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Lenovo Mirage Camera Review (Google VR180) Sample Photos and Videos

Lenovo Mirage Camera Review (Google VR180)
Lenovo Mirage Camera samples and first impressions (Google VR180)

With Lenovo Mirage, you and your family and friends can finally capture and re-live special moments in three dimensional virtual reality.  Here is a hands-on review of the Mirage, the first Google VR180 camera for consumers, with sample photos and videos.  Note that as of May 14, 2018, there are no apps yet for editing VR180 photos or videos.  I’ll update this review when editing software become available.  (May 14, 2018: added more sample photos, including low light sample shots)

Lenovo Mirage Camera Review (Google VR180) with sample photos and videos
Lenovo Mirage Camera Review (Google VR180) with sample photos and videos

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Why shoot in VR180?
Specifications
Package contents; setup
Lenovo Mirage controls; how to shoot
Viewing and sharing VR180 photos and videos
Sample photos
Sample videos
First impressions

May 14, 2018: added more photos and videos
May 8, 2018: added more photos


Why shoot in VR180?

You’ve seen thousands of photos and videos from your family and friends, but unless you yourself were there with them, you can only guess what it was like to have been there. Google VR180 cameras promise the ability to capture moments that you can re-live in 3D virtual reality, bringing us closer than ever possible to the experience of being there.  At the same time, by limiting the view to only one stereo pair, VR180 reduces the complexity and cost associated with 3D 360 cameras.

Lenovo Mirage is the first Google VR180 camera for consumers (the other one is the Yi Horizon, which is not due until later in 2018).  In this review, I’ll discuss how to use the Lenovo Mirage, from shooting to sharing. I’ll also provide samples that you can view with a Google Cardboard or other VR headset so you can experience VR180 for yourself.

Specifications

LensesTwo 180-degree fisheye lenses
Aperturef/2.1
Field of view180 degrees
Sensorstwo 13mp sensors
ProcessorQualcomm® Snapdragon™ 626 Platform APQ8053 Processor (2.20GHz)
Photo resolution6032 x 3016 (3016 x 3016 per eye)
vr.jpg format (VR180)
Video resolution3840 x 2160 30fps (1920 x 2160 per eye)
vr.mp4 format (VR180)
Live streaming resolutionUp to 3840 x 2160
Audiotwo microphones
one speaker
Memory2GB RAM
16GB ROM (10GB usable for storage)
Micro SD up to 128GB
Stabilization6-axis stabilization
Battery2200 mAh Li-ion polymer, removable (2 pcs included)
Battery life: Up to 2 hours
in-camera USB charging
Dimensions55 mm x 105 mm x 22 mm
2.16” x 4.13” x 0.87"
Weight139 grams

Package contents; setup

Lenovo Mirage camera unboxing
Lenovo Mirage camera unboxing

The Lenovo Mirage package includes the following:
– the Lenovo Mirage camera
– two 2200 mAh Li-ion batteries (model L17D1P34)
– USB charger
– USB Type C cable
– a fabric pouch with pocket and drawstring
– instructions and warranty

The Mirage feels very light and is quite compact — like a slightly tall deck of cards.  Although it is very light and is all plastic, I would not say it feels cheap.

The battery cover occupies almost the entire back part of the camera.  The battery is charged within the camera by plugging in the camera to a USB power source.  The camera can be used while it is charging.

On one side of the camera is a cover for both the Micro SD slot and the USB Type C port.  The Mirage has a built-in memory of 16GB, of which around 10GB can be used to store photos and videos.  I found it a little hard to keep the cover tightly closed when I had a Micro SD card inserted.

There is a standard 1/4-20 tripod hole in the bottom (thankfully, metal).  There’s a little hole for a wrist strap, although a wrist strap is not included.  The user manual mentions a SIM card slot in the battery compartment although my unit did not have a SIM slot.

Lenovo Mirage Controls; how to shoot

The Mirage has very simple controls.  It has a power button, a shutter button and a Function / mode button (labeled “F”).  You hold down the power button to turn it on.  With the power completely off, the startup takes a while — around 12 seconds.  After that, if you press the power button again (without holding it down), it will go to sleep mode.  From sleep mode, it can be turned on immediately with the power button.  To turn it off completely, hold down the power button until the LED light turns off.

Use the Function button to switch between photo, video, or live (when connected to a Wi-Fi network).  There’s an LED display on the back of the camera to show which mode you’re in.  Use the shutter to take a photo or to start or stop recording.

There’s no LCD screen but you can get a live view when you’re connected to a phone (see below)

Connecting to a smartphone:

The Lenovo Mirage can connect to either an iOS or Android phone (check for compatibility).  Connecting is pretty easy.  After installing and running the app, just turn on the camera.  The app will be able to find the camera automatically. You then have to hold down the shutter button to enter pairing mode, and then press the shutter when prompted to confirm the connection.  After the camera has been paired, the app can automatically connect to the camera as long as the camera is turned on.

Shooting with a smartphone:

To use live view, tap on the red camera icon on the bottom right. The live view shows a monoscopic circular fisheye view.

From the live view screen, you can switch to photo, video, or live streaming mode.  At the top of the screen, you can specify the resolution, exposure compensation (+/- 2EV in 0.1 stop increments), white balance preset, and ISO (auto or 100 to 1600, in 1 stop increments).  Note that by default, the video resolution is 1440p instead of the 2160p (4K) maximum.

