There's no denying it, 360 video has been slow on the uptake since it became ‘a thing’. Like 3D TVs before it, people haven't exactly rushed to kit their families out with VR headsets or ultrawide screens, and in all honesty, the odd interactive 360 video that pops up in our Facebook feeds is at best a novelty, and at worst annoying. It’s a pain in the ass trying to guess the best direction to scroll or point your phone in in order to view the action, especially for fast-moving videos shot on snow.
Sure, it works for the showroom, but back in reality people just want a director to show them something rather than being plonked in the middle of a scene and left to fend for themselves. It’s easier to relax into and enjoy that way, without stressing that you’re going to miss anything. Leave that to the camera people.
"Plucky startups Rylo sent us their new device and how could we do anything but give it a whirl?"
However, 360 video capturing does have some handy advantages. You can create visually interesting shots that either stretch or condense a whole scene into a frame (check out Tye Evans’ latest skate movie Flat Earth for some excellent examples) or alternatively choose the camera angle for a traditional 16:9 video after you've shot your clip.
The market leader, as always, is GoPro, with their Fusion 360 camera, and you can find a whole host of competitors from Nikon, Samsung et al. But when plucky startups Rylo sent us their new device, how could we do anything but give it a whirl?
What They Say
"Rylo is a powerful little 360° camera powered by innovative software to create larger-than-life, cinematic video. It captures everything around you with breakthrough stabilization technology.
"When you're done shooting, simply connect Rylo to your smartphone and use the Rylo app to easily edit and create a video you're proud to share."
What We Say
Our first impressions are that this thing is small. Like, really small. Half the weight of the GoPro Fusion in fact. The old adage is that the best camera is the one you have with you, and unlike a bulkier 360 cam from Nikon that we’ve tested, we had no qualms just throwing it in a pocket before going up the hill.
They’ve obviously spent a lot of time on the ergonomics here. There’s a small vibration as well as visual and audio signals when you turn it on or hit record, which is super useful while you’re riding – in fact, now we’ve experienced it, we can’t understand why all action cameras don't come similarly equipped. The two buttons (on/off/record and video/photo mode) are chunky and easy to click, and the small screen clearly shows battery life and storage space - all good so far.
- Price: $499
- Weight: 108 grams
- Battery life: They say 1 hour of continuous recording
They can afford to strip down the camera so much because they’ve built the usage around pairing it with a smartphone. The app is cleanly designed and is simple to use (more on that later) but for us, the best bit is that you connect it to your device via a cable.
We’ve read some other reviews that criticise this, but c’mon, what the hell? Have you ever tried to wirelessly connect a GoPro to an iPhone? It’s a fucking nightmare that combines Bluetooth and WiFi failures, forgotten passwords and dodgy connections – not to mention it’s slow when you’re trying to transfer 4k video files. The cable Rylo provide in the box is tiny, slips right into the carrying pouch and makes the whole business of changing camera settings and downloading footage so simple you’ll wonder why you just bought those nonsense BT headphones instead of the good old wired ones. Fantastic. Just bear in mind that you need to choose either an Android or iPhone version of the camera – if you switch phone platform, you'll no longer be able to connect it.
Using it is simple - you just turn it on, press record and point it vaguely in the direction of your subject or face hole whilst keeping it reasonably steady. This is 360 video, you can worry about the rest later. The software stabilisation is pretty remarkable. Once processed, you’d be hard pressed to tell what was shot on a gimbal and what was done with the Rylo - this is probably the biggest selling point of it for us.
It ‘conveniently’ has the same mounting slot as all the GoPro accessories you’ve had for years, so it goes pretty much anywhere. Then you load the clips up onto your phone and start editing.
Rylo’s approach to 360 is very much along the 're-framing shots in post' idea. As far as we could tell (we confess, we didn't read all the instructions) there’s no option for VR-style outputs. You’re immediately presented with the option of moving your ‘scene’ around with your finger to look at what the camera filmed before either choosing one angle you like, or setting markers in the timeline for when you want the camera’s view to change. It sounds very complicated, but it’s actually very simple once you’ve used it for five minutes. You can even set it to lock on to a subject and track it automatically, or pinch the screen to get one of those 'tiny planet' views.
We filmed this for our sister title Onboard, using the Rylo camera for all the 360 and follow cam shots
Once you’re happy with how the clip looks, you can export it to your phone’s camera roll and either share it straight away or edit it into a sequence with another app. My (relatively) old iPhone SE handled the initial processing surprisingly well with no delays or stalling. Which is just as well, because smartphones are all it’s designed to work with.
As the video from the two built-in cameras is hardcoded into two frames on the same clip (rather than combined in camera like the Nikon or GoPro Fusion) you cannot – yet – choose to manipulate the 360 footage on a computer using pro software like Adobe Premier; it will only work via the app. This is no great loss, because as sick as the camera is (we really like it) a professional grade camera it ain’t. It shoots 4k, which is enough to crop in on to view on a phone, but play it back on a bigger screen and you’ll see a few compression artefacts and softness compared to the GoPro's crispy 5.2K VR resolution.
"Only nerds like us will care about these kinds of things. If you don’t know what these features are, they won’t matter to you"
It also lacks variable frame rates, is configured only for PAL monitors and lacks any sort of picture profiling. But that is just fine, because only nerds like us will care about these kinds of things. If you don’t know what these features are, they won’t matter to you - the Rylo is less a pro-camera choice and more of an advanced toy, but one that’s near-perfect for what the average person would use it for. Simple to shoot with, a bit fiddly to edit, but something that with a little effort will yield some pretty cool videos and panoramic photos that’ll get noticed on social media.
Again, we really liked this. Really. From not knowing much about shooting 360 video to taking this out for a couple of laps, we were seriously impressed with not only how well it shot and stabilised footage, but how easy it was to use. There are a ton of creative ways this could be used and we’re excited to start exploring them. As someone who makes his living from using cameras, I haven’t been this stoked about using a new one since I saved and saved and bought my first DSLR.
But that price…
Again, this isn’t a professional tool, but $499 is pushing past the price point of a flashy toy and into the start of pro money. You’d have to really want to up your Instagram game to justify getting one of these, and for an extra $200 you could get a GoPro Fusion which does come with the pro features that this skips over.
"As someone who makes his living from using cameras, I haven’t been this excited about using a new one since I saved and saved and bought my first DSLR"
The accessory options are strangely priced too: you can snag an extra battery for $24 which is insanely good value for camera shiz, but getting a protective plastic case (similar to the one that comes free with most other action cameras) will set you back $69. We can’t quite figure out how any of that works.
If you’re the kind of person who has a spare five hundred bucks to burn on a toy, get one. We can’t convey quite how much fun this thing is to use, exploring a whole new way of shooting is exciting to anyone who likes making imagery and telling stories. We had a total blast with it.
But if that money isn’t burning a hole in your pocket… Well.