It’s clear that virtual reality is the next big thing. But can VR really take off if all the content has to come from high-end developers? That’s where the LG 360 Cam ($199 on Amazon) comes into play, promising easy, entry-level VR content creation for all.
Besides being billed as one of the LG G5’s “Friends” accessories, the 360-degree camera is LG’s bid to help you make your own spherical, VR-like videos and still images. But despite a bunch of fancy features bundled into a handheld package, the 360 Cam is a bit half-baked.
High on video novelty, low on still image quality
To see what this 360-degree spherical image look like in action, click here for a view in Google Photos.
The devices’s dual 13-megapixel, wide-angle cameras support both still image and video capture in either 360 or 180 degrees. When shooting in 360 degrees, you get “spherical” content, an effect similar to Google Street View, where you can pan around an image or video—up and down, left and right—to your heart’s content. To view 360-degree photos, you’ll need a Flickr account or Google’s Street View app. To view 360-degree video, you’ll need a Facebook or YouTube account.
As for the 180-degree content, it’s basically just flat, traditional still images and video, albeit shot in a wide angle. All video can be shot in 2K, which simply means a 2560 x 1280 resolution. The 360 Cam also offers 5.1-channel surround-sound recording for videos, letting you pick up ambient sounds from any direction.
It all sounds good on paper, but after using the 360 Cam for more than a month—including two epic trips to the California redwoods—I’ve concluded that it’s just not worth using the device to shoot anything but 360-degree videos.
The 360 Cam’s dual cameras are inadequate for those 180-degree still shots, owing mostly to over-exposure that occurs on particularly bright days, and sub-par low-light shots—this despite the cam’s f/1.8 aperture. Also, any image you snap in 180-degree mode is shot in wide-angle by default, which makes it difficult to edit anything after the fact because the edges of your photos will be warped.
LG needs to make the 360 Cam more than just a one-trick pony. It offers manual controls that let you adjust ISO and exposure, but this level of control is pointless if the actual photo quality isn’t up to snuff.
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