Most 360-degree cameras are aimed at consumers, with a mobile, smartphone-based perspective in mind. The Vuze VR Camera ($799) is priced higher, with a Windows desktop workflow, and aimed squarely at content creators. Despite sporting eight total lenses, its 2D video quality isn’t much better than you get with an inexpensive option like the Samsung Gear 360—you’re paying a premium for 3D capture. For professional use, it’s worth a look, but most consumers are better off with a smaller, more portable camera like the Gear 360 or Nikon KeyMission 360.
The Vuze is a fairly flat device, measuring in at 1.2 by 4.7 by 4.7 inches (HWD) and weighing 14.4 ounces. Power and Record buttons are on top, placed on a ring surrounding the Vuze logo, and a standard tripod socket is on the bottom. Each side houses two lenses, for a total of eight, that work together to record spherical 3D footage. The camera itself is available in black, blue, red, or yellow. As for protection, it’s fine to use the Vuze in a light rain or dusty environment, but it’s not submersible.
A small flap on one side opens to reveal the microSD memory card slot, micro USB charging port, and Wi-Fi button—you need to press it to enable the camera’s wireless remote control system. The internal battery is good for about an hour of recording time on a full charge. You can power the camera as it rolls footage for longer recording times, but you’ll need to take care to hide your USB power bank from view to keep it out of frame.
If you plan on going for longer than an hour, invest in a big memory card. At the highest video bit rate, 120Mbps, you’ll fill up a 64GB memory card in about an hour.
The camera is controlled via an app, available for Android and iOS devices. It’s pretty bare bones, giving you the ability to start and stop recording, snap a photo, and toggle a self-timer. You don’t get a live feed by default, but you can enable it in the Settings menu.
There’s no way to adjust exposure. The aperture of such small lenses is fixed, but you should be able to set shutter speed or ISO to get the shot you want. There’s some leeway to color correct video—the desktop stitching app has a basic correction option, but you’ll want to use a real editing app. But there are limitations; one of my test scenes was a sunrise, and I would have loved to be able to dial in some exposure compensation to darken the scene and avoid blown highlights.
There’s no mobile video workflow—this isn’t a camera that lets you edit video on your phone for quick sharing to Facebook or YouTube. Instead you’ll need to stitch video using a desktop app for Windows systems—if you edit video on a Mac, the Vuze leaves you out in the cold.
The app includes basic functionality. You can trim clips, perform basic, automatic color correction, and pick a default center point for your clip, but that’s about it. I ran the software on a Dell Optiplex desktop with a Core i5-7600 CPU and AMD Radeon R7 M465X graphics. With that configuration, a five-minute video clip takes about 25 minutes to export as a stitched video file that can be edited in other applications.
The Vuze records 4K footage at 3,840 by 2,160 pixels, a little bit more than you get from the 2017 version of the Samsung Gear 360, which records at 3,840 by 1,920. But you don’t actually get any benefits from those extra pixels—they make up a baked-in watermark you see whenever you move your view to look straight down. There’s a practical upshot to this—it will hide a tripod or other mounting hardware, but I’d rather the watermark was gone and additional visual information was there.
You can only record at a 30fps frame rate. That’s typical for video production, but if you want to give your footage a more cinematic look, you don’t have that option. Movies are typically shot at 24fps, and while other 360 options (including the Gear) record at 24fps, the Vuze does not.
Despite being 4K, don’t expect the same eye-popping visual quality from 360-dgree footage. The pixels are stretched out across a sphere, so you’re really left with video that looks more like 720p in perceived quality. There are models on the horizon with additional resolution, including the 5.2K GoPro Fusion, aimed at consumers, and the pro-grade 8K Insta360 Pro, but you can’t buy them yet.
Automatic exposure does a fine job in most scenes, but when you’re shooting something where there’s a big difference between the brightest and darkest parts of a scene, the limited dynamic range delivered by the small image sensors behind each lens comes into play. I certainly noticed this in my sunrise test footage.
Seam lines are visible, especially at close distances. I didn’t have a tripod handy for my sunrise shoot, so I set the Vuze on top of a garbage can. I expected to see the seams at the edges of the can, which were pretty close to the camera. But a passing jogger, who was far enough away that stitching shouldn’t be an issue, proved too much and appears to warp in and out of reality while passing through the frame—look at the screen grab below to see the exact moment.
Audio is captured by four internal microphones. It’s better than you get from most cameras with built-in microphones, picking up the ambient sounds of the environment clearly. But a video camera at this price point should have some way to hook up an external microphone for true professional sound.
The Vuze VR Camera sets itself apart from the increasingly crowded 360-degree capture space by offering 3D capture. Video quality is on the same level as other cameras in the general vicinity of price—but if you don’t need to shoot in 3D you can opt for the $500 Nikon KeyMission 360, which is a ruggedized action camera, or the $230 Samsung Gear 360 and save quite a bit of money. We’d like to see Vuze add some manual exposure adjustment options to the control app, which are normally a no-brainer for a camera geared for professional use. When you couple that with stitching that is less than perfect at times, you’ve got a camera with a lot of potential, but not without drawbacks. It’s a good performer, but not an outstanding one.