If there’s one craze out there in the action camera space, it undoubtedly has to be with the ones that can capture true 360-degree videos, aka virtual reality videos. And now, the manufacturer that already has quite a few good action cameras out in the market has come up with its own virtual reality capable one, named the Elephone Elecam 360. So how does it fare in real-world conditions? Let’s find out in our in-depth review.
Elephone Elecam 360 Action Camera Review: Specifications
Elephone Elecam 360 Action Camera Review: Box Contents
As you can see in the unboxing video above, you get the dual-lens camera of course, a 32-GB microSD card and a pretty useful manual that tells you how to operate the camera along with the spec-sheet. There are a few mounts as well, but not as much as you would usually find with a regular action cam. In all earnest, this is mostly due to the dual-lens nature of the Elecam 360. The biggest miss though, is the absence of a waterproof case (so no chance of going underwater or shooting in the rain).
One interesting inclusion in the box is a pin, just like the ones you use for removing your sim-card tray. More on this weird pin a bit later in the review.
Elephone Elecam 360 Action Camera Review: Design and Build
One glance at the Elephone Elecam 360 and you would surely agree that it looks different from the regular crop of action cams. It features two large 220-degree lenses on either side of the camera that help produce a true 360-degree video. On top is the indicator LED, the power button, the WiFi button, the 0.96-inch LCD screen and a small reset hole. At the bottom is the standard sized screw hole to which you can attach the provided mounts, a tripod, etc. Last but not the least, a pocket opening up to the microSD slot and the micro-USB port is present on the left side of the device.
If you ask me, the design is pretty neat to look at, though the presence of two large lenses and the absence of a waterproof case makes it difficult to carry the camera around without worrying about dirtying or scratching the lens.
As far as build quality goes, the camera feels sturdy, the button presses are slick and give good feedback. Coming to the quality of the mounts, it’s even better than the camera. They are real strong, with metallic screw-holes on all mounts. Very well-made I must say!
Elephone Elecam 360 Action Camera Review: User Experience
Using the Elephone Elecam 360 is straightforward with no learning curve needed. This is in part due to the presence of just three buttons on the device. Power-on and power-off of the camera thankfully happens via a long-press (about 1 sec) of the power button. Switching between video and still-capture mode is via a short-press of the same power button.
The WiFi button serves as one (short-press) but also doubles up as a settings button via a long-press. Cycling through the menu is via a short-press of the same button and selection is via the shutter button.
All said and done, the camera hangs up way too often, which is really frustrating. Oh wait, the battery is non-removable, so how do I reset the device? With most devices, pressing a specific button for about 10sec should do the trick. Unfortunately not so on the Elecam 360. You need to carry that pin I talked about earlier, and use it to reset the device by poking it in the reset hole at the top of the device. So if you forget to carry that pin or loose it while you are on your adventures, you are out of luck, as the device is surely going to hang up a few times and you have no way to reset it. So you end up with no recorded videos.
Coming to the display, it’s a small 0.96-inch LCD screen that displays basic information like recording mode, battery status, etc. Mind you the screen doesn’t preview what you’re recording, but you wouldn’t need it anyways because the camera records 360-degree video.
WiFi, Elecam360 app:
Press the WiFi button to switch on WiFi. Install the Elecam360 app on your Android or iOS phone. Connecting your phone to the camera is straightforward. Once in the app (remember to switch off mobile data on your phone before attempting to launch the app, as the camera fails to connect to the phone otherwise), you can switch between video and still-image capture mode, start and stop recording, adjust a few settings and view recorded videos and images in different forms (original mode, 360 mode, etc). You also get to live preview video on your phone. The app is user-friendly, but again, the camera hangs up a few times, so you need to then reset the camera, reconnect WiFi and so on.
Elephone Elecam 360 Action Camera Review: Video
Supported Video Resolutions:
The Elecam 360 records video in just one resolution: 1920 x 960p at 30fps. As you can see, it’s not full-HD and doesn’t record at 60fps, but hey, at the price point, you shouldn’t expect too much in terms of VR-capable video quality. But hey, let’s see how it fares.
1. 960p, 30fps daylight video:
2. 960p, 30fps low-light video:
Note: For all the above video recordings, the included class-10 microSD card was used.
Let me first explain how this whole virtual-reality video jargon works on the Elecam 360. Once you record your video and transfer it to your computer, if you play it directly, you will see a video with two spherical videos side-by-side. These are two independent videos captured by the two lenses at the same time. In order to obtain a true 360-degree video, you will need to download the Elecam 360 Video Converter software. Use this software to convert your videos into VR ones. Now you will need a 360-degree video player like the GoPro VR player to play this file on your computer. Last but not the least, if you want to upload your 360-degree videos to Youtube, you will need to download the 360 video metadata tool. This tool will insert metadata into the file to help Youtube understand this is a 360-degree video. Once uploaded, you can play the VR-video in a compatible browser, the Youtube app on your smartphone, or view it through a pair of VR-goggles.
The first video I recorded was under broad daylight. As you can see, video quality is mediocre at best. A lot of jagged edges and a bit of pixellation can be seen. Moreover, the camera doesn’t seem to be able to handle the slightest bit of camera movement. As you can see in the video, any movement results in a very shaky and stutter-filled video. So recording videos at high speed (like on a motorcycle) would be a bad idea. Color reproduction and contrast levels are okay though.
The second video was taken at night. As you would expect with a budget action camera, the video quality is again mediocre, but on par with most action cameras out there.
As far as customization and shooting options, you get very little to choose from. No loop recording or time-lapse is available, and there is very little to play around with the settings.
To sum up, I think the Elephone Elecam 360 would be ideal for those who simply want to experiment with VR, and not for those who want to record high quality VR videos of their adventurous outings.
Elephone Elecam 360 Action Camera Review: Image Capture
The Elecam 360 can capture still images at just one resolution: 3008 x 1504. As with the 360-video captured, you will need software that can stitch together a 360-degree image. In my case, the GoPro VR Player 2.0 was able to display 360-degree images correctly. Here are two images I captured.
In order to see truly 360-degree photos, you will need to download these 2 images and view them in a 360-degree image viewing app like the GoPro VR Player 2.0. Alternatively, you can add the PanoramaViewer app to your Chrome browser and view the 360-degree images there.
As you can see, there is a blind spot in the captured image, around the contours of the device. I would say this is normal. That being said, the image quality is decent, with accurate and natural color reproduction.
As with video capture, there are almost nil customization options.
Elephone Elecam 360 Action Camera Review: Battery Performance
The Elephone Elecam 360 action camera boasts of a powerful 1500mAh non-removable battery that lasts for about 100min of 960p video recording. Do note that there are two lenses working at the same time, resulting in greater need for power. So 100min of recording time is really good. That being said, a full-charge of the camera takes a whopping 4 hours or more. To aid longevity, an auto-screen off and auto-power off options are available too.
Elephone Elecam 360 Action Camera Review: Verdict
The Elephone Elecam 360 action camera is perfect for those just jumping into the virtual reality space, who want to experiment around with VR. For those who want a thorough VR experience, you will need to look elsewhere, and with bigger pockets. There are a lot of things the camera does right, but a few niggles like the camera hanging up all the time tarnish the overall experience. All being said and done, at under $190, this camera is a steal!
Elephone Elecam 360 Action Camera Review: Image Gallery
Design and Build