3D cameras have fascinated me for years. When I was a kid, my parents had one of those View-Masters. Actually, they had hundreds of them (they owned a bunch of toy shops) but they gave one to me and I’d sit and stare through its binocular viewfinder for hours looking at all the different reels.
3D viewing technology’s come a long way since then, but the fascination never faded. I have a couple of small all-in-one 3D cameras, like the Weeview SID (review here) and Insta360 EVO. Some of you might remember the Kandao QooCam EGO 3D camera launching on Kickstarter a couple of months ago. Well, now I have one, and I’ve been putting it through its paces.
The QooCam EGO claims to be “the World’s first 3D camera for instant immersion” and… Well, right off the bat, it has one big advantage that helps with that. It actually has a touchscreen LCD on the back. The Weeview SID and Insta360 EVO have nothing. To view anything, whether it be while you’re shooting or after the fact, you’re going to have to use your smartphone.
But it’s more than just your average LCD. The QooCam EGO comes with a viewer that clips onto the back of the camera, covering the LCD. The camera detects that you’ve attached the viewer and automatically goes into split screen mode where you can see your image in 3D using the two little lenses.
And this split-screen 3D ability with the viewer doesn’t just work when playing back images. You can also use it while you’re shooting to get a real sense of the depth that the camera will pick up from the scene laid before you.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the beginning…
What’s in the box?
The box in which the QooCam EGO ships is relatively small and uses every last bit of internal storage to maximise that space while keeping everything inside protected. On opening the box, there’s an envelope holding the getting started guide, warranty and a lens cloth. Underneath this, there’s an open box with the camera inside it and a USB cable and wrist strap hidden below. In the other box is the viewer, along with a soft microfibre storage pouch in which to keep everything.
Another advantage the QooCam EGO has over both the Weeview SID and the Insta360 EVO is that it also comes with something that I didn’t mention above. It has a removable battery. This means that you can order spares and easily swap it out when it goes flat or if it ever dies completely, you can just get another to replace it and you’re back up and running instantly.
The ability to remove the battery in a product like this is something that cannot be overstated enough. It’s vital, in my opinion. The last couple of years of not having a need to use certain products due to the obvious limitations of being able to go out and use them means that devices with built-in batteries have essentially been left dead and useless unless I want to open them up and try to find a 3rd party battery that fits. So, yeah, +1 for a removable battery!
Anyway, I inserted the battery into the camera, closed up the flap and put it on charge. I also popped a microSD card in here, as the slot for that is in the same location as the battery. It’s nice that it goes under the battery cover because it means there’s pretty much no chance of it ever falling out and getting lost.
The QooCam EGO features a pair of lenses with a 66° horizontal field of view and an f/1.8 aperture. Each lens has its own sensor capable of capturing 4000×3000 pixel still images or 1920×1080 video footage at up to 60 frames per second. This gives 8000×3000 or 3840×1080 side-by-side photos and video respectively.
When it comes to formats, they feel a little lacking. For images, you’ve only got jpg. It would be nice to see some DNG RAW output here for stills, so that we might be able to tweak things a little more to our taste in Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, Capture One or some other raw processor.
On the video side of things, it’s H.264 with a 60Mbps bitrate (7.5MB/sec), which isn’t super high, but high enough that it should capture decent results. I don’t know how much this would be recompressed in the smartphone app, but if you’re working in a desktop editor like DaVinci Resolve or Premiere Pro, I could see this potentially degrading quite quickly after it’s graded, rendered out and then uploaded to a platform like YouTube – especially in scenes of high detail.
Inside the camera is a 6-axis gyro and inertial measurement unit (IMU) for electronic image stabilisation and on the back there’s a 2.54″ touchscreen with a resolution of 1600×1440 pixels for a pixel density of 847 PPI.
Exposure is pretty basic, offering only automatic exposure with exposure compensation of plus or minus 2EV. It also has only automatic white balance. So, if you wanted to lock it to ensure the camera doesn’t drift between clips (or worse, while shooting a clip), then you’re out of luck.
Images and footage are stored to a microSD card which is hidden inside the battery compartment and supports a maximum capacity of 256GB. It has built in WiFi for connecting to your phone as well as USB-C for charging only. There’s no data communication that I can see, so you can’t use the device as a card reader.