Shooting techniques:
Here are some shooting tips for VR180:
– The camera must be level to avoid viewer discomfort. The pitch and roll must both be level (for photos, the pitch can be tilted up or down if that is your artistic intent).  The Mirage works best with a gimbal to ensure that it is level.
– Avoid moving the camera while shooting a video.
– In general, the camera should be around chin height.
– If the camera is too close to an object, it can be uncomfortable to view in 3D (like forcing your viewers to get cross-eyed). Do not be closer than about 2 feet.
– If the camera is too far from an object, it will not look 3D.
– Objects in the middle of the frame appear most three-dimensional. Objects in the periphery will appear less three-dimensional.

Viewing and Sharing VR180 photos and videos

Summary: On one hand, VR180’s workflow is ideal — there’s no need to stitch the photos or videos.  You can simply upload them straight out of the camera to Google Photos or YouTube, and they will be immediately viewable by anyone to whom you send the link.  On the other hand, there are still no editing options as of May 14, 2018.  Even Google Photos’ own built-in editor can’t edit the VR180 photos correctly (photos edited with the mobile app become 2D 180, and those edited on the desktop app show the edits on the left eye but not the right eye image).

Viewing photos and videos:

To view the photos and videos in the camera, go to the main screen of the app and tap on “View all” on the upper right to view all the photos and videos on the camera.   Tap on a thumbnail to view the photo or video in 360 mode.  To see it in VR mode, tap on the Cardboard icon.

Sharing photos and videos:

If you want to share a photo or video, download it to the app first.  You can download photos and videos individually or several at a time.  Downloaded photos and videos will appear as thumbnails on the app’s main screen.

From the app’s main screen, viewing a photo or video will give you the option to share them.  Photos and videos can be shared to Google Photos.   Photos and videos uploaded to Google Photos can be viewed as an interactive 180 photo or video, or viewed in 3D 180 with a Google Cardboard or Google Daydream VR headset*.  From Google Photos, you can share photos with your family and friends by sharing a link with them.

*As of May 8, 2018, I have not found a way to view VR180 photos on Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Go, Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality, or Playstation VR.

Videos can also be shared on YouTube.  YouTube will automatically recognize VR180 videos.  On the YouTube app, you can tap on the Cardboard icon to view a video in VR.

Option to export non-VR photo; workaround

Photos can also be converted to a non-VR photo.  The app converts the VR180 photo into a rectilinear ultrawide 2D photo (as if taken by an ulrawide lens, such as 18mm in 35mm equivalent) and saved to your phone’s gallery.   This type of projection works well for architecture.  However, as you move closer to the edge of the frame, objects will appear stretched, which is not a flattering look for people.  Unfortunately, there are no other projections available such as a fisheye view (which is a better projection for photos of people).

As a workaround, I used a third party app called VR Media Player (Android) to play the files with fisheye projections, and then I used screenshots as (non-VR) photos.  Here are the settings I used for the photos shown in this article:

VR Media Player settings for VR180 photos
VR Media Player settings for VR180 photos

 

VR Media Player settings for VR180 videos
VR Media Player settings for VR180 videos

Editing VR180 files

VR180 photos and videos have their own unique format (.vr.jpg for photos and .vr.mp4 for videos).   When you view a VR180 photo on a regular image viewer, the photo appears as a 180-degree equirectangular photo of the left eye.  The right eye view is not visible on a regular image viewer because the right eye image is actually stored as metadata in the image, hence the right eye image appears invisible to most viewers.

VR180 videos are stored as 16:9 videos with side by side double circular fisheyes.

As of May 8, 2018, it is not yet possible to edit VR180 photos or videos.  If you edit a VR180 photo, such as by changing the exposure, only one side of the VR180 photo will be affected by the changes.  As for VR180 videos, there is no editor that can include VR180 metadata in an edited video, nor is there a tool for adding such metadata.

Sample photos

Scrrenshot of a Google VR180 photo showing its image quality
Screenshot of a Google VR180 photo showing its image quality

I haven’t found a way to embed VR180 photos but here is a link to an album.  The best way to experience them is with a VR headset such as a Google Cardboard viewer (if you don’t want to use a VR headset, then you’re probably better off with a regular camera tbh).  You can view the photos in VR by viewing the link on a smartphone and tapping the Google Cardboard icon.

Although the photos aren’t as detailed as some 360 cameras such as the Xiaomi, they still look reasonably detailed, with decent dynamic range, and pleasant colors and contrast.  It also appears that the Mirage has excellent flare resistance.

Scrrenshot of a Google VR180 sample photo showing its image quality
Screenshot of a Google VR180 sample photo showing its image quality

In low light, the Mirage uses very aggressive noise reduction.  This approach is typical and arguably appropriate for a camera intended for casual users.  Here are a couple of low light sample shots (to see the VR180 version, see my sample album).

Lenovo Mirage sample photo low light @ ISO 1250 (screenshot from VR180 photo)
Lenovo Mirage sample photo low light @ ISO 1250, f/2.1, 1/30 (screenshot from VR180 photo)

This one was taken in very dark conditions:

Lenovo Mirage sample photo low light @ ISO 1600, f/2.1, 1/15 (screenshot from VR180 photo)
Lenovo Mirage sample photo low light @ ISO 1600, f/2.1, 1/15 (screenshot from VR180 photo)

For a compact point and shoot camera, I thought the Mirage low light photos look pretty good as long as you can manage to keep the camera steady.   Also for best results, you should zoom out as much as possible when taking your screenshot.

Sample videos

In 4K mode, Lenovo’s video quality is very good compared to most 360 cameras:

Screenshot from 4K Google VR180 video showing its video quality
Screenshot from 4K Google VR180 video showing its video quality

In 2.5K mode (2560 x 1440), videos look noticeably less detailed, although they still look pretty good:

Screenshot from 2.5K Google VR180 video showing its video quality
Screenshot from 2.5K Google VR180 video showing its video quality

Here is a playlist of sample videos from the Lenovo Mirage, shot by me and by others.

