Small compact camera technology and tiny sensors have come a long way in the last few years. This is largely due to the advancement of smartphone cameras. But the benefits that those small sensors bring to the table can also be applied to other cameras. Cameras like those which can record 3D video in a package that easily fits in your pocket. The Weeview SID 3D is one such camera, and I’ve had one for the last few weeks.
Before we get into it, I’m going to say this now. If you were hoping that the Weeview SID 3D camera was going to help you produce the next Hollywood 3D masterpiece, then stop reading now. It won’t. Such high-end 3D camera rigs still cost a small fortune, and there’s little sign of them dropping in price just yet. But if you want to see a little of the current state of entry-level consumer 3D cameras, read on.
So, what is it?
Well, as you might’ve figured out from the name and the fact that I’ve mentioned them several times, the Weeview SID 3D camera is a 3D camera.
As such, it has two sensors with two lenses on the front of the unit to reproduce the parallax you’d see with your left and right eye when looking at a scene. Each of the two sensors captures the perspective of each eye position in 3D space.
These two views are then placed together side-by-side in the resulting footage or photos, representing the two different left & right eye views when played back using an appropriate player – a VR or Mixed Reality headset, your phone in a suitable headset case, or sitting crosseyed while staring at your computer monitor.
Because the headset splits the view, your left and right eyes see only the view appropriate for that eye. Then your brain fills in the gaps and gives you the impression that you’re looking at a 3D scene.
I should note at this point that this is not a VR camera. You can’t move your head to look around the scene as you can with a 360° or stereo 180° camera. The viewpoints are fixed to whatever the camera was pointing at, like a regular camera.
With the cameras being a fixed field of view, this can cause some viewers to feel a little queezy at first when watching back handheld video footage, but you do get used to it.
As I said, this is the consumer end of 3D cameras, and this is a basic entry-level model, as indicated by the price ($269), although it still offers fairly respectable specs.
- Video resolution: 3K (2880×1440 – 1440×1440 per eye)
- Stills resolution: 8K (8064×4032 – 4032×4032 per eye)
- Video framerate: 30fps
- Field of view: 160°
- Lens aperture: f/2.4
- Connectivity: 802.11n WiFi / micro USB 2.0
- Storage: microSD up to 128GB
- Battery: 1300mAh
- Dimensions: 80x40x19.5mm
- Weight: 60g
When I opened the box and pulled the camera out of the bag, I was just blown away by how tiny it was. To give you an idea of just how small, here it is laying on top of my ASUS ZenFone 5.
Side note: When I first heard about the possibility of phone manufacturers putting dual cameras in their phones, 3D photos & videos was kinda what I was hoping for. The small stature of the Weeview SID certainly shows that it’s possible!
The Weeview SID 3D is available on its own for $269 or as a Cinematic Kit which includes a handheld 3-axis motorised gimbal and a neoprene storage bag for $399. The gimbal is your fairly standard but basic handheld gimbal for action cameras. This one features a threaded socket on the side to insert a supplied phone holder.
On the bottom is another 1/4-20″ threaded socket for mounting it on a tripod. I often use the Manfrotto Pixi with lightweight gimbals like these. It’s great for giving your handle a little more length, as well as the ability to quickly set it down whenever you want.
Both the camera and the gimbal charge up over micro USB, and one micro USB cable was included. As I had quite a few micro USB cables already, though, I put both units on to charge overnight.
Device layout & first use
The button layout on the Weeview SID is pretty simple. There’s a big power button on the front which also allows you to switch the camera between stills and video mode once it’s turned on.
On the top, there are two more buttons. A raised button to take a photo or start and stop recording video, and a concave button for turning WiFi on or off, so you can connect it to your phone and see what the camera sees while you’re recording.
In between the two buttons on top are several LED indicators to show you whether you’re shooting stills or video and if you’re “live”, and underneath there is a 1/4-20″ socket to screw it onto a tripod. The gimbal, as mentioned, is your fairly standard action camera style gimbal. It has the usual three follow, pan follow and locked modes, and mounting the camera is straightforward. The phone bracket attaches easily to the side with a simple screw fitting, and it’ll rotate to the angle you need. So, if you want to turn the whole gimbal around to switch from filming what’s in front of you to filming yourself, then you can also flip your phone over.
Side note: You can actually put the phone with the app inside a VR headset while you’re filming if you wish, just to see the 3D effect you’re getting, as it shows the split screen view while recording. I probably wouldn’t do this while shooting moving video, though, as it can be a little disorienting, but it could be quite handy for stills or a locked off camera to more easily line up and see your shot without distraction.
