360 cameras are not breakthrough products anymore. The Ricoh Theta pioneered consumer 360 cameras in 2013 and, since then, rivals such as the Bublcam, Allie Cam and 360cam have been launched.
However, this year marks the first time that major smartphone manufacturers are jumping into the fray. Samsung launched the Gear 360 just last week, and the LG 360 Cam will hit Singapore shelves this month.
The LG 360 Cam is a compact, flat grey unit, slightly longer than a credit card and about two finger-widths thick. It has a protective cover that can be slid over the bottom of the camera and used as a grip. Without it, the device weighs just 77g.
Like most other 360 cameras, the LG 360 Cam has two fisheye lenses placed back to back. Each one has a 13-megapixel sensor with a 200-degree field of view.
The camera is simple to use with just two buttons - a power button and a shutter button. Each does double duty. Long-press the power button to toggle 180 and 360 capture, and long-press the shutter button to toggle between picture and video.
PRICE: $398, or $298 if purchased with LG G5 phone
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and USB
MEMORY: 4GB internal (cannot be used to take pictures), expandable up to 2TB with a microSD card
CAMERA: Two 13-megapixel cameras
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
The LG 360 Cam can be used without a phone, but if you wish to pair it with one, that can be done through the 360 Cam Manager app on both Android and iOS.
With the app, you can download the files into your phone, and share the photos or videos straight to social media sites.
Pairing the camera with your phone also lets you compose shots and videos through the app's virtual viewfinder.
And, aside from being able to see through this viewfinder, you can choose from a list of pre-set modes such as scenery and sport, and manually control variables such as the ISO, shutter speed and white balance.
The pictures produced by the camera were reasonably clear and, most of the time, the stitching where the two images met was unnoticable.
However, in a handful of pictures that I took, inaccurate stitching resulted in objects being cut off or two images of the same thing.
Overall, the image and video quality of the 360 Cam is high enough for sharing on YouTube or Facebook, which both support 360 video.
The 360 Cam has an internal microphone with 5.1 channel recording and managed to capture audio direction quite clearly during my tests. However, it does not have a microphone jack, which may be a limitation for users who want to focus on voice or speech.
There is also no internal memory in the camera, and you will need a microSD card (not included) in order to start snapping. Even if a phone is synced and you can see a live preview through the virtual viewfinder, you cannot store images directly on your phone.
Despite these minor drawbacks, the LG 360 won me over with its ease of use and sharing, which takes us one step closer to bringing virtual reality experiences to the everyday consumer.
• Verdict: While the LG 360 Cam is not perfect, it is a big step towards making 360 photo/video creation a lot more consumer-friendly.