First impressions

Screenshot of a Google VR180 photo showing its image quality
Screenshot of a Google VR180 photo showing its image quality

Lenovo Mirage provides pretty good photo and video quality.  The lens is sharp except near the edges where there is a sudden drop in sharpness, and greater chromatic aberration.  The dynamic range is above average compared to consumer 360 cameras.  I also like the natural-looking colors and contrast of the photos and videos.

The Mirage has very simple controls and it’s easy to connect it with a smartphone (just launch the app and turn on the camera).  The bigger concern is that shooting VR180 is a little more challenging with several rules to avoid viewer discomfort.  It’s made a little harder for casual shooters because there’s no LCD screen, and the live preview on the phone isn’t representative of what you would see in VR view.  But you can get used to shooting it.

Viewing and sharing photos and videos is simple because there is no need to stitch photos or videos.  However, there is still very little support for sharing VR180, and there is no photo or video editor yet.   My understanding is that there will be a plugin for VR180 editing on Adobe Premiere but what we really need is a free or low cost VR180 editing option for both photos and videos to unlock the full potential of this exciting new medium.

What’s next

I will update this review with a comparison between the Mirage and other 3D-capable cameras including LucidCam, Vuze, Insta360 Pro, and JedEYE.  I might include the Fuji W3 as well. 🙂  If you have any other questions, please let me know in the comments!

About the author

Mic Ty

87 Comments

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  • Good job getting your review completed quickly.

    Good tip on the standby mode.

    Unless people use this with some thought I think they will be disappointed. As you say, not good for distant objects. But not good for objects too close, either. I went out today with my Mirage and really worked on getting a combination of things in the shot at varying distances.

    And yes we definitely need photo and video editors for the format.

    Regards,

    Bill

    • You’re totally right, Bill. Most people just don’t get 3D and I am not sure things will be different just because it’s applied to a VR camera. And also, the 3D effect with such wide angle lenses and such a small lens separation really is only obvious between two and ten feet.

  • What is the lens separation on this camera – measured from center of left lens to center of right lens ?

    • Hi Pharelian. Yes I noticed that. I’m not sure but it could be user error. Maybe the camera wasn’t level.
      best regards,
      mic

  • Thanks for the quick hands-on review ! Can’t say I’m too impressed by the quality of the pictures in the Google Photos album though. That might a Google Photos issue though because I’ve noticed that it’s pretty bad at displaying 360 pictures too with a nadir that’s generally wonky, that was a few months ago, will have to try again.

    So the sharpness should be better than 360 since it’s half the area but then it’s stereo, so isn’t it the same end result ? Also 3D didn’t interest many people even though there were cool cameras like the Fuji W3 or the Panasonic 3D1 that I still have actually. The problem was viewing though…

    Also unlike a 360 camera that you can point whichever way you like, the lack of a preview screen is going to be a bit problematic here.

    I think this is likely to go the way of the dodo…

    • > So the sharpness should be better than 360 since it’s half the area but then it’s stereo, so isn’t it the same end result ?

      It depends if you are referring to 360 2D or 360 3D. It should be higher resolution that 360 3D because the view is over 180 degrees so is not as spread out as a view over 360 degrees (I am referring to how it is spread when viewing in a VR headset)

      > Also 3D didn’t interest many people

      3D depends heavily on composition in space. If you shoot a golf course, don’t expect spectacular 3D. It is the subject matter, its position in space and its relationship to other elements in the scene that will produce a good 3D image. Most people simply don’t get that and expect that shooting casually with a 3D camera just as one would do with a 2D camera will yield amazing results. It won’t. The best way I can put this is that most of the time, people are not even aware they see in 3D. There’s nothing particularly exciting about it. Therefore filming a plain scene in 3D will just result in a plain scene…

      > the lack of a preview screen is going to be a bit problematic here.

      I still am not convinced a preview screen would help much because I find that VR180 really requires a main subject placed right in front of the camera. Placing main subjects at the edges of the boundaries of the FOV makes the limits of the 180 field plainly obvious (you see darkness over the boundaries). Also, as I’ve pointed out before, the 3D effect markedly decreases at the edges of the field.

      > I think this is likely to go the way of the dodo…

      My prediction also ! 🙂

  • Got mine yesterday, feeling ok about it so far. I really don’t like the rotation thing Google has implemented when viewing, where it moves the image the same way the camera moved, I was really confused by it at first. I know they say its to cut down on motion sickness, but I feel like its really distracting to have this black frame of nothingness cream into your eyeline, and you have to chase the image around. I think I will be stripping my videos of the motion data.
    Its true that the object or person has to be in that sweet spot, distance-wise, to really get the 3D effect, but I was pleasantly surprised with image photo quality, its definitely sharper than the 4K video.

    I stuck the camera on my Osmo Mobile 2, works nicely, but you have to hold the gimbal backwards since the camera has to face the opposite direction than it should.

    • I really wish the Yi Horizon was out already to do a sbs comparison; Yi is pretty awesome, I have a feeling the extra resolution of the Horizon is going to be noticeable.

      • Congrats on getting yours, Brian! I agree, the Yi Horizon is probably going to be better. But who knows when it will come out… maybe even pushed back to next year?

