The function of a 360-degree camera is simple: allow the viewer to look in all directions. But the nascent technology, specifically on the consumer end, still has a lot of work to do. Yes, 360 cameras capture an all-encompassing view of the world, but they lack the depth perception to make it feel truly immersive – like you are actually in the real world, or realistic VR. And that’s where 3D technology comes in, and as you’ll read in our Vuze Camera review, 3D is what differentiates it from the variety of 360 cameras on the market.
With it’s size, rounded corners, and bold colors it looks like an old CD player, but eight lenses suggests otherwise.
Humaneyes is calling the Vuze the first consumer 3D 360 camera. Before the Vuze was around, to achieve 3D in 360 degrees required – and still does – expensive, multi-camera rigs, and some hardcore video editing to stitch it all together and render it ready for YouTube, Facebook, virtual reality headset, etc. The Vuze isn’t going to replace those rigs for Hollywood filmmakers or premium content creators, but it brings the feature to the mainstream – consumers, hobbyists or even small businesses looking to integrate 360 into their marketing campaigns. Think of the Vuze as a prosumer 360 camera that brings some high-end features, but at an affordable price point.
The Vuze achieves depth thanks to eight lenses instead of the usual two employed by most consumer 360 cameras. The image quality can’t compare to those from multi-camera rigs costing $30,000 and up, but it delivers an experience that feels more natural looking to the human eye. However, smartphone-based VR goggles, like those from Samsung, and 360-degree viewing platforms like Facebook and YouTube, have a limited resolution that prevents users from seeing the full resolution anyway. With a compact, colorful design, the Vuze by Humaneyes brings 3D 360 capabilities to early adopters who don’t mind making a few sacrifices to get there. Read on for our Humaneyes Vuze 360 3D Camera review.
Pulling the Vuze out of the sleek all-black packaging, we couldn’t help but think that it looks like a portable CD player. The size, slightly rounded corners, and even the bold colors, makes it look like 1990s tech. The metaphor only goes so far though: the weight feels more DSLR camera than Sony Discman.
Close up, the Vuze is clearly far more advanced. Eight lenses are arranged in pairs and around the edges, designed to mimic the left and right eyes to give the that 3D depth. Those lenses are encased in a sturdy frame that feels about as high-end as plastic can get. The edges are rimmed with black, while the top is decorated in the color of your choice – yellow, blue, black, or red.
At the back – well, it’s difficult to tell which part of the camera is considered the back, but it’s actually the side at the bottom of the “v” in the Vuze logo – a small compartment opens to charge the battery, add the MicroSD card, and a button to enable Wi-Fi. A standard tripod mount sits at the bottom.
There are only two buttons on the top, one for on/off and another to start/stop recording. Tasks like adjusting the video resolution or switching from photo to video are all done in the companion app. The control scheme offers simple access, but it has a few downfalls. For one, the color-coded lights on both buttons are difficult to see in bright sunlight. And like other 360 cameras that are app dependent, tasks like switching settings or modes, require digging out a smartphone.
As mentioned, most of the camera’s controls rely on the Vuze smartphone app (Android | iOS). Connecting requires enabling Wi-Fi on the camera and navigating to the wireless settings in the app to enter the password – standard procedure for pairing cameras with phones. If you are short on battery life, you can disable Wi-Fi and pairing.
Blatantly missing from the app is both a live view function and a way to review the video you just shot.
The app is pretty basic, which means it’s not difficult to navigate. The main section allows users to start a recording, shoot a still photo, and set a self-timer. Displays are the camera’s remaining battery life and storage.
Within the settings menu, users can change Wi-Fi settings, turn off the camera’s beeps, or swap the bit rate from 80Mbps to 120Mbps.
But as we’ve discovered during our Vuze Camera review period, what’s blatantly missing from the app is both a way to preview the image (live view) and a way to review the video you just shot (playback), which is likely a drawback due to the massive amounts of data coming in from eight separate lenses.
In a way, shooting with the Vuze is like shooting film, when it was impossible to see exactly what you just shot.
While working in 360 means all directions are included in the frame, that doesn’t mean composition and previewing the shot isn’t important. A 360 preview would have offered clues like whether the camera should be mounted higher, or if the tripod handle is going to show up in the shot.
