With a global pandemic precluding many from physically visiting places, you’d think that 360 cameras would move beyond niche status into the mainstream, as the immersive aspect can somewhat create an effect of being somewhere in-person. While that hasn’t really happened, maybe capturing those spaces in 12K 360 video will change that. At least that’s what Kandao is hoping for its new Obsidian Pro 360 camera.
The new camera, which was announced on Thursday, April 15 by Kandao, slots above the company’s Obsidian R 360 camera and adds a bunch more resolution (12K vs 8K), but more importantly larger APS-C sensors across the camera’s 8 lenses. On paper, that’s insane. The previous high-spec camera in this all-in-one 360 category was the Insta360 Titan. I described the capabilities of that camera as “insane” several times and that was with much smaller Micro Four Thirds sensors and lower 11k resolution on that model. While I shudder to think about the horsepower requirements to edit 12K 360 video (with the option of 3D and 12-bit raw video in there as well), the possibilities opened up by these large sensors seem astounding.
Additionally, Kandao seems to have taken notes about the usability issues with the competition — instead of relying on several SD cards (and thus, several possible points of failure), Kandao uses something called an 8-in-1 SSD module in 4 TB, 8TB, and 16TB configurations to record video to one unit and equips the Obsidian Pro with an LCD screen to show a preview of what’s being captured. The option to not need an external controller or phone is huge in this category of cameras, where WiFi connections are often clunky. I very much prefer to operate straight off the camera, and being able to see what I’m about to shoot right there is a huge bonus (one that I enjoy very much so on my current favorite consumer-level camera, the Kandao QooCam 8K). There is, of course, still an app available to control the camera.
At this price range, the expected features of a microphone input, ethernet port, and stabilization (9-axis) are all there, but what’s unexpected is an electronic aperture and ability to adjust focusing distance, which given the larger sensor, makes sense. Certainly, it adds more control to the final image produced by the camera. These kinds of features narrow the gap for still images over a DSLR with something like a Nodal Ninja for 360s, with the added bonus of video here.
Perhaps part of the reason 360 hasn’t caught on because of the difficulty in viewing the files. There isn’t a standard format, website, or reader that has caught on with enough of the general public yet. While the undoubtedly huge files from the Obsidian Pro won’t change any of that, at the very least it should give users some future-proofing for what they shoot with it.
Kandao says that pricing will run between $24,499 to $34,999 depending on how much memory you buy with it. Pricey, but when you consider that you're essentially buying 8 APS-C cameras and the brains to process and stitch the output from those cameras together in one package, it’s certainly a camera that shooters with upcoming 360 projects should put on their radar.