        • The bigger question is whether anyone else will jump on the bandwagon. I remember when the W3 was released, Samsung showed its own version of a 3D camera but waited to see how the W3 would do in the market. Sure enough, the Samsung 3D camera was never released…

          http://www.letsgodigital.org/en/24890/samsung-3d-camera/

          So now, what about the LG announcement of a VR180 camera ? We haven’t heard a word about it since last June. And who else ? No other manufacturer seems to have expressed any interest in joining the Google VR180 camp.

      • “I have a feeling the extra resolution of the Horizon is going to be noticeable.”

        There is no extra resolution! They just claims so for marketing purposes. They are 4k sensors.

        • Hi Trebor. FWIW, the Horizon samples I saw do look a little more detailed. Stand by. Will post.
          Best regards,
          Mic

        • What are you talking about??
          The Yi resolution is 5760×2880, whereas my Lenovo here is only 3840×2160.
          Thats a huge resolution difference!

          • It has the same sensors as the Yi 360 camera, which is most definitely higher resolution than most 4k 360 cameras.

          • > It has the same sensors as the Yi 360 camera

            Not quite. The Mirage has two square sensors 2160×2160 while the Yi has two square sensors 2880×2800. Only the Yi has two true 4K sensors for a total of 5.7K Lenovo arrives at the 4K value by adding the total for it’s two sensors but they are individually less than 4K.

          • Yes, sorry, I was saying that the Yi Horizon, not the Lenovo, has the same sensors as the Yi 360. My whole point to all of this is that the Yi Horizon does in fact have a significantly higher resolution than the Lenovo.

          • I was responding to Trebor who said “There is no extra resolution! They just claims so for marketing purposes. They are 4k sensors.” in reference to your statement that the Yi Horizon will have better resolution than the Mirage. You are correct. He is not.

      • Is it? I feel like I’ve seen plenty of 3D movies where the camera wasn’t locked off.
        Of course stabilization always helps any kind of video, but I’m speaking specifically of Google’s implementation of rotating the 180º video in whatever orientation the camera moves.
        Makes sense for a 360 video, but seems weird in 180 where have of your sphere is blackness.

    • > where it moves the image the same way the camera moved

      I noticed that in one of Mic’s clips. The dilemma is how to conciliate motion at the photographer stage with motion at the viewer stage. For example: Imagine a skier has a 360 camera mounted on his helmet and he is going down the mountain and looking ahead of him. If you then view that clip in a headset, you are free to look around left and right while you feel the movement downhill….

      But what happens at the viewing stage if, throughout his downhill slide, the skier keeps looking left and right ? That could get really confusing to the viewer. With a VR180 camera it’s pretty much the same but in this case, because the field is limited to 180 degrees, you end up with a dark veil if you don’t follow the photographer’s movements to the left or right.

      There should be a way to fix the front view so that a camera that is panning keeps the view at the front. The way it is now makes no sense. Imagine if you were to mount such a camera on a roller-coaster and then, viewing this, you would have to bend down, look up, turn right and left to try and keep up with the moving image !!!

      Someone should test that ! 🙂

      • Yes i agree there should be forward-view stabilization, or the option to turn off stabilization for people who use gimbals

      • Yes, exactly. In the case of 180, its really not that much different from a traditional video, just with a little extra to see in the peripheral. I don’t think it necessitates any rotational compensation, at least in the way that a 360 video might.

        If I take a normal video that I shot on my phone where I’m walking around in different directions and then go and watch it in a VR headset, I don’t get any kind of motion sickness from it just because I’m watching a seemingly bigger version of it than what I would see if watching it on my phone screen.

  • Thanks for posting the review. I think the first question you brought up — Why shoot in VR180? — needs to strongly be addressed by marketers for these cameras. Heatmap data shows 360 video watchers are still spending the vast majority of the of time facing the front 180, particularly if the focus of action is there.

    The benefits of 360 media over 180 are a bit overstated. And yet I’m sure when faced with similarly priced 360 and 180 cameras, most users will pick the 360 one despite:

    – Easier set up in 180
    – Smaller file sizes and less SD cards needed for 180
    – Less time spent in post for 180

    We’re big 180 fans, but Google and the camera manufacturers are going to have to do a better job marketing VR180, if they’re serious about it.

    • > 360 video watchers are still spending the vast majority of the of time facing the front 180, particularly if the focus of action is there.

      That may be true. But our eyes do wander and the 360 environment makes the immersion more complete when there are no boundaries to our FOV.

      > The benefits of 360 media over 180 are a bit overstated

      What I found is that with 180, one really does have to have a main subject of interest directly in front of the camera. For one thing, only subject matter that is in front of the camera will appear in full 3D as wide angle twin lenses cause parallax reduction with subjects that are at the sides. For another, if interesting subject matter is spread over the 180 degrees, one becomes painfully aware of the boundaries of the 180 field, which makes one feel like one is standing in a dark room with a large front window.

      I agree that 180 provides a more compact solution and I also agree with all the advantages you list – even adding the advantage that you don’t always end up in the picture like is the case with 360 ! But I still find thatm in cases where the environment is interesting over 360 degrees, a 360 camera will provide the most realistic result.

    • “– Smaller file sizes and less SD cards needed for 180”

      Files are not smaller. It is the same amount of data. That is what makes 180 better – because the resolution is concentrated just within 180 degrees.

    • I agree, and see VR180 as just an improved placeholder for immersive video while we wait for 360 technology to catch up. I tend to always feel underwhelmed by 360 (2d 360 that is) because of the flatness and I can tell that I’m looking at a image wrapped onto a sphere.

      I like 180 because of the 3D, of course, and because, like traditional video, you can still focus the viewers gaze to whatever subject you want (unlike 360, where they can look around at whatever the hell they want).