The Vuze Camera app is simple to navigate, but it’s missing features that are expected from a higher-priced 360 camera. The ability to automate a 360 time-lapse also isn’t included.
The desktop app
For editing, the Vuze comes with Windows-only desktop software, called Humaneyes VR Studio, that offers a handful of advanced tools, like stitching-error correction. The software is divided into tabs: the first tab is for importing files from the camera, the second is for editing, and the third is for rendering or exporting.
Inside the editing tab, there’s still no easy way to preview the file in 360 degrees. Instead, what you see is the entire 360 view in one frame, not a scroll-around 360 view.
A dropdown menu does allow you to view that condensed 360 view in stereo, which splits the screen into separate left and right eyes, or in “unsplit” screens by choosing either the left or right eye to view at once.
Since the files are 3D, if you want to preview the shot like you would a normal 360 video, where you can scroll to see the complete view, you have to actually render and export the file, then drag it into another 360 viewer, like the GoPro VR Player. This drastically slows down the editing process, since longer videos can take several minutes or hours to render, depending on the speed of the computer you are using.
Editing tools are, however, easy to navigate with a toolbar on the left. Options to trim or shorten videos and flip them 180 degrees (useful if the mounting scenario required the camera to shoot upside down) are included, as well as choosing the center (the first thing the viewer sees) and an option to cut the perspective down to something less than 360. By default, the Vuze logo covers the view the camera cannot see directly underneath, but there’s an option to replace that with an image of your own.
As for advanced edits, users can adjust the color-blending mode, which automatically corrects exposure and color differences between the lenses. This auto adjustment can be turned off, lightly done in the simple mode, or done throughout the frame in the advanced mode.
Blend modes help eliminate those odd-stitching lines, with options to adjust the intensity from none to high. While most 360 cameras have some sort of stitching oddity, the Humaneyes software allows users to correct them, or at least correct them when something essential moves into that stitch. To correct an issue, you navigate to the error (although, it’s tough to do with the condensed 360 view) and click to add a frame in spots where the stitching error is most apparent.
The process is time-consuming enough that users will only want to use it when it’s truly necessary, but it’s a nice feature that most bundled software programs do not include. While it’s possible to manually tell YouTube and other 360 video players that the Vuze file format is indeed a 360 shot, to get files from the Vuze format auto-recognized by most 360 programs, users can select the 2:1 aspect ratio before rendering.
There’s a slight loss of resolution using this auto method, but the tradeoff means easier uploads without manually adjusting the settings in order to get programs to recognize the 360-degree file.
The desktop software has a number of things missing, besides an uncondensed 360 preview. Multiple Vuze cannot be combined together into one video file, without using another desktop editor. Other advanced edits, like color adjustment and audio controls, are also missing from the bundled software. We found that you really need additional software, like Adobe Premiere Pro, for more advanced edits.
While the desktop editor does what it’s designed for, it’s not for the novice. Navigating an uncondensed preview is difficult to work with, and users either need to either automatically switch to a 2:1 aspect ratio when exporting, or need the knowledge on how to tell each individual program, whether that’s Adobe Premiere Pro or YouTube, to recognize the 360 3D format using metadata and upload settings.
Video quality, performance, and use
With data coming in from eight different lenses, the Vuze camera has a lot more information to work with than the average 360 camera. It also needs more time to process.
Despite the higher lens and sensor count, the Vuze still records at the 4K resolution found in high-end consumer 360 cameras. Which means, that 4K is stretched all the way around the view, so it’s not the same detail-heavy footage as a 4K view that’s only stretched across a standard screen, like a TV. Detail and sharpness, however, is comparable with other true 4K 360 cameras, but don’t expect that amazing picture quality you’d see on a 4K monitor.
The Vuze camera captures accurate color, although like some other 360 cameras that we’ve tested, it tends to err on the side of underexposure, getting a slightly darker footage on a cloudy day.
With four pairs of lenses, there are four sections to stitch together instead of the usual two in a two-lens 360 camera. When placed several feet away from any objects, the stitch lines are very subtle – hard to notice until some of the action moves directly into one of the folds. Placed with objects closer to the camera, however, the Vuze creates more obvious stitching, with larger gaps missing in the footage and lines close to the camera not matching up.
