Panoclip ($49.95) turns your smartphone into a 360 camera — one that is easy, quick, and affordable. It can also create cool tiny planet animations with your 360 photos. For many people, this could become their first 360 camera. Here is a hands-on report.
Everyone has seen 360 photos and tiny planets. Although the number of 360 camera users is increasing, they are dwarfed by the number of smartphone users. But what if you could turn a smartphone into a 360 camera, and make it as easy to use as your smartphone? That’s the idea behind Panoclip — it’s not itself a camera. Instead, it is a 360-degree lens that attaches to your phone (currently available for iPhone 7 and above; Android TBA).
Here is a product video:
Panoclip slides over your phone and you use its dedicated app to take photos. The app triggers both front and rear cameras almost simultaneously, and fuses the photos into a single 360 photo (on my iPhone 7, the resolution is a respectable 6048 x 3024, or about 18 megapixels). All this takes place without user intervention, and to the user it seems as if the phone has simply become a 360 camera.
Here is a tutorial by Karen X
Mind you, Panoclip can only take 360 photos and not 360 videos. But it’s more than just a simple lens adapter, thanks to its clever app. For one thing, Panoclip uses your phone’s gyroscope and other sensors to automatically level the photo no matter which angle it was taken. It can also apply Instagram-style filters and even a beauty filter (which smoothens wrinkles). (BTW, the filters are nondestructive and are fully reversible.)
By pinching the screen, you can turn the 360 photo into a tiny planet or rabbit hole. It can also animate your tiny planet, and with a feature called SkyWarp, it can even replace the sky. Here is a SkyWarp animation:
For users who already have a 360 camera, the image quality is not as good as any decent 360 camera, such as the Samsung Gear 360 2016 (now $68) or the Gear 360 2017 (currently $102), which are true 360 cameras. But 360 cameras have a layer of complexity that can intimidate new users. Photos need to be stitched, and if you want to share them on your phone, the camera has to be connected to your phone.
Here is a sample 360 photo (“Sierra” filter applied)
By contrast, with the Panoclip, users may not even realize that the app is stitching the photos. After you take a shot, a thumbnail appears in the gallery, where it is stitched in the background. When you tap on it, you see a 360 view. You can then tap on the Share button to share the 360 photo to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, or your Camera Roll, among others. There is no need to synchronize photos between the camera and your phone because the Panoclip stores the photos in your phone’s memory. To a user, the Panoclip is about as simple to use as a point-and-shoot camera.
That simplicity is, IMHO, its key feature, and for its target market, can be more important than image quality. Check back here for a full review very soon. And if you’re interested in Panoclip, please join the Panoclip group on Facebook. Here is the official Panoclip website. Meanwhile, if you want to see whether you should get a ‘real’ 360 camera instead, check out my video review of the Insta360 One.