The basic operation of the camera is also pretty straightforward. Hold down the power button for a couple of seconds, hold down the WiFi button for a couple of seconds, turn on the Gimbal, mount my phone to the gimbal, connect it to the camera, hit record, and start walking. When I’m done, tap the on-screen button to stop recording.
But first a little on memory cards. Specifically, the speed of the memory cards.
I initially tried the Weeview SID 3D with Integral and Lexar 64GB Class 10 microSD cards. With both cards, after a few seconds, the recording just ended. No errors, it just stopped. Although there was no indication of this until I put the memory card in my computer. The mobile app thought that the camera was still recording. This type of behaviour is fairly typical, though, when the card isn’t fast enough. I’ve experienced it before with both action cameras and 360° cameras, although they did tell me that the recording had failed and ended.
I tried again using both 128GB SanDisk Extreme A2 and 64GB ProGrade Digital UHS-II V60 microSD cards. With these, it performed flawlessly, recording sequences of over 20 minutes without hesitating.
With a fast enough card now inside the camera, I set out for a walk with it through the woods. I’ve intentionally gone to an area void of any other WiFi signals with as little potential interference as possible in order to maximise the speed of the signal going between the camera and my phone. For the most part, the view between the two plays quite smoothly as I wander around the woods, although live preview does occasionally stutter while recording. The footage itself, though, has no issues whatsoever, assuming you’re using a fast enough card.
The quality of the stream to the phone’s display isn’t that great, but it’s about what we’d expect and very usable. Just about every camera out there that streams to your phone reduces the resolution and quality to minimise the bandwidth used and offer a smoother streaming experience. As I mentioned above, the view on my phone’s screen did stutter occasionally while recording, and it did lag a little bit behind the camera’s actual movements, but not enough that it was really an issue.
Here is some of the sample footage from that walk with the camera mounted to the gimbal included with the Cinematic Kit. This was shot on a fairly overcast day as it’s winter here in Scotland at the moment. The sky, where it’s seen, should be a mix of bright blue with white clouds (that’s what my eyes saw), although the ground is mostly in shade. So it’s really pushing the dynamic range of the camera.
Reviewing the footage
Ok, let’s get the audio out of the way first. This is not the camera you want to use if internal sound is important to you. The microphones aren’t great, and the audio sounds quite heavily processed on playback. There’s no external microphone input, either, so you’re either going to have to record audio separately and sync in post or you’ll want to ignore the audio completely and just play video to music as I’ve done above.
From looking at the footage samples though, you can see that it’s fairly similar in quality to an action camera around the Hero 3 or 4 sort of generation or a current model basic entry-level smartphone. Sure, it’s not quite as detailed as the 4K footage we see today from the likes of the Hero 7 Black and the latest flagship smartphones, nor does it have their dynamic range. But it also doesn’t come with their price tag.
2880×1440 might seem quite a low resolution when we look at the 4K cameras we carry around with us on a daily basis and the apparent 8K cameras that are on the way. But you have to consider how most people will view the footage. That’s typically either going to be on a phone screen or perhaps a consumer level VR or Mixed Reality headset. As far as phones, my ASUS ZenFone 5 screen has a resolution of 2246×1080 pixels. Even Apple’s latest flagship, the iPhone XS only offers a 2436×1125 screen. Both well below the resolution of this camera.
Virtual and Mixed Reality headsets from ASUS, HP, Dell, Lenovo and other brands generally offer 1440×1440 resolution per eye, for 2880×1440 total, which is the same as this camera. If this were a 3D 180 camera, then I’d expect more, but as it’s flat footage, a higher resolution camera only real offers a couple of benefits. The first, which is fairly minor, really, is that you could scale down the footage in post to try and pull back a bit more detail.
The second, though, is quite a bit more significant. If you wanted to create a single camera view from this footage and crop it the standard 16:9, you’re basically only getting 1440×810 resolution. If the camera were bumped slightly from 2880×1440 to 3840×1920 resolution, then you’d be able to get enough resolution from a single camera view to produce a 1080p video for those who want to watch but don’t have suitable headsets for stereoscopic 3D.
But it’s not, it’s 2880×1440, which is just fine for its intended use and market. Again, this is a basic consumer camera. It’s an entry into the world of 3D video. So it’s really not terrible for what it costs and its target audience.
30fps Video frame rate
One thing I did find to be slightly disorienting when playing back the footage was the shutter speed and frame rate. The Weeview SID 3D shoots at a fixed 30 frames per second, and despite the f/2.4 lens aperture, the shutter speed even in outdoor overcast conditions was fairly long.
