With the mass release of VR devices imminent (you can now pre-order your own Oculus), everyone’s hopping on the 360-degree video boat. Kodak, accordingly, is hustling to get its offerings up to spec with a 4k update to its SP360 Action Cam. For $500, it’s pretty good, too.
When it comes to shooting 360 video for VR you have a lot more screen pixels to cover, so the upgrade to 4K is a welcome step up from the previous Kodak model. The old film company has done a good job about making sure that using this thing in the field is as easy as possible, too. The tiny camera comes packed with all the tools you need to create your own 360-degree videos, including various mounts and attachments that allow you to connect your SP360 to any GoPro accessories you may already own. (The SP360 is also the only VR camera that comes with a lens cap, which is a definite plus because the 360 fisheye lens is prone to finger prints.)
Multiple SP360 cameras work together, too. One camera gives you roughly a 235-degree field of view. To capture full 360 spherical video for VR, however, you’ll need the two camera pack which sells for $900.
One very nice feature about the Kodak SP360 4K camera is that both the battery and memory card can be changed so your shooting time isn’t limited to life and space of the internal battery and storage. Meanwhile, the camera can be controlled not only by buttons on the body of the camera but also by an app on your phone, which allows you to stream a live 360-degree view. The app also allows you to control both exposure and white balance of the image, which is not a common trait of many action cams.
Kodak also provides a pretty robust desktop software for the camera that allows you to output the footage in a number of different viewing modes including spherical, ring and panorama modes. Your video can also be exported in front mode which allows you to export sections of your 360 video into a flat traditional format (but why would you want to do that?). You can also export directly to YouTube, so sharing your 360 expeditions is a piece of cake. For free software included with the camera, these options are pretty insane.
There are disappointing details about Kodak’s new VR camera, though. Although Kodak claims this is a 4k camera, the video that actually uploads to YouTube is limited to 1920-by-960. YouTube can handle much larger resolutions, so it’s not really clear what happens to the extra pixels. The low-resolution is less noticeable when viewing the footage with Google Cardboard or on a mobile-phone, but it’s blatantly obvious when watching it on a computer screen with a higher resolution.
The other weird feature is that the tripod mount is located on the side of the camera, so you must use one of the various mounting brackets included with the camera in order to use the camera with a tripod. This also limits your access to the battery door.
All in all, this little camera is a fantastic deal that has taken what was once a very complicated challenge of creating 360 videos, and turned it into something that anyone can master.