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Ultracker Aleta S2 and Aleta S2C high resolution 12K photo (66 megapixel) 360 camera (updated August 31, 2018)

Ultracker Aleta S2C review
Ultracker Aleta S2C review

Ultracker Aleta S2C is a 360 camera with one of the highest photo resolutions on the market and it is now available in the US.  Meanwhile, here are new full-resolution sample photos from the release version of the Ultracker S2C, which can capture 12K (66-megapixel) 360 photos and shoot 360 video in 4K. August 31, 2018 update: availability, how to shootnew samples. August 13, 2018 update: new WDR samples

Aleta S2C WDR increases dynamic range
Aleta S2C WDR increases dynamic range

Table of Contents:
Specifications and features
How to shoot and stitch on Aleta
Sample photos
WDR sample photos
Price and availability

Updates
August 31, 2018:
August 13, 2018: new WDR samples
June 18, 2018: New sample photos from prototype.
May 15, 2018: features updated, price and availability updated

There are many 360 cameras on the market, and they’re leapfrogging each other with video resolution.  But most 360 cameras have a resolution of only around 16mp and very few have a resolution higher than 32mp.  Seeking to fill the need for high resolution photo, Ultracker’s Aleta S2 is a new 360 camera that will take 12K (66 megapixel) 360 photos.  There will be two versions of the Aleta S2: S2C (Light) and S2 Pro (Professional), which differ in video quality.  The S2C is now available, while the S2 Pro is still being developed.

Here is a product video:

Ultracker Aleta S2 and S2C Specifications and Features

Here are their specfications.  Note: Aleta S2 and S2C specifications are the same, except for the video framerate at 4K.

Lensesfive 2.6mm fisheye lenses (four horizontal + 1 zenith)
Field of viewFully spherical
Sensorsfive 14mp CMOS sensors
Photo resolution11520 x 5760 (66mp)
Video resolution3840 x 1920 @ 30fps (S2 model)
3840 x 1920 @ 10fps (S2C model)
3072 x 1536 @ 24fps
1920 x 960 @ 30fps
Time lapse7680 x 3840 @ 2fps
5760 x 2880 @ 3fps
Live streamingHDMI, Wi-Fi, RTMP, RTSP
AudioLine in, Microphone input
Stabilization9-axis IMU (gyroscope, accelerometer, e-compass)
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Micro USB
Micro HDMI
StorageMicro SD
CompatibilityAndroid, iOS
Battery18650 Li-ion battery (2600 mAh) x 2
Operating temperature-10C to 40C (14F to 104F)
Operating humidity0 to 90%
Dimensions103mm diameter x 158mm height
Weight425g

One of the key features of Ultracker is its in-camera optical flow stitching.  For users who prefer to stitch with their own software, it is also possible to save the photo as five unstitched photos.

Aleta S2C will also feature HDR.  It will take 3 exposures a mere 0.1 secs apart (which makes it less likely that there will be noticeable ghosting).  In July, Ultracker will update the firmware to enable the camera to enable the HDR shots to be blended automatically.

The in-camera stitching and HDR mode will be particularly useful and convenient for virtual tour photographers.

How to shoot and stitch with Aleta S2C

Shooting with the Aleta is easy.  You can either shoot with the on-camera controls, or the app.  The on-camera control is limited to a shutter (although it can use a self-timer).  Startup takes a while on the prototype (around 30 seconds, including the time to read the Micro SD card).  There is a noticeable fan noise.

To change settings, you need to use the app. You can download the app on the iTunes app store or Google Play Store.

Once the app is installed, you can connect the camera to the app using your phone’s Wi-Fi.  The password will be shown on the LCD display of the camera.

Aleta S2C app controls

Aleta S2 can stitch photos automatically in-camera, in 360 equirectangular format, saved into the Micro SD card.    You don’t need to do anything.

Aleta S2C Sample Photos

Here are several new full resolution photo samples.  I’ve included samples that I took myself in Japan, with samples at ISO 200, 400, and 3200 but the shots I took were from a prototype, and to me, the final version is far better in image quality than the prototype (better dynamic range, better stitching).

The detail and resolution on these samples look excellent, similar to the level of detail you would expect from a panoramic shot from a DSLR with a fisheye lens.  Here is a 100% crop:

Aleta S2C 100% crop shows excellent detail
Aleta S2C 100% crop shows excellent detail

Stitching looks ok although there is a little bit of warping in a few of the stitch lines.

