For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been playing with the new YI 360 VR camera. I’ve wanted to get my hands on one of these since they were announced in April. So, needless to say, I was quite excited when it showed up at my door.
Since it arrived, I’ve used it quite a bit. I’ve taken it out while doing things with friends, shot video behind the scenes on photo shoots, and even live streamed to Facebook and YouTube. So, here’s what I think. In this post, I’m tackling these topics largely in the order I faced them when using the camera.
360° stills and video has fascinated me for a long time. I got my first in-person 360° camera experience about 18 months ago when a friend brought his Ricoh Theta S to The Photography Show. I loved the whole idea of 360° stills and video, but at only 1080p, I felt it just wasn’t there for me yet when it came to resolution and quality.
My stop-gap solution was half a dozen YI HD action cameras in a 3D printed rig. This works fairly well, providing 4K 360° stitched footage, although there are still issues. The cameras don’t perfectly sync with each other in time, and there are often exposure mismatches between different cameras. So, I never got results I was truly happy with without a whole lot of work in post.
I debated back and forth for months on whether to take the plunge and just get an actual 4K 360° camera. I think my procrastination paid off, though. While being indecisive, YI Technology announced the YI 360 VR. A 360° camera that shoots 5.7K resolution video, and can even live stream to YouTube and Facebook at 2.5K.
Originally scheduled for release in June, the YI 360 VR has faced a few delays. YI Technology told me at the time that it wasn’t quite as perfect as they would like, and that they want to make some tweaks to the camera before release. The most notable of those tweaks is that the 2.5K live streaming sees a 4K upgrade.
In the box
But let’s get into the camera, which we’ll begin by seeing what’s included in the box. On removing the top cover, everything is well packaged inside with protective foam. Everything fits snugly and survived International shipping very well.
- The YI 360 VR Camera
- 1400mAh Lithium Ion battery
- Type-C USB cable
- Mini tripod
- Storage pouch
- Lens cleaning cloth
There’s also the usual warranty card, manual, and associated bits of paper.
First impressions & Setup
Taking the unit out of the box and holding in in my hand, the first thing I notice is how substantial it feels. It’s heavy enough that you feel like you’re holding something solid and well built, but light enough that it’s not going to bother you while carrying it around in a pocket. It actually seems to weigh a little less than my iPhone SE in its battery pack case.
After putting the battery in and turning it on, I was confronted with a very simple setup questionnaire, which involved only 2 questions. In which country do I reside, and am I using 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz Wi-Fi?
Installing the app to my phone was just like installing any other mobile app. Go to the app store (it’s also in the Play Store for Android), and simply install. Charging was also quick and easy, I just plugged one end of the supplied Type-C USB cable into the camera, and the other into the USB charger on my desk and left it to it.
The mini tripod
The inclusion of a mini tripod was something of a surprise. And although it’s a minor thing, as with the camera itself, I was immediately struck by how solid it felt.
I had originally planned to use one of my Manfrotto Pixi tripods with this camera because I didn’t know that it comes with one of its own. The supplied tripod does rather well, though.
It has a 1/4-20″ screw thread on top which goes straight into the bottom of the camera. And the legs move rather firmly, they’re not going to be flopping around on you when you pick it up. The only problem with it, though, is that the top stays parallel to whatever surface it’s resting on. So, if the surface you’re on isn’t perfectly level, you’ll want to add a small ball head.
Yes, in theory, with a 360° camera, it shouldn’t matter whether or not the camera’s level. But, it does. Not having to re-level it after the fact will save a lot of time in post. And if you’re live streaming, then you don’t even have that option.