There is a rumor that Yi 360 VR will have built-in image stabilization after all. Here’s the basis for the rumor and my assessment of its likelihood.
When Yi announced the Yi 360 VR at NAB Show 2017, it was clear at that time that it would not have stabilization. Check out my interview with Yi’s Marketing Director — jump to 2 mins 27 secs of the video:
As you can see, Yi’s Marketing Director was unequivocal about the Yi 360 VR not having stabilization. Other Yi representatives we spoke with at NAB Show 2017 said the same thing.
At that time, in-camera stabilization was a very new feature, and the only cameras that had it at that time were the Insta360 Nano, which had just added stabilization on April 13, just a couple of weeks before NAB Show 2017, and the $3499 Insta360 Pro, which was not even released to the public at that time. But soon thereafter, stabilization started being added to several other 360 cameras: Insta360 Air, Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere, and most crucially, Garmin Virb 360, the only other consumer camera currently being touted as 5.7K and therefore a direct competitor of the Yi 360 VR. (Since then, stabilization has also been added to the Giroptic iO).
Meanwhile, Sami Luo posted a sample from a preproduction version of the Yi 360 VR, a video that became somewhat controversial for two reasons: first, the stitching was problematic because the lenses in the preproduction unit seem misaligned. Second, Sami shot the video handheld while walking, which emphasized the video’s unsteadiness. I recommended to Yi to find a way to add image stabilization if at all possible, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who suggested it.
Then the Yi 360 VR suddenly disappeared. June came and went, with no sign of the Yi 360 VR, even though that was the original launch date. There was even a time when the Yi 360 VR disappeared from Yi’s website.
However, about 3 weeks ago, the Yi 360 VR resurfaced in new videos posted by Sami Luo and some Yi representatives / employees. The new samples showed very good stitching. However, the videos still did not appear to be stabilized. Based on this, I surmised that Yi chose not to add stabilization to the Yi 360 VR.
A few days ago, reader and tech vlogger Ulf Brusquini contacted Yi and was informed by a Yi technical support staff person that the Yi 360 VR will have built in stabilization and built in leveler. The representative also said both camera and PC support stitching, and that they would provide the PC stitching software. First of all, I just want to underscore that this is hearsay at this point. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at these features in detail:
1. In-camera stitching: yes this is correct. The Yi 360 VR will have in-camera stitching capability at 4K resolution. This was part of the Yi 360 VR’s specifications.
2. Stitching via PC: yes this appears to be correct as well. Yi 360 VR videos can be stitched on a desktop at 5.7K resolution. This was stated by Yi representatives at NAB Show. As a side note, it’s great that Yi is providing the stitching software. By contrast, Garmin Virb 360 can be stitched on a desktop at a higher resolution (5.7K unstitched) but the stitching software is not included, and you’ll need an expensive third party stitcher.
3. Built-in leveler: uncertain. Some 360 cameras have an internal gyroscope that allows the camera to make the photos and/or videos vertical. For example, the shooter might have the camera upside down or horizontal when shooting, but after the photo is stitched / rendered, it appears vertical. This is a basic feature found in several 360 cameras, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yi 360 VR had it.
Having said that, recent sample videos don’t seem to show a leveling capability. For example, a recent aerial 360 video was upside down. Moreover, the official specifications for the Yi 360 VR don’t mention an internal gyroscope.
It’s possible that if there is a vertical correction sensor, it works only in photo mode, which is true for several 360 cameras. But for video, there’s no evidence of vertical correction thus far besides the tech support representative’s statement.
4. Built-in stabilization: uncertain. This is very useful feature and allows a user to capture video with a stable and level horizon, without worrying about the camera’s position, similar to using a 3-axis gimbal.
Again, the official specifications for the Yi 360 VR don’t mention anything about this. In addition, none of the sample videos posted thus far show any stabilization, so close to the expected release date in September.
It’s possible that stabilization will be a feature added just shortly before the actual release. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the tech support rep misunderstood the question, or had incorrect information.
CURRENT RELEASE DATE
As of today, the release date is still expected in September. To stay updated, please subscribe, like or follow the 360 Rumors Facebook page, and join the Yi 360 VR group on Facebook. Thanks again to Ulf Brusquini for bringing this information to my attention!