In the final version, the dynamic range looks much better than the prototype.  In the screenshot below, the photo was taken in sunny 16 conditions, yet even the highlights on the metallic lions and the white sphere were all preserved, as were the details in the shadows of the trees in the background.

Ultracker Aleta S2C has impressive dynamic range
In this sample, Ultracker Aleta S2C appears to have impressive dynamic range

Flare appears well controlled.   There appears to be no reduction in contrast.

Aleta S2 has well controlled flare and virtually no visible chromatic aberration
Aleta S2 has well controlled flare.

Ultracker Aleta new samplesThe final version has less chromatic aberration compared to the prototype, but it is still noticeable in high contrast scenes.

WDR Sample Photos

In August, Ultracker added a WDR (wide dynamic range) mode.  Although WDR and HDR both increase the dynamic range, WDR is different from HDR in that WDR uses only a single exposure, whereas HDR uses multiple exposures.  Here is a cropped photo showing the dramatic difference with and without WDR:

Aleta S2C WDR increases dynamic range
Aleta S2C WDR increases dynamic range

Here are the 360 photos showing WDR.  First, a photo without WDR:

Here is a photo with WDR:

In addition to WDR, Aleta S2C will also have HDR mode, but processing the HDR may require desktop software.

PRICE and AVAILABILITY (updated: August 31, 2018)

Ultracker Aleta S2 high resolution 12K 360 camera
Ultracker Aleta S2 high resolution 12K 360 camera

The price is around $1210 with Free Prime shipping.  I’ve used the prototype for a few weeks, but the final version is much better.  Ultracker said they’ll send the final version for review so check back for a hands-on review soon.  What do you think of the Aleta S2C so far?  Any features that you want to be added?  Post your questions and suggestions in the comments!  Ultracker’s official website is here.

About the author

Mic Ty

60 Comments

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  • Interesting. Yes needs some work with stitching and exposure.

    A good example of higher resolution photos possible from a multi-lens camera. Pump up that video resolution a bit and they might have something.

  • Hi,

    Just had a further email from Aleta, they have provided the following two outdoor samples;

    https://goo.gl/maps/XSbvPyhinNH2

    https://goo.gl/maps/m6JNyu6Dzqq

    They again wanted to stress that this is a prototype camera and the quality is not reflective of the final product.

    I have no link to this company other than first seeing the Aleta S2 preview on this website and taking an active interest in it. I’ve had plenty of other 360 cameras, but the photo resolution has never really inspired me. Personally, I think the Aleta S2 however looks like a step in the right direction.

    Mic – fantastic site! Keep up the excellent work!

  • The website for Ultracker does not work any more, looks like another hi res 360 camera plan bites the dust along with Sphericam 2 and NCTech Iris360 Pro, why is it that no one is producing a really High Resolution one shot camera capable of producing High Quality 360 x 360 still images, the Panono is the closest but does not quite cut it with 36 low res lenses and no 4 k Video.

    • Hi Brian. Personally I’m quite happy with Panono. It doesn’t do video but the photo quality is waaaay better than anything else. I plan to compare it to a DSLR panorama soon.

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Hi Mic, the camera and specs look very impressive. But the samples are terrible and would not inspire confidence. I can’t understand how a marketing team would release such bad samples. I presume it will improve with some more development and as always I look forward to your expert analysis. I wouldn’t buy a 360 camera without first looking at your in-depth review, it has never let me down yet.

    • Joe, I have found this with many 360 camera manufacturers. Seems they do not like to release full resolution images and try to play down their actual optical and processing qualities until final release to market. I agree this seems a strange practice, maybe it is about IP and competitive edge rather than marketing for potential customers? The true proof will be in the hands of reviewers using actual production cameras and not in prototypes in the hands of tech boffins who are not 360 photographers with experience in getting the best out of the camera in the field.The choice of Google street view is an odd one to show images as well, as Google recompresses and tweaks images for their site… I doubt any professional marketing teams are involved here, just the boffins and other Aleta employees.

