The 8K era has arrived! Or has it? With the arrival of Kandao’s QooCam 8K camera you would be forgiven for wondering if your action camera is now badly out of date, but before you go into a pixel-induced panic, know this; it’s only a 360 camera.
You see, the QooCam 8K is equipped with two fisheye lenses that together produce a wraparound panoramic image that measures 7680x3840 pixels. Yes, that’s 8K, but also consider that it translates to 29.4 megapixels through 360º.
Packed with a massive 1/1.7’’ CMOS sensor, 8K is a huge leap for the 360º format, but it’s a timely one, and should mean that – finally – 360º footage can be safely cut-down and re-framed without a ghastly loss of resolution.
Does the arrival of the QooCam 8K mean that videographers can go ahead and capture in 360º without worrying about softness and stitching errors? Add 4K video at 120 frames per second (fps) for 360º slo-mo – another first – an OLED touchscreen, and an external microphone input, and the QooCam 8K looks to be irresistible for creative filmmakers. So, is it?
Design & handling
At 144x56x23mm and weighing 228g, the QooCam 8K is not small. Nor is it quiet, audibly humming when switched-on.
With two fisheye lenses at the top, there’s a built-in 3,000mAh battery and a microSD card slot (as well as 64GB of built-in storage – a rarity on 360º shooters), while on one side there’s a great-looking 2.4-inch colour OLED touchscreen.
This is handy as it enables real-time framing and reviewing of photos and videos – it can also be hooked-up to a phone via WiFi.
It’s undercarriage isn’t quite flat enough for the QooCam 8K to stand unaided, which is a shame, though it has a standard 1/4-inch diameter tripod thread. That will fit any small tripod, but also QooCam’s selfie stick ($35/£30), which is worth investigating; it extends to a choice of three different lengths and is auto-edited out of all videos and photos. This feature really brings alive the QooCam 8K for vloggers after more resolution.
The chief feature is that 8K resolution, of course, which is all down to its massive 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor. As well as ensuring 7680x3840 pixels for 8K video, it also means near-30MP photos in Jpeg or the raw DNG format.
The only 360º camera available capable of 4K 120fps for slo-mo, it’s got loads of manual settings – performed via the excellent OLED touchscreen or the app – and it captures in 8-bit MP4 (H.264) and 10-bit ProRes formats... So far, so ‘prosumer’.
For the less demanding user, it’s also got a bunch of ‘SmartClip’ templates including ‘Orbiting Hyperlapse’, ‘Walking Planet’ and ‘Rabbit Hole’, though they’re mostly rather consumer-grade.
More importantly, it’s got a 4K ExpressEdit mode which means you can edit videos in 4K on virtually any phone.
There’s so much to like about the QooCam 8K, though mostly it’s about hardware, not software.
With touchscreen panning on a large OLED screen, the QooCam 8K certainly has one-up on the GoPro Max, but it’s a victory mostly based on resolution.
8K is a huge advance on the 5.7K found on other 360º cameras and the video coming out of the QooCam 8K is peerless...
When put in 8K 30fps mode, there’s no comparison to what comes out of all other 360º cameras, and that extra resolution means that 360º videos cut-down to widescreen look so much sharper than on other 360º cameras.
The 4K 120 fps mode for slo-mo is excellent, though the effect is tricky to reverse.
Photos captured outdoors by the QooCam 8K are clean and detailed throughout the panorama, with no over-exposed areas and plenty of dynamic range amid strong, vibrant colour.
QooCam promises APS-C-level photos, and we concur; these are the best-looking photos we’ve seen on a 360º camera. Perhaps that’s not saying much, but we were impressed.
The QooCam 8K is not without faults; the auto-removal of the ‘invisible’ selfie stick leaves a visible mark on the video, which is a shame.
The weight of the camera means that the selfie stick is, in practice, slightly tricky to use for vlogging without having an odd-looking outstretched arm on the finished video (it’s too heavy to hold for long if you try to keep your hand by your side).
• Read more: The best selfie sticks
Although, for the most part, the app is excellent and has plenty of clever editing options, such as ‘SmartTrack, we had a few issues with the ‘SmartClip’ templates, which aren’t very smart.
They don’t much act like templates and using them tends to crash the app. Its bare-bones free desktop software isn’t up to much, either.
Granted, it also has a short battery life (about an hour), it’s not natively waterproof, and it’s rather loud when it’s switched on, but the QooCam 8K easily makes up for those shortcomings.
With some excellent ‘SuperSteady’ motion stabilization, easy sharing options, and that great-looking OLED screen for framing and composing, the arrival of the QooCam 8K is sure to change the 360º market forever.
• Read more: The best 360º cameras
Is the QooCam 8K the best-ever 360º camera? No doubt about that. A massive CMOS sensor, 10-bit color and, of course, that 8K resolution make sure of that.
When it comes to the quality of its photos and videos, the QooCam 8K is peerless in the 360º market. Photos have plenty of color and contrast like nothing we’ve seen before from a camera like this.
The ability to spit-out a great-looking photo from a 360º video is welcome, while the detail, sharpness and smoothness of video – whether in 360º or cut-down to widescreen – itself makes the QooCam 8K a giant leap forward for creative filmmakers.