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Detu MAX 8K 3D 360 camera: Price ISN’T its KILLER Feature (updated August 29, 2018)

Detu Max tutorial and app demo
Detu Max tutorial and app demo

Detu Max is an 8K 3D 360 camera with an embedded AI chip.  It is currently the lowest cost 8K 3D 360 camera at just $3699  (FYI, the next lowest price for an 8K 3D 360 camera is the Insta360 Pro 2 at $5000).  But the price is NOT its killer feature.  Find out what makes Detu MAX unique and game changing for professional 360 cameras.  Update (August 28, 2018): added first impressionsquestions and answers, new sample videos.  August 29, 2018: added tutorial / app demo

Detu Max tutorial and app demo
Detu Max tutorial and app demo
Detu Max hands-on
Detu Max hands-on

Table of contents

Background
Specifications
Features
First impressions and tutorial
Sample videos and photos
FAQ
Price and availability

Originally posted June 14, 2018.

BACKGROUND

Detu is a company that has produced several 360 cameras, beginning with the hemispherical Detu Sphere, then the higher resolution Sphere S. It was later followed by the Detu F4, one of the first 6K 360 cameras. At CES 2017, they announced two cameras: the Detu Twin and the Detu F4 Plus (at that time known as F4 Pro), currently one of the most affordable 8K 360 cameras at $2599. Then at CES 2018, Detu launched their new flagship 360 camera, the Detu MAX with 8K 3D 360 video and an embedded AI chip. Here’s a quick preview of the Detu Max, its features and capabilities.

Detu Max 8K 3D 360 camera with AI
Detu Max 8K 3D 360 camera with AI

DETU MAX SPECIFICATIONS


Lenseseight 195-degree fisheye lenses
Field of viewfully spherical
Aperturef/2.2
Sensorseight 1/2.3-inch Sony IMX477 BSI CMOS sensors
Processorsunspecified
Photo resolution (3D)7680 x 7680 (3D post stitching)
3840 x 3840 (3D realtime stitching)
Photo resolution (2D)7680 x 3840 (2D realtime or post stitching)
11520 x 5760 (2D - realtime stitching)
Video resolution (3D)7680 x 7680 30fps (3D)
3840 x 3840 25fps (3D realtime stitching)
Video resolution (2D)7680 x 3840 30fps
3840 x 2160 30fps (realtime stitching)
3840 x 2160 60fps
3840 x 2160 120fps
Live streaming resolution:3840 x 3840 25fps (3D 360)
3840 x 2160 30fps
Audio4 microphones
mic input
Shutter speed:1/8000 to 1/2 secs
ISO:100 to 6400
Stabilization:6-axis gyro-based image stabilization
GPSbuilt-in
Connector:1/4-20 tripod connector
Storage:two SD cards
Waterproof:No
Connectivity:RJ45 Ethernet interface
Micro USB
WiFi (for AP hotspot connection)
HDMI (4K@30fps)
Compatibility:iOS
Android
Dimensions:172mm x 172mm x 130mm
Weight:2000g
Battery:4800 mAh battery
12V 5A adapter

For pricing, see below.

FEATURES

Detu Max’s most important feature is its stitching.  All 360 cameras have a minimum stitching distance.  Objects that are nearer to the camera than the minimum stitching distance will have very significant stitching errors.  For 3D 360 cameras, this is an even more challenging issue because they have to have sufficient distance between the lenses to have a noticeable a 3D effect, but at the same time, the larger the distance between the cameras, the greater the potential for parallax stitching errors.   For this reason, 3D 360 cameras usually have large minimum stitching distances.  For example, the minimum distance for the Insta360 Pro is around 5 feet.

Detu Max’s minimum stitching distance is 1.1 inch, according to Detu.  That is unheard of and if it is true, it makes the Detu Max usable in many situations that would be impossible for other 3D 360 cameras.  Here is a sample screenshot showing a subject that is very close to the camera, and yet is stitched correctly, and has a good 3D effect:

Detu Max 3D screenshot (resized)
Detu Max 3D screenshot (resized)

You can check out the sample videos below to see more examples that convincingly demonstrate its remarkable minimum stitching distance.  To me, this impossibly short minimum stitching distance is Detu Max’s killer feature.  No other professional 360 camera can be used at such small distances.  Practically speaking, the threshold will be the minimum distance for stereo (with a 3D image, if you are too close to the object, it will feel uncomfortable, as if you are viewing something cross-eyed).  But you’ll be able to use the Detu Max in almost any situation (within reason).  And if you switch to 2D 360 mode, there are even more possibilities.

