Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Vuze 3D 360 camera - unboxing and first impressions of the first affordable 3D 360 camera for consumers


The other day, I got a package from Hong Kong.  I thought it was a sample 360 camera from a Chinese manufacturer.  But then I saw on the label: Humaneyes.  Woohoo!  After more than a year of anticipation, I finally got the Vuze camera, the world's first affordable 3D 360 camera.  Here is an unboxing video and my first impressions.  Update: see also my Vuze stitching demo and tutorial.

INTRODUCTION
3D 360 videos offer a much more immersive view compared to 2D 360 videos.  However, until now, 3D 360 videos required large, expensive 360 camera rigs, such as the GoPro Odyssey ($15,000), which uses sixteen GoPro cameras, and required very powerful computers to stitch the videos together.

GoPro Odyssey

Humaneyes, however, wanted to bring 3D 360 video capture capability to consumers.  Early last year, they announced the Vuze Camera, which would be the first affordable 3D 360 camera.  Instead of a large rig, Vuze would be a little larger than your hand.  At that time, the highest video resolution in  consumer 360 cameras was limited to 1920 x 960.  The 4k-capable Samsung Gear 360 had just been announced and would not go on sale until the end of April 2016.  Humaneyes promised that the Vuze would have a resolution of 4k per eye.  Perhaps most surprising of all, Vuze would be available for "under $1,000."



Initially, Vuze was scheduled for release in October 2016, but that was delayed for additional testing.  Finally, more than a year after it was first announced, the Vuze Camera ($799 at B&H) is here and it fulfilled all the promises when the Vuze was announced.

KEY SPECIFICATIONS (RELEASE VERSION)
Here are the key specifications of the release version of Vuze Camera:


Model number
HETVZ-1
Lenses
Eight (8) lenses, each with 180 degrees x 120 degrees field of view
Sensors
Eight (8) Sony IMX408 sensors, each with 1920 x 1080 resolution
Processor
Two (2) Ambarella A9 video processors
Field of view
Fully spherical 360 x 360
Photo resolution and format
3840 x 3840 stereo (3840 x 1920 per eye).  JPG format
ISO range
100 to 1600
Video resolution and format
3840 x 3840 stereo (3840 x 1920 per eye).  MP4 format with H.264 compression
Video frame rate
30 fps
Video bit rate
80 or 120 mbps (10 or 15 mbps per sensor)
Audio recording
Spatial audio via four (4) MEMS 48Hz microphones. Audio recorded on four (4) separate tracks.
IP rating
IP64 (Dust tight, splash proof)
Operating temperature
0 – 40⁰C
Humidity
Up to 95% RH
Motion sensors
Inertial measurement units (IMU): Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass
Wi-Fi
IEEE 802.11b/g/n 2.4 GHZ
USB port
USB 2.0
Battery
Internal Li-ion 3,700 mAh (3.8V) battery with 2 hours battery life
Memory
Removable Micro SD card (minimum speed: UHS-1).
Dimensions
Approximately 120x120x30 mm
Weight
Approximately 450 grams (about 1 pound).
Colors
red, yellow, blue, or black

The minimum shooting distance is 50cm in front of the lens and 150cm from the corners.

UNBOXING
Enough with the specs.  Now here is the unboxing video:


FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The Vuze looks beautiful and sleek.  Note that the Vuze has a matte finish, unlike the glossy finish shown in some preproduction pictures.  [Vuze said they went with the matte finish because their Facebook readers voted for it over the glossy finish.] The leatherette case is handsome and semi-rigid.

The Vuze is about the size of a CD sleeve (remember those, younguns?).  It is heavier than I expected and feels about as heavy as a stone plate of the same size.  Even though the body looks plastic, it feels very solid.

Holding the Vuze takes a little getting used to, because there are so many lenses waiting to be smudged by your fingerprints.  The body of the camera will also show fingerprints (at least in the black finish -- not sure about the other colors).  The included mini-handle is a convenient way to hold the camera without smudging the lenses or the body (it also has a hole for a wrist strap).  I think it would have been nice if there was a silicone rubber cap that could go over the camera and cover the lenses.  But the case functions like a lens cap.

Using the Vuze is very simple.  There's only one button to start and stop recording.  Currently, you cannot take photos unless you use the app, but a future firmware update will enable taking photos using the camera's shutter, without using the app.

Connecting to the app is very easy.  You simple turn on the Wi-Fi by pressing the camera's Wi-Fi button, then you connect to the camera's Wi-Fi signal with your phone (default password is 12345678).  Once connected, the app is able to connect to the camera right away (unlike the finnicky Wi-Fi of the Theta or worse, the Keymission 360).

The app has a very simple interface -- even a nonphotographer should have no trouble shooting with it.  You simply choose from video (red shutter) or photo (yellow shutter) -- and you have a self-timer from 0 to 30 seconds.  That's it.  At CES, I also saw a live preview, but I wasn't able to find the live preview setting in this version.

Speaking of settings, they are easy to access (with a button on the upper right corner) and are quite extensive, and wow, it really can shoot in 120 mbps...!

I do have a few items on my wish list.   I wish for exposure compensation (this version of the app doesn't have it).   I also would like the startup time were faster (it takes several seconds).  Finally, I wish the Wi-Fi setting (on or off) as well as the self-timer were sticky (i.e., that they would retain their settings even after the app is closed or the camera is turned off).

