Qoocam 3 is a 5.7k 360 camera with a unique proposition: in spite of having better specs than its competitors, it is being priced substantially lower. What’s the catch? Is it any good? Here’s a hands-on review. (UPDATE 9/18: GPS added, image quality improved — see here).
Qoocam 3 Specifications
|Video Resolution||5760 x 2880 30fps
3840 x 1920 60fps
|Photo Resolution||62mp (11136 x 5568) JPG, DNG|
|Sensor size||two 1/1.55 sensors|
|Lens focal length||9.36 mm equivalent focal length|
|ISO Range||100 to 6400|
|Shutter speed range||60 seconds to 1/6400|
|Video bitrate||120mbps H.264|
|Audio||4ch 16-bit 48khz|
|Connectivity||2.4 GHz/5 GHz
Bluetooth BLE 4.2
|Waterproof||IP68 10m (33ft)|
|Price (at launch)||$349|
Qoocam 3 has a much larger sensor than that of the Insta360 X3 or GoPro MAX. How does its video quality compare? Here’s a sample video (reframed). This was shot in 5.7k 30fps with auto white balance and auto exposure, then reframed in Qoocam Studio as a 4k video then uploaded to YouTube.
Qoocam 3 is about as detailed as the Insta360 X3 and appears to have better dynamic range than either the X3 or Max (not including the X3’s active HDR mode).
However, Qoocam 3’s video appears oversharpened (there is no adjustment for sharpness so far), and seems to have a higher compression than either X3 or Max. This is evident for example in more obvious banding in the sky. It also has white balance that tends to be bluish, and is often overexposed by about a half stop compared to other 360 cameras. Qoocam 8K had very good colors and exposure, so I expect that Kandao will eventually be able to adjust this.
UPDATE: Firmware update 18.104.22.168 seems to have toned down the sharpening. See here.
Qoocam 3’s key strength for video quality is its low light performance. Although its low light video is very noisy, it is also very detailed. By comparison, the X3 and Max use plenty of noise reduction in low light. When a similar amount of noise reduction is applied to the Qoocam 3, its low light videos are far more detailed and have better dynamic range.
In the sample above, the 1-inch 360 and X3 appear very dark because they are limited to ISO 3200. (If the 1-inch 360 is pushed to the same exposure in post, it will actually have slightly more detail than the Qoocam 3.) The GoPro Max can go to ISO 6400 but you can see the dynamic range is limited. For example, the windows in the stores are blown out. Qoocam 3 (the bottom one) is not only far more detailed (see e.g. leaves) but it also has much better highlight detail and shadow detail. Sure, you see more luminance and chroma noise, but they’re easily cleaned up. The lost details in the Max are irretrievable.
Here are sample photos of the Qoocam 3 in its 62mp mode and DNG8 mode compared to other similar 360 cameras:
Qoocam 3’s standard photo mode is 62 megapixels. In this mode, I found it to be more detailed than the Insta360 X3’s 72mp mode, the 1-inch 360, and the GoPro MAX.
In the samples above, I edited the DNG8 photo in Affinity Photo 2 by correcting white balance and applying a similar amount of sharpening as the X3 uses for HDR DNG photos. Otherwise, it was unedited. Qoocam Studio has the option to correct chromatic aberration. However, if your scene includes colors that are red or green, this can make some colors appear inaccurate such as the backlit skin on my ear, or the red stripes on my jacket. I prefer to turn off this option unless its red or green colors are not important.
Comparing the two samples, the X3’s HDR DNG photo has more dynamic range (look at the highlights on my jacket). But the Qoocam 3 photo looks more natural and has more appealing colors and contrast.
How to reframe Qoocam 3 videos and photos
First, download Qoocam Studio 2.0 or above (2.5 shown below). Here’s what the interface looks like. In addition to the usual controls such as for playback and trimming, I’ve highlighted areas that are most relevant for reframing:
- Change the stitching settings (labeled with a pink rectangle in the screenshot above). Usually, SuperSteady should be turned on unless the camera is on a tripod or if you want to deactivate stabilization. “View lock” stabilization is when the video faces a constant direction such as north. “Free view” is when the video’s view changes according to where the front lens is pointed, such as when riding a roller coaster.
- To begin keyframing, click on the drop down menu on the bottom left (red rectangle) and change “Panorama” to “Reframe”.
- Add a keyframe by clicking on the keyframe button (green rectangle).
- You can change the keyframe parameters by dragging the screen with your mouse or by adjusting the parameters or entering the number directly on the bottom left (yellow rectangle). You can delete a keyframe by selecting the keyframe on the timeline then clicking on the trash can icon (see near the upper right corner of yellow rectangle).
