My first experience with the camera was at CES 2017 and I have been dying to try it out. It was also my first exposure to 3D video cameras (there were a few other cameras being featured at the show) and since my other company, booomVR was working with stereoscopic 360° video, I was excited at the opportunity to have an affordable 360° camera solution that could shoot in real 3D. Priced at $799, (995€) the VUSE seemed like it would be a great solution.
While there is an increasing number of consumer level 360° cameras hitting the market these days, very few have true, 3D stereoscopic capabilities. Even fewer support 360°, with many only offering only 180°. For this reason, I have to give the VUZE bonus points for being one of the first to hit the market as a well-made product with a lot of features.
Out of The Box
The camera comes in four colors (red, blue, yellow and black,) a carrying case, a small, screw in handle, USB cable, a USB charger, a set of small Homido Mini VR glasses, a cleaning cloth & a manual. There is an optional VUZE tripod which can be purchased separately ($29.95 on Amazon) however any camera tripod will work.
The camera is sturdy, lightweight and features 8 FHD lenses. On the top of the camera, there are two buttons: One for power and one for recording. There is an opening on the side which allows access to the WIFI sync button, battery charger LED, USB port and a Micro SD card slot.
The camera took about 3 hours to fully charge and as soon as it was ready, I downloaded the app and took a quick evening shot of my living room.
It took about 10 minutes of trial and error to get the app and my camera to sync before I could take the shot. I’m not sure if it was because of my phone or the camera itself, but I have also experienced this while WIFI syncing with other 360° cameras, so I assume it is just the nature of the current state of WIFI syncing. Other cameras that use Bluetooth sync almost immediately, so again, I think it is just the nature of WIFI syncing.
Once synced, the app displays a camera view, although it is only from one, front-facing lens. It would be nice to see a full 360° preview in the app, but apparently, there is no multi lense or auto stitch capability yet. Setting up the camera in the middle of my room, I pressed the photo button and took a test shot which I wanted to use as a low light reference, then the next day I went outside to take some video and take advantage of the nice, sunny fall weather.
When recording, I really recommend using the app. You can also press the record button on the camera itself, but unless you understand all the different color coding combinations on the flashing power LED light, you won’t easily be able to understand what mode the camera is in unless you have the manual handy. There are also a number of beeping, color and flashing combinations that indicate temperature, memory, battery, and errors. It’s nice to have options, but again, confusing.
I then downloaded the VR Studio software on my PC. (Luckily I have a PC, because there is no Mac supported software yer, although it is apparently coming out soon.) Using the software, I imported the files and previewed my shot. Importing is fast and the software offers a relatively intuitive, step by step workflow for organizing your content and editing.
I’ll have to confess upfront that I am definitely not a pro 360° camera user and much more in the social, consumer demographic. Yes, I have worked on pro 360° projects with a crew, high-end rigs and editors, but maybe based on that experience and the amount of time and effort involved, I don’t have a lot of patience for having to edit my shots, tweak stitching errors and the like. This isn’t a complaint or a negative because options for pro users are great, but as a preference, I like the ease of use of being able to preview my shot, have it auto stitched and easily uploaded to social media where I can view it on my VR headset.
As a result, I didn’t spend a lot of time exploring all the editing features of the software (which, while limited, does give you some level of editing control) and opted to just export my shot with the default settings. Ideally, I just wanted to see the shot on my VR headset and determine the quality. Most importantly I wanted to check out the 3D quality in addition to the visual quality.
Once my 1-minute video was rendered, (769 MB file which rendered in a few seconds on my Razor Stealth) I added it to my phone and also uploaded it to YouTube to test out.
As you can see by the test video below, I basically walked around the camera at different distances to test the near and far quality. I expected some stitching errors, which were pretty obvious, but again, I didn’t spend the time to try to fix them and I am sure I could have corrected this a bit.
The result: I previewed the photo and video directly from my PC with the Oculus Rift, from my phone using the Gear VR, and then again streaming from YouTube. The RIFT video was ok. The Gear VR video was of less quality (expected on mobile) and the YouTube video, because of the streaming, was pretty poor. The evening photo was acceptable, considering that it was a low light shot, but unfortunately, the daytime photo was only slightly better.
The camera definitely performs better when objects are a few meters away. Close up objects tend to be less clear and as with most 360° cameras, the lower parts of the shot will blur, especially when a tripod is being used, like in the test video.
Honestly, while the quality is acceptable, and on par with other consumer level 360° cameras, other than the 3D effect, which took some time tweaking my video player settings to set properly, I didn’t see much quality difference to that of the much cheaper 360° cameras. Maybe I need to spend more time in the editing software or render at a higher resolution due to the split videos for 3D, but again, if this is the default settings, I can get the same shot with a much cheaper camera, and much faster. The 3D effect didn’t add enough of a difference to me to justify the additional work and at that price point, much too expensive for my needs.
That being said, the camera does what they say it does, It shoots in 3D, which takes any 360° video to a new level of immersion and I am sure that a more pro photographer could spend a bit more time to get a better quality shot.
- Shoots in 3D / stereoscopic
- Portable Size and comes with a case
- Lightweight and Easy to use
- Quality construction
- Intuitive editing software with a decent set of options and settings.
- WIFI syncing is hit or miss and takes several tries to get it to work
- No Audio outputs for external mics.
- PC only software, (however Mac is on its way)
- The price point feels too high to justify the video or image quality.
- The app settings are very minimal. No 360° preview, and no preview of the actual finished shot or other shots.
- Colors: Red, Yellow, Blue & Black
- Sensors: 8 x Sony Full HD imx408 image sensors
- Lenses: 8
- Capture Resolution: UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 30 fps per eye (from 4 sensors each)
- Video Field of View: 360 x 180° (full spherical)
- Video Compression: H.264 MP4 over under
- Processors: 2 x Ambarella A9 video processors
- IP Rating: IP64 (dust tight, splash proof)
- Wi-Fi: IEEE 802.11b/g/n; 2.4 GHz
- Microphones: 4 x MEMS microphones
- Audio Codec: Uncompressed 16-bit PCM
- Storage Expansion: microSD card slot
- Battery Type: Lithium-ion
- Interface: 1 x Micro-USB 2.0 (for charging and data connection)
- Mount Type: 1/4″-20 threaded mounting hole on the bottom
- App compatibility: Android and iOS
- Dimensions: 4.7 x 4.7 x 1.2″ (12 x 12 x 3 cm)
- Weight: 0.9 lb (400 g)
- Software System Recommendations: Windows 10, 64 bit, GPU with 3GB RAM
The camera is well made, with great quality hardware and easy to use. Would I personally buy a VUZE, however? I would have to say no, not at that price point for my needs. Again, I give it bonus points for being a first to market product and I assume it will only get better with time and updates, but for the moment, it is a very high priced camera for the consumer level.
Would I recommend it for pro users? I would say that for the price point, there does not appear to be much competition yet, but there are more expensive 8K cameras that have recently come out that take a better quality shot which could easily justify the extra expense. I would recommend doing a strong comparison based on your needs before making the purchase.
Humaneyes recently announced live streaming coming in 2018, Google Street View live integration, Mac support for the editing software and a new underwater case, priced at $2,995.
We will be keeping an eye on the VUZE for any updates and will keep you posted!
Sean Earley is the podcast host and Executive Editor of AR/VR Magazine, Modern Musician Magazine & co-founder of RobotSpaceship Podcast Network. He is the Director of New Biz Development, PR and Publishing at KEMWEB, a musician, producer & consultant. He loves guitars, VR and coffee.