360Fly 4K camera review: Viva la 360º revolution
Thanks to Facebook, YouTube and consumer VR, 360 video is the new normal. The 360Fly 4K is one of the easiest ways to join the revolution.
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- Cool factor
- A single lens augmented by software
- Easy editing
- Robust design ready for anything
Could be better
- Not truly 360 degrees
- Slow to charge
- Requires base to charge
- Audio quality isn’t great
- Can't copy files from camera in bulk
We’ve all been there, browsing Facebook on our shiny new smartphone when you see a weird interactive photo. When you click to look at it, the point of view moves around as you move your phone, almost placing you within the image (or video) itself.
These types of 360 photos have been around for a while now, and while there are lots of different ways to create them, there has been a growing trend towards dedicated 360-degree cameras which create a fully immersive image around the camera.
While many of these 360 cameras use multiple lenses to shoot in different directions and then stitch the result together, 360Fly uses a fairly unique setup of a single lens, with proprietary software that converts the image into something that resembles reality.
360Fly 4K camera design
The best word to describe the 360Fly is “striking”. From the packaging it comes in, to the camera itself, the 360Fly catches the eye, begging to be noticed.
Rocking a spherical design covered with polygonal contours and topped with what looks like a massive fisheye lens, the 360Fly features a single triangle button that’s used for power and to manually kick off recording.
The bottom of the camera is flat, featuring a standard screw hole for mounting on a tripod, as well as inset connection points that allow you to charge with the bundled base. There’s also an action camera adapter so you can attach it to a wide variety of action sports mounts, though if you need one of those it will be an optional extra.
The other big component of the 360Fly is the app. Available as a free download on both the iOS App Store and Google Play, the 360 app is your access point to the camera, both to record videos, capture stills, edit what you have and share it to social media. It's also possible to edit videos on your PC with 360Fly's Desktop Director App.
The mobile app gives you four main options across the bottom of the main page. You've got the ability to control the camera, view the 360 photos and videos you’ve copied to your phone, control your 360Fly account and view the 360Fly page, which showcases featured 360 degree videos.
360Fly 4K camera specs
|360Fly 4K camera specs|
|Video Resolution||2880 x 2880 @ 30FPS Max|
|Video Recording Rate||50 Mbps|
|Lens Type||8 Elements Glass Ultra Fisheye Lens|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, E-Compass, Non-Assisted GPS, Gyroscope|
|Wi-Fi||2.4GHz & 5GHz 802.11 b/g/n|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth™ Smart Device (BT LE)|
|Water-Resistant||1 ATM (approx. 30 ft.)|
|Shock-Resistant||Up to 1.5M|
|Built-In Li-Polymer battery||1780mAH|
Upsides: Why you’d want the 360Fly 4K camera
- Cool factor. 360 degree video is definitely in its infancy as a format, and it will take a while before we start seeing truly creative takes on surround video. But it’s still undeniably cool, especially when you combine it with a virtual reality headset. Going from a well composed photo or video to something that puts you in the centre of the action is exciting, and the 360Fly 4K makes this process easier than you’d expect.
- A single lens augmented by software. The fact that 360Fly uses a single lens here and then converts the captured single image into an immersive 360 degree one means that the entire experience is faster and more user friendly, as there’s no need to stitch together multiple image streams, which requires extra processing grunt.
- Easy editing. You probably expect that editing 360 degree video is a convoluted, complicated process, but the reality is that the 360Fly app has a pretty powerful editor built in. You can easily top and tail a 360 video, add effects and a soundtrack before sharing, or alternatively you can turn the 360 view into a standard clip without the surround effect, showing whatever you see on the phone’s screen. If you like, you can speed up or slow down footage as well to create truly epic clips.
- Robust design ready for anything. When you hold the 360Fly in your hand, it’s got a surprising level of heft to it. This is good, as it ensures the camera is up for all kinds of activities. A thriving ecosystem of accessories allow you to attach the camera to everything from drones to mountain biking helmets, which should help create some truly epic videos.
Downsides: Why you might not want the 360Fly 4K camera
- Not truly 360 degrees. Because of the 360Fly’s design, videos aren’t entirely 360 degrees. Specifically, the vertical viewing angle is 240 degrees, so there’s a circle at the bottom of all your videos that isn’t captured by the camera. This is common to many 360 cameras, and a recent software update means that space is filled with a reflection of the surrounding footage, like a puddle on the ground, but it’s still something you need to consider when shooting with the camera.
- Slow to charge. The 360 camera will give you about 1.5 hours of recording time from its inbuilt battery, but we found that the bigger challenge was the time it takes to charge. There’s no indication of battery life on the camera itself. Instead the button simply flashes green while charging. Even after charging for an hour, you’re lucky to have enough juice to record anything.
- Requires base to charge. If you run out of juice while out on the slopes or mid-bushwalk, you can't just plug the camera into a portable charger and keep going. If that's your plan, you'll need to carry around the small baseplate charger everywhere you go.
- Audio quality isn’t great. You’re probably not thinking of investing in a 360 degree camera for the audio, but it’s still worth noting that the mic on the 360Fly 4K doesn’t produce fantastic results, with audio sounding pretty muffled.
- Can't copy files from camera in bulk. This is a minor quibble that could be updated with software down the line, but if you've recorded a bunch of videos that you want to copy to your phone en masse, you currently need to copy them over one at a time.
Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?
The 360 degree camera market is still in its relative infancy, but 360Fly is already emerging as a market leader thanks to its intuitive software and single lens design that removes the need for image stitching. There’s an obvious trend for these styles of cameras to be used by action sports enthusiasts wanting to capture their entire experience, but the possibilities expand much further, from real estate agents to frequent travellers.
If the asking price of the 4K model is a little on the steep side, 360Fly’s HD camera is a viable (and more affordable) option. Alternatively, there's a good selection of 360 degree cameras on the market.
Where can I get it?
The 360Fly 4K is available for $699 from the 360Fly online store or JB HiFi retailers across Australia.
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