Vecnos, the company behind the unique IQUI 360 camera, has announced that they are closing down. Going forward, the IQUI will be supported by Ricoh. What, if anything, does this mean for the 360 camera industry?
Vecnos IQUI is a unique pen-like 360 camera. It was designed by the same team that created the Ricoh Theta series of cameras, which was the first 360 camera for consumers.
Vecnos IQUI was designed for casual use and was marketed as a selfie camera. In terms of its design, the IQUI was a technical marvel. Whereas almost all consumer 360 cameras use two lenses, the Vecnos team was somehow able to squeeze together four lenses into a space the size of a thumb. By using four lenses, they were able to use the middle part of the lenses, avoiding the softness and aberrations at the edges of lenses.
Why Vecnos IQUI didn’t succeed
Why didn’t the Vecnos IQUI succeed? Here are possible reasons:
- Vecnos IQUI was designed for handheld use. The company did not imagine it being used for anything other than handheld selfies. In fact, it did not have a built-in standard 1/4-20 tripod hole found in almost all other 360 cameras because it was designed to be used handheld. They made an accessory that had a 1/4-20 tripod hole but it was an added inconvenience.
Not having a tripod hole was a serious flaw in my opinion because60 cameras look better when they are used with a selfie stick. When used handheld, the user’s hand appears disproportionately large.
- Limited photo quality. The Vecnos had limited resolution and appeared to use small sensors, which had a lot of noise. The result was that the photo quality was a little bit below average. Perhaps Vecnos thought that casual users would not mind the quality. However, in my opinion, 360 photos need to have better image quality because the viewers will be looking at the image for a longer time, making it more likely that they will notice its flaws.
- No stabilized video capability. The IQUI could shoot 360 videos at 4K 360, but the videos were not stabilized. Without stabilization, it could not be used as a 3rd person view camera for an invisible flying camera effect, which I think is one of the most useful capabilities of 360 cameras.
- Cost. The IQUI had a limited purpose – to take handheld 360 photos. I think that could have been overlooked if the cost was low enough. However, it cost $300, which is about the same as a Ricoh Theta SC2, which can capture 360 photos and videos, and has a 1/4-20 tripod mount. At $300, I think it cost too much for casual users, which was its intended market.
- Unclear purpose. One thing that I was never very clear about is why was IQUI made? Why would people need a 360 camera that primarily for selfie photos instead of a regular 360 camera? Is it just the novelty of its unique shape? Vecnos didn’t really clarify that sufficiently.
Lessons for camera manufacturers
For camera manufacturers, here are my suggestions:
Tip #1: I believe that since 2019, the primary use of 360 cameras has been as 3rd person view cameras. This means its 360 videos must have adequate resolution (4k is barely enough), absolutely has to be stabilized, and it must be easy to reframe the videos into non-360 videos.
Tip #3: Work with reviewers. I asked Vecnos’ representative several times if they would like me to review their camera but they ignored my requests. They didn’t even want to lend one to me temporarily. It seems they expected that I would buy the product to create a review. In that regard, in my opinion, it’s not realistic to expect reviewers to spend their own money and their time just to help you, especially if your product is very new or unknown. For companies like GoPro or DJI, a reviewer might create a review because the potential audience is very large and the ad revenue from videos can help pay for the product. For unknown products, expecting reviewers to incur costs for your benefit purely out of the goodness of their heart is not feasible.
Meanwhile, here is a video by my friend, 360 photographer and fellow YouTube vlogger Yuqing Guo: