by Stephen Schleicher
360 video for Virtual Reality continues to be an area that next generation content creators are focusing more of their attention on. But, with professional 360 VR cameras costing tens of thousands of dollars, it might be a good idea to experiment with this wondrous new way to tell your story with a camera that does the same thing, but costs a fraction of the price.
Funded via an Indiegogo campaign, the Wunder 360 S1 360 Spherical Action Camera is a nice alternative to other 360 cameras on the market. Though aimed at the consumer market, the Wunder 360 S1 produces solid enough video for mid-range productions that absolutely need 360 degree video, but do not have a high budget. The Wunder 360 S1 is very similar to other cameras on the market, with the Samsun Gear 360 coming closest in style and specifications.
HOW IT WORKS
Using two 180-degree lenses positioned on the front and back of the housing, the Wunder 360 S1 can capture 3040 x1520 at 30fps “3K” video or 2160 x 1080 at 60fps “HD” video. While the video specs match the 3K/HD resolutions, all consumer cameras like the Wunder 360 S1 don’t deliver true 3K/HD per eye, due to the spherical wrapping of the images being captured. Still, the results have been impressive enough that my family had a lot of fun putting on a VR headset and watching the video playback on YouTube (see below).
This is a very easy camera to use – mount it on a tripod, or other mounting device, turn it on and press record. It really is that easy. You can mount this on a selfie-stick, or a helmet and bring a whole different VR experience to the end user. The Wunder 360 S1 also connects via WiFi to your Android or iOS device, using the Wunder 360 app. The app allows the user to view media (video and stills) from the camera, and share it to various social media networks that allow 360 degree video (Facebook, YouTube, etc.). The app does not allow you to control the camera remotely, nor does it offer any editing or trimming capabilities – something I wish it had as I don’t want to see myself in the shot when I’m shooting a landscape/nature piece.
With a camera of this size, there are going to be some drawbacks. First, because of the extremely small size, the sensors generate a ver deep depth of field, which is fine, as you want your viewer to be able to see forever. Small sensors also have a limited dynamic range, which leads to highlights being blown out and really hard shadows, rather than the subtle falloff you might see in a higher end camera. Another drawback of this system is in exposure. If you have a very bright area on the front camera, and not on the back camera, transition lines will be very visible.
Finally, I was somewhat disappointed, but not entirely surprised, at the amount of chromatic aberration generated by these lenses. Again, this isn’t a high end camera, and using lower quality lenses keeps the price down.
The Wunder 360 S1 stitches the video in camera, so there is no need for external software, or long rendering times on your mobile device. This is a big selling point for me. The drawback of a two lens system, however, is there is a visible line that appears on objects that are within five feet of camera. Unless you have elements close to the camera constantly crossing back and forth across that transition zone, this more than likely will be something you and your viewers will be able to live with.
I’ve been using consumer level 360 cameras for a while, including the Fly360 and the Samsung Gear 360, and while they produced adequate results, I’m always wary when it comes to one or two lens systems. After testing the Wunder 360 S1, i can say I am pleased with the results i received.
One of the big selling points for the Wunder 360 S1 360 Camera is the ability to take the video, upload it, and then have a high density 3D cloud point model generated from the footage. Unfortunately, at the time of this review, that portion of the service isn’t yet available. The demo results I have seen are passable, but I wouldn’t use this camera for scientific or high precision modeling, as you might be disappointed. And while a large portion of our everyday lives have moved to the cloud, I’ve seen a number of concerns from potential users of this camera who don’t want to upload data location to the cloud. It doesn’t really bother me, but I can see how some people might have privacy concerns.
BOTTOM LINE: STRONG POTENTIAL
There are still seven days left of the Indiegogo campaign for the Wunder 360 S1 camera, and after several weeks of playing around with the camera, I can say it has a lot of potential. It is easy to set and easy to operate. I enjoyed using this camera over my Samsung Gear 360 for ease of use, and the ability to get the video from the the Wunder 360 S1 to my computer for further work, or even uploading it directly from the camera to YouTube is a snap. While I wasn’t able to test the scanning features, there is enough in this camera by itself to show it has strong potential to be a contender in the action VR camera environment. If you want to kick in to the Indiegogo campaign, you can find out more here