What it’s not
To clear one thing up early on, while the QooCam EGO is a 3D camera, it’s not a 180° VR camera like the Insta360 EVO. So, if you’re watching in a VR headset, moving your head isn’t going to change the direction you’re looking in the shot.
It’s two side-by-side piece of flat footage from different viewpoints to match the left and right human eye distance. Whichever way you turn your head, you’re always going the looking in the direction the camera was pointed when it filmed the shot.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. It allows you as the creative to keep the viewer’s attention directed towards the main view. They can’t get distracted and look away. But it does mean that you’re going to have to deal with stabilisation (we’ll get to that later) in order to present a smoother and more pleasing viewing experience.
The smartphone app
I’m going to get this one out of the way now I have a bit of a problem here because at the moment the only smartphone app for the QooCam EGO is for iOS and it’s still a beta. By the time you read this, it might have been released, but as of writing, it’s in beta. The problem, however, is that I don’t have an iPhone, so I’m unable to test it.
An Android version of the app currently does not exist, which is unfortunate as my main phone these days is the OnePlus 10 Pro. Kandao has assured me that an Android version of the app will be coming at some point, but they haven’t been able to give me an ETA on when that might materialise.
So, I’m unable to cover the smartphone app or the features it offers here in this review. But, I will be testing out what the footage and photos look like on the PC in DaVinci Resolve to see how easily they can be processed and edited.
Charging and first use
Charging is done via the camera’s USB-C port to the user replaceable 1,340mAh battery. Next to the battery slot is the microSD card slot for inserting your storage with a maximum capacity of 256GB. Once charged, long-pressing the power button turns on the device.
Turning on is not instant, though. From pressing the button down to actually being able to use the camera takes around 22 seconds. Turning off the camera takes about 7 seconds. So, if you want a camera that can react quickly from a powered-off state, this isn’t the camera for you. If you want it to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, you’ll need to leave it powered up and sucking that juice out of the battery.
The power button also acts as a mode switch button with a short press, alternating between stills and video modes. Switching modes also isn’t instant and takes around 3-4 seconds. Next to the power button is a second button for starting and stopping video or shooting a photo.
Also on the top is a speaker,
which apparently can’t be muted (See update at the bottom of this review). It plays a rather loud (but short) little tune when it starts up. It also plays a rather loud fake shutter noise when you shoot a photo and beeps when you start recording video (but is silent when you stop it).
The sound can be somewhat negated by simply covering the speaker on top of the camera with your finger, but you can definitely still hear it. If you wanted to use this camera in a quiet location and remain unheard then, the QooCam EGO isn’t going to be the right camera.
This might be something that can be overridden or reconfigured with the smartphone app, but as there isn’t an app available for Android yet, this isn’t something I can test. Hopefully, Kandao will implement a mute feature into the camera itself at some point.
The touchscreen display on the rear of the camera offers a decent view of your scene. If you’re not using the 3D viewer, then you see just a single image on the screen in front of you coming from the right eye camera. If you are using the viewer, then you see your scene in 3D in real-time as you’re getting ready to shoot it.
Adjustments are made from this LCD although the adjustments are pretty basic. The camera only offers automatic exposure mode, so there’s no real manual adjustment. You can dial in exposure compensation and you can fix the shutter speed at 1/125th or 1/250th of a second in “Sport” mode, but even with the shutter speed locked and a fixed aperture on the lens, it’s still automatically controlling the ISO.
White balance is also fully automatic and it will change in the middle of your shot given the opportunity. If you suddenly shift your view from a warm coloured scene to a cool one, you will definitely see that shift in your footage. It also means there’s no real consistency from one shot to the next unless you’re editing together a bunch of clips that were all shot under identical lighting conditions and the scene itself didn’t confuse its white balance algorithms.
This automatic white balance applies to both stills and video, which makes it even more disappointing that there’s no DNG RAW output to let me manually override whatever white balance the camera thinks is correct to get some consistency between shots. Or even between both eyes in the same shot/clip.
With all those issues aside, though, the camera is easy to use, it’s easy to view the shot you’re trying to take – which seems to be a first for this type of camera – and if you’re not too bothered about how accurate everything is and you’re just creating snaps for social media then it’s a fun little camera.
As I said, it’s not a quick startup and
the noises it makes when you turn it on and hit the shutter mean that it’s not a stealthy camera by any means (See update at the bottom of this review). But if the noise isn’t an issue, then it’s a fun one to whip out if you’ve got the time to wait for it to turn on. Alternatively, you could just hit the power button while it’s still in your pocket as you’re approaching a scene you might want to shoot so that it’s ready by the time you get to it.
