube, but you can upload up to 30 minutes of 360 video to Facebook).

More GoPro Fusion VR to come!

I’m still experimenting with the GoPro Fusion, and will share more thoughts down the road. But already now, it is clear: this technology is like magic! It’s the future! I’m so grateful to be alive right now, with all this epic technology. There are still so many uncharted seas in the world of photography. The next frontier in photography is Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Don’t be left behind!


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