Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Xiaomi Mi Sphere 360 camera - low light sample video; long exposure shot; list of bugs; discount

More updates about the Xiaomi Mi Sphere 360 camera!
- a low light video sample
- a long exposure shot (well, you're already looking at it...)
- a list of bugs so far
- a discount.

UPDATE: Xiaomi has vastly improved the app!  See this amazing video!

First, here is a low light video:

Because the video was in low light, I had to raise the exposure in post by +1EV in Adobe Premiere.  I was expecting the worst because if you push the exposure in postprocessing with a small sensor, usually you get very noisy video.  The only question was how bad it would be.  So I applied the exposure adjustment and.... nothing.  No problem at all....! :-O  There was only a slight increase in noise in the shaded area but most viewers wouldn't even notice it.  Wow this camera keeps getting better...

I also took a long exposure shot last night.  The Xiaomi Mi Sphere is one of the very few 360 cameras with manual exposure.  And even among those with manual exposure, some, such as the Panono and LG 360 Cam, have a shutter speed that tops out at around 1 or 2 seconds.  That's why the Ricoh Theta is so amazing for photos -- because the shutter can be as long as 60 seconds.  Meanwhile the Xiaomi can use a shutter as slow as 32 seconds on Android.  Not as slow as that of the Theta, but it does have ISO as low as 50 (Theta's lowest ISO is 100).

More about its exposure: not only does it have manual exposure, but it also has ISO priority and shutter speed priority:
ISO can be set to Auto or from 50 to 1600 in one-stop increments.
Shutter speed can be set from Auto, 1 sec to 32 seconds in 1-stop increments on Android.  On iOS, it can be set from Auto, 1 sec to 8 secs. in one-stop increments.
Exposure compensation can be set from +/- 3 EV in half stop increments.
If you set ISO manually and leave shutter speed on Auto, you effectively get ISO priority.  Vice-versa for shutter speed priority.

I tried it out last night in our backyard.  There were street lamps, so I thought the shot would blow out.  But 32 seconds was perfectly fine at ISO 50.

And sometimes with long exposures such as this, the sensor gets hot and you'll see noise.  But the Xiaomi seemed to be fine, even after several successive attempts of long exposure shots.  And it did not seem to need long exposure noise reduction (the shot was immediately viewable - there was not a second shot for a black frame subtraction exposure).

Combined with a photo resolution that is almost double that of the Theta (23.88 mp vs. the 14mp Theta), the Xiaomi could bump off the Ricoh Theta as the best 360 consumer camera for photography.  I will do a direct comparison soon.

While the Xiaomi's hardware is one of the best (if not the best) I've seen at this price point, the software is quite poor.  I want to tell you everything I've found so far, so there are as few surprises as possible.  But stick around to the end of the article.

1.  The biggest problem is exporting the video.  (Photos are no problem.)

A. iOS video is handicapped at the moment (tested in iPhone 6 / iOS 10; iPhone SE / iOS 10).  It appears the video resolution and bitrate are handicapped.  The resolution is limited to 2304 x 1152 @ 28 fps, 5.7Mbps.  I tried this with both an iPhone 6 and iPhone SE and got the same result.  By comparison, on my Android phone I get the full resolution of 3456 x 1728 @ 40mbps.  I don't

In addition, the app crashes a lot when exporting/stitching the video.  Moreover, unlike Android, there is no video editor for the iOS version of the app.

B.  Android works but has bugs (tested on Samsung S8+ / Android 7).
When I tap on export the video to the phone, it stays at 0% and doesn't move.  The workaround is to use the video editor.  However, the video editor is limited to 5 minutes.  (That's why my first posted sample video for the Xiaomi ends abruptly.)
Another issue is that when I use the video editor, the audio becomes not synchronized.  It seems the delay is around 17 frames (around half a second).  For some videos, it won't matter.  However, you can sync the audio.  You will need a video editor to spit the video and audio then move the audio to make it in sync with the video.

Update: version of the app fixed the export issue. I can now export without any problems.  There is also no problem with audio synchronization.

There is unfortunately no desktop software for Windows or Mac.  I don't know if they will ever make one.  A reader suggested using Muvee for the Mac, which can stitch the original Gear 360.  However, I don't have a Mac to test.

To help you evaluate whether your phone can stitch the photos and videos correctly, I've provided an unstitched photo and video here.  The iOS app is here.  The Android app is here.

