We Review the Kandao QooCam 3: Third Time’s the Charm

We Review the Kandao QooCam 3: Third Time’s the Charm

While 360 cameras haven’t quite entered the mainstream for most photographers, Kandao’s QooCam 3 makes a solid case why they should: Kandao’s third entry into its QooCam lineup is a solid 360 action camera at a bargain price.

Kandao provided me with a QooCam 3 for this review, and to start, I’ll get the elephant in the room out of the way: The company’s previous effort in the line, QooCam 8K, was one of the best consumer 360 cameras of its day three years ago, due in large part to its massive 8K resolution. The QooCam 3 comes in at 5.7K video, so it doesn’t quite reach the dizzying video specs of its predecessor, but it still holds its own.

A Kandao spokesperson explained that because of the continued chip shortage around the world, suitable parts for 8K video couldn’t be sourced, and so, the company focused on getting the best possible results with 5.7K video. I would say they achieved that goal.

That same shortage, the spokesperson said, is why the QooCam 8K was discontinued. Could this also be the reason most other consumer 360 cameras have stagnated around 5.7K video?

By focusing on improvements for the rest of the camera, though, the overall package is more compelling for photographers and videographers. Reframed 4K video from 360 footage looks better than its predecessor, photo resolution takes a huge leap from 20 MP to 62 MP, the lens features a faster f/1.6 aperture, and the sensor is a large-for-its-class 1/1.5” version. Oh, and the weather resistance actually works.

If your goal is to specifically shoot 360 video for use as 360 video (for 360 playback on a computer, streaming service, or headset), it’s the one area where the lower resolution hurts, but otherwise, everything else is an upgrade.

Design and Body

Kandao’s design has changed wildly from generation to generation, with the latest version landing squarely in the GoPro Max’s design territory. You would be forgiven if you mistook this one for that camera, but it’s definitely larger and with more modern internals. It’s definitely a classier looking camera than the previous model that looked like a bar of soap or the original QooCam. Suffice to say, I think this design on the new one works well.

The back of the QooCam 3 features an easy-to-use touchscreen interface.

Like the GoPro Max, the camera is a small square that fits easily in the hand, with lenses staggered on either side. On the back is a screen that lets you see what you are shooting from either lens by hitting a toggle switch. The camera also uses Kandao’s latest version of its touchscreen controls that are similar to the previous camera, swiping in from the sides of the screen to access playback, system settings, and shooting settings. It’s pretty simple to understand without even reading a manual.

The materials have a heft to them, and everything, in typical Kandao fashion, feels good in the hand. The only complaint I have is that the battery door is a bit finicky to use. Apparently, the designers also thought so, too, as there is a sheet with a diagram in the box showing just how it works.

Under wins and losses, the camera gains a removable battery, but loses its microphone input. That said, the four-channel audio with the built-in microphones is much better than before and may, for some eliminate the need for this. In any case, recording audio separately and syncing in post isn’t too difficult.

There’s also no more built-in memory (the QooCam 8K came with 64 GB), but in the last few years, prices have dropped on Micro SD cards, so this isn’t too much of an issue.

The company claims IP68 waterproofing on this new model, versus none in the past. I made sure to test this out:

On a technical level, IP68 is more about submerging the camera for a short time, not jets of water, but the camera handled it (and a feisty child) just fine. The six-axis stabilization did its job pretty well as far as little planet videos go.


That brings me to the software side of things. Kandao’s been at this for a while now, and the company’s app for the camera (a new one for this, the QooCam 3 App) follows the usual design language from the company’s previous cameras, that is to say, it works pretty well and has the usual set of intelligent tracking tools you’d expect from a 360 camera.

There’s also a desktop editing solution called QooCam Studio, which I much preferred. It’s easy to do all of the usual staples with 360 cameras, such as reframing video to make “2D” clips, little planets, keyframing, etc. Again, it’s a piece of software that’s been around for a while, so it just works.

I was able to easily reframe video from the QooCam 3 to produce this side-by-side comparison with the QooCam 8K.

In it, you’ll see that the audio quality is better on the new camera, as is the image quality for reframed 4K video. This is likely because the camera was able to use a lower ISO due to the larger sensor and wider aperture lens on the QooCam 3.

Back to the software though, I wish there was some better explanation of what all of the bells and whistles in the software do. For instance, exporting a video with “ambisonic audio” caused it to not work on my iPhone, and it wasn’t immediately clear why, but all in all, it’s not an unpleasant experience.

