“360 may be a fad, but the Vuze XR proves it’s not yet dead.”
Easy to use
Software stabilization works well
Average image quality with a few stitch lines
Missing features like time lapse
While the 360-degree video category started off with a lot of fanfare, the emerging technology soon came up against a harsh reality – mostly it’s no better to capture everything around you. With an emerging trend in the 360 segment, you can insert this immersive perspective into a traditional video with a flat or fixed image and use the additional angle of view to redesign the recording or automatically follow the action like a virtual cameraman. But there is another way to get these double lenses up and running, and that’s the idea behind the Vuze XR camera from Human Eyes, which can take either a full 360 or a 180-degree view in 3D.
At first glance, the Vuze XR looks like a typical 360-degree camera, with two lenses in a row at the end of a handle. At the push of a button, however, these lenses fold forward. The trick converts the camera from 360 to 3D 180 without throwing away pixels.
The Vuze XR is a bit strange, but one of the most versatile immersive cameras on the market – and deserves this award with a price tag below $ 500. For fans of virtual reality, this is a relatively cheap entry point for creating your own content.
Turn the cool design over
The design looks a bit strange, reminiscent of early digital cameras like the Nikon Coolpix SQ, a device from the early 2000s where the camera rotated to show the lens. However, the design of the Vuze XR makes perfect sense for the 360 category because you don’t always want to film in 360.
The fold-out lenses may be quite unique, but the rest of the control scheme is fairly simple. There are three buttons near the thumb on the handle – an on / off button, a Wi-Fi button, and the button to pop out the lenses. Holding the power switch turns the camera on and off, while pressing the capture mode briefly switches from still image to video. A series of lights near the lenses indicate which mode the camera is in.
The only other button is the trigger to trigger photos and videos. In the lower area of the handle, an access door opens through which the microSD card slot and the USB-C port are visible. There is a tripod holder at the bottom of the handle. A screwed bracelet is included with the camera, but must be removed to use a tripod or other bracket.
Hillary K Grigonis / Digital Trends
The design works well for the most part. The few shortcomings are actually common in the 360 category. Occasionally your hand is gripped on the camera handle in the shot – using a selfie stick and triggering the shot with a smartphone will solve the problem, but can be a little painful. And without a screen, there are some victims, such as a less obvious warning light when an SD card is missing, and lack of access to some settings without using the app.
The two lenses, controls, and handle are housed in a camera that weighs less than 8 ounces. The handle makes the camera a little big, but the overall design is compact considering what is packed in it, and even with this handle the camera could be put in a larger jacket pocket or a small handbag
Simple, immersive shots
With such a simple control scheme, using the Vuze XR itself is almost as easy as a point-and-shoot. Switching the lenses on and off switches between the modes without any problems, while switching from still images to videos is also possible without the app.
But like all digital cameras without a screen, it is more difficult to spot your mistakes before you take the picture without connecting to the app. A tiny LED light indicates whether there is a problem that is not always recognizable. I “took” several pictures to remember later that I pulled out the MicroSD card for use in another camera. It is also more difficult to tell if you are holding the camera straight.
With such a simple control scheme, using the Vuze XR itself is almost as easy as point-and-shoot.
Of course, the XR isn’t exactly screen-free – a Wi-Fi connection enables live viewing in the mobile app, which is yelling at you for forgetting the memory card, and showing an uncomfortable preview when you don’t hold the camera there be. While using the XR is easy without Wi-Fi, using the app offers more features and better results. Battery life is quickly exhausted even when using Wi-Fi – we drained half of the battery in less than an hour.
Connecting to Wi-Fi is easy after the first try. However, make sure that the connection is established before you need the camera to take a picture. Our verification model required a firmware update for the first connection, which required us to manually enter the Wi-Fi information, write down and enter the network name and password. The firmware update itself then took a few minutes and by then the sunset that we wanted to capture was over. So make sure the camera is set up and ready to use before you start taking pictures.
The second firmware update that we tried and that added new manual recording features was also a little painful. Updating with Wi-Fi did not work, which meant that the camera was restarted and updated manually using the microSD card.
App and software
Within the app, the camera mode shows a live image with various settings to switch from a conventional 360-degree view to a VR glasses setup. If you scroll across the screen with one finger, you can pan within the 360-degree range.
As with many camera apps, users can switch between live, video, and photo with a slider under the record button. A display at the top shows the current recording mode and the current resolution as well as the battery status and the remaining storage space on the microSD card.
Hillary K Grigonis / Digital Trends
The settings menu provides access to more settings than you can find with the camera alone, e.g. B. the resolution. You can also use VuzeVRStudio desktop software (Windows or MacOS) to switch between in-camera stitching files or higher resolution files that require post-stitching. At least in our test device, the latter mode was selected by default. So if you don’t want to mess around with stitching files in the post, you need to connect to the app before you start recording. Other options include turning the GPS on and off, and settings for live streaming.
If you want the best quality, working with VuzeVRStudio for short videos is pretty quick. Rendering is as easy as opening the file, clicking the Render button, and selecting the various settings.
In addition to merging, the software also enables a handful of changes, including manually adjusting the stitch line by selecting individual frames where the stitch is most obvious. The program also allows editors to turn the photo or video upside down, select the center or starting point, or replace the Vuze logo that automatically appears at the bottom of the images when the camera’s grip cuts the view
While the shots from the XR are not perfect, the shortcomings in photo and video quality are the same that exist across the 360 category.
