360fly 4K review: The future of action cams

The quick take

If you're looking for a fun way to capture yourself doing something cool or mildly dangerous, this is absolutely the camera for you. 360fly has polished nearly every rough edge from the previous model and delivered something that deserved to be considered among action cam fans.

The Good

  • Fun design
  • Single button makes quick captures easy
  • Relatively easy to upload and share

The Bad

  • Does not capture a full sphere
  • Wi-Fi Direct is still awkward
  • Massive lens is delicate, prone to scratching

Everything is better in 4K

360fly 4K Review

Last year, 360fly seemed like a camera in need of a market. The original design was clearly aimed at action cam folks, but offered few of the features necessary to hook those users and an app that was downright clunky. At the end of my original review I warned users would probably want to wait for the upcoming 4K model, and that time is now. 360fly 4K is here, and with it you'll find a camera that lives up to the promise of the original — a 360-degree action camera.

360fly 4K

Same same, but different, but still same.

360fly Hardware

360fly is a weird angular sphere with a single massive fisheye lens, a single physical button, and no ports. It's nearly identical to the original 360fly design, which is solid. The single lens doesn't capture a complete 360-degree sphere, but there's also no need for stitching software either. It's a single lens you mount on a bike or in your car or even on top of your head if you really wanted. The standard camera tripod screw on the bottom means it'll work with about every camera mounting accessory, and the included GoPro adapter in the box means it'll adapt to everything else. The single button gives you a single option — push once to record and go do your thing.

The magnetic socket on the bottom of the orb lets the camera sit flat when it isn't mounted somewhere, and when you set 360fly on top of its charging dock you gain the ability to transfer video over USB to a PC. Needing to carry around a separate charging plate is as tedious for this camera as it is for anything else, but through that you get a camera that can be submerged 30ft without any damage. Compared to the barely splash resistant 360-degree competition or action cams that regularly require special cases for submersion, it's a small compromise.

Surprisingly, the most useful addition to the design has been the light ring on the base of the camera. The big button on the side of 360fly glows several colors to indicate the current state of the camera, and the ring on the bottom now glows that same color. It's slightly more noticeable in bright sunlight with a protective helmet on, and it's way more noticeable on the bottom of a glossy drone 10ft above your head. The change is subtle, but so important.

Making the whole top of this camera a giant lens means there's very little protecting the glass. This isn't a huge problem for most cameras, where care is implied, but action cameras by nature are exposed to some roughness. For example, 360fly included a suction cup mount for its camera that is rated for well over 100 mph and we decided to test that claim on the front of a 2016 BMW k1300s Motorsport Edition.

The suction cup did in fact handle 120 mph without issue, but shortly after the motorcycle came to a stop the suction cup dropped to the asphalt and the camera became irreparably damaged. This four foot fall is fairly mild compared to the more intense GoPro footage you find out in the world, which is a serious problem for those looking to do something crazy with this camera.

THIS is Halloween!

Oh hey, a kitchen sink!

360fly Software

While little has changed about the overall design of the 360fly app, there are way more features now. 360fly now lets you edit photos and videos through the app in several significant ways, as well as use the app as a real time viewfinder with live filters and camera modes that can be applied while you're shooting.

Editing photos and videos directly in the app is a huge improvement.

You can capture the whole scene around you, positioned vertically or horizontally just in case you're drone surfing with your camera, or you can narrow the field of view down and have some fun with what almost looks like panoramic video. If capturing and sharing later isn't good enough for you, 360fly has partnered with a Livit to allow live streaming a 360-degree sphere over your phone's cellular connection.

It's clear from the single big friendly button on the front of 360fly — which only allows you to record video — that photos aren't the main priority for this camera. Many competing cameras are photo first, video second, but 360fly clearly feels most of its users will want to tap that big button and go do something worth sharing on video. The photo suite in the app is enough for great single photos or time lapses, complete with manual control over ISO and other details if you're interested in a specific kind of shot. The resulting photos are on par with what you'd get from a Ricoh Theta S, save of course for the small black space on the bottom of the sphere where there is no image.

360fly app

Easily the most important feature for action cam enthusiasts is the ability to add a little control to the viewer's focus. You can publish a video and let the viewer pan around on their own, or you can create a viewing path that follows a specific object in the video. This could be a face, a bike, or even a cloud in the sky. The target will be the focal point until the user decides to try and look elsewhere, which means you have some control over the story being told with your video. While there is a Desktop client for all of this, you can do it all through the app with no issue.

This team wanted to throw every conceivable feature into its app, and for the most part succeeded. The app feels complete, and letting a third party handle steaming means the heavy lifting can happen elsewhere. Even sharing to other networks has improved, which is so important now. Quick sharing to Facebook or YouTube is a button press away, but if you'd prefer to keep using the 360fly hosting service for the best possible quality, that option is always right next to the others.

The only thing missing from this app is more defined audio control. Currently you can either keep the audio included with your experience, cut the audio entirely, or add a song of your choosing. These options are fine as long as you aren't doing something louder than the microphones can handle, in which case what would really be helpful would be something that simply cut the audio in half so it wasn't deafening to the viewer.

I need a snowboard and some duct tape.

360fly Experience

If you're capturing yourself doing something crazy, it makes all the sense in the world to capture the entire moment. Using a regular action cam means you get to share a small window of what has happened in front of you. Using a 360-degree camera means the viewer get the whole picture. The look on your face as your take the turn, the faces in the crowd as you skate by, or the stuff happening behind you that you didn't even know about until later. Action cams should always be 360-degree, especially when the creator can control the viewer's focus with software as easily as you can with the 360fly app.

No matter how you look at it, 360fly 4K is a more capable and higher quality camera than its predecessor.

Fragility is a concern with every 360-degree camera with exposed lenses, but using 360fly placed a real emphasis on potential damage to the lens. There's nothing to be done about the scuffs on the review unit we have here, and you can see the damage in every photo and video captured after the accident. On the other hand, there's very little chance many of the other competing cameras would have handled the drop quite as well.

Having a light ring on the bottom of this camera makes a huge difference in how often you need to check and make sure it's still recording. The app does a great job keeping you informed, but if you're recording something dynamic it helps to not have to reach into your pocket and check quite as frequently. It's dead simple to see the glowing red and know you're still recording.

A fully charged battery isn't quite enough to completely fill the included 64GB of internal storage, but it's more than enough to record for an hour or capture a timelapse over four hours. The larger file size hasn't made any significant difference in battery drain, which is fantastic. Despite being one of the physically smaller cameras of its kind, the battery lasts more than long enough to have lots of fun.

Coming in for a landing!

Should you buy it? Sure!

No matter how you look at it, 360fly 4K is a more capable and higher quality camera than its predecessor. Images and video are much nicer, it's much more user friendly now, and the original design has held up well with some minor improvements. That having been said, it's still a 360-degree camera aimed at folks wondering what comes after a GoPro, with a price tag that competes directly with the GoPro Hero 4 line.

If you're looking for a fun way to capture yourself doing something cool, this is absolutely the camera for you. If you just want to take 360-degree photos and maybe a video every once in while, this is probably not your camera.

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Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter