Ease of use is what 360fly is all about, and it doesn't get much easier than this.
Capturing video is usually about telling a single story. You're sharing the events from your perspective, and the viewer gets to see this window into the world you're trying to capture. The ability to share a story from a 360° perspective has become increasingly appealing over the last year, because it opens that window and gives the viewer some choice about what parts of the event you're capturing are the most interesting. This has lead to a huge push from several tech companies to produce 360° cameras that are significantly easier to use than strapping several GoPro cameras into a cube and stitching the video together later.
360fly is easily the most stylish of these alternatives, and the message with this little camera ball couldn't be more clear. If you've got one of these cameras and a smartphone, you have everything you need to capture everything around you and quickly share it with the world. Here's a quick look at how this camera works.
Unlike several competing cameras that rely on a pair of fisheye lenses, 360fly uses a single fisheye lens and a single sensor to capture 1440p video. The natural tradeoff here is that 360fly isn't capturing a complete sphere, instead only capturing 240° of a 360° sphere. This means you're more likely to position the camera down closer to torso level to ensure you're capturing things like reactions from people. On the other hand, it also means you can mount in on a helmet and never have to worry about anyone seeing your face when they're supposed to be watching the scene you're currently capturing. It ultimately depends on how you're planning to record.
Having all of that extra space beneath the lens means 360fly can offer plenty of battery and storage inside of its waterproof casing. The camera is capable of being submerged down to 5ATM underwater, which is right around 100 meters, as long as you are using the included plug for the microphone hole in the casing. The body of this weird little orb is an array of angles that gives the camera a surprising amount of grip in your hand, which is cool for drop protection but not altogether useful when considering how you're likely to use it. A unique locking mechanism on the bottom of the orb allows you to connect to either 360fly's impressive collection of body or helmet or suction mounts, as well as an adapter for connecting to GoPro equipment. The design is quite simple, allowing you to twist once and securely lock the camera in place. Most important of all, as we tested with the mount that claimed it could handle up to 150mph, it works really well as an action cam.
360fly has a single button on the body, which is used for power and record commands. Hold to turn on and off, press once to start or stop recording. Next to this button is a small LED indicator that will confirm recording and battery status while on. In our tests, 360fly manages two full hours of recording before needing to be recharged, and that recording took up 18 of the 30gb of onboard storage available to users. There's no way to expand that storage, but it's clear you've got at least three hours of recording possible before you need to clear some space.
Once you've recorded something, the 360fly app on your phone is then next place to go. It connects to 360fly via Wifi Direct, so you can see what the camera sees in real time and stream the video you just captured to your phone. In both live and playboack mode your phone acts as a gyroscope-enabled viewfinder, so you can turn around in place and see everything. 360fly gives you some basic controls for picking a tracking point for the camera when not manually turning your head, as well as some basic filters and video trimming capabilities. It's everything you need to quickly get he video to a point where it can be shared with the world, and when you do so the video heads straight to the 360fly web service.
If you want to share directly to Facebook or YouTube for their 360 playback features, you're going to want to use the 360fly Director app on your desktop. YouTube and Facebook require some additional conversion, and your desktop processor is going to be what you want to make that happen. The Director app lacks some of the filters and tracking features set in the 360fly app, but once you've got the video you want it can be quickly shared to Facebook, YouTube, and of course 360fly.
There's a lot to like with 360fly. It's compact, sturdy, and the video that comes from the camera is decent for a starter 360 camera. The microphone on this camera might as well not exist due to the low quality without the plug in, but in its plugged form it gives some decent background noise to whatever you're watching. 1440p isn't quite high enough resolution to fully appreciate through something like Google Cardboard, but it's enough for watching in just about every other playback mode. We know a 4K version of this camera is right around the corner, which should address these concerns easily. In the mean time, if you're looking to get started with 360 cameras, this option feels like one of the more complete thoughts available today.