I did do a test, charging up the battery to full and then just leaving it turned on until it died. So, if you do decide to just leave it on so it’s always ready, it will last a maximum of around an hour and a half. Obviously, I say “a maximum of” because recording video and shooting photos and saving things out ot the card will obviously drain the battery faster. Kandao doesn’t appear to have published the running of the battery, but an hour and a half (literally, almost exactly 90 minutes) is how long the camera stayed on for when I fired it up with a fully charged battery and left it on until it went flat and turned itself off.
One area where you do get to claw a little control back, however, is with the focus. In fact, manual’s all you get with the focus. There’s no autofocus at all. While manual focus here is not the smooth transition we might be used to from DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, or even the press & hold snap focus we’re used to from our smartphones, we do have the ability to adjust the focus distance from a minimum of 30cm up to infinity – the actual maximum focus setting is 2 metres for video or 5 metres for stills, which takes us to infinity.
If you’re regular switching distances, perhaps holding it on a stick to film back towards yourself to vlog, for example, and then turning it back around in front of you to shoot some b-roll or show what it is that you’re talking about, then you’re going to need to keep on top of those focus distances. Or you’ll find that it’s set too far and you’re blurred when you’re pointing it towards yourself or it’s set too close when you point it away and your scene is blurred.
The 3D Viewer
This is by far the best feature of this camera. Being able to actually see your scene in 3D before you’ve even hit the shutter or started recording is fantastic. Being able to view your 3D footage and photos right after you’ve shot them without having to connect up a smartphone or deal with a VR headset is also extremely useful.
With other 3D cameras I have, viewing the scene in 3D beforehand is pretty much impossible. And reviewing photos and footage also requires a bit of work and effort to get them onto a smartphone or computer and watch them through a VR headset or to process them into Anaglyph 3D for viewing with the regular red/blue glasses.
The viewer attaches to the back of the camera via magnets and a couple of clips to hold it in place. You can leave it attached all the time if you like or you can just take it out as needed and quickly attach it to and detach it from the camera.
When it’s attached to the camera, you’re essentially looking down while the camera faces forward. It’s like having a right angle viewfinder on a DSLR or mirrorless camera, except you’re looking through both eyes at once. And you’re looking at it in glorious 3D. Using the viewer far exceeded my expectations in how well the 3D effect would work. The first time I looked through it, I think I audibly said “Wow!” because it presented the effect so well.
Obviously, you can’t use any of the touchscreen features when the viewfinder’s attached, but given the limited control you get through the touchscreen UI, this isn’t really a big deal. You’ve still got access to the power button on top to switch shooting modes and the other button to actually shoot a photo or start/stop recording video. You’ve also got viewing buttons on the side to scroll through photos and videos and start/stop playing.
And if you do need to change a setting that can’t be switched via the buttons, it takes no time at all to remove the viewer, change your setting and reattach it if needed. When you’re using the viewer, it does feel very immersive and a lot more effective than doing the whole cross-eyed staring at the screen thing.
Reviewing the footage
The QooCam EGO shoots side-by-side 1920×1080 footage at up to 60 frames per second. I like that they’ve gone the standard 16:9 route, rather than the 1440×1440 square format of the Weeview SID. The 60 frames per second frame rate is also much better (and less nauseating) for stereo viewing with a headset than the 30fps the Weeview SID offered, too.
As noted above, the footage is recorded at 60Mbps, which is pretty low for this resolution. That’s 7.5MB/sec. As I don’t have access to the smartphone app for stabilisation, I also mounted the camera to the Moza Mini P gimbal in order to keep things a bit more steady. The QooCam EGO is a little below the Mini P’s minimum weight limit, so I had to add a little counterweight. This also meant that positioning for the camera meant that the arm holding the camera was just in the shot at the bottom right of the right eye camera view.
You can see in the video that it doesn’t capture all of the details, but it doesn’t seem to break down too much during quick movements due to the relatively low bitrate. What is a little disappointing, although not entirely unexpected, is the dynamic range and automatic exposure capability. If you’ve got sunlight streaming into your shot, it’s likely going to get blown out unless the majority of your scene is in bright sunlight. Exposure compensation helps a bit, but it’s locked at that setting for your entire shot and with the low bitrate, trying to pull that underexposed detail back in post really just isn’t possible because the detail simply isn’t there.