      BUT, 360 is a little more accessible, as you can enjoy it in either a VR headset or just by moving your phone around in the air. With VR180, the limited extra resolution on the sides doesn’t really make people want to move their phones around, and of course they also lose the 3D effect, so VR180 really does live and die inside of a VR headset only.

      Once we have the affordability to shoot (and the bandwidth to stream) 3D 360 video, I think VR180 will see it usefulness diminish.

      • I think every format has its place and, for sure, immersive content needs to be 3D for full realism. 3D 360 is the ideal for full immersion and recreation of a scene. The main drawbacks are the cost of good quality 3D 360 cameras (Insta360 Pro at US$2500. or the recent Zcam V1 at US$9000.) the greater bulk of such cameras and the complexity in stitching (not to mention the stitch lines themselves). Then add to that the fact that 360 cameras record everything including yourself – which means that you will need to either hide or edit yourself out.

        180 cameras on the other hand are much more pocketable, don’t require any stitching and eliminate the problem of ending up in every shot. Add to this the fact that they are much more affordable. So I think they provide a simple and cost effective option.

        But it still remains that either of these approaches are only attractive when the scene itself is worth recording. Most of the time one photographs a specific subject, frames it and doesn’t necessarily want everything else around it to appear in the picture. So I think all these formats will continue to exist side by side.

  • Please post a comparison with the W3. I haven’t found a single point and shoot with better quality and higher resolution in the years since it came out which is depressing. Sensor technology has moved so far forward since then.

    • It’s just not possible to compare the W3 with a VR180 camera because they have completely different uses. The W3 is like a pair of regular compact cameras joined together. In other words, it uses regular lenses with built-in zoom and outputs a pair of images that you can view on a 3D TV, in a 3D viewer, on a glasses-free 3D tablet or phone and that you can also print for viewing in a regular stereo print viewer.

      VR 180 cameras on the other hand feature a pair of very wide angle fish-eye lenses and the resulting images can only be viewed in 3D in a VR headset where they are substantially magnified and corrected. You end up with a very wide 3D view that is very immersive as it is not restricted by the boundaries of a stereo window. The effect can be great, but it also results in a lower resolution image and one that you cannot view in any of the other mediums mentioned.

      Therefore, look upon a camera like the Mirage or the Horizon as an addition to your 3D arsenal but not as one that could in any way replace your W3.

        • Agreed. I am much more interested in the stills for now as I’d like a replacement for the W3. Also, despite it being 180 degrees the hope is that with newer faster and higher quality sensors as well as higher resolution we can still achieve higher pixels per degree on vr180. Its just a shame that no companies have prioritized this in a consumer point and shoot. 30 megapixels is maybe overkill for most consumers but for vr180 or 360 it actually makes a lot of sense.

          Hopefully we can get an image comparison of the stereo vr180 shots on this camera versus the W3 just to see if it is worth getting or will we have to wait another few more years 🙂

          • > I am much more interested in the stills for now as I’d like a replacement for the W3

            I don’t know what you do with your W3, but if you are shooting and framing specific subjects, a VR180 camera won’t replace that. You are better off putting together a 3D rig using two regular cameras.

            A VR180 camera’s purpose is to record a scene in which you are immersed. The focus is in the central area of the picture while the rest of the pixels are used to create a surround that makes you feel you are immersed in the picture. It’s a very different approach.

            > with newer faster and higher quality sensors as well as higher resolution we can still achieve higher pixels per degree on vr180

            It’s not that simple since VR180 images are magnified much more than pictures from the W3. And also, the results depend not only on the camera sensor but on the display resolution. You might need an 8K to 16K display to compensate for the high magnification and really get a high resolution effect with VR.

        • > VR180 can be converted to SBS. This lets us compare image quality.

          Sure but VR180 cameras record images as fisheye only, are magnified on the display, then magnified again with wide angle viewing lenses. So, side by side comparison won’t really say much since the images are not viewed in the same conditions.

    • I need to revisit the W3 then because I pretty much stopped using it after I got the Panasonic 3D1 thanks to its wider angle. Can’t say I’ve used it much recently though as the “standard” pictures it took on top of the .mpo’s were not as sharp as those of my P&S Sony cameras so I would have had to double-up on the pictures, not very convenient…and add to that the viewing constraints. At least 360s can be viewed on any device with some panning around and still remain immersive.

      • Despite the now-odd format of the W3, it was just JPEG with a second one embedded in the metadata. There is a Google Daydream app to view MPO’s. I’ve written my own app that isn’t polished enough for release on the GearVR, Oculus Go and desktop HMD’s.

        Even without an app to load the native format there are scripts to pre-process the images into SBS images and then my current favorite viewer is Pigasus VR for the Gear and Oculus Go. It has issues with sorting and shows SBS thumbnails instead of just one image or stereo image, but that’s not terrible.

        • The Oculus Go might help with viewing but whichever way you look at it, viewing SBS pics is a hassle, tried on my 3D TV, on my Gadmei 8″ Tablet, on the W3 screen, on that HTC 3D smartphone, etc…It always ends up being a hassle unfortunately. So far I’m finding 360 to be “better” in the sense that they’re immersive and can be viewed by anyone without any special equipment.

          • I am a bit puzzled by you guys’ comments about MPO and SBS. Stereo images have traditionally been SBS and that goes as far back as the 1850’s. That arrangement is simply the most convenient since it allows easy viewing in a stereo viewer. Thousands of stereo cards were produced that way in the 19th century and current VR headsets use exactly the same arrangement. So I don’t get how you can say “SBS is a hassle” since it’s the exact format used by current technology.

