GoPano Micro is the latest success story offspring of the Kickstarter community. It is a camera attachment to the iphone camera that allows you to capture video in 360 degrees. It is video only. It is not for Panoramic pictures. Having met its funding goal in May 2011, GoPano entered a market that was ready, waiting, and even salivating a little. This is a comparatively new accessory to the iPhone market. As with any new product, it needs some refining, but has a great overall concept.
Picture quality is perhaps the most important aspect on the mind of users. At first glance, it is rather blurry. However, it must be taken into consideration that at an $80 price point, panoramic video for a mobile device is in itself quite a feat. The device is plastic and the mirror that captures the image is chrome plated. The picture quality is about as good as you can expect with such a set up. With this noted and out of the way, 360 video is awesome. Watching a 360 video and being able to scroll around as if you were standing there, is a pretty unique experience. There is so much freedom to be had. For example if you want to peruse some of the example videos, download the GoPano app.
One video that has gotten a lot of plays is of Zooey Deschanel singing the national anthem at a ball game. Normally, a user would simply experience the head on shot of her singing, in this case you only hear her because she is too far away. Instead, what you see when you scroll around, is her famous friends watching her. “The New Girl” costars stand there and show their respect, fidget, and talk to each other. That is something you’d never notice otherwise. You also see just how packed that stadium is and what it would be like to be surrounded by all those people. 360 video is most assuredly a more enriching experience, albeit blurry.
To convert the picture, one needs to use the GoPano app. Otherwise you just see a donut shaped picture. A simple install, sign up, and you are in. Using the app allows you to record, watch, and share the video. All of these things are very easy. I especially appreciate how there is no lag time to the upload of the video. You also have the option to save the video in a splayed out format to the iphone camera roll, or file sharing in iTunes. However, only the app lets you immerse yourself in the video and move around within it. Just moving the phone around lets you navigate the video, making you feel like it is your head turning to capture the events.
The much dismayed camera clip-on is the only real glaring defect in this product. The product comes with an iPhone case that must be used in conjunction with the camera attachment. Once this is on, the attachment can be clipped in. The trouble is that it is not as sturdy as one would hope. Just a slight bump or tap and it detaches. Hopefully this will be addressed in a next version. In the meantime, it is an annoyance, but one easily dealt with once you get the hang of it. It is pretty hard to dirty the lense because of its shape, and conversely difficult to clean. It also comes with a micro plush carrying case.
Because of the overall design of the attachment, your fingers don’t make a cameo in videos, but your face usually does. I often found myself holding it up above my head hoping to stay out of the shot. Which usually resulted in lowering it to my face so I could see where the button to stop the recording was. If I could easily edit it, that would be great, but there isn’t an edit feature within the app.
Overall, it is a close weighing of pros and cons. 360 iPhone video capture is a unique and very cool experience, but it is very blurry. Comparatively, the $79 price point is pretty good compared to what a fancy panoramic video camera would cost you, and it is a lot more convenient with the iPhone. The camera attachment comes off pretty easily, often unintentionally, but not so much that it ever interrupted my video taking experience. Sharing and viewing is a piece of cake, but really is limited to the app only for the full experience, which means anyone you want to share it with must have the app too. I found it to be a very enjoyable product full of lots of untapped potential and I look forward to future refinements.