The scoop: V.360 camera, by VSN Mobil, about $450
What is it? This action-based camera (think GoPro) offers 360 degrees of video and still-image capture, allowing you to take panoramic photos and videos with a 1080p high definition resolution. For panoramic photos, it’s a step up from trying to capture them with a smartphone, as there’s no stitching involved - the camera’s mirror design captures everything at the same time (so no need to hold the camera steady and turn in a circle).
In addition, a Wi-Fi connection lets you control functions of the camera via a smartphone or tablet, and the mobile app lets you view videos, photos and share them with friends. The Wi-Fi connection also can act as a local Wi-Fi hotspot, providing up to five mobile devices the ability to view the feed from the camera. With the help of an HDMI-to-USB converter box (sold separately), the V.360 can attach to a PC or Mac to provide additional live streaming functionality (the converter box, in effect, turns the camera into a webcam). Videos are stored on a microSD card (not included), and can be edited via an additional desktop app or uploaded to video sites such as YouTube and Facebook. A remote control is included that can activate the camera for times when you don’t want to initiate a photo or video via the smartphone (like if you’re surfing or snorkeling, for example).
Why it’s cool: Having a 360-degree view of your adventures can be appealing if you’re one of those action-sports type people. Riding a bike down a mountain or skydiving or other such thrills gives you video footage from ahead of you, to the sides and behind you instead of just seeing what’s in front of you with other cameras. In my test, I put the V.360 on my daughter’s bike and had her ride around the neighborhood, and the resulting video was cool to watch because I could see where she was going (and watching her brother pass by), but she could also provide commentary to the camera where I could see her face. I’m sure much more imaginative users will come up with some awesome ways to highlight the 360-degree nature of the camera.
The V.360 also offers a very cool business purpose for users interested in non-action scenarios. By using the optional desktop mount and the conversion kit (an HDMI cable, the HDMI-to-USB converter box and a USB cable), you can put this in a conference room and do a videoconference that provides a 360-degree view of the whole room. So now your remotes can see Johnson roll his eyes while Smithers is giving the latest revenue projections.
Some caveats: Getting everything to work together seamlessly can be a bit tricky - understanding how to connect the V.360 to the mobile app in order to view the stream or start recording takes some practice. There’s no power button on the camera, so if you forget to turn the device off (via the mobile app), the battery can quickly drain. Recharging the unit is a problem, as the charging port is located underneath a waterproof, sealed cap. Twisting the cap on and off in order to recharge the unit or to grab the microSD card became troublesome, as I always worried about whether the seal was tight enough to make it waterproof again. In fact, the plastic seal eventually came off after a few times of putting the cap on and off. You also have to remember to keep the 360-degree glass clean and free of fingerprints - a few of my videos had smudges on them from when I was positioning the camera (keep the cleaning cloth handy).
Bottom line: If you do enough action-sports types of activities and want to provide your friends and family with 360-degree views of the action, this camera is right up your alley. And when you’re done with it you can bring it to the office and have a videoconference.
Grade: 3.5 stars (out of five).
Here's an example of a video created with the V.360 (by VSN Mobil, not me):
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