Giroptic, one of the pioneers in the 360 camera industry, announced that they are closing today. Here is my analysis on the reasons for their closure, and what it means for the 360 camera industry.
Giroptic has been in the 360 camera industry since 2008 and they created several 360 cameras, and more importantly, paved the way for YouTube to add 360 video support in 2015.
Their announcement took me by surprise. As recently as January, I met with CEO Richard Ollier and Chief Product Officer Matthieu Grosselin, and they were moving forward with their 3D 6DOF software. They also showed me a prototype of a new camera that they were releasing this year, which would have 4K resolution.
What does Giroptic’s closure mean for the 360 industry?
I think the problem for Giroptic was that the market was moving too fast for them. I have been a photographer since 2007 and I can assure you that the pace of rapid development in the 360 camera industry is far beyond anything I have seen in the interchangeable lens (DSLR and mirrorless) industry (which I covered on my other blog from 2009 to 2016).
In the DSLR industry, we see a new version of a camera around every 2 years. For example, the Sony NEX-6 was released in 2012, followed by the Sony a6000 in 2014, and its successors the a6300 and a6500, were released in 2016. In the 360 camera industry, we are seeing new versions every year, sometimes even faster.
Moreover, for DSLRs, the change in the successor is usually incremental, whereas in the 360 industry, the change between even one version is usually huge – something we normally see every four years in the DSLR industry. For example Insta360 Nano has a 3K resolution, whereas the Insta360 Nano S has a 4K resolution — approximately 60% higher resolution. The pace in the 360 industry is therefore approximately 4 times as fast. We are seeing 360 cameras double in resolution every year. In 2016, we saw 4K 360 cameras for consumers (starting with the Samsung Gear 360). In 2017, we saw 6K consumer 360 cameras (beginning with the Garmin Virb 360). In 2018, we will see 8K consumer 360 cameras (Kodak has already announced one).
This insanely fast pace is good in some ways but not so healthy in others. The good thing is of course that we see dramatic improvements in a very short time period. But there are downsides: consumers who buy a camera feel that their cameras become obsolete quickly, so some of them wait instead of buying. For manufacturers (including both cameras and accessories), the product cycle is so short that there is not enough time to recover their investment. Yet the industry keeps moving forward at a brutal speed. I don’t know if this pace is sustainable.
While I’m a bit worried about how fast the industry is moving, I’m actually more bullish about 360 now more than ever, because there are now 360 cameras that are good enough to serve as general purpose cameras for consumers. I can comfortably say that some 360 cameras are now practical alternatives to action cameras and smartphones. 360 cameras have “arrived.”
The challenge is that we reached this point so quickly that most consumers haven’t realized it yet. Which is why many of my recent videos have been focusing on educating people about the practical benefits of 360 cameras.
So, in summary, the future for the 360 camera industry remains bright. And it is thanks to companies such as Giroptic that we have reached this point so quickly. Thank you very much Richard, and the rest of the Giroptic team! You can read about Giroptic’s achievements over the years on Giroptic.com.