Update: My daughter used the camera a couple of times, and then it stopped working. When she turns it on, the display window just says “Error” and it does not connect to WiFi or to its smartphone apps, and no combination of restarting or button pressing seems to make the message go away.
Disclosure: This camera was provided free by GearBest.
I got this camera in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and was looking forward to testing it out because it’s billed as a low-cost 360 degree camera for taking 360-degree videos.
I had previously tried out the 360fly camera, which costs twice as much.
The two seem roughly comparable on the surface. Both fit in the palm of your hand, and connect wirelessly to your smartphone, and come with mounts so that you can take the camera with you on bike rides or parachute jumps or whatever it is that you do in your spare time. Or you can, like my daughter below, tie it to your head.
However, while the 360fly has one dome-shaped lens, the EleCam 360 camera has two lenses, one on each side. It films in 180 degrees in each direction, and then this is stitched together into a single video.
You can use this camera to shoot 360-degree photos and videos of your house or apartment for real-estate ads. Or film a kid’s birthday party so that later you can step back in time and experience the event again.
You can also use the EleCam to have yourself a bit of an out-of-body experience. I set up the camera across the room from where I was sitting and pointed it in my direction. Then I streamed the video to my smartphone, switched the app to virtual reality view, and put the phone into a virtual reality headset. I was now looking at myself, from across the room. Creepy!
But the big test of the camera is how easy it is to create and share the videos. With the 360fly, everything was done in the app, and with just a couple of clicks you could upload the phone thing to YouTube, which supports 360-degree videos.
With the EleCam 360, however, it’s not that easy. The camera actually captures two 180-degree pictures, side by side, as in the photo below. That’s what the videos look like, too.
You can switch to other formats inside the EleCam app, but the basic video files are pretty much unusable anywhere else.
So here’s how you create a video that you can, say, share on YouTube.
First, you film the video. Then, you download the video to your phone, then transfer it over to your computer. Then you download EleCam’s video conversion software and run your video through it. Then you download YouTube’s Metadata software and run the resulting video through that. Now you can upload it to YouTube. The full instructions are here.
The video below is a 360-degree video, of my daughter filming our chickens. As you can see, the video is a little fuzzy where the edges of the two images are squished together.
But other than the video conversion issues, the camera’s form factor is nice, and the camera itself is pretty convenient and easy to use.
And the software issue might already have been fixed by the time you read this article — check recent reviews in the app stores to see if the issues have been fixed.
The EleCam 360 camera is currently on sale at GearBest for $128.
But if you’re looking for a nice 360-degree camera to give as a present right now, I recommend splurging for the 360fly.
Check out her author page on Amazon or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Her first virtual world novella, Krim Times, made the Amazon best-seller list in its category. Her second novella, The Lost King of Krim, is out now.