One major difference I noticed with the QooCam 3 over its predecessor was speed. The connection to the app, all the menus, even the act of taking a picture or video, all just worked faster than before with almost no lag for most operations. The camera slowed down a little bit when using the DNG8 mode (that combines eight exposures to make an image with more dynamic range), but that’s expected, and it’s still faster than before.

A casualty of the different chipset used in this camera is the loss of the SuperHDR mode from the older camera. Sadly, to get the same effect, you’ll have to use auto exposure bracketing and manually combine the images. It works fine, but it's time-consuming.

While you can use the app to access all of this, most of these features are available directly on the camera, so you don’t need to rely on a smartphone or tablet to get most of the functionality.

Image Quality

The videos above gives a pretty good look at what kind of video quality you can expect out of the camera. It’s certainly better for reframing 4K video than the QooCam 8K, at least to my eye, and that's ultimately one of the most important use-cases for a 360 camera: shoot first, frame later.

Straight up 360 video, just by nature of the resolution looks better in 8K. More resolution is simply more resolution. Still, 5.7K 360 video at 30 fps is pretty standard in this range of camera, so it’s not behind its peers.

Still photos at 62 MP are pretty sharp, and while on a computer screen, the difference between 20 and 62 isn’t all that noticeable, as screen and headset resolutions increase, 62 MP buys you a lot of future-proofing. There’s just a bit more dynamic range to be had in the new sensor as well, and that can be seen on a computer screen. Check out this difficult scene with mixed lighting on each camera:

QooCam 3:

QooCam 8K

Additionally, the new camera can shoot exposures for as long as 30 seconds compared to 1 second, which allows for the use of lower ISOs and better image quality.

In general, in the same way more resolution in video helps with quality, the same applies to still images. The upgraded lens and sensor don't hurt either. The new camera shoots better, more detailed photos than the old, as you can see in another direct comparison here:

QooCam 3:

QooCam 8K:

Is that difference worth upgrading? At $350, the better usability of the new camera makes it worth it. If you’re using something like the original QooCam or any other 360 camera from that era (circa 2018), it’s a quantum leap.


Kandao’s tried some weird things in the past with the QooCam lineup. Its first entry had a neat party trick of stereoscopic 180-degree 3D images, but with no practical way to view those images. The QooCam 8K threw a ton of video resolution at users and is still one of the only cameras on the market with built-in memory.

By comparison, the QooCam 3 is a fairly ordinary 360 camera. No tricks or gimmicks. It hangs in there with its nearest competition from Insta360 and others, at least specs-wise, but undercuts almost all of them on price, and it comes paired with a better lens and bigger sensor than much of the competition. For the price, this is a lot of camera. Kandao has made a worthy follow-up to the QooCam 8K.

What I Liked

  • Easy to use
  • Well-built
  • Weather resistant
  • Excellent image quality for stills and video
  • Good price point

What I Didn’t Like

  • Down on resolution and some features from its predecessor
  • Built-in JPEG processing is only so-so, with the need to use DNG to really get the best out of the camera


You can purchase the Kandao QooCam 3 here, in a "motorcycle" package that includes a Micro SD card, extra battery, invisible selfie stick and motorcycle mount here, or in a "travel" package that deletes the motorcycle mount.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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The quality seems pretty good, especially for video capture. I wonder, how well would it work if mounted to a helmet for bike riding (how much would it cut into the FOV)?

I can test this out on a bike later, but there's quite a bit of flexibility with the framing using the desktop software, I found.

As someone who has two of the QooCam 3's for video and is almost going to be definitely returning them. I have to offer a counter review.

If you are someone experienced in videography, or who wants actual 360 video, or even just a well built camera. The QooCam 3 is not the right option.

QooCam's on camera software for video lacks any settings aside from on auto EV (+-2.0), and AWB or manual WB (2500k-8000k) . Those are literally the only two settings on auto. On manual it has shutter, ISO and white balance. But for ISO and shutter there is no max/min setting options, or even the option to set one of them to auto and have the other be manual to adjust for either shutter priority or ISO priority. So you better hope your scene lighting doesn't change at all. And it's an "action" camera. Action scenes almost always change.

There is no option for sound settings (even seeing volume level), bit rate, stitching, stabilization, shutter min (in auto), ISO max (in auto), sharpness, color profile. There's no options for timers, or recording length. And you only get 3 resolution settings 4k/30 fps, 4/60fps, 5.7k/30fps. No single lens modes for higher 180 resolution. Which means if you are "reframing" to a 180 degree frame you have a 2.7k shot.

And you will likely want to reframe unless you are a fan of 360 video with bad stitching lines.