UPDATE: For the cardinal directions, the stitching distance is indeed very short.  The limiting factor is the minimum distance for stereoscopic shooting (around 8 inches).  For the corners, the minimum stitching distance is around 1.5 meters.  Here is a sample of the stitching at the corners

Detu Max - stitching issues at corners
Detu Max – stitching issues at corners

Detu Max has other features such as HDR mode, and supports RAW and Log mode.  It also has livestreaming in 2D or 3D 360.

Detu Max HDR mode
Detu Max HDR mode

Update: Detu Max’s HDR works through processing and is not a multiple exposure HDR.

Detu MAX also has an AI chip embedded in it. The chip gives it additional capabilities such as object-tracking and face recognition. Detu’s representative also showed me a few other things that they are working on for the Max. I saw demos of depth mapping and 6DOF (I assume it was simulated).

I also saw that they are planning to generate 3D models, with floorplans and dollhouse modes. It looked similar to Matterport or Cupix, with 3D models that seemed to be more detailed than on Cupix. Detu’s representative explained that the app is intended for interior designers, who will be able to use Max to generate 3D models of a location and place virtual furniture in it. If it works as advertised, it does seem like a useful feature.  UPDATE: Detu’s CEO says the 3D modeling capability will be from a different Matterport-like camera that they’re working on.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS / TUTORIAL

Detu Max hands-on
Detu Max hands-on

I met with Detu’s CEO and staff to spend a couple of hours shooting with the Max.  I also later got to borrow a prototype of the Detu Max.  The Max is a bit wider than other professional 360 cameras such as the Insta360 Pro or GoPro Omni.  However, it feels lighter than it looks, and the exterior is mostly plastic.

The battery cover feels a bit loose but that could be because it’s a prototype.  You need to use two SD cards for the Detu Max.  One SD card holds the videos and photos for the left eye and vice-versa.  I suggested to Detu to allow users to use just one SD card to record 2D 360 photos and videos and they said they would consider it.

The startup doesn’t take too long — around 20 seconds.  When you turn it on, the fan also activates.  The fan is much more quiet than the fan in the Insta360 Pro.

Tutorial

The on-camera buttons and menu are very simple and intuitive.  There’s a power button, a back button, left and right for the menu, and a shutter that is also the “enter” button for menus.  It’s very easy to shoot with the Detu Max, but the on-camera menu has limited options.  For example, you cannot change the resolution.

To change the resolution and other settings, you’ll need the mobile app.  As of this time, only the iOS version was available for testing.  There are two wireless modes: a direct connection from the camera to the phone, or a Wireless LAN mode where the camera and phone are both connected to the same network.  I was able to try the direct mode:  From your smartphone’s Wi-Fi, you can connect to the camera’s Wi-Fi signal.  The default password is 12345678.  After the Wi-Fi is connected, you can launch the app.

Here is what the app looks like (eventually an English version will be available):

Detu Max app controls (prototype)
Detu Max app controls (prototype)

With the prototype, I could get a live preview in 2D mode but not in 3D mode (I assume this will be fixed).  When I was able to get a live preview, I saw it was a fully stitched 360 view at around 10fps.  There are various projections such as flat, rectlinear, fisheye, crystal ball, tiny planet.

I’ll post a video showing the functions currently available, as well as the stitching worklow.  I will also post a comparison with Insta360 Pro and GoPro Omni.  The stitching software is not yet available so this could take a while.

SAMPLE PHOTOS AND VIDEOS

Here are sample videos in 3D 360 (new videos added August 28, 2018)

Here are sample photos in 2D 360, showing excellent detail and dynamic range, and natural colors.

Questions and answers

Last week, I invited readers of 360 Rumors to submit their questions about the Detu Max in advance of a meeting with Detu’s CEO.  Here are the answers to your questions!

Specifications

Sensor size / low light capability?  What sensors does it use?
Sensor is 1/2.3 inch Sony IMX477 Exmor (BSI CMOS).  Given that the sensor is BSI, it should have good low light capability for its size.  I will test.

