I’ve been able to spend several weeks with the 360fly video camera. As the company says, it does give you the power to capture content in fully immersive, interactive 360° HD video - kinda of - it’s actually 240 degrees. We’ll credit the marketing department for that little embellishment.
No harm - the entire industry has already hijacked the term “360 video” and allows it to be used in all kinds of situations where the video you are watching is marketed as 360 video but it’s technically not. So no harm really - just be aware when you are seeing products and services pop up in this industry over the next few years - pay attention to the specs so you know what you are actually paying for.
Along with the camera, the manufacturer also supplies you with some software tools to edit, enhance and share your videos across social media. So the question is - is this camera ready for prime time and should you go out and buy one today?
I have to admit, I was smitten with the appearance of the 360fly the first time I saw it. Sure, it looks like a golf ball. However with some questionable design decisions made by some of 360fly’s competitors, the 360fly stands out as a camera meant to not get in the way or make a spectacle of itself. This may seem like a small thing - but when you want to shoot candids, documentaries, music festivals or otherwise capture footage without your subjects being distracted by the gear you’re using - having a big yellow square, or several of them all over the set or stage is a deal-killer right out of the box. Sure, you can whip out the gaff tape and cover the camera up - but why would a company make a videographer do that in the first place?
The 360fly has an arsenal of connectivity that would delight any mobile content creator and housing that is resistant from liquids and minor blows. In order to test it, I took the 360fly on shoots to two, three-day outdoor music festivals, a college basketball game, a fishing tournament, and a steel factory in the midwest all over the span go about 5 weeks.
If you thought the GoPro opened up a new world of creative video, you haven’t seen what you a can do with 360 video. The 360fly is a panoramic video camera which comes equipped with everything you need to capture exciting moments from sporting events, travel, music, outdoors, or whatever you use an action camera to shoot.
Apart from the 360fly’s hard, shockproof shell, the camera is also resistant to extreme temperature changes. This is critical for making it a great accessory for active users, extreme creatives, and adventurers. You can also safely take it underwater: an option that offers the possibility of capturing unique underwater footage when surfing, snorkeling, fishing, or doing other water-related activities. The 360fly camera is waterproof to 5 meters with nothing other than a small cap on top of the microphone, which is included in the original purchase.
When you are ready to take the 360fly out and shoot, you have several mounting options. It is compatible with any tripod and incorporates various brackets and adhesives, which is great for attaching to helmets or in my case, to stage rigging. The mounts on the 360fly are compatible with accessories from GoPro, something other manufactures either didn’t have the foresight to do or - and I hope this isn’t the case - chose not to do in order to specifically force consumers to have to reinvest in accessories for their specific camera. It’s these kinds of decisions which make me personally root for one company over another.
The camera is small and light, weighing only 120 grams. This allows the photographer to place the 360fly almost anywhere without it drawing attention to itself or getting in the way. In my mind, the minimal design of the 360fly is one of the biggest factors which make it stand out well above its competitors.
There are a couple other 360 cameras I am waiting to review like the Bubl which either haven’t made it to production just yet or in the case of the Ricoh Theta S because it’s just impossible to get hold of. Compared to what is available on the market now, the 360fly wins on design in my mind. The design of this camera makes integrating it into production situations more effectively than other 360 camera’s I’ve seen so far.
So how does it work? The 360fly has an ultra wide angle of view - 240 degrees vertically, a spherical lens, and records in Full HD. The optic specs include an ultra-fisheye lens composed of 8 elements which has an f2.5 aperture, a .88mm focal length and a minimum focusing distance of 30 centimeters.
It can connect to any phone or tablet with most recent versions of Android or iOS with its own 360fly app. The app gives you a live view of what you are about to record. At the time of witting this article however, you cannot live view what the camera is actually seeing when it is “recording” in real time. You can edit videos from your phone or tablet and then share your 360fly video on your social networks. That’s a lot of functionality without having to use your computer!
The 360fly uses bluetooth and WiFi to connect to your phone or tablet. In my experience, the app’s interface was easy to figure out and use right after it was installed. The camera’s hardware includes 32GB of internal memory, USB output for charging and transferring videos to your desktop, a capable built-in microphone, an image stabilizer is useful in reducing vibration and unwanted movements, an accelerometer, LED lights to indicate what the camera is doing and more. The built-in 1,600mAh lithium battery is rated to support two consecutive hours recording. In my experience, I was able to get 2 hours and 30 minutes or more on a single charge on a consistent basis.
There are a few reviews of this camera which are lukewarm in tone. While the camera isn’t currently shooting GoPro 4 Black quality video. Neither did the first GoPro. But when that came out, I quickly grabbed 4 of them and started putting them to work - limitations and all. I’d suggest doing the same with the 360fly. You are buying a first generation consumer-level 360 degree action camera here. I suggest you get it and start learning how to shoot compelling video with it. Don’t let the tech spec whiners keep you from being a trailblazer.
This camera does pretty well when you shoot in full sunlight and is still somewhat capable in some lowlight situations. Outside of that - it opens the door to a very exciting new method of video that any storyteller worth their salt will need to master if they plan on being leader in their local market in 2-3 years. This is no different than the previously mentioned GoPro’s or drones for that matter.
The first DJI Phantom was pretty terrible. Now - and this is amazing to think about - less than two years after the release of the first Phantom we already have multiple versions of the third generation Phantoms, the DJI Inspire and a host of other very capable competitors in the drone space like 3D Robotics, Yuneec, and many others. 360 degree video will be no different.
The 360fly video action camera is available today at your local Best Buy for about $400. I’d suggest you run out and get one.