- You can choose common projections automatically (blue rectangle), such as “Perspective” (rectilinear projection), Crystal Ball (fisheye projection), Tiny Planet (stereographic projection), or Cylindrical, which is a projection I haven’t seen in other 360 camera software. Note that you can keyframe changes in projection such as from cylindrical to tiny planet.
- Change the aspect ratio of the reframed video by clicking on the drop down box below the photo (purple rectangle). from vertical 9:16, square 1:1, 4:3, 16:9, to 2.35:1.
- When you are done adding keyframes, click on the Export button on the bottom right. You can export videos in H.264, H.265 or Prores. You can export photos as JPG or PNG.
Another option for reframing photos and videos is to use Insta360 Studio, which has additional options for keyframing. To use this option, stitch the photos or videos in Qoocam Studio, which can export as MP4, Prores, or JPG (all of which can be imported into Insta360 Studio). Please note Insta360 Studio cannot import PNG format. In Insta360 Studio, you have a few more options for reframing and the option to keyframe photos as well, such as adding changing the timing of transitions between keyframes.
How to shoot and edit Qoocam 3 DNG8 photos
Download Qoocam Studio 2.0 or above, and Kandao Raw+ software (available in Windows or Mac).
Overview: Qoocam 3 can take photos in DNG8, which means it will take eight DNG photos, which can then be merged via stacking to decrease noise and increase the dynamic range. The merged photo will also be in DNG format, which cannot be stitched by Qoocam’s software. Instead, you’ll have to edit the DNG file and export it as JPG or PNG for stitching in Qoocam’s software.
- SHOOT: Take photos in DNG8 mode and copy the files to your hard drive. You’ll notice that each DNG8 shot has nine files: eight DNG files and one JPG file. For best results, avoid movement (use a tripod if possible), although some movement is ok.
RENDER: Launch Kandao Raw+ and click “Add” then add the eight DNG files from a shot. To add more shots, click on Add again and add the next batch of 8, and so on. When you are done, click on the Render button, which will save the files into the Output directory you specified.
EDIT: The files merged by Raw+ will have a prefix KDRaw_DNG8 and will be in DNG format. Edit the photo in your preferred photo editor such as Photoshop, Lightroom, or Affinity Photo 2. Save the edited file as PNG format for best quality (JPG is also possible but the quality won’t be as good).
STITCH: Open or drag the edited PNG or JPG file in Qoocam Studio 2.0, which will stitch the file.
Should I shoot DNG8 or AEB for best photo quality?
For now, I have been getting better quality with DNG8, in part because AEB shoots only in JPG. If Qoocam 3 can shoot the AEB in DNG, then it should have better image quality than DNG8.
Is there a way to get even better image quality from DNG8?
Yes. You can take two or more DNG8 photos, then merge the stacked photos using HDR software. This is what “Super HDR” mode does, which was in the Qoocam 8K but so far hasn’t been added to Qoocam 3.
Does Qoocam 3 have lenses that become blurry?
No, it does not even after prolonged recording.
- Best in class low light performance
- No gap in long videos
- Can record over 17 hours when powered by USB
- Detailed video
- Best in class dynamic range (excluding HDR Video modes)
- Very good flare resistance
- Battery suffers from voltage sag (there’s still a charge in the battery but it can give a low battery warning then after resting it climbs back up).
- Stitching at very short distances is not good
- Longer workflow for DNG8 photos
- Smaller customer support team
White balance sometimes inaccurate(UPDATE: now fixed in firmware 22.214.171.124) Exposure sometimes not accurate(UPDATE: now fixed in firmware 126.96.36.199)
After firmware 188.8.131.52, Qoocam 3 is about as good as X3 and GoPro Max in daylight (a bit better in some aspects, a bit worse in others). It has the best dynamic range (excluding X3’s HDR video mode) and the best low light performance. However, stitching is not as good as Insta360 X3 at close range. The colors and contrast are a bit conservative and look more neutral and flat compared to the X3 and Max.
For the best photo quality under $500, Qoocam 3 is a very strong contender. Its 62mp mode is more detailed than the Insta360 X3, GoPro Max, or Insta360 1-inch 360.
The biggest question is the level of customer support that we would be getting. In the past, Kandao has been unable to address some issues with the Qoocam 8K, which caused some customers to lose trust in them. However, Qoocam 3 has been performing pretty well so far with no major surprises. I think Kandao will be able to support it adequately. We’ll see. Note: Kandao just posted a firmware updated that fixed several things, in just a couple of weeks from release, which seems to show that they will be actively supporting it. Qoocam 3 is available on Amazon or direct from Kandao.