At what resolution does it support raw mode?  How many stops for raw mode?
Detu Max can shoot in Adobe DNG Raw at up to 12K resolution.  Re dynamic range, I will test.

What is the interocular distance and the minimum proximity for stereoscopic stitching?  Are you utilizing optical flow?
Yes it uses optical flow stitching.  The IPD is approximately 63.5mm.  The minimum stitching distance for the corners of the camera is 1.5 meters.  For the cardinal directions, it is 1.1 inch.  See my upcoming test video.

What’s the difference from Detu MaxMobile?  What is the price difference?
MaxMobile is identical except that it has a 4G dongle to enable wireless live streaming.  Detu will make the 4G dongle available for backers of the Max.
MaxMobile MSRP is $3799 ($100 more than Detu Max, which is $3699).

With no antenna, how far can it go?
The maximum wireless distance is supposedly 50 meters if unobstructed.

What are the ears between each stereo pair?
Fan intake.  It is also a way to access the interior of the camera for repairs.

Can it avoid heat buildup without a fan?
It does have a fan.

Features

Is there stabilization?  How will their stabilization compare to the Insta360 Pro 2?
Yes it has stabilization but please note that the firmware update to add stabilization won’t be available until October.  Detu said the stabilization of the Max will be similar to the Insta360 Pro first generation.  It will not be as good as the stabilization of Pro 2.  You can use it with a gimbal.

Can it stream AND record simultaneously?
They might add this feature in the future.

What’s the word on GPS?
It will have built-in GPS capability.

Are you working on Google street view certification?
Yes, it will be street view certified, although not at launch.  It is not yet sure if it is for videos as well, or just photos.

3D modeling
Their CEO said 3D modeling is a feature of another camera, not the Detu Max.  The other camera will be a scanning camera similar to Matterport.

Shooting

Fan noise?
It’s not as loud as Insta360 Pro.  I’ll post a video

How is the audio quality?  Will external microphones be available?
It has 4 microphones and can do spatial audio.  I’ll test audio quality.  It has a 3.5mm mic input jack.

Battery life?
They said it can record 45 minutes continuously.

Is it suitable for less normal use: dirt, dust, water?
No it is not designed for rough use.  It is not waterproof.  In the future, Detu may release an accessory to make it more water resistant but this will cover the fan exhaust.

How easy is the workflow while shooting (wi-fi connected to iPad)?
TBA. I will post a video.

What are the main features of the app?  Are there differences between iOS and Android?
You will get a live preview, switch modes, control exposure.  Please note the app I tried is still an early version.  Only an iOS version was available for testing.

What are the options for HDR photos?  Can it shoot bracketed exposures?
Currently, HDR is sensor-based (the shadows are lifted in processing).  There is no bracketing feature or multi-shot HDR yet, but I requested them to add it.  They said they’ll consider it.

Could you please record yourself walking around the camera?
Yes, standby for the test video.

Stitching workflow

Compare Premiere Pro workflow with Insta360 Pro 2?
Detu Max doesn’t have a Premiere plugin.  Just edit like regular 3D 360 videos.

Does it require a long post processing for 360 photos?
TBA.

Does it support both Mac and PC?
I’ll check.

Image quality
Are the lenses matched to avoid color shifts? 
TBA

Are there sample photos available to download?
TBA.

Pricing and Shipping
Kickstarter says shipping in Setpmber?
Detu Max will begin shipping to Kickstarter backers beginning the last week of September through October.

Will it require monthly subscription?
No

Accessories

Is there any advantage to using their tripod?
Their tripod has a compact base, and is quite light (carbon fiber).  The legs fold up into the body to make it easy to carry.   On the downside, if fully extended, it is not super stable and can sway.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

Detu Max assembly
Detu Max assembly

As predicted, Detu Max plans to undercut its competitors. It is priced very aggressively, and will retail at $3599, $100 more than the Insta360 Pro (reviewed here), which can only do 6K 3D 360.  Other competing cameras include the Insta360 Pro 2 with 8K 3D 360 at $5,000, Kandao Obsidian R, also 8K 3D 360 at $6999, and the Z-Cam V1 (7K 3D 360 at $8880).  With respect to its AI capability, it would also be competing indirectly with Pilot Era which also uses AI.  Detu Max will begin shipping to Kickstarter backers beginning the last week of September through October. The official webpage for Detu Max is here.

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Mic Ty

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