Kandao Qoocam 8K is the first 8K 360 camera for consumers. At just $589, it is the most affordable 8K 360 camera on the market. Moreover, Kandao’s CEO stated to me that it has the same detail and video quality as the highly regarded Kandao Obsidian R (which currently costs $4199) albeit in monoscopic 360 video only. I had the chance to try it out and here are my hands-on impressions. June 13, 2020 update: Express DNG8 and SuperHDR.
Specifications and Features (updated June 13, 2020)
Express DNG8 and Super HDR (added June 13, 2020)
DNG8 Workflow (added April 16, 2020)
Sample video and sample photos (updated December 2, 2019)
Qoocam 8K Pro
Price availability; how to get a discount
Qoocam 8K has two lenses paired with 1/1.7-inch sensors, which are 54% larger than 1/2.3-inch sensors, and have an image circle that is more than 70% larger than the image circle of a 1/2.3-inch sensor. It is also the first consumer 360 camera to feature 10-bit video, which enables it to capture over 1 billion possible colors, 64 times more than the 16.7 million colors that can be captured on 8-bit video.
Here is my hands-on comparison between Qoocam 8K (beta version) and Insta360 One X and GoPro MAX.
Here is an analysis of its image quality and whether the quality is really 8K or just upscaled based on the sample photos and video below.
Qoocam 8K Specifications and Features:
|Lenses||Two 200-degree fisheye lenses||Three 220-degree fisheye lenses|
|Sensor||two 1/1.7-inch 20mp BSI-CMOS sensors||three 1/2.5-inch sensor|
|Shutter speed||60 secs. to TBA||60 secs to 1/4000|
|ISO||TBA||100 to 3200|
|Video resolution||7680 x 3840 @ 30fps, 10-bit|
3840 x 1920 @ 120fps, 10-bit
|3840 x 1920 @ 30fps|
3840 x 1920 @ 60 fps
2160 x 1080 @ 120fps
|Video resolution (3D 180)||no 3D mode||3840 x 1920 30fps|
3840 x 1920 60fps
|Video codec||H.264 and H.265.|
H.265 200mpbs bitrate
|H.264 and H.265|
|Photo resolution (VR view mode)||7680 x 3840|
12-bit DNG Raw
DNG8 burst mode
|4320 x 2160|
DNG8 burst mode
|Live streaming||4K 360 live streaming||3D video|
180 3D video
360 + 180 3D video
|Storage||64GB onboard + removable Micro SD up to 256GB||Removable micro SD up to 256GB|
40 mins continuous
180 mins continuous recording
|Audio||3.5mm mic input|
|Other features||removable lens||depth mapping|
|Weight||243 grams||180 grams|
|Price||$589 available Dec. 2019||$399|
Highest resolution video: Qoocam’s 8K resolution is the highest among consumer 360 cameras. In fact, Qoocam 8K’s video quality is comparable to that of the $4199 Kandao Obsidian R, according to Kandao’s CEO.
10-bit video: It is also the first consumer 360 camera to offer 10-bit video, a feature that had been available only for high end professional 360 cameras. 10-bit video provides better latitude for adjusting exposure and colors in postprocessing, as well as offering better highlight and shadow recovery. This video from Kandao shows a demo of the latitude of a Qoocam 8k video.
4K 360 video live streaming (NEW): The Qoocam 8K can live stream in 4K 360 video. A future Qoocam 8K Pro version will be able to live stream in 8K 360 video (see below re 8K Pro).
8K Express Editing (NEW): with Qoocam, you can edit 8K 360 videos on your phone. The app generates 4K proxy files automatically when you download videos to your phone.
In-camera DNG8 (see below): Qoocam 8K can take a burst of 8 Raw DNG photos and stack them in-camera with no need to use Kandao Raw+ software.
Express DNG8 (see below): Qoocam 8K can take a burst of 8 Raw DNG photos and stack them into a single 16-bit DNG photo with less noise and better shadow range. Unlike in-camera DNG8, the stacking happens immediately after the shot.
