Tech Review: 360Fly Action Camera (2017) is an device in search of a niche

I pulled the 360Fly Action Camera from its curiously pill-shaped packaging, lifting the hefty little camera in my hand. It didn’t look like what I’d expected. I’d expected something boxy like a GoPro. This was like golf ball with a camera eye built into the top. It looked like something I’d use to roll for initiative rather than a camera designed to capture moments from my extreme and active lifestyle. Thus began my short, tumultuous relationship with the 360Fly Action Camera.

Unlike the aforementioned GoPro, the 360Fly’s polyhedral design is due to the fact that it is a 360-degree camera. Strap it to your bike or your car or a tripod and it will film everything around and above it in one fluid, explorable recording. Sounds pretty sweet, right? My GoPro doesn’t do that.

Footage recorded from the 360Fly is then relayed back to your phone over a private WiFi connection where it can be viewed in all its wide-ranging glory through the official app. Hold your phone up in front of you and turn around (as  you would when viewing a 360-degree video on YouTube) and the app will show you every angle of your photo or footage in real time. This effect is doubly impressive when combined with a Google Cardboard or similar smartphone virtual reality device. Sadly, this is where most of the nice things I have to say about the 360Fly come to an end.

In terms of image quality, the 360Fly is fine, if not mindblowingly great. The camera on your smartphone still takes higher quality images, but at 30fps 1500×1500 res, this is a decent little device. For those who absolutely must have 4K everything all the time, the 360Fly simply won’t meet your expectations. For the enthusiast who likes to throw new devices at the metaphorical wall and see what sticks, it’s a fun way to kill an afternoon.

And that’s the thing about the 360Fly. Longevity. I couldn’t see myself using the device longer than a few days before putting it to one side and forgetting about it until an opportunity to use its unique camera presented itself. If you are the sort of person this camera is targeted at — the high-flying, extreme sport loving, bike-riding, sky-diving adrenaline junkie — then you’ve likely already got an arsenal of GoPro’s and other action cameras at your disposal. Couple that with the 360Fly’s less-than-exemplary image quality, especially when compared to smartphone cameras that can now do the very same thing in much higher quality, and you have a device in desperate search of a niche.

I feel bad coming down on the 360Fly for these things because I actually do like what this device is trying to do. The device currently carries a pricetag of AU$399 at JB Hifi which is crazy when you consider the market it’s in. For just shy of $400, the 360Fly does all sorts of things on the post-production side that its competitors simply don’t, but my phone can and that should trouble it. I look forward to seeing what the next generation of this hardware will look like because I’m sure that 360Fly as a company will have learned a lot of lessons from it.

Score: 6.0 out 10
Highlights: Cool design; Relay of images and footage to your phone is super smooth; Great for VR devices
Lowlights: Expensive as hell; Surprisingly heavy for something you have to mount
Manufacturer: 360Fly
Available: Now