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Meet PanoClip, the $50 lens clip that turns an iPhone into a 360 camera

Most 360 smartphone cameras add both dual lenses and dual sensors in order to capture a spherical view — but one new brand has managed to do all that with just lenses and software. Announced June 5, PanoClip is an iPhone lens add-on that uses the front and rear facing cameras to shoot and stitch immersive 360 content. The $50 lenses are compatible with the iPhone 6 and up, including Plus models, and the company says an Android version is in the works.

Instead of adding an entirely new camera to the iPhone, the PanoClip adds on two wide-angle lenses to the phone’s front and rear-facing cameras. The PanoClip app then stitches the video together. 

The PanoClip uses an app to create a handful of different effects from the clip-on lens. Along with the traditional scroll around 360 format, the app can also capture in Tiny Planet mode which wraps the immersive view into one frame, creating a circular sphere that looks like, well, a tiny planet.

The app also houses a handful of other edits for the immersive content. Spin View flattens the footage to a traditional aspect ratio, but automatically pans in every direction to keep that 360 feel. The developers say the mode is designed for sharing on platforms that don’t support the 360 format.

Sky View mode intelligently analyzes the scene to detect the horizon. The user can then swap out the sky for something else. The sky replacement options even move and change to music, creating an effect that the developers call “trippy” and “fun.” The app also includes filter-based edits and stickers for spicing up your videos even more.

The PanoClip brand comes from Arashi Vision, the same company that owns Insta360, the brand behind another connected 360 cam. The PanoClip isn’t part of the Insta360 family, apparently to differentiate what is essentially just a pair of add-on lenses from a true 360 camera.

Using an add-on lens rather than an add-on camera is one of a handful of attempts to bring 360 photography and video to more users at a lower price point. The Fusion Lens (not to be confused with the GoPro Fusion, a 360 action camera) uses a similar concept by modifying the built-in cameras to capture spherical perspective, but hasn’t launched off of Indiegogo yet. The Fishball uses only the rear camera and instead relies on mirrors to capture an immersive view. Besides being a more affordable option, using add-on lenses means devices like the PanoClip don’t need to be recharged, although running your phone’s front and back cameras simultaneously likely means you’ll want to keep a USB battery handy.

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