The 360 camera market is really starting to heat up, with the price heading south, options are becoming more affordable and simpler for everyday users to enter the 360 market. One of the latest additions is a great little camera that fits in your pocket, snapping on to the top (or bottom) of your phone or tablet.
The Giroptic IO 360 camera is a high-quality twin custom lenses and unique real-time image processing inside a pocket-sized design so you can shoot in 360° wherever you find yourself.
Often the process of capturing and then sharing 360 content is a cumbersome, time intensive one. Thankfully this delightfully simple camera is as easy as snapping the device to your device, launching the app and taking photos or video. A majority of the time that device you’re using, is also connected to the internet, allowing you to quickly share your creations, without the need to transfer via a PC.
There are 3 main options on the table with this camera, photos, video and live streaming, all of which happen in 360 degrees. Given you’ll be connecting this to a mobile device with a decent camera, the fact it only does 360 content is not really an issue, instead taking your existing phone or tablet and giving it another, pretty awesome trick.
Snapping photos is as simple as launching the app, and tapping the shutter button. You can swipe left and right to pan the camera. This is important as this direction will be used for the thumbnail when shared to out to Facebook.
You can set a timer (3, 5 or 10 seconds), so if there’s something you need to set before the digital shutter fires, then you can get organised, before the scene is captured in 360. This is most useful if you’ve rigged up a way to mount your device that isn’t you holding it, allowing you to step out of the photo if required.
If you’re using the Giroptic IO to capture 360 content for real estate, you definitely don’t want yourself in the shot, as the virtual tour should showcase each room, not you.
This does raise the issue of mounting. Given the camera uses charging / data port of the mobile device, this means any mounting solution that relies on that is not usable. You’ll have to find a clip-style mount instead.
The protective travel case actually does provide a stand option when opened flat on a table. This is a smart inclusion which Giroptic didn’t have to do, but is actually a great inclusion. It certainly doesn’t solve all your mounting needs, but does go some way to apologising for consuming the lightning port.
When it comes to video, there is no delay start option, you’re straight into it. This is definitely something that needs to be added as there’s plenty of times you need to be out of the frame before the video capture (at 30fps) starts.
The audio for the video is captured using your device’s active microphone. This does open the possibility of using bluetooth audio microphones if your on-screen talent is talking to the audience. This is particularly useful when directing the audience where to look while playing back the 360 video.
We like to think that 360 is always capturing action in all directions, but if the content is being created for tutorials or training, or even entertainment, its often necessary for voice to direct the viewer to spin around and focus in a certain direction.
The audio is automatically added to the video, so there’s no complicated workflow required to match the two. Advanced users will want to bring the footage into something like After Effects using Mettle Skybox Suite, recently acquired by Adobe to layer in augmented information and effects, as well as additional audio like sound effects and background music.
Live streaming to YouTube and Facebook
There’s 4 live streaming options for the Giroptic IO, they are Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and Custom. While the first 3 are pretty straight forward, just sign into your service, add a stream name and get started, the custom options is perhaps the most interesting.
This works by defining an RMTP server path, port and optional username / password. This allows the 360 footage to be fed into an existing live video production pipeline and augmented by overlays etc. This dramatically adds to the diverse range of applications possible with this camera and something that means it may be considered by TV networks on online streaming services, where others are not.
Once you’ve found your way to an amazing place you want to capture in 360, take a photo or video, then you’ll want to share that with the world. Of course there’s the option to transfer the media to your computer for editing, but the more convenient option is direct sharing from the app.
When it comes to sharing 360 photos, the only popular service that supports them is Facebook right now. If you’re using the iOS version, there’s also an option to send 360 images via iMessages to a friend.
If you swipe to the left on the sharing screen, you get another option – Little planet mode which takes your 360 image and creates a 2D image which can then be shared to a wider range of networks, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and more.
Things are a little better when it comes to services that support 360 videos, there’s again Facebook, but also YouTube. Facebook video sharing allows you to choose the starting view, while YouTube doesn’t, instead just using the position you see through the device when you started. Of course you can update the thumbnail after the upload, but its super nice being able to do it before uploading.
Unfortunately there’s no in-app editing for 360 videos, not even a basic trim, which for anyone who shoots video, knows is essential for cutting off the parts you reach away from the start button and to the stop button.
I snapped plenty of photos and video during my time with the Giroptic IO, here’s a couple of samples.
Here’s the detail you guys love, if you’re selecting between this camera and another, its perhaps this detail that will be the difference.
The camera is made up of 2 cameras that capture 195 degrees of the action. You’ll notice that combines to be 390 degrees, with the extra 30 degrees providing plenty of data to assist the stitching process.
The cameras feature a F/1.8 aperture which do a pretty decent job in lower light, but some grain in the image present at night.
The IO comes in 3 varieties, iOS, which uses Apple’s Lightning connector for iPhones and iPads, Micro USB or USB Type-C for Android devices.
Weight and dimensions
The device is pocket sized, at just 73mm x 35mm, but you will need to allow for the slighty larger clear plastic case when storing it. It weighs just 70g, which is impressively light for the functionality it offers. The size and weight of this are real assets and will see you carrying it with you more often than not.
The camera has its own internal battery, a lithium-ion rechargeable battery 915mAH, 3,7V and charges via a micro USB cable (for all versions).
Photos are taken at 3840 x 1920 in JPEG and videos are captured in 1920 x 960 MP4s using the H.264 codec.
There’s no in-camera storage, as the camera works like an external camera to your camera roll. The data created, is stored on the phone/tablet used with the IO. When in the app, you get a battery level indicator to know when its approaching time for a recharge.
Price and Availability
The Giroptic IO 360 camera comes in 3 varieties, which allows you to choose the right one for your device(s). Apple devices work on a single lightning connector for either the iPhone or iPad, while in Android land things get a little more complicated. Here you have to consider where you’re at in your upgrade cycle. If your current phone has Micro-USB connector and you buy for that, you then risk either limiting your choice in future phones, or the long-term use of the IO camera.
If you’ve already move to a phone with a USB Type-connector, then you’ve got an easier decision to make, just buy the USB Type-C version. This whole mess would be made far easy if a single version was sold, with an interchangeable connector was provided.
The camera costs US$249.00 + shipping, available from the official website – https://www.giroptic.com/giroptic-io
I first encountered Giroptic a few years ago at CES, where I used an Oculus Rift at their booth for the first time. Since then, the company has worked hard on their technology and ultimately the Giroptic IO is absolutely ready for prime time. Its a small, portable camera that’s dead simple to use, which means it appeals to anyone.
If you’ve seen your friends sharing 360 content in your Facebook feed and want to capture and share parts of your life in 360, then this could easily be the camera for you.
The blue aluminum exterior may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly will draw attention and undoubtedly prompt some questions. I would like to see the company offer alternate colours given we’re so precious about the colour of our phones.
Given the IO has lenses on both sides, you can’t simply throw your device in your pocket when you’re done snapping a photo or quick video, which certainly takes some getting used to. You end up getting used to the slightly awkward process of detaching the camera, placing it carefully back into the included protective case.
At the end of the day, if you want in on the 360 market, you should definitely consider the Giroptic IO 360 camera. Is it the best quality you can buy ? No, its not, but its certainly the easiest I’ve used, which appeals to the mass market.
If you’re about to embark on a trip of a lifetime, you really want to capture what you experience and share it with the world. The harsh reality is that no matter how good our smartphone cameras get, they always miss what’s happening behind the lens. With a 360 camera, you get to re-live (and share) those once in a lifetime experiences.