Other bugs:
2. The videos don't have 360 metadata.  When I share the video to Facebook, it is not 360.  Instead, I need to add 360 metadata manually with the YouTube metadata injector tool (see step 2 here).
Update: version of the app fixed this issue.  Exported videos now have 360 metadata.3. There is a slight difference in color between lenses in some lighting conditions.  This is most noticeable outdoors.  This is different from flare and can be seen even during an overcast day.
4. Needs self-timer without the app (maybe activate by double-clicking on the shutter).
5. The 6-axis stabilization works very well, but I can't see it unless i share the video to "Moments," which seems to be Xiaomi's sharing platform.  There should be a way to export the stabilized video to youtube or Facebook.
Update: version of the app fixed this. I can now export stabilized video and it works very well!  See this video. 6. Sometimes when viewing photos or videos, the horizon changes and becomes not level anymore.  This usually happens after I look around the image several times.  When I close the photo and re-launch it, it is normal again.  This implies it is a problem with the app, not the hardware or photo or video itself.
7. There is no option to share 360 video on YouTube automatically.
8. There are many menu options that are in Chinese.  Similarly, the manual is only in Chinese.  These should be translated.
Update: version of the app fixed this issue.  Nearly all menu options in Chinese have been translated.9. In Android, sometimes I get the message that this app (Mi Sphere app) is slowing down the system. This happened only once.

I've told GearBest about these issues and they said they'll let Xiaomi know.  We'll see...

OK so you've stuck around this far.  That's great!  Our friends at GearBest have offered a special discount.  It is available only for 10 buyers, so it's first come first served.  To get the discount, use this link to buy the Xiaomi.  The current price varies depending on inventory levels but can be as much as $320.  Use the coupon code: mijiaCam to get it at a special price of $270.99.  In addition, occasionally, there is a flash sale that can offer an even better price.

Thank you for using the link to buy the Xiaomi, which supports 360 Rumors at no additional cost to you, so I can do more tests and reviews!


  1. hi Myc!
    I was looking for a 360 camera and, because of your posts, I finally bought one! Unfortunately I bought from another site, because the price was lower. If only I had waited ...
    But I'm writing to ask you to continue to evaluate the Xiaomi camera. Thank you!!!

    1. Thank you very much Deywid. Yes for sure I will continue to have more information about the Xiaomi.

      Best regards,

  2. Hi Mic have been enjoying reading these posts, i have ordered a xiaomi should be here in a week. The app worries me but hopefully they will work hard on improving this. Would love total english too.

    1. Congrats, Liam. About the app, yes it needs improvement. But meanwhile, I'm working on a video tutorial that I hope to finish editing tonight. I'm also testing stitching workarounds for iphone users.

      Best regards,

    2. Thanks Mic, I had a play with the App on Android on a note4 last night and it is actually far better than I originally thought. Of course without the camera I can't test the main features but all of the other features and quality of other content looks very impressive. The chinese is only on a couple of buttons so it really doesn't matter that much to me. Hopefully they keep updating the app (even though I will be doing everything from a PC anyway) but it is handy when on the road. :)

  3. For now I think I will go with the Gear 360 2017. I am debating on getting the international one from your Amazon links now that some are available on Prime. My next big event is an anime convention on the 19th and a part of me wants to upgrade from my LG 360...

    1. Hi Denzel. The Gear 360 is pretty good, and the video is much better than the video from the LG 360 Cam. The issue is whether you have the hardware (phone or desktop PC) that can stitch the video, and how much time stitching will take.

      Best regards,

  4. +360 Rumors Thanks for uploading a Xiaomi spherical test video.
    After finally figured out the spherical layout in a 3840x1920 frame (a Gear 360 lookalike) I was able to stitch the test video almost perfect with the Muvee 360 video stitcher. It's not 100% OK yet, there is a very small "transition" when you walk through the stitch seam but I will keep on trying to see if it's possible to get the stitch 100% OK just for fun. Depends on the difference in lens between Xiaomi and the Gear 360...

  5. +360Rumors.com I got it almost perfect now in Muvee 360 video stitcher. The Muvee 360 video stitcher is a simple drag'n drop software so you have to create the layout first to make it stitch 100% right. You can stitch any 2 to 1 spherical video, but you have to make a template to make it work. If the lenses are not the same ...you will experience problems. In this case I had to make the spherical videos oval...a bit higher than wide. just sayi'n

    1. Wow that's awesome. Thank you very much Ulf! I really appreciate it. It's very good to know that Mac users have at least one alternative.

      Best regards,

  6. Hi Myc,
    Thank you very much for your detailed reviews. Thy are so awesome.
    I acquired the Xiaomi's 360 camera by Gearbest.com and it works photos perfectly.
    On the other hand, video is still problematic.
    With Xeperia Z3, Android 6.0.1, video exporting does not proceed as you mentioned.
    App version is latest If you find good video editor for Windows, please share it.

  7. Thank you very much takekamechan. When you say video exporting does not proceed what exactly do you mean? What happens? That's the same app version that I have on my S8+.

    Best regards,

    1. Hi Mic,
      Thanks for your prompt reply.
      There are 2 different phenomenon. The first is 1) selecting one video 2) Tap "More" and tap "Export to phone" 3) Export is starting but freeze at 24% and no more increasing.
      The second is 1) after selecting a vise, tap "Edit" 2) Edit the video by cutting and/or adding music 3) Tap "Save" and start increasing "exported xx%" but it freezes at certain %. Only very short video can be work. Maybe Xperia Z3 is already too old?

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