On occasion, we are lucky enough to get a scoop on a new product – in Australia at least. And we have one right now as we believe we have the first of the new Vuze XR 360° cameras anywhere in the world.
Over the past few months, we have tested a few different 360° cameras – the GoPro Fusion, Samsung Gear, Ricoh Theta V and 360Fly – and they all have their pros and cons we found.
The Vuze XR is different though, in that instead of a single top mounted lens (360Fly) or opposing fixed lenses (Ricoh Theta V, Samsung Gear and GoPro Fusion), it instead has a pair of flip-out F/2.4 210⁰ fisheye lenses that perform differently dependent on the way the camera is used.
When the lenses are clipped back (the default position), the camera is a true 360° unit; when the lens release button is pressed, the lenses pop out to the horizontal and the Vuze XR turns into a 180° VR camera. In both modes, it can shoot in various resolutions up to 5.7K (although your favourite video editor may not be able to handle this!) This resolution gives stills at 6000 x 3000 pixels!
The controls on the Vuze XR are deceptively simple. A mode button switches between the two modes of still or video, a Wi-fi button connects to a paired smartphone and there is a record button.
And that is it, meaning the Vuze XR is very quick to whip out and start shooting.
Storage is via a microSD card (not supplied take note!) and there is a USB-C port for connectivity and charging purposes. The cable is supplied as is a protective pouch.
(Take note Vuze; an external loop facility on the pouch letting you to attach it to a belt would be very handy!)
The camera “handle” has a soft, almost rubbery feel to it letting you grip it without any slippage. S standard tripod thread is in the base of the handle, and this doubles as a point to screw in a wrist strap. The Vuze XR is only available in black by the way. This is handy if you want to remain inobtrusive when shooting but a varied colour range might be attractive to some.
If you want more control over your shooting, the almost mandatory APP (iOS and Android) gives extensive control over video, photo, camera, wi-fi, application and camera settings. The only slight annoyance we have found so far is that the camera has to be “connected” via Wi-fi each time as against an automatic connection, We suspect that this is an Android issue rather than the app or the camera as we also have problems in this area with the Ricoh Theta V and some other devices such as our brilliant little Sony DSC RX0.
Using the app, you also have control over previewing video and stills, basic editing and even uploading directly to social media. On top of this, there are photo and video filters available, virtual stickers (if you REALLY must), ability to add text, colour correction and a track and follow mode letting you set the viewpoint adjustment (Vuze call this the “Director’s Cut mode), Little Planet, fly in / fly out effects and more.
In short, the Vuze XR app is one that every other manufacturer has a lot of catch up to do to emulate its functionality.
For the more technically minded, ISO ranges from 100 to 1600, bit rates up to 120Mb/sec are available with frame rates of both 30 fps and 60fps. The codecs used are MP4 and H.265. For audio, there are no less than 4 MEMS 48KHz microphones built in each recording an AAC track.
The footage shot on the Vuze XR is very stable; a 6 axis gyro system keeps track of all camera movement while shooting and compensates accordingly. Vuze claim the stability is so good, that the footage is more than suitable for playback in VR headsets, something we plan to try in the near future with our Samsung Gear headset.
There is also a desktop app supporting both basic and advanced editing and stitching for both 180° and 360° content. You can also live stream in both 180° and 360° and share directly to social media.
The Vuze XR is an amazing camera. In the short time we have had a play – and we are still coming to grips with some of the nuances when getting light perfectly balanced when shooting 360° – it is by far and the best over any other on the market at the moment in our opinion.
If it has a drawback, it is that there is no water resistance at all, but a quick chat with Vuze tech support assured us that a waterproof housing is imminent. Hopefully it will not cost an arm and a leg as the one for the Theta does. The GoPro is of course already waterproof as is the 360Fly 4K.
If you want a cheapie 360° / 180° camera, at AUD$439 the Vuze XR is not in the bargain bin category to be sure. But it is $250 cheaper than the GoPro Fusion and a full $400 cheaper than the Ricoh Theta V. The Samsung is cheaper by around $200, but has nowhere near the functionality, capability and ergonomics of the Vuze XR.
This makes it a no-brainer in our opinion. Of course the pricing is a bonus over the quality of the content you can shoot and the versatility and functionality of the camera, app and desktop software.
At this stage at least, you’ll have to buy directly from the company – https://vuze.camera/store/cameras/ is the website for the online shop – but trust us, you won’t regret it.