            As for MPO, it’s widely used in the 3D community. It was devised as a convenient way to keep two separate images in one container file and include information about stereo window position. The W3 has a lever that allows adjusting that window in the camera.

            MPO’s are recognized by 3D TVs, 3D apps for glasses-free tablets, Nintendo 3DS, the W3, and 3D editing software such as SPM. For that reason, I save all my stereo images as MPOs after editing. MPOs can easily be converted to SBS pairs or anaglyphs using SPM.

            > So far I’m finding 360 to be “better” in the sense that they’re immersive

            I am not convinced it is better unless one does specifically wish to record the entire environment. I mostly prefer to photograph specific subject and not have to record everything around me every time.

            Keep in mind that the trade-off is resolution. No matter how you look at it, 180 and 360 stretch the pixels substantially and thus lower effective resolution.

            > and can be viewed by anyone without any special equipment.

            Well.. what about that VR headset ? Doesn’t that count as “special equipment” ? 🙂

          • This is reply to François, not to my message but it seems we’ve gone down too many levels in the thread 😉

            Don’t get me wrong, I think the .mpo format is fine, what I was pointing out is that without special equipment there’s no way you can enjoy a 3D picture from the W3 or the 3D1. On the other hand with a 360 picture, you can share it on Google Photos for anyone to experience it by panning around with their mouse. This too makes a big difference.

          • > “without special equipment there’s no way you can enjoy a 3D picture from the W3 or the 3D1”

            But that “special equipment” may be no more than the same VR headset you’re using to view 3D pictures from the Mirage. There is an app called MPO viewer for that purpose.

            > “you can share it on Google Photos for anyone to experience it by panning around with their mouse.”

            Maybe, but it’s not 3D. Likewise it’s very easy to simply display one of the images from an MPO pair and share it with anyone. But as with your example, you are showing a flat version of your 3D original.

            By the way, let me add a few details about MPOs that may surprise you:
            a) If you change the file extension from MPO to JPG, the MPO will behave as a JPG and will display in every way as a regular JPG. You could post it on a forum or on a website and it would just look like a regular 2D JPG. However, if someone downloads that JPG and renames the extension back to MPO, it becomes an MPO again and will display as a 3D image.
            b) You mentioned before that you like the fact the W3 can save both a JPG and an MPO. In actual fact, you don’t need to do this because it’s easy to split an MPO into two files later and just save a copy of the left or right image for 2D display.

  • As usual, Mic is on it by putting up a review and captured content! I too have this camera and my only gripe is the lack of photo and video in-app editing or 3rd party applications; which I hope are in the works with an update. Even though I have the MiSphere and Rylo, I can see myself using the Mirage for specific situations. I also like the workflow and the simplicity of using this camera. Nonetheless, I think the price should sit at around $150/$200 — $299 is a bit high for this model.

    I am looking forward to how the Yi Horizon will fare too.

    Thanks for everything you do in this space!

  • One thing to watch out for when viewing stills with the Google Photo app: in 2D mode, the pictures will show right way up no matter how the phone is held. However, in “cardboard” mode, the pictures may appear to be right way up, but in actual fact there is only one correct way up. That white dividing line must appear at the lower part of the image for the left eye view to be on the left and the right eye view to be on the right. If your phone is upside down, the image pairs will still appear to be right way up, but the left and right images will be inverted – resulting in what is called “pseudo stereo” or – in simple terms – very messed up and eye-wrenching 3D.

    So if you found your pictures looking kinda weird, it may be because the left and right images were inverted. Just turn your phone around and it will set that right. That is bound to be a turn off to the uninitiated. They should have locked the orientation so that inadvertent inverted images don’t occur…

  • Looking forward to the comparison! I would request a Z CAM K1 Pro, Vuze+ review/comparison. Fuji W3 owner too! Love 3D but wonder how Lenovo figures out parallax issues. Parallax issues is one of the most discomforting thing about 3D. Was hoping for a replacement, though more likely looking at Yi Mirage. Unfortunately, not sure I’d want all my photos to be fisheye. Wish it could be on par with point and shoots but still far away in quality if you ask me. Still rather blurry video but better than Fuji w3. Kind of a shame about the still photos distortions, blurryness, not being able to get standard 2D without post process.

    • Hi James. Sorry but i don’t have access to the K1 Pro 😀 Anyway, just look at the samples i posted with a vr headset, preferably with daydream. there is no fisheye distortion.
      Re standard 2D, the postprocess is easy – just take a screenshot 😀
      Best regards,
      Mic

      • I just have a cardboard and phone. Can you automate a batch of all your photos to 2D post process? Wouldn’t want to go over every single one. Since Yi has a view screen, was hoping for a non-VR shoot crossover ability. You know how the W3 can automatically save both a stereoscopic and single image on every shoot? Yeah, that’s an option I’d want on a photo, automatically save both VR and non-VR, effortlessly.

    • > Love 3D but wonder how Lenovo figures out parallax issues. Parallax issues is one of the most discomforting thing about 3D.

      Since the base is normal, parallax is normal too. It’s all a matter of how you compose your picture. You can come as close as two feet from your subject. However when you do so, it’s best not to have infinity directly behind that subject. In other words, the same precautions you would take with regular 3D.

      > Unfortunately, not sure I’d want all my photos to be fisheye

      The Lenovo Mirage and Yi Horizon are VR180 cameras designed specifically for viewing in a VR headset. In the headset what you see is a wide view with natural perspective – not fish-eye. But of course, if you took those stereo pairs and viewed them whole in a regular stereo viewer, then they would look fish-eye. But that’s not how they are meant to be viewed. The goal in using 180 degree lenses is to cover a wide field that creates and immersive effect in a VR headset.