Super HDR (see below): In this mode, the Qoocam 8K takes three Express DNG8 photos (i.e., 24 Raw DNG photos, merged into three photos): one at -3EV, 0EV, and +2EV. The phone app can then merge and stitch these three Express DNG8 into a stitched HDR photo (in JPG).
Folded optical path: Qoocam uses a folded optical path like the Ricoh Theta, which enables the lenses to be brought closer to each other, resulting in less parallax stitching errors.
Slow motion video: Qoocam 8K can capture 4X slow motion at 3840 x 1920 @ 120fps, 10-bit. That is the highest resolution, highest frame rate, and highest bit depth slow motion for consumer 360 cameras. Moreover, Kandao’s AI slow motion can interpolate frames to simulate 4K 960fps frame rate.
High quality photos: photo resolution is 7680 x 3840, which is tied for the highest photo resolution among consumer 360 cameras. It also has support for 12-bit DNG Raw, DNG8 Raw Burst mode, and Realtime Raw+, which can stack an 8-shot DNG raw burst and convert it to 16bit DNG output within the camera, which can then be stitched in the mobile or desktop app.
Touchscreen: It has a 2.4-inch touchscreen that can be used not only for changing settings but also previewing and reviewing photos and videos. Unlike the GoPro MAX (reviewed here), you will be able to swipe the screen to look around 360 photos and videos.
Q shortcut button: this customizable button can access commonly used functions.
6-axis stabilization: the original Qoocam had one of the best stabilization for 360 cameras. The Qoocam 8K likewise has excellent stabilization.
Hyperlapse: capture a stabilized time lapse.
Protective lens cover and ND filters: you can use protective lens covers. Kandao is also working on covers that function as ND filters.
Dive case: the Qoocam 8K has an optional Dive Case accessory that will enable smooth stitching underwater. The case design is similar to that of the Theta V and Insta360 One X dive cases, and as with those cameras, it will likely have a very large nadir, further made more conspicuous by three large buttons.
3.5mm microphone input: Qoocam 8K is one of only a handful of 360 cameras that have a microphone input.
Google Street View ready. Qoocam 8K photos and videos will be compatible with Street View. However, Qoocam 8K does not have built-in GPS therefore it will rely on a smartphone to provide the GPS metadata.
In-Camera DNG8, Express DNG8 and Super HDR
Qoocam 8K is Kandao’s first camera to offer in-camera DNG8. This means it can shoot a burst of 8 Raw DNG photos, and stack them in-camera. The stacking does not occur in realtime. Instead, when viewing the photo gallery from the camera’s screen, the user can tap on the photo to initiate the stacking. The camera can batch-process all DNG8 modes sequentially.
In addition to in-camera DNG8, Qoocam 8K also has Express DNG8. The camera takes a burst of 8 Raw DNG photos and immediately stacks them into a single 16-bit Raw DNG photo with very low noise and amazing shadow range.
Qoocam 8K is also the first camera from Kandao to offer Super HDR for supported phones. In this mode, the camera takes three Express DNG8 photos at -3EV, 0EV, and +2EV, then the phone app merges and stitches them into a stitched HDR 360 photo in the app. Please note the Super HDR photo is in JPG. However, the original three Express DNG8 photos remain in the camera and can be merged using third party software.
The Qoocam 8K was larger and heavier than I expected. It is about the same thickness as the GoPro MAX but almost twice the height. It is also heavier than a Ricoh Theta Z1 (182 grams vs. 243 grams). However, it is still as pocketable as a larger but thicker smartphone.
The controls are intuitive, particularly with the touchscreen. It can get quite hot due to its high resolution, and because it radiates heat through vents in between the camera, although there is a plastic frame accessory that makes it more comfortable to hold. The plastic accessory frame will not cause the Qoocam to overheat.
Kandao did not have sample photos or videos available for inspection, claiming that the stitching had not yet been finalized as of the launch. Nonetheless, based on what I saw in terms of overcapture samples and the hardware, the Qoocam 8K appears to have the highest video and photo quality for consumer 360 cameras, certainly at anything close to this price range. I will be posting a hands-on review as soon as I receive my camera, which Kandao said they would send by the end of November 2019.
Check back here for my hands-on video.
