The 360fly is an action camera. You wouldn’t know it, since it looks less like a rectangular GoPro or barrel-shaped action camera and more like an oversized golf ball. That’s because it’s a different kind of action camera—in fact, a different kind of camera entirely. The 360fly’s lens is spherical, and points straight up into the air. The camera can capture everything happening around you all at once, the single eye recording everything in its field of view.
Reasonably affordable at $400. Beautiful and innovative design compliments a simple and easy to use interface. Unobtrusive when mounted, and compatible with existing GoPro mounts and accessories. Seamlessly view your videos in VR using Google Cardboard and share your experiences online.
Novel concept plagued by poor execution. Extremely reduced image quality with no option for exposure control. Struggles in high-contrast environments. VR playback feels unpolished and peripheral while the app itself is prone to occasional crashing.
Once you capture the video on the device, you pipe the footage back to the app on your phone. You can view it like a regular video and just move your phone around to see different parts of the 360-degree capture. Hold the phone in front of you to see straight ahead, then, keeping your phone in front of your face, spin your body around to see behind you. Where the viewer really shines is inside of a Google Cardboard VR viewer. Put the app into VR mode and then as you move your head around, the screen just shows the point of view you’d be looking at if you were actually there inside the scene. It expertly delivers that all too elusive sense of immersion.
It’s also incredibly easy to share the experience online using only your phone. Within the 360fly app, you can edit your clips and publish them to Twitter, Facebook, or even Break.com with a few taps. For deeper sharing, upload your clips to the 360fly website using your computer. The site will automatically generate an embed code for you, so posting the scene to your own blog is as easy as embedding a YouTube clip, only viewers are given the ability to freely scroll through a scene in full 360 degrees, exploring virtually any point of view.
The 360fly website has a ton of cool demo videos showcasing the camera’s capability, everything from stunt bikes to slack lines to space balloons. But I wanted to shoot my own demo videos, and also to give this camera a fair chance at blowing us away in equal measure. So we teamed up with the California Academy of Sciences to get a virtual look inside their stunning Steinhart Aquarium.
Assistant Diving Safety Officer William Love was kind enough to take the camera down during one of his team’s live dive shows. As the video above will show you, the results are remarkable. The camera is water resistant up to 5ATM, or 165 feet, so not only did we stand to capture some amazing video, the process itself proved to be a practical test of the camera in earnest.
There are small details about this camera that I really appreciate: the design looks cool, the construction feels solid, and the app is surprisingly intuitive and simple to use. In fact, everything about this camera is simple. There are no cryptic or confusing menus, no awkward LCD displays. Just a single on/off button and a straightforward mobile interface.
If you’re really into VR and want to experiment with this new medium, you should definitely get one and mess around with it. But I wouldn’t recommend this camera to anyone beyond the curious enthusiast. Even though its resolution is listed at 1500×1500 at 30fps, the final results are not comparable to say, an iPhone 6s or Nexus 6, or any of the flagship phones out today. You won’t be getting those high-end production shots you’ve been dreaming about with the 360fly. It’s a first generation product and it shows great promise for the ability to record everything happening around you at once. However, the lack of high-resolution image capture means it can’t compete with the clear and crisp results on other action cams.
Lastly, the field of view as its captured by the single lens—impressive though it is—isn’t big enough to accommodate a comfortable or rewarding VR experience. The camera’s lens points straight up, so it can’t capture anything going on beneath you. Almost all VR systems have a “footprint” of some size, and it’s usually a round black spot placed relative to where your feet would be. With the 360fly, however, it’s right under your nose. So while the side-to-side and overhead imagery gives you a sense of place, that vast black zone just below the horizon is distracting. It makes it feel like you’re standing in a blacked-out swimming pool.
It would seem that, at least for the time being, truly immersive VR is still out of reach for most of us. Whether you buy a 360fly or not, I’d recommend getting a ticket to the Cal Academy to see the aquarium for yourself. It turns out actual reality is still the best experience around.Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.