This month I got the pleasure of testing out one of the newest types of gadgets around: a 360 degree camera. These cameras use two 180-degree lenses to record a fully immersive snapshot of the world around you. Whether through video or stills, the photos captured with a 360 camera are by far the most engaging I’ve ever seen. LG was kind enough to lend me their new LG 360 Cam, which is one of very few 360 cameras on the market right now. So, is a 360 camera right for you? Read on to find out more.
360 cameras are a brand new category of camera that take spherical images to capture an entire environment. In the past, real estate agents have used large camera rigs with multiple cameras and lenses strategically positioned to grab a 360 photo, and that doesn’t include the manual work needed to stitch together the images. With the new LG 360 Cam, there is now a portable and affordable solution that not only fits in your pocket, but does all the image processing work for you. The LG 360 Cam does an amazing job of stitching together photos, to the extent that you don’t even realize there’s a small gap between the two lenses on the camera itself. With Dual 13MP wide-angle cameras, the LG 360 Cam records video in stunning 2K video, and can take 16MP spherical images. Best of all, when recording video the handheld camera captures audio in incredible 5.1 surround sound.
To take a photo, simply press the large shutter button that your thumb naturally rests on when you hold the device. Want to take video? Just press and hold the shutter button until you hear a pleasant chime coming from the device’s speaker. All 360 photos and videos taken with the LG 360 Cam are stored on a MicroSD card (not included with the camera). If you want to transfer photos to a phone or tablet, LG offers an app that lets you wirelessly view your 360 photos. Setup did take some time and required me to manually input the device’s serial number into the app, but worked well once connected. The app even lets you view a live video feed from the connected camera in 360 degrees, which was a lot of fun to play with! While the app worked well, LG could continue to improve it by allowing the viewing of photos and videos without needing them to be transferred to your phone. As the video files are very high resolution, the app sometimes required that I transferred a 300MB file over Wi-Fi to my phone before I could play back the video I had just filed. I hope that LG works on a solution for this like GoPro has, where videos can stream from the camera wirelessly, without the need to transfer an entire file. Photos and videos can also be viewed on a laptop or desktop using the included USB cord.
What Can I Do with the LG 360 Cam?
The biggest point of debate regarding 360 cameras is a fundamental one: what can you do with a 360 photo? For me, I had fun both vlogging my day, as well as using the still camera mode while hunting for a new apartment. When you first see a 360 video, it brings out a sense of wonder in you, similar to how people react to VR for the first time. To be able to take a single still photo, and pan around in absolutely any direction after the photo is taken is something out of science fiction. Layer on video to that equation and you have something magical. I took the LG 360 Cam to the Toronto Islands one day and had a great time snapping photos and taking video. It really gives the viewer a sense of what is happening all around in a scene, not just what the photographer wanted you to see. I can definitely see 360 cameras as a great way to capture home videos, for anyone who doesn’t want to think about framing and focus, and would rather be in the moment. The LG 360 Cam is great for this.
The LG 360 Cam is also great for taking quick snapshots of an entire scene. For me, this was useful in my search for a new apartment. Rather than taking smartphone photos in every room from every angle, I toured each apartment, and snapped just 2-3 photos in the center of each room. When I got home, I loaded these photos into LG’s 360 Cam Viewer software on my PC, and got an amazing view of what it was like to be in that unit, from the view outside the windows, to the colour of the carpet, all in one photo. Not only was it incredibly useful, but it also drew a ton of attention from the people around me, who asked if I was using “something out of Men in Black“.
The LG 360 Cam is probably the most fun camera I’ve ever tried. The photos it produced are sharp and interactive, though quality suffers in low light as with most portable cameras. Regardless, I found most of my shots came out clearly when I viewed them on my phone at the end of the day. The battery life of the LG 360 Cam is also very impressive. I used the device constantly for 2 days and never once got a low battery warning. In fact, the battery was only at 50% after all that usage. If you take and share a lot of video, the LG 360 Cam is worth considering.
The downsides of the camera are mostly related to compatibility, and these issues apply to any 360 camera on the market. While the camera works with most iPhone and Android devices (you don’t need an LG phone to use it), the photos and video produced by the LG 360 Cam are not automatically compatible with most social networks or mobile operating systems. This means that you phone’s native gallery app likely won’t be able to display your photos in 360, and you’ll have to use LG’s own viewer app. I got around this issue by using the Google Photos app, which recognized the 360 images as Photospheres, even allowing me to share them with my friends for viewing in 360. If you use Google Photos and the Google Cardboard app together, you can even view your own 360 photos in virtual reality! YouTube supports 360 video, but I faced issues when I tried to directly upload my videos (they were stitched improperly). I found that Facebook provides the best 360 sharing experience right now, with all photos and video that I uploaded to Facebook being viewable in 360 (by dragging the mouse on desktop, or by moving a phone around on mobile). I have no doubt that as time goes on, more and more services will support 360 photos and help grow this ecosystem. I can even see 360 cameras being built into phones one day!
The images and videos produced by the LG 360 Cam were both fun to take, and even more fun to review. I really enjoyed my time with this camera. I would recommend the LG 360 Cam to anyone who enjoys vlogging or photography, and wants a unique way to easily capture an entire scene.
The LG 360 Cam retails for an MSRP of $299 in Canada, and can be purchased through Bell.