Most 360 cameras have this problem – they are designed to capture far off scenes and don’t handle close-ups well. With the Vuze, however, you might notice a few more of these lines, since the video is coming from more lenses. That’s why the software has stitch correction.
The 3D effect is sweet, getting you closer to that feeling of being dropped into the middle of the scene.
In general, the camera matches exposure and color information between the lenses quite well. Directional light, such as a sunset, may get some discolorations in the sky. Combined with the software’s different color correction settings, this mismatch is less extreme than what we’ve seen from cheaper 360 cameras.
Despite what the sample image of the Milky Way on the Vuze app might suggest, the camera does not perform well in low light. Dark shadows have an obvious grain to them, like dark TV static that moves as the footage plays. And if you try to shoot the stars, you’ll see largely dark grain and possibly a few of the very brightest stars (which are probably satellites). That same noise also appears on high-contrast scenes in the darkest areas of the footage.
But the real reason video from the Vuze stands out is the 3D – or at least, the 3D for a $799 price tag. Since the lenses are offset like a pair of eyes, you can view the footage in a VR viewer for a more immersive feel than plain 360. The 3D effect is sweet, getting you closer to that feeling of being dropped into the middle of the scene that other consumer 360 cameras haven’t yet been able to replicate. Keep in mind, the detail and resolution in 3D is limited by whatever device viewers are using.
The Vuze uses four microphones to capture directional sound, no matter which way the camera is set up. Sound pickup is about what we’ve come to expect for built-in mics: it does the job, but the volume is a bit soft. The Vuze doesn’t include any ports to add external recording equipment, although with the 360 format, you probably wouldn’t want a cord showing in the footage anyway.
In ideal conditions –objects far from the camera, and shady or sunlit environment – the Vuze produces solid 360 videos with a 3D element that no other camera at this price point can compete with (yet). Set up the camera in close quarters or under low light, however, and the quality drops considerably with obvious stitching issues.
At a list price of $799, the Vuze brings 3D 360 at a fraction of what advanced setups, like the Facebook Surround 360 camera, costs. The resolution and level of detail isn’t going to match the pricier outfits, but most viewing options currently available, don’t offer enough resolution to show that higher level of detail anyway.
This is still a very new field, and 3D 360 is even newer. Pro-level rigs have more detail and better low-light performance, but they’re not even in the same ballpark when it comes to price. The Ozo VR camera costs $45,000, and Facebook’s Surround 360 is $30,000. Even GoPro’s Omni rig will set you back almost $6,000.
TwoEyes VR is a similar 3D 360 camera, stitching from four different lenses, but it is currently only available from Indiegogo, which means a greater risk and no real-world sample footage to compare the quality to. Lucid Cam is a 3D camera from another startup, but you’d need to buy three of them and stitch the footage together manually to get a 360 view, which would drive the cost up to $1,500. And there’s the Insta360 Pro, a six-lens system that touts 8K resolution and 3D, but that camera costs $3,500.
How long will it last?
Like any hardware, the Vuze camera will likely be replaced by a better camera – it’s a first-generation product that Humaneyes will very likely improve upon quickly. But, many of the camera’s shortcomings, like the lack of a preview option, could potentially be fixed with firmware update. As the technology ages, the price of 360 cameras will likely drop as well, but for now, if you want to be an early adapter for 3D 360 video, the Vuze is one of the best-priced models.
Should you buy it?
Not yet. While 3D is nice, it’s a bit pricey for a newfangled gadget and nascent technology, and we think there will be competition in no time. The Vuze camera is more of a prosumer model – it’s harder to use than a basic consumer 360 camera, but it also has a longer list of features. If you have no idea what an aspect ratio is and have never used a video-editing program before, you might want to opt for something simpler like the Samsung Gear 360 or the Garmin Virb 360 – that is, if you want to get into this new tech early.
If you’re a professional content creator, the Vuze is compelling. It delivers something what expensive cameras offer, at a lower and more portable price. But if your job relies on making really high-resolution content, we’re not sure if the Vuze can deliver enough. The Vuze straddles that prosumer space – too expensive for the mainstream, but not powerful enough for professionals. However, we do think some pros will find a place for this camera in their workflow.