Recently I had the awesome opportunity to head to Baja for work. Due to my penchant for testing out gear and constantly trying new things so that I can find the best entry level kit for a project that we are hoping to kick off shortly (stay tuned, I promise it will be pure awesomeness) I’ve been using the Kodak Pixpro 4k cameras utilizing Sebastian Hagemeister’s 3 camera array mount (buy it here at Shapeways) and 3 Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K’s in the Stock housing. Yes, i know, the back to back housing _can_ stitch but juuuuuust barely, and not nearly good enough for my taste or needs.
(sample from 3 kodak pix pro array)
The Pixpro SP360 4K in a 3 camera array for underwater is very functional as an entry level (if you can stitch or know someone who can) kit that blurs the line between consumer and prosumer. With the aftermarket mount its basically the first ‘off the shelf’ answer for affordable, in focus, stitchable 360 underwater footage. I know I know, abyss rigs have been out for a while, but they are FAR FAR more expensive, need a lot more time/energy to put together and get usable footage out of (stitching), are larger and more cumbersome, and huge overkill for student and citizen science projects. Additionally as they drop in price as tech advances, we can get arrays together for under 1000 which was our target max price.
Enter the Orbit: I’m a shmuck, I’m always asking if there is a way i can test out new kit… Sometimes it works, but much of the time it doesn’t and i buy the ‘next big thing’ several months out of its cycle off ebay when the fancy people are done playing with the newest toys. Since most of the stuff i test ends up going underwater at some point, this is not a bad thing (to own it cheaply and not be potentially drowning other peoples demo kit). In this case, miraculously they said “Yes!”.
The orbit is a small, compact consumer 360 camera. It is the follow up to the strong performing Kodak Pixpro 4K, but instead of needing two cameras, you only need 1 (which combined with their PIXPRO 360 VR SUITE and a tutorial or two makes it an approachable camera for the novice) . It is unique in a few ways, it has two different lenses (one narrower, one wider) to give the ‘front’ lens slightly higher resolution and crisper feel, and wait for it… drum roll… a 2.5 mic jack! At first blush, could this be my dream 360 v-logging camera? I could hardly wait to test it out 🙂
Unluckily for me, but luckily for the PixPro team, the different sized lenses makes it less useful in my DIY underwater housing than hoped (meaning less likely their camera would get wet), but that’s ok, i have more than enough with the Pixpro 4K’s to keep myself busy. I will give it try in my modified Thetabubble housing as it has a webcam feature which means LIVESTREAMING GOODNESS via OBS.
The Orbit has a mic jack, 2.5 micro (This adaptor works well!!) so that meant no 360-vlogging in mexico but never fear, I went ahead with a quick video anyway 🙂
Things I like: Size and form factor are great, and a quick test with the mic jack in proved very fruitful, along with its webcam AKA live streaming function. I will be using this as my primary #360V-logging camera!
The dynamic range is actually quite nice for a consumer 360 camera, the clouds have great detail and the colors pop and really give a nice feel to your 360 experience. Some might say they are bit oversaturated, but for the consumer market this is actually a good thing. When we are grading footage from higher end systems that shoot in flat for high dynamic range, we often oversaturate and bump contrast/pivot point a bit so that when viewed in HMD things don’t look bland and washed out. For the consumer, this camera takes care of that so your footage looks as good as possible out of the gate. A very nice thing if you are capturing your adventures but don’t want to mess around with colors and stuff.
Things that were a bit of challenge: Stitching. I’m a pretty die hard Autopano Video Pro/Giga user because it allows for higher resolution exports than most of the proprietary apps. I had a bit of a time trying to get the mixed lenses to stitch at all. This improved when i removed the lens covers, but still kicking my ass a bit. I did the whole ‘create a lens profile’ shooting a bunch of frames in nodal mode, etc etc etc. without much success, but that doesn’t mean much other than I kinda suck at making lens profiles for mixed lens cameras, and need to wait for Alex Pearce to work his magic 😉
After showing my poorly stitched movie to the highly knowledgable gentleman from Pixpro team, he sent me a quick tutorial that filled in the blanks that I was missing in Mexico for use with their PIXPRO 360 VR SUITE after which I made quick work of the stitch for much more functional footage. Said tutorial here: How to stitch dual lens of note make SURE to put playback setting in EQ before clicking the REC button. Otherwise you’ll get just whats on the playback screen, and not what you are hoping for (eq = equirectangular and from what i can tell this is basically just a screen recording) It’s not the perfect solution as the finished footage is of lower output quality than APV puts out (as is pretty standard for the proprietary apps), and i’ll keep working on a lens template for APV, but for home movies and memories it works swimmingly 🙂
Battery life is solid and happily the Orbit uses same batteries as the Pixpro SP360 4K so I have loads of backup.
The Kodak Pixpro Orbit gets a thumbs up as a fun and functional consumer 360 camera, take one of these on your next trip or vacation for creating 360 memories and wow the heck out of your friends and family. I will report back shortly re: the mic jack which could get it a second thumb if i can use it for #360 Vlogging assuming also that i can improve my custom lens template creation skills for APV.
So without further adieu, enjoy a taste of Baja!