One of the most hyped tech industry developments at present is Virtual Reality. Every other company seems to either have a roadmap for their own VR device, or one in the market.
Oculus was first out of the gate with the Rift headset and the HTC Vive followed swiftly after it. Those two devices haven’t been released locally. Here, Samsung is firmly in the lead with its Gear VR. Other followed suited very shortly, and LG debuted its own VR goggles at this year’s Mobile World Congress.
But what LG added to its VR package, is its own 360-degree camera. In theory, you will be able to record 360-degree video and capture photos for use in VR goggles. We say “in theory” because sadly, the camera doesn’t work too well.
Straight out of the box, the LG 360 Cam looks great. It is smaller than what one would expect a 360 camera to be, sturdily built and is easy to hold. It boasts dual 13 megapixel wide-angle cameras on either side, 2K video recording, 5.1-channel surround-sound recording, and supports both Android and iOS.
That sounds fantastic, but once you start using it, the issues start raising their ugly heads. In order to see what you are doing, you need to connect the camera to a phone through the camera’s WiFi connection, and open the 360 Cam app.
For the review we used an iPhone 6.
LG 360 Cam Review: Making a connection
We struggled for quite some time to make a connection, as either the phone sees the camera but the app doesn’t register the phone, or the app fails to load completely.
Determined to make it work, we pushed through until we got a solid connection.
Once inside the app, things function rather swimmingly. The app’s design is rather simple: one button for the camera, one to view the gallery and one to access the setting. With the latter function, you can switch between 180-degree or 360-degree images, and record audio or video.
Operation is simple enough: hit the record button and just walk around if you are taking video. The same goes for images – just position yourself and hit the button. In simplicity, we can’t fault the camera – it is really easy to work with. There is also an easy-to-hit button on the front for instant recording, as well as a button to swap between modes.
Once you have created your 360-degree masterpiece, get ready to be completely wowed. Once again open the app, and hit the gallery button. Select the video you wish to play and voila: once you’ve downloaded it to the phone, it will play.
Here it works great, as you tilt the phone in whatever direction to get the full 360-degree view of what you recorded. Now strap that phone into a generic VR headset like Google Cardboard, and it’s a full immersive video (or image) in all its 360-degree glory. Magic.
LG 360 Cam Review: Photo sharing
So far so good, but what if you want to get the video or images off the phone/camera and onto a social media platform? After all, what is the point of recording in 360-degrees if you can’t show it off? Well, here the LG 360 Cam fails completely.
For starters, it is virtually (excuse the pun) impossible to view the 360-degree content if you are not going using the official app. To make matters worse, you can’t access the app’s gallery if it isn’t paired with the phone, so tough luck if you want to show your holiday footage to a friend but don’t have the camera nearby.
On the iPhone, the app kept on crashing as soon as we hit the gallery button. Luckily for us, we downloaded some of our test footage to the phone, so we still had those. Or ddid we?
As it turns out, no. Since we couldn’t open the gallery, we couldn’t view the footage. Opening the 360-degree photos and video in the iOS native viewer just stretched it out into panorama view.
There is a plus side to this. Facebook recently announce that you will be able to upload panoramas to Facebook, and it will automatically turn them into 360-degree images.
Here it seems, LG fell flat on its face. We thought that the problem might have been on our side, but after looking for hints on the internet, it turns out it’s a common problem with the 360 Cam. There are a plethora of users on forums venting their anger about this. Oddly, there is a Facebook page called LG 360 Cam with a bunch of 360 video, but by checking the comments, people seem frustrated that they can’t get theirs to work.
For good measure, we even tried sharing the images and video straight from the app to Facebook, but that didn’t work either. The best that we could do was view the images through the app, tweak it slightly, take a screenshot and upload it to Instagram.
We tried once more for this review. In Facebook, we could successfully post a 360-degree video, but not an image.
LG 360 Cam Review: Conclusion
Virtual Reality and 360-degree images might go hand-in-hand, but sadly LG needs to work on their after-photography support.
The design of the camera is fantastic and when it decides to work properly it is a breeze to operate. But we are not sure that the frustration is worth it.
Don’t get us wrong: it was incredibly fun to play around with it, and the video and images that we did manage to record elicited gasps of amazement in the office, but with problematic sharing to sites like Facebook and Flickr, there really is no concrete reason why you should fork out over R3 100 for it.