The iPhone continues to be my favorite smartphone almost entirely due to the fact that I love the built in 8MP camera and all the photography apps devoted to it. But it isn’t just the apps that keep me interested, it’s also the camera accessories created specifically for the iPhone. We’ve reviewed a few of those accessories like the Pixeet Panorama Lens, which is an attachment that enables you to capture 180 and 360 degree panoramic images. I had fun with that product, but I have something even more interesting to show you. It’s the GoPano micro. It also allows you to capture panoramas with your iPhone. But instead of static images, it captures video and audio in 360 degrees. Let’s take it for a spin (sorry, couldn’t resist…).
Note: Click the images in this review to see a larger view.
GoPano micro panoramic lens attachment
iPhone 4/4S case
Draw string pouch
The GoPano micro kit comes with an iPhone 4/4S case that must be used to attach the lens. This is a 2 piece slide on case that snaps together like a puzzle.
The GoPano attachment is designed to fit into the case opening for the lens.
The attachment is made of plastic.
It’s designed like a periscope with a funnel shaped mirror at the top and another smaller mirror at the bottom near the attachment point.
You just press the GoPano into the opening in the included case. It’s held there with friction. If you click the image above, you’ll notice that there is extra space around the GoPano. At first I thought the design was flawed, but then I realized that it’s made this way so that you can still use your iPhone’s LED flash when you’re not using the GoPano micro.
Here we see the iPhone 4S and GoPano micro connected and ready to go. I would have to advise NOT using the GoPano if you are going to be in an environment where you could be bumped or are moving around quite a bit. I say this because the lens is only attached by friction and can easily be knocked off if bumped. I’d like to see a better method of attaching the lens to the phone so you could use it in more active / extreme ways.
Unlike with the Pixeet lens, the GoPano does not require you to snap a picture, rotate the camera, snap another picture, rotate, snap, etc in order to capture a 360 degree image.
Its funnel shape can capture video in 360 degrees all at once.
The iPhone’s built in camera application can’t be used with the GoPano. It requires a special free GoPano app which is registered with a code included in the package. The application is very easy to use and allows you to view videos uploaded by other GoPano owners as well as record your own.
The video recording interface has 3 buttons. Done, Record and Calibrate. Done takes you back to the main menu, Record starts video capture and Calibrate brings up the focus screen. The focus screen is used to make sure the image is as sharp as possible. Unfortunately focus is the biggest problem with the GoPano. But more about that in a minute… The image that you see above on the right is actually the image that the GoPano captures. The software will then turn that image into a more traditional looking flat version.
Once you’ve recorded a video, it can be uploaded to the GoPano website, saved to your iPhone’s camera roll or shared to iTunes file sharing which means it will sync to iTunes and will be available on your desktop/laptop for easy access.
Here are a couple example videos that I captured. You can use your mouse or the arrow keys on your keyboard to rotate the video. Give it a try.
Walking by the Bartholomew County Courthouse in Columbus, IN. It was a cold day, hence my fuzzy hat
Another walk by the Bartholomew County Courthouse in Columbus, IN. I wasn’t in a bad mood while filming this… the sun was in my eyes.
A walk around the Commons Mall in Columbus, IN.
As I had mentioned above, you can export your videos to your iPhone’s camera roll. From there you can email them to your friends. They will be saved as a .MOV (Quicktime) file, and won’t allow for mouse or keyboard panning, but they are still kind of cool because it’s the whole 360 degrees in one long strip. Here’s my walk around the Commons Mall video in .MOV flat format.
I’m sure you’ve noticed an issue with all these videos – they are not in focus. That’s the biggest problem with the GoPano. No matter how many times you use the calibrate feature, the resulting videos are always blurry. My guess is that the process to convert the donut shaped image into a flat image somehow degrades the focus. The picture can also look a bit stretched or warped and isn’t very flattering for the person doing the filming. When I first watched the videos I had captured and panned around to see myself, I was like “yikes!” It’s a shame about the focus, but the coolness factor of being able to make a 360 video that you can manually spin around kind of makes up for the blur. That said, I do wish it was in better focus. Even with its faults, the GoPano micro panorama lens attachment is fun and easy to use. It is just one more reason why I love the iPhone.
Update: The folks at GoPano explain the focus issue:
The focus issue you mentioned in the article, is not actually a focus problem- it’s because of the lack of usable resolution. Due to the circular nature of video capture, the app discards a major chunk of the image sensor, the app then slices the donut and then wraps it around you. Read more about the tech here: http://goo.gl/S5xX7 (You would notice the videos look perfectly in focus in flat mode, as you see the entire resolution at once). The better the resolution of the base camera the better the final resolution of your 360 videos.
- The resolution with the iPhone4S is much better than what you get with iPhone4. The better the resolution gets the better resolution you get on your 360° videos.
- We wish apple gave us the choice of selecting the shape and size on its image sensor – we try to fit the circular mirror in the rectangular image sensor, if we had the choice of chooseing say a square sensor- the resolution increase would have be phenomenally better!