For early preorders, you will also receive a mini tripod and a free Sandisk Extreme 64GB Micro SD card!  They were sent in a separate package from Israel (the Vuze itself was sent from Hong Kong).

The Mini Tripod is excellent.  It feels light yet sturdy, is comfortable to hold, and easy to use.   I plan to use it for my other 360 cameras as well.  One thing I would have liked is if there was a way to tighten the ball head (right now, it simply relies on friction).

SAMPLE PHOTOS OR VIDEOS?
And now you're probably waiting to see sample photos or videos.  Unfortuantely, I don't have any.  That's because I found out my [admittedly old] PC doesn't meet the requirements to run the stitching software.  My PC is actually VR-ready but the problem is that I'm using an old Xeon processor.  The stitching software requires a processor with an AVX extension.

Here are the minimum requirements:
- Windows 8.1,
- CPU with AVX support,
- 4GB RAM,
- Integrated or discrete GPU with 2GB RAM,
- DirectX 11,
- OpenCL 1.2,
- the most recent drivers.

Here are the recommended requirements:
- Windows 10,
- CPU with AVX support,
- 8 GB RAM or higher,
- Fast discrete GPU (NVIDIA,AMD) with 3GB RAM,
- DirectX 11,
- OpenCL 1.2,
- most recent drivers.

believe this means that at a minimum, you need an Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processor that is at least 3rd generation (example: i5-3xxx).  See this table.  You can see if your PC qualifies simply by downloading the software here and trying to install it.  If you can install it without error messages, then congratulations - your PC qualifies.  (Note: the Mac version of the software is coming around Summer 2017.)

Otherwise, you may have to hunt for another PC like I did.  On eBay, I found a laptop and a desktop that were around $250 each with 4th generation Intel processors.  I decided to go for the desktop because I wasn't sure if the laptop's integrated graphics card would be adequate (or it might be adequate but too slow).  With the cheap desktop I found, I think I can add a low-profile GTX 1050 Ti 4GB ($150 from Amazon or B&H Photo) if I have to, and it might even end up being a second [barely] VR-ready PC.

While waiting for this PC, I will be taking test photos and videos, which I will share as soon as I receive my new / old PC and have a chance to stitch them.   Update: yes the new PC works; see my Vuze stitching demo and tutorial,   Vuze is available for preorder from B&H Photo for $799.

16 comments:

  1. Nice read, Mic.
    Looking forward to more on this camera. Incidentally, when would one know, after installing the VR Studio software, when their system is able to run it? Must one go through the account creation process, or something else, or does the installation of the software itself indicate such?
    I would, also, love to see an unstitched same of a photo, if possible.

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    1. Thanks Rich! In my case, I got an error right at the beginning of the installation. It wouldn't even let me install. So if you got as far as installing it and are just being invited to create an account, I think your PC is ok! OK let me post an unstitched photo.

      Best regards,
      Mic

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  2. I ordered this the other week, then cancelled, now waiting eagerly to see some footage. Still have high hopes for this, so keeping my fingers crossed.
    In the meantime I have two Yi 4K's side-by-side shooting 180 stereo to hold me over.

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    1. Hi briwil. I will post the samples as soon as I can. I think the Vuze will have much better image quality than two Yis. :)

      Best regards,
      Mic

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    2. I don't know, the two yi's look pretty damn good, GoPro quality, and most of the Vuze footage I've seen looks really over sharpened. Of course two Yi's side-by-side don't offer much in terms of FOV.

      Any chance you could post a raw file from the Vuze and have one of us stitch it for you?

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    3. https://youtu.be/C21HyfGkYDM

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    4. OK sure briwil. I will take sample vids and upload the files.

      Thanks for the sample video. I think the issue is that the comparison is not really fair. For example, if I had a telephoto lens at the same scene, using a similar size sensor as the Yi, the video I would capture (e.g. of a face) would be far more detailed than anything the Yi can capture. Similarly, because the Yi covers a smaller field of view, it's not really fair to compare the Vuze over the same field of view as the Yi. I guess instead of 'better image quality' I should have said will look better (due to immersion, etc.).

      Best regards,
      Mic

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    5. Yes, it is a bit of a sillly comparison in terms of immersion. I'm just hoping it looks as good, at least, as existing 360 camera like the Gear360.
      Either way, my preorder is back on, hopefully we'll see some new footage out there soon, I know a couple of YouTube videos have popped up from SXSW in the past few days.

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  3. Do you have a live view with the app?

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    1. Hi Pasztor! It is possible to see a live preview of what each lens sees. You can pick one lens at a time. When recording, you can't see a live view.

      Best regards,
      Mic

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  4. Great review I can't wait for mine! Thank you!!

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    1. Thank you very much Chris! Let me know how you like it!

      Best regards,
      Mic

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  5. Thanks for the review, Mic. I'm chomping at the bit to get mine. I ordered it last August, and it's killing me not having one to play with and not knowing when they are going to ship it. I was hoping it would have been on its way already. I have the Samsung Gear 360 and ended up being pretty disappointed by the quality of the video. Just wondering if you ordered yours a year ago, which means I may be a way down their list.

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    1. Hi Norm! Congratulations on ordering the Vuze! I received mine in the same batch as the press, that's why mine is early (I was also one of the first to preorder). I know they already shipped out the first batch of preorders a couple of days ago. Vuze became available for preorder back in April, so August is not going to be one of the first I think. If you are in the US, you might ask B&H Photo when they will receive their inventory of Vuze....

      Best regards,
      Mic

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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