      > Was hoping for a replacement

      If you mean a replacement for the W3, forget VR180 cameras. They have a completely different purpose.

      • I only own a cardboard and a phone. I think Google is trying some attempt to make VR180 more mainstream. And part of that, I was hoping for a crossover with dual ability for capturing optimized for both VR and non VR viewing. In most of the samples I’ve been watching on a standard monitor, Youtube just shows a standard flat “2D” video. Not even an ability to click drag to look around. So I was hoping I’d be able to have standard photos for viewing non-VR as well. Fuji W3 kind of lets you do similar where it can save both a 2D photo and 3D at the same time. The video resolution on the Mirage is better and more compatible than W3, but the Mirage photos, on a monitor, I’d rather see a standard image like on the W3.

        Viewing on my own, I can enjoy but it’s sharing with friends and family who aren’t enthusiastic or friendly with VR that is more challenging.

        • > Viewing on my own, I can enjoy but it’s sharing with friends and family who aren’t enthusiastic or friendly with VR that is more challenging.

          That’s exactly what Google VR180 attempts to solve.

          When you look at VR180 photos in Google Photos, they display as normal wide angle 2D on a phone screen that you can look around by dragging . So you can share your albums that way if your friends don’t have a VR headset or cardboard viewer.

          When you touch the 3D icon at the bottom right, it switches to SBS mode for viewing in a headset. Keep in mind that your friends could use low-cost mini viewers with their phones. Take a look at I AM CARDBOARD’s latest viewers – one of which is tiny and pocketable (Pocket 360) and the other is a larger yet still compact enclosed type viewer (DSCVR). Those are really low cost and well built.

          https://www.imcardboard.com/

        • I just got the Lenovo Mirage and was testing a few upload clips yesterday and noticed that when viewed via the Chrome web browser on the desktop, it *did* allow both traditional navigation and the option of 3D anaglyph video. I’m not sure if Google is still testing as the feature disappeared again!
          That will be ideal. Watch as ultra wide angle video, or navigate the 180-360 video with red-blue cyan glasses on desktop. Or ideally with the Google Cardboard via the mobile app.

    • > I would request a Z CAM K1 Pro, Vuze+ review/comparison

      Forget the K1 Pro unless you have US$3000. to spare. I’d say at this point it’s best to just sit back and wait to see what other cameras competing manufacturers come up with. If the format catches on, we may very well see prosumer level models. I somewhat doubt it, given that 3D has always remained niche, but it’s nonetheless worth waiting and watching for a little while longer before taking the plunge.

  • While 4k 180 is better than 4k 360, I still feel like skipping this gen. Can’t be long (a year?) before we see higher res VR HMDs with increased PPD. Would like stuff I buy be a wee bit more future proof.

    Talking of PPD (Pixel density per arc degree). Might be a worthwhile metric to add to 360/180 2D/3D cams.

    • Hi Remo. Actually the pixel density of the Lenovo Mirage is about the same as 4K 360 cameras, around 1920 x 1920 per 180 degrees, except that in 360 cameras, they use 1920 x 1920 for the front side, and 1920 x 1920 for the rear. With the Lenovo, it’s 1920 x 2160 for the left eye and 1920 x 2160 for the right eye.
      i’ve thought about that metric but i’m not sure if it will be accurate or not. i’ll try to add it to my comparison table…
      best regards,
      Mic

  • I loke this camera but i cant figure out why when i try and watch the footage in the vr180 app in cardboard mode everything goes dark like 80% darker than normal. Using a samsung s9+ btw. Any ideas?

  • “*As of May 8, 2018, I have not found a way to view VR180 photos on Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Go, Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality, or Playstation VR.”

    So I just got a Go and have a Mirage camera on order. I am really surprised that the Go can’t see these videos on YouTube as being 3D in the Go browser. VRporn website does seem to work correctly. There needs to be a YouTube app for Go, and it needs to work with VR180. If anyone finds a way to make these files work, I would love to know.

    • Hi Trebor. Whether viewing a VR180 file directly, or one that’s been uploaded to youtube or google photos, i cannot view them correctly on the Oculus Go.

      Google doesn’t want to make a youtube app for any system other than daydream or psvr.

      best regards,
      mic

      • Google did make an app for SteamVR. It is not as good as the Daydream one and is very lacking but it does work with 360 and 180 videos.
        https://store.steampowered.com/app/755770/YouTube_VR/

        I am more surprised that there is not a way to convert the photos to SBS. I can not find anything outside of Google photos that supports VR.JPG files…

        PS Trebor, You can download the videos from YoutTube with an app like 4K Video Downloader and copy them to the Go. I thought YoutTube worked when you used the full-screen button but I have only tried it on the GearVR.

        • > “I am more surprised that there is not a way to convert the photos to SBS. I can not find anything outside of Google photos that supports VR.JPG files…”

          Actually there is an online converter that does exactly that and I suspect that apps and editors will come along that will do that as well. We are only at the beginning stages with this new format.

          https://cctoolkit.vectorcult.com/

        • Latest news: The free 3D editing program SPM has just been updated to edit VR.JPG files. It’s in beta now but should soon be available on the website. Some features are still buggy. If you want to try out the beta:

          http://stereo.jpn.org/beta/stphmkre524b.zip

          Use Menu->Edit->Depth map->open jpeg file include depth map.

          This will most likely be revised in the final version and be included among “stereo formats”.