This sort of frame rate is fine when you’re watching regular 2D footage on a TV screen across the room and the world around you remains static. But when you’re watching the footage back on a headset in 3D, the motion blur can make you quite dizzy and nauseous as the camera moves around the environment – even when being used with the gimbal. You do get somewhat used to it, though.
So, for now, the two potential solutions are to only shoot in very bright conditions to force that shutter speed to work more quickly, or keep the camera locked off in a static position for each shot – Or, if you do have to move it, then put it on motorised camera slider moving very very slowly.
About that gimbal…
The gimbal that comes with the Weeview CID 3D Cinematic Kit is definitely better than just going straight up handheld on the camera, although it’s not amazing. As mentioned, it has a 1/4-20″ socket on the bottom for a tripod (I like the Manfrotto Pixi), and another on the side for the phone holder that comes supplied with the kit – both very useful considerations. But it doesn’t seem to quite hold as steady as other gimbals I’ve used in the past. Part of that may be down to a combination of technique and the slight lag of the camera’s WiFi stream on the phone screen throwing me off, but I also think it might be to do with how it’s set up.
Unlike gimbals from Zhiyun, Feiyu and other manufacturers, there is no way to configure the speeds or sensitivity of the Weeview gimbal. At least, not that I’ve been able to find. As an example of the type of configuration I was hoping for, this is the Zhiyun app allowing me to tweak the settings of the Crane 2 gimbal’s sensitivity and smoothness.
Ok, so the Crane 2 vs an action camera gimbal probably isn’t a fair fight, but such settings are also available on their smaller gimbals for phones and action cameras, too. Other gimbal software also includes features like motion timelapse, which allows you to preset start and stop endpoints for the gimbal to move over a set period of time, shooting video footage or stills at regular intervals.
If this sort of advanced functionality were included in the Weeview app, to be able to fine-tune your gimbal, I think it might massively increase its usability and stability. As it’s not included, it may be worth getting the basic camera kit and buying a separate gimbal. Do bear in mind, though, that Weeview may update the app in the future to include such functionality. If they do, you won’t get the same interplay between the camera and gimbal with 3rd party gimbals that you might with the official gimbal.
I haven’t shot that many stills with it yet, but I have made a few. For regular photographs, the resolution bumps up quite significantly to 32-megapixels for an 8064×4032 image (4032×4032 per eye). This is much higher than most systems on which we’d view such an image, so we can downsample it to fit VR/MR headset or phone resolutions. Which is handy, because the image is actually upsampled to 8K, and the artifacts are quite obvious when viewed at 100%. Scaling down for headset display helps to negate that.
One feature the Weeview SID 3D doesn’t have, which was slightly disappointing is the lack of DNG RAW. The photos are only saved out in JPG format. But, again, when you consider the market this camera is aimed at, expecting DNG RAW capability might be a bit much to hope for. Most people using this camera aren’t going to be bringing their images into Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW to post process them.
That being said, the JPG files that come out of the camera do suffer from quite a lot of oversharpening, compression and upsampling. Within the mobile app, you can change the exposure (up to +/- 1.3 stops) and the contrast (Min/Low/Middle/High/Max), but that’s about all the control you get over the image being shot. For video, there’s also a flicker setting to choose between 50Hz and 60Hz, although it doesn’t seem to remember its setting. I’m in the UK, so it’s 50Hz for me. Every time I fire up the app, though, it’s set to 60Hz so I have to change it.
If we could get some further fine-tuning of the image, at least the ability to control the level of sharpening & compression used, through app and firmware updates, that would make this camera much more versatile.
If you’re only ever going to be viewing them back on a Mixed Reality headset or your phone’s screen through a VR headset, then you likely won’t notice the compression and sharpening levels of the JPG files coming out of the camera. And the upsampling is negated by the downsampling to make it fit on your phone or VR/MR device’s screen.
This is something I’m only mentioning briefly, as I haven’t been able to play with this properly yet. The Weeview website and manual does mention that the SID 3D has live streaming. However, it’s not the type of native live streaming we saw with the YI 360 VR. The Weeview SID 3D works a little differently. Instead of streaming directly from the camera or your mobile app, you hook the camera up to your computer, which sees it as a regular USB capture device, like a webcam.
This can then be brought into applications like OBS or X-Split and streamed in the usual way that you’d stream from your desktop. This does limit the streaming capabilities in that you can’t really do it away from your computer, but it does theoretically give you a lot more power and control over your live stream. Like, the ability to add overlays or transitions and use an external shotgun microphone through a mixer that isn’t built into the camera to get good quality sound.
It’s an unusual way to do it, not because it’s a bit weird, but because it’s something that many consumers wish their cameras could do, but they don’t. It’s a method that I wish more cameras would support. Who hasn’t wanted to use a DSLR or mirrorless camera for their Skype meetings without spending $200+ on an HDMI capture device?
