If there's a buzz in the tech world for 2016 then it's virtual reality, or VR. But you don't need to be a whizz or an ultra-rich kid to capture such footage these days. The Kodak PixPro 4KVR360, which is due out in early 2017, is an all-in-one dual lens unit that can capture and auto-stitch 360-degree 4K footage all in camera. That's potentially ideal for VR device playback.
At this year's Photokina show in Cologne, Germany, we sampled a prototype model of the 4KVR360, which sits above the company's earlier SP360 model, to see how Kodak is pushing things forward in the world of affordable VR creation and action cameras.
At this stage in time the PixPro 4KVR360 isn't an operational unit, it's merely a mock-up designed to show the size and design of the model. It's a pretty dinky dual lens unit, compared to some of the competition out there, as you can see from our handheld shot. It's larger than a GoPro Hero, but then the Kodak dons dual lenses and dual sensors - so obviously it needs a touch more space.
The dual lenses aren't both the same, though. The more bulbous one is the wider-angle, delivering a 235-degree angle of view, while the slightly less bulbous one delivers a 155-degree angle of view. The two don't need to be as wide as one another, as the overlap is ample to create two videos that can be stitched together.
The reason for having the two lenses is that, when used for conventional capture, they deliver different views onto the world: whether a half hemisphere, or simple a wide-angle 4K video. And with 20-megapixel sensors used (not the 12MP ones of the SP360), there's the ability to crop in and capture 105- and 135-degree angles of view too.
It is possible to control the 4KVR360 by using the buttons on the device itself, while a small screen lets you know what's going on. The more comprehensive way to control it, however, is via the associated app - which means clearer visuals, capture preview and so forth. We didn't get to see the app working at this moment in time, but it will be an extension of the current SP360 device's controls.
However, the 4KVR360 isn't quite perfect in spec terms: its 360-degree 4K capture (which is two lots of 3840 x 1920) can only be auto-stitched in-camera at 15 frames per second (fps), which isn't really good enough for fast action. Stitch the footage outside of camera via the included software, however, and 24fps is achievable. Still, though, we'd like to see a higher yet frame-rate.
Presumably a higher frame-rate isn't plausible because of heat dissipation. We were told that the device is a white finish to help avoid soaking up the sun's rays and getting hot, for example. So while a higher frame-rate would be desirable, it's not achievable here. There's no slow-motion options either, including at lower resolutions.
The thing that really ought to sell the Kodak PixPro 4KVR360 is its expected sub-£500 price point. That's still a lot of cash, but for an all-in-one - and especially in a world where two SP360s, as required for 360-degree capture, cost £800 - it's a price point that will give the competition something to think about.
Of course, right now, we've not seen the device in action, the resulting footage, nor the stitching capability, so just how good the PixPro 4KVR360 will be remains to be seen. It's definitely an interesting prospect in the world of affordable VR creation, though, while being versatile enough to act as an action camera too.