Facebook just gave Giroptic iO 360 cameras to 4,000 people at Facebook’s F8 conference, so expect a flood of 360-degree selfies to hit the interwebs any moment now. Ugh. At least the image quality will be pretty good.
Giroptic released a new Android-compatible version of its mobile 360 camera as part of the F8 giveaway. While I haven’t gotten my hands on one of those yet, I’ve been using the iOS version that debuted in December. The Giroptic iO ($249) doesn’t shoot in 4K, but it captures video in a 1920 x 960 resolution at 30 frames per second and snaps pictures with an impressive, light-slurping f/1.9 aperture. It produces crisp spherical images, with no apparent stitch line other than where your hand holds the camera. The low-resolution preview you see while recording is deceiving—when you save your clip, you’ll get phone-produced 360-degree footage as sharp as any out there.
Before using the camera, you must download the Giroptic iO app to your phone. Since the camera is quite bulky and plugs into your phone’s charging port, you’ll probably need to remove the case protecting your phone. (The clunkiness of the camera one of its biggest drawbacks.) The iOS version plugs into the Lightning port. The Android version works with phones that use USB-C or microUSB charging ports.
Once you plug in the camera, the app launches straight to the camera’s omnidirectional feed. You’ll see three icons at the bottom of the screen—photo, video, and live, which lets you stream to Facebook, Periscope, YouTube, or a custom server. An icon called Moments on the right stores your media, and clicking it causes the Explore option to show up. It’s a social interface with pictures and videos from other Giroptic iO users, but it’s short on content.
The iO has some noticeable shortcomings. It lacks touch exposure, meaning you can’t tap on part of the scene to set the exposure like you can when taking a conventional photo. When capturing video indoors, windows and computer screens remain blown out, making them look like portals to another universe. The iO also lacks a time-lapse option, and image filters. Still, I find the image quality pretty good. At $249, the iO provides a relatively cheap and easy way to capture your surroundings.