Live streaming through OBS with the SID 3D is something I definitely plan to try at some point in the future. So, once I get it working and figure out what I can do with it, I’ll post an update.
There are actually several mobile apps available from Weeview for working with SID 3D photos and video. There’s the SID Camera app itself, and you’ve also got 3D Fun and 3D Clip. The SID Camera app we’ve already mentioned above, so let’s take a quick look at the other two.
The 3D Fun app essentially allows you to create quick boomerang type videos from a shot on your camera. It takes the left and right views seen by the camera and then interpolates the data in between the two frames to create a short 3D effect animation bouncing between the two that you can then post to Facebook, Instagram or other social media. It is, as the name suggests, just a bit of fun.
The 3D Clip app lets you trim, adjust, collate and edit your clips. You can also add music and export out to watch or share. It’s essentially a mobile editing app for your SID 3D footage. It also lets you add elements into the video such as 3D text, and you can adjust the parallax of that text to move it forward or backwards in your scene – something that Weeview claims is a world first for a mobile editing app.
Call me old fashioned, but I still prefer to edit my video on the desktop. At a push, though, I could quite happily see myself using this to edit a quick 3D video together while away from home with just my phone and the SID 3D.
- It’s fairly inexpensive for the basic model camera
- It’s tiny, lightweight, and easy to take out with you wherever you go
- Operation is super simple with only three external buttons
- Remote monitoring and control apps are available for both Android and iOS
- There’s an app for editing your SID 3D footage right on your phone for both Android and iOS
- Decent battery life, but you can also use it while charging
- Live streaming through OBS as a regular USB capture device (not tested, but the documentation says it can be done)
- 30fps and slow shutter speeds make moving shots quite disorienting
- The audio is pretty terrible and there’s no external microphone input
- JPG files are upsampled, oversharpened and highly compressed
- Very little in the way of quality settings for images or video in the mobile app
- There’s no obvious way to fine tune the gimbal’s settings or sensitivity
There is no doubt that the Weeview SID 3D Camera has its downfalls, but it is a whole lot of fun to use. And this is really just the start of this technology in the consumer market. Action cameras and 360° cameras weren’t amazing for their first couple of generations, either. But as more people start to discover and use them and the manufacturers find out what’s really important to users, they improve.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Weeview and other companies take will take 3D cameras in the future. Weeview already showed off the SID2 at last year’s CES (it’s still not out yet, though), which brings 180° 3D VR. Lenovo and YI have also announced 180° 3D cameras, although I’ve been told by representatives of YI that their 180° 3D camera will never actually be brought to the public market. But the Vuze XR and QooCam also both offer 180° 3D video.
So, would I recommend this camera? Yes, I would, but… There’s always a but. But, only if you know what you’re getting yourself into. Despite the shortcomings mentioned above, using this camera has been a lot of fun. Being able to capture clips, and watch those memories back on a VR headset with my phone in 3D is fantastic. And for $269 for just the camera, I think it’s worth it as long as you understand and accept its limitations.
The Weeview SID 3D has got me very excited for the future of 3D content creation. Not necessarily because of where it’s at now, but because of the potential it holds. With a bit higher resolution, particularly if it offers a 180° field of view to look around, higher resolution sensors, and a more developed app, I can see such cameras becoming much more widespread, especially as VR headsets are starting to become more common.
Stepping up to the Cinematic Kit for an extra $130… I’m not so convinced on the value there. The gimbal is very basic, and while it could absolutely be down to my gimbal technique, I’m not sure it’s worth the cost difference. While the gimbal does definitely improve stability issues vs handholding the SID 3D, it’s still not perfect.
And, to be honest, for the price difference between the basic camera and the cinematic kit, there are probably more advanced action camera gimbals out there for the less money now. With other gimbals, though, you may have to come up with your own solution for mounting your phone to view the camera while recording. So, it may ultimately end up working out about the same cost.
Overall, if you want a fun 3D camera that’s easy to carry, quick to use, and don’t need the absolute best image quality, then go for it. Viewing the images back on some kind of 3D viewing system is surprisingly forgiving. I’ll certainly be continuing to use this camera regularly.
If you demand a little more quality, you’ll want to consider either spending a bit more money on a higher end system, or wait until the technology trickles down to this price point. Or wait to see what the Weeview SID2 may have in store whenever it officially launches.
You can find out more about the Weeview SID 3D on the Weeview website.
Note: The Weeview SID 3D currently seems to be available to purchase through Amazon.com in the USA for $199 for the camera only or $299 for the Cinematic Kit.
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