      • Hi Mic… great thread and very helpful. I saw the Lenovo Mirage demo on YouTube with my PSVR and YouTube app. I was so impressed that I ordered the camera right away. If I could find a workflow to post my own videos to YouTube and be able to view them in the same res as the Lenovo demo, I would be very happy. So far, I’ve tried with my Gear VR, and iPhone in a viewer. GearVR can view videos with SamsungVR app but parallax is a bit wonky and dizzying. No luck with the photos.

        • You should take a look at Qoocam samples. The Qoocam is currently at the same price as the Mirage (on Kickstarter) but the video quality is better in my opinion. It also has the added advantage of a third lens to shoot 2D 360 clips as well. And a metal body too. The catch is that delivery estimate is around August and that means probably a few months delay…

        • Congrats Chris! Try a regular Google Cardboard viewer (or Daydream headset if you have a compatible Android phone). With Oculus Go and Gear VR, I haven’t been able to view VR180 correctly.
          Best regards,
          Mic

  • Problems with overheating and audio lip sync. The parallax is well done, the video quality is great, and it is a nice camera. Hopefully firmware updates can address these issues. The Google VR180 app is intuitive and works well. I am really hoping the Yi 180VR doesn’t have the same issues. I have also found that I need to use a selfie stick or my fingers get caught in the footage.

    • Have you taken a look at the Qoocam ? I have to admit its shape is rather awkward and one wonders how can the lenses not see the fingers holding the handle. But it certainly is a novel design and the sample clip I have looked at appears clearer than those made with the Mirage.

  • Hi Mic!

    Excellent review on the cam! I have downloaded some videos, viewed from pc and found that the video has this wide ‘black masking frame’ like it was meant for 360 projection. And it’s either in sbs or tb format. Is this the same in the original video? I felt much resolution is wasted on those black masking frame 🙂

    Best rgds,
    PD

  • I was disappointed that I couldn’t just start editing the videos in my editing program, but at the very least, I hoped I could join a few clips to get together in a row using FFworks. (FFmpeg with a gui on the Mac).
    I joined the clips together in the same format (pass thru, same compression codec, sound, resolution etc.). But unfortunately, it loses the metadata that tells YouTube that is a 180VR video. When I upload to YouTube it just displays as regular video. I tried to see if there was a new Google Spatial Metadata Injector Tool, but no luck there. I’m not proficient at adding metadata using command line interfaces, and was hoping there was an updated tool I can just quickly add the metadata on the combined clips.

  • I tweeted Yi today asking about updates on the Horizon camera, they surprisingly replied with “Hello,
    We are aiming for a late summer launch. We do not have a date set yet, unfortunately. Stay tuned!”

    • I’ll be curious to see what the IQ will be like. 5.7K sounds good in principle. However I was listening to that “Life in 360” guy’s review of the Yi VR360 and he didn’t appear that impressed with the image quality. So I am no longer banking on Yi to deliver the goods. I really want to see if other players will get into VR180 with more serious cameras. Panasonic is producing so many micro 4/3 cameras, they could easily come up with a VR180 model at a far better price than that of the Zcam K1.

      • Well if you go back to Jan with Google’s announcement of the two VR180 cameras, they also mentioned that Panasonic is currently “building VR180 support for their just-announced GH5 cameras with a new add-on.”
        I’ve been assuming that wold be some kind of lens coupled with a firmware update for the GH5.
        I have the GH5 so I’m really hoping it comes to fruition. Considering the camera can do almost 6k in its anamorphic mode (full sensor, no crop), it seems like it would be doable if they can somehow squeeze the two views in front of the sensor.

        • I read that too about the GH5. But I just don’t see how an “add-on” could provide TWO separate 180 views to a single sensor. So what they are talking about may more likely be support for connecting two GH5’s. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

          But my point is that whatever they have in mind for the GH5, it’s significant to me that Panasonic expresses a serious interest in VR180 and therefore might consider producing a more serious integrated VR180 camera along the lines of its other micro 4/3 cameras, such as the GX85.

          The problem we have at the moment is we have at one end two compact P&S cameras (Mirage and Horizon) and at the other, an ultra expensive pro camera (Zcam K1) but nothing in between. So imagine if Panasonic were to produce a VR180 micro 4/3 camera along the lines of its GX85 that would offer the user total control and perform well in low light, that could get really interesting.

  • Hi Mic,

    Would you mind addressing a couple specific questions?

    What is the raw video footage like, as you would grab from the SD card? Do we have dual 4k files to sync each with a full circle fisheye view, a 2:1 frame with an image circle in each, etc? I’m developing a short film that I’m thinking about shooting in 180/3D for vr release and I’m tempted to give this camera a test. Would you be willing to share some video data as it comes straight from the card?

    Are there any manual exposure controls in the app?

  • Thanks Mic, for the excellent information. The thing that’s compelling to me about the 180 3D video format is the ability to frame a shot and tell a story (something very challenging to do in 360 thus far) while still employing the scale and immersion added by VR. It seems the hardware and software ecosystem have a ways to go, but this is a good start. I think I will wait for the Yi camera’s release to start messing around with this medium.

  • We had no problem viewing a VR180 video on an Oculus Go. I just sent a short video (:31 seconds) from my iPhone to a friend’s iPhone, and then once she saved it into her gallery, she was able to load it in the Oculus Go and view it.

  • Mirage Movies and photos display well (and in 3D) on Gear VR btw – go to ‘My Photos’/’My Movies’ – a vastly more immersive experience than with a cardboard type viewer. No easy way with the PSVR so far. Your shooting tips are good. Essential information if you want a good result.

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