For virtual reality projects: 3 out of 5 stars
For using it as a wide angle lens: 4 ¼ out of 5 stars
The Kodak SP360 is the first virtual reality camera I ever purchased. It blew the door off of traditional photography and videography and changed the world as I knew it. After playing hard with the Kodak, I moved on to the Ricoh Theta and the Nikon KeyMission (read my thoughts on those cameras here and here) but the Kodak SP360 will always have a place in my heart. As a videographer and photographer, I’ve spent the past 20 years chronicling my outdoor adventures with my team of Huskies, but it’s only in the past two years that VR technology has been available for our journeys. I drive my dogs on a cart, not a sled – I’m what’s known as an urban musher. I mush on streets and trails and record my travels (especially the epic ones) from Baltimore to California. I get the best shots I can ([LINK] see some examples here) and push the boundaries to see what I can do with my dogs… and with a camera.
The SP360 was the first consumer-level virtual reality camera that was readily available, to my knowledge. The one I originally bought does not, actually, photograph the full 360-degree sphere; it photographs a panoramic hemisphere and thus should probably be called the SP180. However, the misnomer aside, it pioneered new technology and allowed me to chronicle my adventures with my pack of dogs in a way I would not have imagined possible. It has features like a panoramic setting that captures a panoramic photo with one click of the shutter, as opposed to previous cameras whose panoramas had to be stitched together from a series of still shots that were taken in progression with really careful (and manual) successive camera positioning and movement (which allowed for too high a margin of error). And it has interesting layout creations like a four-square quadrant that breaks the image up into tiles. If you want to see some of the shots I took using all these different, innovative features, please see this link ([LINK]).
I loved this camera because of its ultra-wide-angle view that it offered when I filmed in a standard camera format. The quality was phenomenal (and a year later, I still find it very nice) when I used it as a GoPro-type of video capture. Plus it is small and lightweight: I could wear it on my chest or on my head. Depending on the camera angle, my nose ended up with a starring role, which made for some quirky, unique video: see the link here ([LINK]) and I bet you’ll laugh.
I also used the motion-sensor functionality a lot. Similar to a trail cam, the SP360 has a setting so that it will record video when it senses movement. My Huskies have a favoriteorite spot to play when they’re home, so I set up the Kodak to capture some wide-angle views of my dogs when they got down and dirty wrestling outside the back patio. When the weather was snowy they were particularly active – they are Huskies after all! I captured some unprecedented views of how my dogs behave when they think no one is watching: you can see it here too ([LINK]). I didn’t worry too much about the snow falling near the camera. It’s splashproof without a case, and totally waterproof with a case.
For the past two years, I’ve done some truly extensive work with this camera. I was more than happy to upgrade to the Kodak SP360 4K when Kodak upped their game about a year ago, because I could tell I was going to be a virtual reality fan for life. The richness of experience I was able to capture while traveling with my dogs and mushing on the trails was head and shoulders (and furry ears and wet nose and scruff) above traditional videography methods. The 4K, a higher resolution version of the SP360, finally lived up to its original name and offered a true 360-degree view. For the WooFPAK ([Link]), spherical photography was born.
The 4K uses the same battery and has all the same great, artsy features I mentioned previously but now they also are sold as packages of two. They mounted together back-to-back so each camera focuses on its half of the sphere, and the filmmaker stitches the images together after the fact. The pros? You can control each lens individually so if you only want one half of the scene, you’ve got it. With the Ricoh and the Nikon that I use now, I do not have that control. I can trim down a picture, but I can’t isolate a hemisphere. I appreciate that capability of the Kodak. The cons? Back-to-back cameras introduce more room for error; on a bumpy trail, one may move slightly and independently of the other camera even within the included bracket, so no matter how painstakingly you stitch that image, it’s never going to cleanly match up. Plus, as I just intimated, you’re doing the stitching manually. Kodak supplies the software, but you’ve got to put in the elbow grease. I found that process to be more labor- and time-intensive than I would have liked.
Another con: the battery on the back of each camera ends up butting up against the battery of the partner camera. Well, batteries get hot, and when a battery senses heat it often decides spontaneously to take a nap. Often after filming what I thought was a 360-degree scene, I came home to upload my footage to my computer and discovered I only had 180 degrees. I theorized the hot batteries were triggering each other to shut down, with me none the wiser as I’d merrily been filming and mushing and cheering on my dogs. It made for some disappointing moments at my computer when I did not have the footage I’d thought I had.
One final con: Kodak’s remote controls are inconsistent. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. That seems to be a common complaint among other users too.
But let’s not lose sight of the fact that this was groundbreaking, life-changing technology in the world of videography and photography, and Kodak pulled it off. For the time, before I moved on to Ricoh and Nikon who improved upon what Kodak started, the cameras were a solid 4 out of 5 stars. If you want to see an example of the 4K functionality working as it should, here is my video using the two SP360 4K cameras together in my first-ever successful experience with spherical filming ([LINK]). That’s some official WooFDriver history right there!
Thanks for reading! Good luck with your decision, and have a wonderful journey! If you’re still comparing the Nikon to the Ricoh to the Kodak, please look here ([LINK]) at all my different images and videos taken in the past two years on all three cameras, ever since I entered the world of virtual reality. If you want to know more about me, I am the WooFDriver and you can read my bio and contact me here ([LINK])!