As mentioned, I don’t have access to a smartphone app to use with the QooCam EGO, so I don’t know what features are available in that for editing, but editing the footage in DaVinci Resolve was pretty straightforward. All you need to do is make a custom resolution composition with a 3840 x 1080 pixel resolution and then edit your footage in the usual way and render it out.
If you’re happy with the standard side-by-side 3D view, which is perfect for watching 3D content from YouTube on your smartphone, then you can just leave it as is. But you might need to find a way to inject the appropriate 3D metadata for YouTube and other platforms in order for it to fully recognise it as 3D.
If you did decide you wanted to make a regular mono HD version of the video, all you need to do is create a standard 1920 x 1080 sequence and again drag your footage in. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure there’s no scaling on the footage and you’ll want to drag it over to one side or the other so that you’re only seeing the footage from one of the two cameras.
Here are a range of images shot by the camera. This first one is at full resolution to give you an idea of the kind of quality you can expect in bright conditions. The rest are scaled down for easy bandwidth viewing, just to give you an idea of the depth effect in several different scenes.
A note on stabilisation
Despite the QooCam EGO featuring a built-in 6-axis gyro and IMU, there’s no stabilisation built into the camera itself. For this, you need the app. So, for now, that means Android users get no stabilisation. There’s no easy way to get stabilisation on the desktop with DaVinci Resolve, Premiere Pro or After Effects, either.
Yes, it is possible with lots of complicated nesting of compositions and timelines but it’s not straightforward. You’d need to separate the single clip up into two compositions, stabilise one of them, apply that identical stabilisation data to the second composition and then combine the two together in a new composition, scaling and adjusting to get everything to fit. And even then, it might not quite be perfect, given the potential off-axis orientation of the camera if the lenses aren’t perfectly horizontal.
Personally, I’m not that bothered about internal stabilisation. I’d mostly be filming this from a static position or I’d use a gimbal. Something that is designed for small mirrorless cameras and smartphones like the Moza Mini P (and maybe the Zhiyun Crane M2S with a little extra counterweight added) handles it pretty well, and at 60fps, the video footage doesn’t make you feel too queazy, especially with the fast-ish “Sport” mode shutter speeds locked in.
As an aside, using an action camera gimbal is how they overcame the lack of stabilisation on the Weeview SID, so using one with a camera like this isn’t really an unreasonable idea. The Insta360 EVO doesn’t use a gimbal, but that has a much wider field of view that can be stabilised and edited in post on the desktop using Insta360 Studio. This electronic stabilisation in software does, however, crop in your resolution, bringing each eye’s view lower than the 1080p resolution we get with the QooCam EGO for the same field of view.
Small 3D stereo cameras have been around for a few years now, although they haven’t really seen mass adoption, despite the apparent proliferation of VR headsets. As such, cameras of this type at the consumer level still aren’t super advanced and the QooCam EGO is no exception, although it is better than many of the others I’ve seen in a number of respects.
Stereo 1080p video means you’re shooting for the standard 16:9 format. This means that you can watch it on YouTube on your desktop using 3D glasses or a VR headset and get a natural movie-style field of view. You can also throw it up on your 3D TV or projective to get the full viewing experience without cropping off your shot. And even if there isn’t a smartphone app yet, you can still transfer the files to your phone and watch the footage with your phone in a VR headset case.
You can also watch the footage and view photos in 3D right on the device itself using the supplied viewer. To me, this is a game changer for this type of camera. It allows you to really see the kind of depth you’ll see in your shot for the scene you’re currently viewing and how everything lines up before you hit the shutter. Sure, you still get a regular flat 2D view when not using the viewer but you don’t really know how well the depth effect will show when viewing it in 3D until you review your shots afterwards.
With a retail price of $369, the QooCam EGO is fairly comparable to cameras that came before it given the features it offers. The Weeview SID was $269 ($399 for the kit with the gimbaal) and the Insta360 EVO was priced at $149.99 at launch. It’s far from being a perfect camera just yet, though and does have a few things I’d like to see improved in a future iteration (or a future firmware update for this camera).
