360 cameras still struggle with muted colors and stitching errors when heading underwater — but a new rig with larger micro four thirds sensors and fewer stitches is promising better immersive images under the sea, at least for those that have $15,000 lying around. The Boxfish 360 is a professional underwater virtual reality camera by New Zealand underwater company Boxfish Research, releasing next month.
While using multiple action cameras rigged together makes a 360 camera safe for sea exploration, Boxfish says these types of solutions create soft focus, muddy colors, and an obvious line where the videos are stitched together. “The physics of small sensors, small domes, and light filtered by water simply limits what you can achieve with action cameras underwater,” said Richard Robinson, award winning photojournalist, underwater photographer, and Boxfish 360 tester.
Instead of using several cameras, Boxfish 360 uses half the usual number of cameras with only three synced lenses, but uses larger micro four thirds sensors, effectively reducing the number of stitches required while still increasing the sensor area and making 5K possible. The larger sensor enhances the image quality and fixes the muddy colors, and since there are fewer stitches, there are fewer stitching errors. 5K videos can be recorded at nearly 30 fps, while the rig also takes spherical 12.1 megapixel photos, with a RAW DNG option.
To solve the softer focus created by underwater action camera rigs, Boxfish uses 185-degree fisheye lenses that are specifically calibrated for underwater use. The lenses are wide, f/1.8 optics for better shots in the limited light of deeper dives.
The camera is designed to go as deep as 1,000 feet inside the aluminum housing, with a battery that allows for recording up to 90-minute videos.
“The beauty of the Boxfish 360 is that the cameras stay inside the waterproof housing at all times, and a single hatch provides tool-less access to the recorded files and for charging,” Axel Busch, company co-founder, said in a press release. “It only takes a minute to swap batteries and cards. You are back in the water faster and the production workflow is much more streamlined.”
Designed as a professional underwater 360 solution, the Boxfish 360 lists for $14,990. The camera will be manufactured in batches of ten, with the first set shipping in May.