By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
The emergence of VR and the sudden desire to create immersive action cam videos has hit another level with the 360Fly action camera which captures 360' video that can be shared online.
Action cameras have been all the rage for a number of years now and while they offer the ability to record HD video in various conditions including underwater and while partaking in extreme sports, the next level is ultra-immersive 360' video which can be viewed on VR headsets or a Google Cardboard-compatible headser that uses a smartphone's high resolution display.
The big challenge is how can we create or capture this 360' content? There are many makeshift apps and cameras that can try to approximate 360' video capture and there are even expensive innovations like GoPro's 16-camera spherical array used to capture professional grade video.
The 360Fly Action Camera, which is exclusive to Best Buy in Canada, is a one camera solution that blends the toughness and ease of use of an action cam with the ability to shoot 360' video. This solid spherical camera looks and feels a bit like a golf ball but has a nicely sculptured texture and good weight.
The best thing about the design of the 360Fly is that it is compatible with GoPro mounts and accessories, so it is straightforward enough to incorporate into an existing system. 360Fly has 32GB of built-in storage, which means no fiddling around with microSD cards and a more solid structure without unnecessary slots.
After charging the camera for around 2.5 hours, the 360Fly was good to go. I tested the camera in my backyard as my son and I were kicking a ball around. The camera is controlled by a smartphone app I had installed on my iPhone and connects via WiFi. You can't take still pictures like the Ricoh Theta (but you can screen grab various sized photos from the videos you shoot. Quality isn't the best).
Video captured can be viewed via the app and offers an immersive 360' panoramic view. You can touch and scroll on a video while it is playing to get a big picture. Audio is also quite stereophonic as it picks up all the surrounding sounds. The video above can be played and you can use your mouse to scroll and see around.
Once captured, the video can be transferred to the app and then edited and shared. You can output the video to 360Fly's website where you can invite people to see the video. You can also play it back in VR or cardboard mode and use Google Cardboard devices to view the videos in cardboard mode. I don't have a VR headset or cardboard, so my viewing options were limited to video playback and moving my iPhone 6S Plus around to get the 'whole view.'
Video quality of 360' videos isn't as sharp or detailed as an HD video from a regular camera or even a smartphone.
The point of 360' video is more to replicate the experience of being surrounded and immersed. I can see this type of video working well for certain things like concerts or outdoor events, interiors of museums or architectural tours as well as some extreme sports. That said, 360Fly isn't the camera I would take to a family Christmas lunch.
I am, however, planning to bring the 360Fly to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next year and will see how I can make some immersive 360' videos of some of the displays there.
What I like about the 360Fly action camera is the solid build quality, the ease of adding any existing GoPro base, great software and app plus the ability to upload videos to the website for sharing.
360Fly is water resistant to 5 ATM, Dust Resistant to IPX6 and has corresponding iOS, Android and PC software which makes it a well conceived niche product for action cam fans wanting a far bigger picture than what their current devices offer.
Rating: 4 out of 5