We knew prices for professional-grade 360-degree cameras would come down, but who knew it’d be by this much, this fast? Vuze has taken something that cost in the tens of thousands and brought it down to under $1,000 while still maintaining top-tier image quality.
360-degree cameras are able to record video all around them using multiple cameras and built-in algorithms that can stitch the images from those two cameras into one video file. We’ve seen a good number of cheaper, consumer options from companies like Ricoh, but those are more for taking still images or short videos, and even then at lower resolutions. The Vuze 3D 360 VR camera is on another level, allowing you to be in the center of an impeccably captured ongoing scene, all from the comfort of your own home. If you want to get an idea of what you can expect, Vuze has a showroom full of sample 2D and 3D videos that can be viewed on a monitor or a VR rig, respectively.
Instead of those consumer cameras, which usually use two fisheye lenses, Vuze’s rig uses eight cameras that have a 120-degree horizontal field of vision 180-degree vertical field of vision, to ensure that a whole sphere of 360-degree video is taken. All of those cameras can record 4k video, making the resulting video look great when viewed in 2D on a monitor or 3D though a VR rig. Better yet, this has all been built into a camera rig small enough to be mounted onto the small hybrid tripod/selfie stick Vuze is including. It looks like when used with the tripod, the tripod legs will still show up when you look down, but that’s a problem plaguing the whole 360-degree video industry right now.
It’s a professional product, but it’s as easy to use as any of the consumer 360-degree cameras we’ve seen. The stitching algorithms are built into the camera and require no input from you, so all the user needs to do is push record. The camera will automatically correct for distortion and fisheye effects, while using a technique called adaptive blending to make the borders between the cameras’ fields of vision more seamless. The internal battery can last for up to one hour of shooting. There’s an SD card slot for storage, and video is encoded and stored as H.264 HD files.
The funny part about all this is that the Vuze 3D 360 VR camera, along with all other professional-level 360-degree cameras, is too good for the current crop of VR headsets. Most use 1080p displays or, in the case of smartphone-based rigs, 1440p displays at best. 4k video can only be appreciated in 2D on flat displays right now, so we’ll still have to wait a while for VR rigs than can live up to what the Vuze camera is capable of. It’s the rare moment when hardware needs to catch up to the content being created.
The real knockout detail here is the price. Starting today, the Vuze 3D 360 VR camera will be available for preorder for $800. When Vuze showed off their camera at CES, it used only four cameras and was intended to be even more expensive, so Vuze must have done some incredible work in the last few months to improve their product while getting it under $1,000. Shipping is scheduled for fall of this year, and according to Vuze, cards will not be charged until the product has been shipped out.