Right out of the box. Both of my QooCam's came with a factory calibrated stitching line that made it unusable since you lost about 10° of video on the stitch. The windows software had a "calibration" feature. But that continually failed to work until a camera firmware update that came 1 week after launch. However, that firmware update also temporarily bricked 1 of the 2 cameras when trying to update it with the phone app. Leaving me onsite with only half the working cameras I planned to use until I could use a computer for a manual update.

The desktop calibration also doesn't seem to know what it's calibrating. As you can calibrate it again and again on the exact same footage/frame and it will continually change the setting. Not making it "better" but just wiggling back and forth between seemingly the same 2-3 stitch patterns. All of them still not actually correct. And the calibration setting is saved as a file to the SD card. And I'm not sure but it seems like formatting your SD card or using a different SD card means you'll have to do the re-calibration yet again or copy over the calibration file first.

After the calibration the cameras still have a major stitching issue. At the stitch line if you are moving the cameras there is a noticeable warp that becomes extra noticeable on straight lines. A handrail looks like to suddenly became "groovy" in the middle of the rail with a sudden curve up/downwards. Since it's an "action camera" the argument of "the warp is barely visible when it's still" isn't a good one. Because again action should mean great shots while moving, especially in unusual speeds and directions.

The QooCam's stitching panicked not just on the warped stitching lines, but also on handling what it's mounted too. It understandably didn't like my pistol grip tripod leaving its handle sticking out. While held in my hand fingers disappeared (normal for 360 cams). But the actual bad issue was with an action camera wrist mount. Stitching issues made for half decapitated arm with the hand usually 4 inches to the right of the arm. And the thumbscrew bolt used to secure 99% of action cameras dips in and out of frame. Consistently in or consistently out would be fine. But going back and forth due to wavering stitching makes it a distraction. And that means that the majority of action camera mounts that require those thumb screws will cause stitching issues on the QooCam 3.

These are all issues I ran into though only when the camera would work. Aside from QooCam's phone app temporarily bricking 1 camera there were other software and hardware issues.

The QooCam 3 would suddenly stop recording saying that the v30 grade memory card - that has handled DJI Mavik 3 5.3k 200mbps video fine - could not sustain recording sometimes after just 90 seconds of recording at 120mbps. Since there's no option to modify bitrate I was continually left with the camera shutting off in the middle of the high action footage I was trying to capture. It would however let me immediately start recording again. Leaving with frustrating 5 to 10 second footage gaps. However, if you weren't near the camera to press record again or didn't realize it stopped recording, you would just be left with complete disappointment.

To be fair and make sure it wasn't my memory card causing the issue I retested with the Lexar 64GB v30 card that was included and sold by Kandao with the QooCam 3. The included card actually produced the "insufficient card speed" error and shut off recording even quicker!

As frustrating as I've found GoPro's and Insta360 cameras suddenly shutting off. The QooCam's seem to have even more footage ruining bugs.

The footage the QooCam does capture is also highly unimpressive. They tout the high aperture and large sensor as collecting almost as much light as a 1" sensor. But even a few minutes before sunset the QooCam 3 had auto dropped the shutter speed so low and raised the ISO so high that even at 60fps the footage was highly blurry and super noisy.

While testing I also had a chest mounted GoPro Hero 12 strapped to my chest using a 240fps setting. And despite having a smaller sensor and a 4x higher shutter speed the noise profile of the footage between the GoPro and the QooCam was almost identical. But the QooCam's footage was less useful since it was blurry at high action. And remember they are marketing this as an action camera. So action moments matter most and still video tests matter least.

If you do get footage, and don't mind still having a warp even after manual calibration you'll now run into the limits of Kandaos software.

Kandao seems to think that you'll only ever buy one of their camera's. They're so sure of it that in the mobile app once you pair a camera it will instantly forget that any other camera ever existed. So if you have 2 camera's you will have to manually once pair each camera every single time that you want to use it via app control (no remotes are available). Which means not only physically being by the camera but also disconnecting from any other current wifi (it won't find the camera otherwise as I discovered) and spending 30-90 seconds pairing to the new camera depending on how many times it keeps erroring out.

And as poor as the mobile software was the desktop software made it look great by comparison. In the desktop software you currently only have one stitch mode available to you "Normal". And normal has zero things you can adjust in regards settings. Literally you can't modify anything in regards stitching at all. I honestly don't even know why they have "stitching mode" on the menu, since you can't even unselect the one option of "normal". So if the camera did something a little wrong like splitting your arm into two, you can't fix it with their software. And I don't want to spend $70 a month on Mistika VR software just because the OEM software has literally 0 stitching options.

