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Vecnos closes its doors; what does it mean for the industry?

Vecnos IQUI slim 360 camera
Vecnos IQUI slim 360 camera

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 slim 360 camera
Vecnos IQUI slim 360 camera

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 #2: If a 360 camera will only be used for 360 photos, then it must have good quality so that the photos can be used for virtual tours.  Example: XPhase or Trisio.

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:

About the author

Mic Ty

8 Comments

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  • Mic,

    I really like that you didn’t blame COVID. That might have been a factor, since I think the strength of the IQUI was getting it in your hand and trying it. The form factor, as you point out here, is super impressive. But other 360 degree cameras have been selling – in fact, selling very well – during COVID. That’s different than trying to establish a new brand, but it shows that selling is possible during the pandemic.

    I also believe the IQUISPIN app has been upgraded enough now that it’s pretty compelling for having a little fun with your photos. When IQUI was first launched, IQUISPIN did not give you enough control. I think most people don’t want to show their claw hand if they’re trying to show off something fun.

    Nice summary, thanks for posting.

    Jesse
    oppkey.com – developer advocate company – president

    • I actually think that the global COVID health restrictions resulted in loss of market penetration for the IQUI. Although other camera manufacturers sold well, people may have chosen a safer or more established brand during the time of uncertainty. Cameras like the RICOH THETA are well-suited to established 360 photo uses — virtual tours for real estate, used car sales, personal travel memories. Likely, it is this last category, personal travel, that the IQUI may have done well in. When you travel, you might want to take a less-bulky item. In my mind, the travel includes special occasion dinners in addition to more exotic destinations. Over time, the IQUISPIN software could have adapted to the needs of travelers.

      It’s likely that some company in the future will again attempt to build a camera with these two innovative features:

      use of four or more lenses with presumably cheaper image sensors
      use of software to overcapture still images and automatically identify key parts of the image

      Personally, I would like liked to see the technology applied to industrial 360 cameras at a lower price than something like the FLIR Ladybug5+ at $20K/unit. I’m wondering if lessons could be taken from the IQUI and applied to cameras using something like an IMX265 sensor (global shutter) or newer for industrial applications that require 360 streaming.

      I believe that some of the team from IQUI was involved in the development of the RICOH R Dev Kit which tested the market for continuous streaming. At the time, the 2K video stream quality was likely too low to be used for widespread professional use.

      As they already have the technology to combine at least 4 lenses into a single 360 image and have the software for different types of object detection, I hope they take another shot and potentially repurpose the technology for industrial use, either streaming or video.

      • Yes I hope they can use their method for a professional 360 camera as you said. The issue is that their intellectual property was probably acquired by Ricoh, and I think Ricoh is quite conservative, so I don’t know how long it would take to see such a camera, if ever.

    • Thanks Jesse. It’s precisely as you said, other 360 cameras have been selling. Theta is selling really well and Shinobu-san said there has been a lot of demand for it during the pandemic. That’s why I don’t think it was because of COVID.

  • It’s difficult to break into a technical field when you market a device to a non-traditional demographic with a form factor that, let’s face it, looks like a personal massager. The biggest hurdle to mainstream acceptance of cameras is still a lack of viewing hardware which shows off the value of the camera. Questionable quality aside, the market simply isn’t mature enough to hit the casual demographic and, really, it may never actually get there for a stand alone device. We’re more likely to see phones add a 180 on the front and rear to create a 360 cam that’s good enough for the non-enthusiast before we see universal adoption of “fun cams” like this.

  • It was way too expensive for a casual use camera. The sort of user who would be casual user would be putting the camera on a selfie stick. It was potentially a good concept, but a casual use camera has to be inexpensive and super convenient.
    Realistically, it could have had a built in concertina type selfie stick since the camera was so light. Have the shutter release in the handle. For a casual user, it must be inexpensive and be dead easy to use. For someone curious about occasional use, they would be better off looking for a used older model 360 camera. This makes more sense for a curiosity camera. My used Theta S rig- selfie stick, waterproof dome came out at $100 Australian . It was a great introduction to 360. I think in fisheye, so it was always likely I was going to upgrade, which I have.
    Most unfortunate that these 2 critical errors destroyed the concept. If casual users found they liked 360 after seeing what 360 was like, they could be enticed in to paying more for an upgraded version. $300 is way too much for an introduction to 360.