Kandao QooCam Review: 4K, 360 And 3D Capture – So What’s The Catch?

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You may not have noticed it, but the market for 360 cameras is growing all of the time. This is the same basic camera tech that powers things like Google’s Street View system and can be used to produce immersive images and video which give you a full perspective of the location where the original footage or photos were captured.

We’ve seen companies like GoPro leap on the 360 bandwagon in the past, but Chinese firm Kandao is aiming to provide something a little different with the QooCam, the world’s first 4K-ready 360 camera and 3D camera. Using three different fisheye lenses, it’s capable of capturing full 360 photos and video as well as 180 3D images which can be viewed using an optional pair of glasses or a VR headset.

The QooCam is available for £399.

Kandao QooCam Review: Design

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The QooCam doesn’t look like a lot of other 360 cameras – in fact, it looks a little bit like a sex toy, which isn’t ideal when you’re in a public place like a park, surrounded by kids (we speak from experience here). The reason for its impressive length is twofold; it rotates in the middle to create an ‘L’ shape so you can shoot 3D images and video, and the grip houses a massive battery which delivers around three hours of use – when you consider that most 360-only cameras can’t managed even half of that, you’ll feel less embarrassed about holding what looks like a dildo out in public.

There are two physical buttons on the QooCam; one turns it on and selects your WiFi channel (5GHz with a single press, 2.4GHz with a longer press) while the other controls photos (short press) and video (long press). There’s also a MicroSD card slot which is capable of accepting media up to 256GB in size, as well as a Micro USB socket for charging. Both of these are covered with rubber pads which are annoyingly hard to open, especially the charging port.

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The entire body is made from metal so the QooCam feels sturdy and solid. A special lens protector can be fitted when you’re not using it, and Kandao provides a carry bag in the box, too. The bag is made from quite thin material though, so we’d recommend placing it inside another, more rugged bag when you’re transporting it.

On the bottom, there’s a standard mounting point which allows you to fix the QooCam to a tripod or selfie stick. There have been complaints that the base of the unit can sometimes come away from the main body, causing the QooCam to drop to the floor. Our unit thankfully didn’t suffer from this issue, but Kandao has acknowledged this flaw and is taking steps to remedy it in future production runs; anyone impacted by this problem can obtain a replacement direct from the manufacturer.

Kandao QooCam Review: Battery & Memory

The QooCam doesn’t have any on-board memory so you’ll need to invest in a MicroSD card to take photos, shoot video and install firmware updates. These are reasonably cheap and the camera can accept cards up to 256GB in size – a solid move if you’re looking to shoot lots of 4K video. Given that the 2600mAh battery lasts around three hours, shooting plenty of video is something you’re perfectly capable of doing with the QooCam. When you consider that many other pocket-sized 4K 360 cameras wimp out around the one hour mark, the QooCam is a good choice if you’re looking to shoot long videos.

Kandao QooCam Review: 360 Photography & Video

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The QooCam’s 360 mode is the one you’ll probably be using the most, as the results can be shared easily with other people. Shooting photos and video is easy; you simply use the physical capture button on the device to take your shot or record a clip; you can then view the results later using the Android or iOS smartphone application, which also allows you to edit and share your creations.

Photo quality is decent, but it’s not the best we’ve seen from a 360 camera. There are issues with ‘stitching’ the images taken by the two cameras together, and if an object is too close to the QooCam when the footage or photo is taken, you might fine they’re ‘chopped’ down the middle. Thankfully this isn’t as much of an problem when objects or people are far away from the camera.

Detail is generally good but the colours often look slightly wrong – Kandao has confirmed that manual controls are forthcoming so you’ll be able to control these elements better. For the time being, expect to see some slightly odd colour replication as well as saturation problems with bright light sources, such as street lights and the sun.

Video is where the QooCam really impresses. While the quality of the 4K footage is average rather than stunning, the degree of stabilization is incredible. Even when the camera is placed on top of a tall (and wobbly) selfie stick, the video is absolutely rock-solid. You can also record time-lapse footage, which also looks pretty incredible.

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Kandao QooCam Review: 3D Photography & Video

Thanks to its stereo cameras, the QooCam can also capture 3D images and 4K 3D video with a wide-angle view. The catch here is that you obviously need special equipment to view the results of this mode. Kandao sells a special pair of plastic fold-out lenses which are clipped to your smartphone and allow you to appreciate the 3D effect, and it’s possible to share your creations to Facebook (which has VR support now thanks to its relationship with Oculus) and the VR platform VeeR. However, outside of that, there’s no really easy way of sharing your 3D material with other people, outside of handing them your phone with Kandao’s plastic lenses attached. You can, however, use the 3D camera to take some nice wide-angle fisheye shots which are handy when you need to fit in a lot of detail in a single image.

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Kandao QooCam Review: Smartphone App

While you can happily shoot and record video directly from the QooCam itself, you’ll need to download the smartphone app to edit, view and share your photos and videos. The app allows you to connect to the QooCam via WiFi and view the photos and videos stored on its MicroSD card. You can also transfer the footage and snaps to the application’s gallery for faster editing. It’s worth noting that if you then choose to save anything to your phone’s gallery that the 3D and 360 effects are not retained; you need to view them within the QooCam app to get the full effect.

One of the really cool things you can do within the app itself is create ‘Tiny Planet’ images using 360 photos. These are most effective when you’re either using a tripod or selfie stick, as you’ll be able to see yourself holding the QooCam in the middle of the image, but by dragging around the view you can create some interesting perspectives that are great for sharing on social media. For example, if you’re having a dinner party with several people you can place the QooCam in the middle of the table (the smartphone app also acts as a remote control for situations when you can physically press the physical capture button) and take a 360 image which can then be turned into a ‘Tiny Planet’ image showing everyone at the table.

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Another interesting feature is the ability to refocus 3D photos to create interesting ‘bokeh’ effects. This is all done in software, with the app ‘guessing’ where objects sit in relation to one another based on the 3D mapping recorded by the camera itself. When it works, the effect is quite impressive, but unfortunately there are times when the software gets a little confused and can’t quite find the ‘sweet spot’ between two objects. The quality of the resultant edited image is also less than ideal, but we’d imagine that Kandao is working on improving this in future revisions of the firmware.

It’s also worth noting that along with manual controls and better bokeh effects, there are a host of features (live-streaming being one of the most notable) that aren’t currently available on the QooCam. These are being added over the next few months, according to Kandao, but some people who backed the product on Kickstarter are understandably annoyed that they’ve not got the full package at launch.

Kandao QooCam Review: Conclusion

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The QooCam’s selling point is that it offers both 360 and 3D capture, but that’s not actually that big a deal when you consider that the 3D side of things is harder to share with other people. Still, it’s a neat extra and we’d imagine that as the software side of things improves, it will become more appealing. For the time being though, the QooCam’s 360 prowess is what really makes it appealing, and thanks to stunning stabilization it is capable of recording breathtaking 360 videos which allow you to really stand out from the crowd. The ‘transforming’ nature of the device is a little gimmicky but the unique design allows for a massive battery, so if stamina is a concern for you, this is a good option.

There are some hiccups, however; the app isn’t as feature-rich as it should be and elements such as live-streaming are still absent – Kandao has insisted that they’re coming soon, though. The price will also be a stumbling block for many; at almost £400, it’s not cheap.

It’s fair to say that the QooCam isn’t quite the full package yet, and if you’re undecided then it might be worth giving it a couple more months before laying down your cash, just to see if those promised features to materialise.

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