What could be improved
Full manual control over shutter speed, ISO and white balance is pretty essential for this sort of camera, especially when Kandao’s marketing uses phrases like “film-level 3D camera”. Shutter speed and ISO are pretty self-explanatory. Nobody really wants their camera to be automatically adjusting the exposure when they don’t want them to. And as far as the white balance, even if we just got the basic daylight, cloudy, tungsten, etc. options to lock both eyes to the same white balance for the entire clip, that would be great. There’s nothing worse than your white balance changing throughout the shot or both eyes each showing a slightly different white balance to each other.
I’d also like to see DNG RAW output added, too. Partially to make up for the lack of preset white balance modes but also to be able to do some more advanced corrections and adjustments to my images in post than I can get with a baked-in JPG. Even if it is two separate left and right files that I have to manually merge together in Photoshop to create the final output, that’s fine. But please, give us DNG RAW.
Higher bitrate output for video would also be excellent. The camera supports cards up to 256GB, so why limit the video output to a mere 7.5MB/sec. The V30 specification (which even inexpensive cards meet these days) allows for up to 30MB/sec. I really hope they can bump this up to somewhere around 15-20MB/sec in a future firmware update.
One thing that can’t really be fixed in firmware but I would like to see in a future iteration of the product is a microphone jack. For those who want to vlog in 3D – which is a specific target audience Kandao mentions in their marketing for this camera – being able to mount a small shotgun mic or wireless lav receiver to your gimbal or selfie stick and then wire it up to the camera saves a lot of work trying to sync things up in post during the edit.
Then there’s that turn-on time. 22 seconds is not fun when you’re walking around and want to be able to quickly grab a shot. It often works out easier to just leave the camera on the whole time while you walk around just so you don’t have to deal with the time it takes to turn the camera on and off. Of course, you’ll probably want to carry a power bank around with you and a cable so you can keep it charged up if this is how you choose to use it.
(See update at the bottom of this review)
And please, let us mute the volume of the beeps and noises the camera makes so that we can shoot in quiet places without disturbing people. This is why there are so few city photos in this review, despite spending several hours exploring Glasgow. The sound of the shutter was just too distracting to nearby people. Everybody looked around and thought I was shooting a photo of them, even though the camera was pointed in the complete opposite direction. So, the noise it makes actually put me off shooting more photos than I did (especially at indoor locations). The ability to adjust the volume for video playback is also pretty important, especially if we’re viewing our footage in public using the 3D viewer attachment.
Kandao has told me there are some firmware updates on the way, with some updates to the sharing features, direct upload to YouTube, etc. so hopefully we’ll see some of these concerns addressed at some point, too.
Despite the imperfections (many of which can likely be fixed in firmware), this is a fun camera to shoot. Even in its current state. I don’t think I’d use it for anything important given the lack of manual control, but for grabbing a few quick 3D shots and clips when you’re travelling or to document your location scouting trips with a little more of an immersive feel, it’s a great little camera. It’s certainly as fun as the Weeview SID I’ve been using for 3D snaps for the last few years. In fact, if anything, it’s more fun due to the fact that you can throw on the viewer at any time you like and actually look at your photos and video in 3D right there on the back of the camera.
At this price point, there also aren’t really many options, so the QooCam EGO doesn’t have much competition in this space. But the advancements made in the last two or three years to get compact 3D cameras to the state where the QooCam EGO currently sits offers a lot of promise for this type of camera in the future. The only thing really holding back the development of cameras like this is market adoption and that’s mostly down to the fact that it’s difficult to really view your 3D photos and video once you’ve taken them. The included viewer will be a big deciding factor for many and the big push for VR right now might mean that consumers are more willing to buy into a little camera like this. After all, even the big boys are getting into mainstream 3D shooting now.
If you’ve been thinking about picking up a little 3D camera that fits in your pocket, is easy to shoot and easy to review your photos and footage on (in 3D!) without having to connect up your phone (although you can when the app’s available), the QooCam EGO is definitely worth looking into.
The QooCam EGO is available to buy for $369 from May 19th on the Kandao website.
Update – 18th May, 2022: The volume can be adjusted! There’s a hidden swipe-down menu that lets you adjust various settings including the volume of the audio and brightness of the screen as well as set the date and time (I assumed this was done automatically via the app I can’t use), format the microSD card, enable anti-flicker (50Hz, 60Hz or Auto) as well as enabling the “rule of thirds” grid mode.
Kandao has told me that the startup time is currently being worked on and will definitely be sped up in a future firmware update and reassured me that an Android version of the app is in development and will be coming in the future, although they have not provided a time estimate yet.