With all signs pointing to a big year for virtual reality, those building the gear to bring it to us are busy getting their houses in order. Following a successful crowdfunding campaign last year, the Sphericam 2 video camera is now poised to bring its 360-degree, 4K, 60 fps shooting to VR content creators before the mid-year.
The Sphericam 2 is 65 mm (2.6 in) in diameter, weighs under 400 g (14.1 oz) and houses six cameras inside an anodized aluminum body. While (very) loosely spherical in shape, the camera features angled faces so that it can be either fixed to tripod mounts or plonked down by itself on flat surfaces.
In Sphericam's view, people want one of two things from 360-degree video –professional-grade video or immersive content in near to real-time. To this end, the 4K Sphericam 2 can capture unstitched, 60 fps raw video at 2.4 Gbps that can then be sewn together in post-production, or lower quality 30 fps that is stitched together automatically in real-time in 10-bit color.
Other 4K 360-degree cameras have been announced recently from established camera-makers such as Kodak and Nikon, but none are claimed to shoot at 60 fps. GoPro also has plans for a 360-degree action camera which would be made up of six Hero4s, but these shoot 4K only at a maximum 30 fps.
The Sphericam 2's footage can be viewed in VR headsets such as Oculus Rift and Gear VR, or alternatively a PC or tablet. The company also says its working on live streaming capabilities to allow for instant sharing. Through a USB-C port, stitched or non-stitched video would be transferred to a local computer, processed instantly into a compressed h.264/MPEG-4 video for sharing via the web. There's also Wi-Fi built in, which is designed to enable remote control via a companion smartphone app.
The Sphericam 2 features a global shutter, meaning every pixel in the sphere is captured on the six sensors at the same moment. White balance and exposure are synched at the same time. The battery is said to be good for between 60 and 90 minutes of use, and the camera is recharged via the USB-C port.
The company is taking preorders now, but they ain't coming cheap. US$2,499 will put you in line for a Sphericam 2, with shipping time estimated at 10-12 weeks.
You can check out some of the sample footage here.