      • Are you getting a production camera Mic, or a pre-release version that will have different firmware to final release? I assume this company will be active in honing their firmware and software after release to iron out any bugs…

          • Thanks Mic, Well I am sure the you will be able to provide back to them very valuable feedback and provide to us all your considerable skill and knowledge of how this camera performs vs others such as Panono, and I guess focussing on the potential of the camera if this is not the final version we can all buy 🙂 Stitching and processing is tweak-able with firmware and software improvements, issues with the lens performance and dynamic range of the sensors less easy to adjust later. I hope that raw output is possible. So much more useful than jPG in post processing of the stitched images. Regards, Steve

  • Cool, this is a camera I have been waiting for since the end of 2016 🙂 I mentioned it many times in posts. Methinks I shall be buying one 🙂

    • Hi Steve yes I was trying to tag you on Facebook but for some reason other Steve Swaynes kept coming up instead… Glad you saw the article!
      best regards,
      Mic

  • Is there going to be an interval mode and can you run a few minutes of 7680 x 3840 @ 2fps through Cupix?

      • The specs are intriguing and I do like the footprint including the inset perimeter lenses which appear to be well protected by rubber nubs. In addition to video, it would be interesting to see how quickly and repeatably full resolution photos can be captured in sequence (or interval).

        • I agree with Scott, interval shooting is very important for flexibility in various types of usage situations. Regards, Steve

  • Looks very promising.
    I realize the images are from a prototype.
    I hope all of the weaknesses I noticed are fixed (exposure difference between the lenses & stitching).
    The HDR function is VERY important to me.
    I hope it actually has a good range or an adjustable range with the app.
    Can’t wait for your review.
    I’ll definitely order this based on your review of a shipping product.

  • The image quality is very bad. In addition, see the difference in white balance between the panoramas frames. I was expecting a better quality than Iris, but it seems to be very bad.

  • Some info I got from the company today:

    Thanks for your interest in our camera. Don’t worry it will be black for sure.

    For the features you mentioned:

    1. The ability to output RAW images as well as JPG.
    A: Now it can take five individual JPG. In the next version they can be saved as DNG as well.
    2. Variable HDR modes that are user selectable.
    A: We already have HDR function to take 3 exposures with 0.1 second interval, and the user can select the EV increment.
    Now we are working on WDR which will directly output a combined HDR image. This function is scheduled in our first main update after release.
    3. A good live preview smartphone app for iOS.
    A: Working on it and is going to finish this week.
    4. Good auto levelling of images to get the horizon level in stills and also in real time for video.
    A: We have 9-axis sensor so we will add the horizon / direction info for the player to display image in right horizon level.
    For real-time video leveling we have plan do it, but its not at our first priority though.

    The camera should be available in July and we will keep inform you once we have updates. Thank you.

    Best regards,
    Gary.

  • The info that Stephen received from Gary about all the planned features is great.
    This is what I’ve been waiting for.
    Hopefully, the camera will be available in July from Amazon.
    I’m ready to purchase.

  • :O Now that one has my name written all over it! Reasonably affordable and a brilliant photo quality. I’m one of those for who 360 photo’s are nr.1 and 360 video nr.2.

    I saw the video resolution is only 4K? For the S2C then and the S2 will be higher quality video (and price)?

    And as wanted feature: Stabilisation that follows the camera. If I turn a corner, the view should also turn a corner. Perhaps it already has that? I saw e-compass as stabiliser sensor mentioned?

    And both mic input AND line input? That gives room for some serious audio work. You can then hook up just about anything!

    Nevertheless, unless anything pops up that tops 66MP 360 images (other then my Panasonic with a Nodal Ninja) I think this will be my next one. Definitely!

  • I saw the camera had been already selling. Look forward for your review Mic!
    I want to believe the camera will be the best of all.

  • HI Mic – just received the Aleta S2C from Amazon.
    It was not clear from the description that it does not come with batteries.
    So now I have the camera without batteries. I understand it uses 2 18650 batteries.
    Is that correct? What capacity & brand are you using?
    If anyone else can answer this please do.
    Thanks,
    Mike

    • Hi Mike! Congrats on the Aleta! According to Ultracker, they responded to you by email. Apparently, including batteries in the shipment makes it much harder to ship which is why they didn’t include the batteries.
      Best regards,
      Mic

    • Hi Mike,

      Ultracker recommended Sony VTC5/6 18650 batteries but I couldn’t find any so I bought Panasonic NCR18650B 3400mAh batteries instead. So far, they are working great – I’m still learning how to use the camera and the documentation is somewhat sparse.

      • I have found that with every manufacturer in Asia. I cannot understand why they cannot pay a native English speaker to convert their manuals into meaningful accurate instructions. The Japanese are perhaps the worst offenders as they seem to consider it as disparaging to their staff person who translated the original into English, to haver to then get a foreigner to correct the appalling grammar… 🙁

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