Photography is our playground. We play in it everyday: with our phones, DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, etc. We love discovering more about it… we love to hate it.
Many of us start by taking our first pictures, we create grotesque edits to help “fix” crappy compositios and play too often with depth of field. Then we get more serious. We equip ourselves with fancy cameras and expensive lenses in search of the optimal picture. But with time and experience, something happens: our creativity fails.
We end up posting the same crispy, dreamy shots. It’s all about the rules of thirds, it’s all about fibonacci, it’s all about the pixel count and sharpness and ‘microcontrast’ in your shotß. Have we lost our creativity, trading authenticity for plagiarism? Do we need a new toy to reset our expectation?
1. Denial and Isolation
Into this state of events arrives a new player from one of the big brands: a kind of UFO… a weather proof shock proof 360 camera.
My wallet recently fell pray to my gear acquisition syndrome and, before I knew it, I was unpacking a brand new Nikon KeyMission 360 camera. I wanted a Gopro, but oh well, this could do as well.
I spent the first few days trying to compose with the camera with little (read: no) luck at all. Try rule of third: it does not work. Our friend fibonacci? Same result. Bokeh? Forget about it! What about playing with some sexy angles, incorporating foreground and background elements? Good luck with that!
I have to say, using a 360 camera for the first few days was incredibly frustrating. How do you compose? How do you get a decent shot? How to get that full-frame dynamic range?
My first results weren’t promising:
Pretty ugly, right?
2. Anger and Bargaining
My interested moved to the Nikon app. Let’s try to transfer those pictures and make them better. Despite the fact that I am tech savvy, this was the first time in years I had to read a guide to understand how to pair and operate a camera.
The camera was buggy, and the buttons were not reactive. The app was only available on Android and it crashed every minute or so. When it did work, transfer was only available over bluetooth… which is really slow, especially when you want to transfer 30MP photos.
The remote control was on the same level. The application had no manual control, the menu was organized in layers, no auto hdr, etc.
I know Nikon is a hardware company, but at least they could have released some fine-tuned software.
That was it, I was fed up! I tried to contact Nikon, furious that they released software that didn’t work (apparently I actually bought the camera before the official availability in stores). That’s where the story gets more positive.
Nikon Australia quickly got in touch to make sure they could assist me. I left the camera alone for few days, to concentrate on some other deadlines, and by next try everything had changed.
Nikon had updated their software. It was now fast and reliable, you could even transfer your pictures over WiFi. The camera would go into sleep mode, but would still sync and take pictures in a single click. Using the device became quick and effective.
I started to take the camera with me everywhere, to experiment.
It was wonderful, I was a novice again. You know this feeling when you get your first DSLR/mirrorless ILC camera? I could explore, try, and create creative content. No need to think so much about composition, this tool is a re-compositing tool on its own.
The more I used it, the more I loved it. Below are a few of the more creative shots I’ve made with it.
1. The man in front of the cave. The camera was actually outside a tiny 2M wide (40cm high) cave, capturing a man enjoying the sunrise:
2. Two tiny planet views of one of the Art creation exhibited at Sculpture by the sea, Sydney:
Sunset in Sydney, NSW:
While it is hard to get decent editing software to render 360° content in a 2D space, this kind of photography/cinematography may become a genre in and of its own. You could shoot a timelapse, then recompose at your will, change perspective, make the scene a new one. Or even create camera movements that are basically impossible in any other way.
4k in video and 30MP photos gives you enough flexibility.
Below is an example of a single shot being recomposed, creating three different scenes:
Another good surprise: The video is actually much sharper than the different shots uploaded by Nikon (please be careful with compression before uploading online). I have been a big fan of Sony for their innovation over the past few years, but I have to say – Nikon has created a unique toy that you can bring everywhere.
Should you get a 360 camera? Yes, especially if you are in your comfort zone and/or getting bored by photography. You can simply get some unique shots really quickly. I could easily see it being used to capture a new perspective for weddings, landscape, travel, etc.
What about the Nikon KeyMission 360? The camera is unique in its own right: it is smaller than most 360 devices, and is shock and water proof. It is also incredibly easy to use, fast, and responsive.
In my opinion, this camera as the potential to become a bestseller if Nikon will just add a few things to their software. My wish list:
- Manual settings for still and timelapse photography
- Auto HDR (especially useful for sunrise/sunset photography)
- RAW photos
- The option to record two .mp4 files, one for each sensor, on UHS3 SD cards.
About the author: Josselin Cornou is an engineer who loves capturing travel and nature photos during his spare time while traveling around the world. The opinions in this post are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram account.