The few options the desktop software does have is changing the stabilization (off, horizon steady, or view lock), defringe, optical flow, FPS, and finally color correction. But color correction is literally just one checkbox. You can turn it on or off. You can't change how it corrects the color. You can't even change basic things like brightness, contrast, white balance, or exposure. You just get one button either their color correction preset or nothing.

The desktop editing's timeline is just as sparse. You can trim the start and end, adjust yaw, pitch, and roll, or reframe to a non-360 shot. But it completely lacks important things like showing you the audio track (which matters since they have their own special "special audio"). Or allowing you to slow your 60fps footage to 2x slo-mo 30fps footage. You can't even make a cut from the middle of the footage. You can only make two trims and export them separately to then combine in a third party program. Because you can't even combine two of your own QooCam videos into 1 clip in the desktop app.

But the issues aren't just software. The QooCam 3 seems to have build quality consistency issues. Both cameras I got have a micro SD card slot that is simply too tight. To get the card out is a struggle where I found myself having to either "get creative" to remove the card in ways that could potentially damage them. Or use tweezers to grip well enough to pull it from the tight slot. On one of the two cameras I have, the battery compartment is slightly looser. Causing the battery to often slide out. This is a problem because accessing the charging port requires you to open the battery door. So I several times found myself setting the camera down to charge. But it was tilted slightly wrong and the battery slid out just enough that it didn't charge.

Charging is another final significant issue with the QooCam 3 at launch. Although QooCam offers combos with 1 additional battery, and even offered a free extra battery the first week they sold them on their site. There are absolutely no external charges available. First party or third party.

That means the only way to charge your battery is in your camera. So if you plan to shoot for a 4-5 hour day, either you will have to buy half a dozen batteries (which are currently aren't even available for individual purchase for ~1 more month). Or once you have used your batteries, you'll be stuck waiting for them to charge one by one in the camera. That also means after a shoot day even if you only needed two batteries. You will still have to babysit and charge them one by one in the camera.

I will often hear reviewers talk about how "X" aspect could be fixed with an update. But if it's something as basic as stitching correction for a 360 camera. It shouldn't be an update you hope comes it should launch with the camera. The fact calibration didn't work until a firmware update a week later means they shouldn't have launched the camera till a week later. Reviews should be based on what it can do now. Not what you hope the company might fix in the future.

Owners of the former QooCam 8k also notedly were pissed because Kandao quickly stopped software support on the consumer product. So it feels like a bad idea to hope they fix basic software issues in a future update when the company is known for not being good about support. And the fact they don't have first party external chargers makes it really seem like they don't have a cohesive product team and that they just launched it way way way too soon to get something out the door.

So I would simply say don't buy this camera until multiple unsponsored sources - that aren't getting the camera for free - verify that all the issues I mentioned have been fixed. Because right now it's a mess. And yes it's cheap. But also it's "cheap" and currently worse than any of the 5 360 cameras I've used over the years despite being the newest.

Companies regularly send gear for reviews, but these posts aren't sponsored. Sponsored posts are labeled as such. If you look at my history, Kandao (and other companies) have sent me review gear before and I've been both kind and unkind as each camera called for it.

This particular camera, like the QooCam 8K before it, is a good camera - it's easy to pick up and get good results without trying too hard. Is it going to have the level of customization you're looking for? No. It's a consumer grade camera. If you want pro-level features, there are Obsidians and Titans waiting for you. People buying into this class of camera aren't going to be bothering with Mistika and more complicated software, which is kind of the point. I can make Little Planets, reframe footage, and take good 360 photos with ease. If I feel like getting a little fancy, there's auto-exposure bracketing and some manual controls for photo and some limited control for video. That's all that most users will ever need in this space.

I've been using 360 cameras since Samsung's Gear line, through Nikon Keymission, Garmin Virb, Insta360, Vecnos Iqui all the way to the QooCam lineup. As far as this class and price range of camera goes, it's really good. My sample size is the one review unit I had, but I didn't have these recording and build quality issues you are seeing. Kandao's stuff has always been built pretty well from my experience with multiple cameras. The same included card seemed to work fine in the camera I was using.

For what it's worth - Perhaps you're not on the latest software/firmware? Perhaps it's your computer setup? I'm on an M2 Mac Pro and was using this camera with pre-release software/firmware and while there were some bugs (prior to release, stitching photos would crash the desktop software on Apple Silicon), by the time the camera launched in early September the release versions of the app/software/firmware smoked out any issues, at least for me.

Did you try the camera using the v1 of the Studio software. Yes it's an old version but it does offer the AI slow motion that doesn't seem to be available in the newer version.