Motorola is the latest company to jump on the 360-degree camera train, but the Moto 360 Camera is distinct from competing products such as Samsung’s Gear 360, the Giroptic IO, and the Insta360 Air. It’s neither a separate product, nor does it take up your phone’s charging port. The Moto 360 Camera is a Moto Mod, which means it magnetically snaps onto the back of a compatible Moto Z smartphone, and you’re good to go.
What are those compatible Moto Z phones? It’s a small selection, but it includes the Moto Z, Moto Z Force, Moto Z Play, Moto Z2 Play, and the new Moto Z2 Force. Motorola told Digital Trends the 360 camera will work on the Moto Z2 Force out of the box, but you will be required to install a software update if you want it to play nice with older Moto Z devices, “following in-market availability.”
The 360 camera mod is thin, but when attached to the Moto Z2 Force, it does add some weight and bulkiness. The camera sticks out at the top, and there’s a cover that comes in the box so you can protect it when stowed away. When it was all connected together, it surprisingly still fit in our pocket.
Since it’s powered by the phone, the mod does not need to be charged. There is a button on it, though, specifically where the dimple of the Motorola logo sits. Tap it, and you can take a photograph while holding it in one hand. What’s neat is it still works as a shutter button if you swap to the phone’s camera, instead of the 360 camera.
You can upload 360-degree videos to YouTube, and 360-degree photos and videos to Facebook.
So what’s the experience like? We’ve been trying it out on the Moto Z2 Force, and we’re pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to use. Slap it onto the back of a Moto Z, and it connects magnetically via 16 pogo pins. When launching the camera, it will immediately identify the 360 camera and begin using it.
There are three modes you can use: Photo, Ultra-wide Angle, and Professional Mode. Photo is essentially like using your phone’s default camera mode — all the settings are automatic, and all you need to do is tap the shutter icon. Ultra-wide angle captures a 180-degree photo with just one of the two cameras; and Professional Mode lets you take a 360-degree photo while adjusting settings like the ISO, white balance, shutter speed, and exposure compensation. A timer lets you set off the shutter at three seconds or 10 seconds, which can be handy if you’re going to use a tripod.
There are also three different viewing modes. You can see the 360-view as a circle, and also pinch out to zoom in so you can fill up the screen. There’s another viewing mode that shows you what each camera is outputting in two different panes, as well as one that shows the full 360 panorama on the bottom and a larger subject on the top.
On Photo mode, photos are pretty much on par with what we’ve seen on other 360-degree cameras. Picture quality is decent, and colors look pretty accurate. It can be quite grainy in places with poor light. The phone gets cut off, making it look like you’re holding nothing, but otherwise the seams are fairly accurate. Photos can easily look overexposed here depending on the lighting, and that’s where the Professional Mode comes in handy. Click here to check out some 360-degree photos and videos via Google Photos.
We’re pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to use.
It does have faults, though: The areas directly in front of each camera look the best, and everything in between is either extremely grainy or covered in a weird, blurry haze.
Regardless, the Moto 360 Camera mod’s images are pretty good. Mobile 360-degree camera accessories aren’t quite yet ready to offer us brilliant detail and amazing picture quality, and Moto’s solution is more or less on par with the competition.
So where will you be able to share your 360-degree content? You can upload 360-degree videos to YouTube, and 360-degree photos and videos to Facebook. You can live-stream via Facebook Live, but this will only be available after a software update when the product is available in a particular market — we have not been able to test it yet.
Of the aforementioned 360-degree cameras, Motorola’s product is the most expensive at $300. It’s available for purchase in the U.S. at Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and on Motorola’s website. Best Buy will also begin to carry it later this month.
While it’s still a solid product, you have to keep in mind that it will only work on the Moto Z series smartphones. At least if you’re dropping money on the other 360-degree cameras, you can continue using it with any smartphone with the supported USB charging port. Check out our best 360-degree cameras if you’re looking for other options.
The Moto Mod system makes it incredibly easy to use the Moto 360 Camera, and it’s a fun way to snap and share 360-degree content. Is it worth $300? We don’t think so, and you may want to pick up one that works with more than one smartphone brand.
Update: The 360 Moto Mod is now available for purchase in the U.S.