Qoocam 8K DNG8 workflow
One of the most useful features of the Qoocam 8K is DNG8, which together with the Kandao Raw+ software gives the Qoocam 8k the ability to take very high quality photos through image stacking without ghosting. Here’s the workflow.
1 – Take a DNG8 photo. Switch to DNG8 mode and take a photo, or if you prefer even better quality, take two DNG8 photos.
2 – Import the photos into Kandao Raw+ software, which will stack up to 16 unstitched photos into a single stacked photo.
3 – Edit the stacked photo in your preferred photo editor, such as Lightroom or Photoshop, and save the edited photo as a JPG file. Do not change the name of the file (other than the file extension).
4 – Stitch the edited JPG file in Qoocam Studio. If Qoocam rejects the file, it’s probably because there has been a change in the filename, or the file is in a format other than JPG.
Please note that Qoocam 8K can now stack DNG8 photos in-camera (see above).
Sample video and photos
Here is a sample 8K 360 video from the Qoocam 8K:
The sample looks very detailed – as detailed as I would expect from a true 8K 360 video. This is not just an upscaled video. On the other hand, the dynamic range seems to have limited highlight range. The stitching also shows a little bit of warping and ghosting. The colors appear natural, as with other Kandao cameras. If this is representative of its image quality, then it appears to have the best image quality among all consumer 360 cameras — not even the Insta360 One X or GoPro MAX come close to this, and I can safely say that it exceeds the image quality of some “professional” 360 cameras, although it does not appear quite as detailed as the Kandao Obsidian R.
Here is a new “low light” sample in 8K 360 video, and my observations after the video:
Although this video was taken at night, it is not really a low light video, as it is very well lit. However, unlit areas outside the tunnel offer a glimpse of the Qoocam’s shadow range. In those areas, there is not much detail, probably because the video was shot in a low ISO. The lights in the tunnel also seem to show almost no chromatic aberration in most areas, although there are some areas that appear to have blooming.
Here is another sample video shot at night (it has already been graded), although again this was also brightly lit and on a tripod. The sample shows good detail, dynamic range, and color.
Here’s a sample montage of reframed photos and videos by Sujit Chachad:
Here are sample 360 photos:
The photos are not bad, although they seem less detailed than the Ricoh Theta Z1, with some softness at the stitch line. In the restaurant scene, the women’s complexion seem unnaturally smooth. It is not clear if this was due to some movement with the slow shutter speed, or if the camera applies aggressive noise reduction. The colors also appear a bit warm. Dynamic range is decent, with a good range of highlights and shadows. In the sunflower scene for example, there are no blown highlights. In the restaurant scene, all but the brightest highlights are captured, and the details on the woman’s black dress and hair are retained.
Sample photos posted on December 2, 2019:
This outdoor photo shows natural colors and average amount of chromatic aberration (I disagree that the aberration is excessive for a 360 camera). There is some glare and some softness at the stitch line (aimed at the sun).
This indoor photo shows good stitching. There is some luminance noise and some faint green and purple hues in what should be a white wall and ceiling.
This outdoor low light photo shows very good saturation and low noise. However, there is some blooming and fringing in the neon lights, and some chromatic aberration in some of the lights.
This indoor photo again shows good stitching. The colors look accurate, despite having artificial light sources with different color temperatures. There is some noticeable glare in the kitchen lamps, and a little bit of luminance noise in the shaded areas.
Qoocam 8K Pro
Kandao is also working on a future version of the Qoocam 8K that will be oriented toward professional users. The Qoocam 8K Pro will have realtime stitching at up to 8K resolution, and will be able to live stream in 8K. It will have an ethernet port to ensure fast and reliable transmission. The 8K Pro will also have GPS. Other features that could be added to the 8K Pro include Prores format support, and SSD support.
Kandao has not stated the price or availability for the 8K Pro model. The Pro model will reportedly be available only to businesses and commercial users.
Price and availability; Qoocam loyalty reward discount
Qoocam 8K will be available for $599, direct from Kandao, or from Amazon. For existing owners of the original Qoocam, you can get a $30 discount if you upload a photo of your baseplate here. Although it costs more than most other 360 cameras, it will deliver professional quality video at a consumer price, and is therefore a very good value at that price.