The software can also narrow the field of view to a more traditional aspect ratio, but these controls are fairly simple. Unlike the Rylo – our favorite 360-degree camera for creating non-360 videos – you cannot currently use the software to create a cropped video that pans along with the action. The software restricts the view and selects a new center. However, you cannot adjust this center point more than once. If the subject is moving, you cannot follow it. While it may seem silly to use a 360 camera just to crop the footage, the ability to edit it later, like having an actual cameraman with you, expands the versatility of a 360 camera. As a software-based function, it is of course possible that Vuze will add this functionality in the future.
Image stabilization can also be switched in the software, with two options, either basic stabilization or stabilization that automatically aligns the horizon.
The expanded tool option includes embroidery tools and matching colors between the two lenses, as well as controls for exposure and color temperature.
The software is easy for new users to learn overall, although there are some features that we would like to see integrated. For example, the program currently has no way to correct a crooked horizon in a still image.
Image and video quality
The Vuze XR uses two 12-megapixel sensors and a pair of 210-degree 1: 2.4 fisheye lenses. When sewn together, the camera can record videos up to 5.7 KB and still images up to 18 megapixels. Here, too, the highest quality requires rendering in Vuze desktop software. 4K at 30 fps is embroidered and ready to use, while 4K / 60 and 5.7K / 30 have to be opened and rendered by mail.
A recent firmware update added several advanced features to the camera, including manual exposure settings and exposure compensation. The ability to take RAW photos in DNG format has also been added, along with the option to delay a shot (useful if you want to jump out of view first). The shutter speed is limited to 1/30 to 1 / 10,000 and the aperture is fixed so that you won’t be able to take a 360-degree exposure any time soon. However, the additional controls are easy to see – especially if you’re shooting from a tripod and want to prioritize a lower ISO for less noise.
One of the fastest ways to lose the feeling of immersion in 360 videos is through visible stitch lines – and while the Vuze XR had excellent stitches on some shots, others were more obvious. Objects that are too close to the lens can sometimes create a more obvious stitch. We spotted a few stitches on a striped shirt holding the camera in front of us for a quick shot. More detailed pictures – like text on a sign – also make the stitches clearer. The software has the tools to fine-tune a stitch when the automatic stitch was not exactly right, but it’s a still image adjustment that can take a lot of effort.
While 4K and 5.7K sound like a high resolution, these pixels are stretched around a 360-degree field of view. 4K 360 video is much better than HD video, but does not expect the same sharp images as traditional flat video with the same resolution. The footage isn’t impressively sharp, but the quality isn’t far from what we expect from a 360-degree camera. In the direction of the “edges”, the sharpness drops more dramatically with obvious softness that looks almost like a soft filter effect.
When you switch to 180-degree view, the quality improves a little and the footage also becomes 3D for viewing with a virtual reality headset. The footage in this mode is still not particularly impressive, but is again exactly what we expect for the category.
These two fisheye lenses are somewhat obvious when scrolling through the resulting photo or video. The running distortion – where straight lines seem to curve out of a bubble almost like looking at the photo – is noticeable when you find your way around in the 360-degree view. Distract? A bit, but it’s also a characteristic look for 360 cameras with two lenses. If you don’t want to spend much more on a high-end setup with more lenses, you won’t be able to escape this fisheye look.
As expected from more compact sensors, noise is noticeable when shooting in low light. Although somewhat grainy, the colors and exposure turned out to be good – watching sparks around the campfire at dusk was surprisingly fascinating.
Software-based stabilization works well for shots where the camera is moving, and when we stopped we were surprised how stable some hand shots were without stabilization. In some shots while the center remained in focus, the edges of the frame showed a strange stretch-like movement – this was also noticeable in videos in which the camera panned over the scene.
Audio was also at the level we would expect for the category and price – not great and a bit echoed indoors, but also not bad for a built-in microphone.
While the shots from the XR are not perfect, the shortcomings in photo and video quality are the same that exist across the 360 category. However, the XR does not suffer from obvious stitch lines in most scenes, has solid colors and exposure, and stabilization works well.
While most 360 cameras have at least two lenses, the Vuze XR offers 2-in-1 in more ways than one. At the push of a button, the camera can easily switch between 360 and 3D 180, offering so much flexibility for a camera under $ 500. There are a few quirks, and the image quality is just fine, but using the XR is fun overall.
The Vuze XR costs $ 439. An underwater case for waterproofing the camera is also available for around $ 100.
Is there a better alternative?
The fold-out design of the Vuze XR is unusual – if not completely unknown. The Insta360 Evo follows a similar concept to switch between 3D 180 and 360 images. We haven’t had any hands-on experience with the Evo yet, but the camera has some additional features like time-lapse mode and a logarithmic tone curve (a way to maintain a wider dynamic range that requires color correction afterwards) and sits at a similar price.
The XR and Evo are entering an increasingly crowded 360 market. The Rylo is suitable for both 360-degree editing and for editing videos in a conventional output with a fixed image. Thanks to its very good but painfully slow seam, the GoPro Fusion is our first choice as a high-end 360 camera. The Garmin Virb 360 with GPS overlays and a sturdy body is the best option for adventurers.
How long it will take?
The Vuze XR feels well built and Human Eyes has already released a handful of firmware updates for it. These are all good signs of a long life, but categories 360/180 remain immature and new models are constantly coming out that could outperform the Vuze XR.
The bigger determinant is how often you actually want to use it. Having 360 and 3D 180 in one camera is certainly cool, but also not formats that are welcome in the mainstream (just look at what happened to 3D TVs). However, if you have a virtual reality headset, you can create your own content with such a camera.
Should you buy it
If you are a fan of immersive video and virtual reality and want to create your own content for both formats, buy the Vuze XR. The price is $ 440, the design is fun and versatile. Taking into account the category and price, decent pictures and videos will be taken. But you have to be okay to buy something for the novelty, or have a specific job in mind that only a camera like this can accomplish.