In the future world of photography and filmmaking, it will no longer be sufficient to think just about what's in front of your lens. A growing number of cameras now let you photograph, shoot video or experience the world in virtual reality, or VR. Such products often claim they can immerse you in an environment by capturing a 360-degree vista of a particular setting, which, if done correctly, gives you the illusion of being in a particular space where you can see in front, behind, above and below you.
There already have been a variety of action cams utilizing this technology, including the Ricoh Theta and the Kodak SP360. So it wasn’t much of a surprise to see that new developments in this area have been a notable trend this year at CES 2016, one of the world's largest electronics shows. In the past, although the technology has been intriguing, our Consumer Reports lab's initial testing of some 360-degree digital cameras has left us unimpressed by the quality of the video and still images produced. Most notably, their output seemed not to match the caliber of imaging from traditional digital cameras or camcorders.
However that may soon change. Nikon, a company known for sharp optics and quality imaging, has jumped on the VR bandwagon with its new 360 camera: the Nikon KeyMission 360 action cam. The company introduced the camera this week at CES. KeyMission features an image sensor and lens on opposite sides of the device, which, according to Nikon, will yield “images from each combining to create a single immersive, ultra-high-definition 360-degree video and still image.” It’s expected to hit the market this spring.
According to the company, the KeyMission 360 is a rugged camera that’s waterproof to a depth of about 100 feet. It’s capable of recording true 360-degree video in 4K UHD, ultra-high-definition, and lets “users share new perspectives and explore imagery like never before.” Indeed, at the press conference, photojournalist Corey Rich, who has been shooting with the product for about a month, commented that using this type of camcorder to shoot stills or video is, in fact, a big change in how he works. He said, that unlike conventional cameras, where he chooses what’s in front of the lens, with a 360-degree camera, there is now no “back of the lens,” he said.
“There’s not a set of rules to shoot in VR or 360 degrees,” Rich says. “It’s a blank slate for how these cameras are going to be used.” Rich also noted that he really was impressed by the action cam’s electronic image stabilization and microphone.
There was no price on the model, and technical specs were sparse. Given that the camera is geared toward the consumer market, it could be priced in the $300-$450 range.
Copyright © 2005-2016 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.