As we are ushered into the era of 360° cameras, it is important that we are aware of headline specs and what they mean for final video output. In the case of the new Nikon KeyMission 360 camera, Nikon labels it as a 4K camera – but that is actually a misnomer.
When we talk about watching 4K video, we are really talking about (at least) 3840 x 2160, which is quad-1080p HD. Using the 4K spec in reference to 360° can quickly get out of hand.
Are we talking about 4K capture, a 4K viewing experience or 4K vertical lines of resolution?
With the Nikon KeyMission 360, we are talking about the latter, which means we got nowhere near the total 4K resolution in the viewing experience.
If you happened to catch my Periscope walkthrough of CES 2016, then you caught the conversation I had at the Nikon booth regarding the specs of the KeyMission 360. My hope for the specs was that it would feature dual 4K sensors (one front and one back) with 180° lenses that capture two 4K video streams stitched together.
Unfortunately, the KeyMission 360 features two 1920 x 1080 sensors to capture a total of 3840 vertical lines, which Nikon claims makes it a 4K camera. So, it’s not the equivalent of taking two GoPro HERO4 Black cameras, which do capture true 4K footage, and putting them back-to-back with a 180° lens.
The final viewing experience is much less than 4K resolution even though the bandwidth is pushing 4K vertical lines of resolution. In fact, the 3840 x 1080 experience is only half the resolution of true 4K footage at 3840 x 2160. Nikon isn’t the only one to cheat the 4K label though.
Does this mean the KeyMission 360 is something you shouldn’t buy?
Not at all. But what is does signal is that 360 cameras are something we are going to have to pay attention to when we evaluate their labels and specs. The KeyMission 360 is a first generation product from Nikon, so we need to be prepared for some growing pains on Nikon’s execution of the camera, as well as issues in the 360° camera market as a whole, which I have some things to talk about in a future post that I hope to write soon.
We still don’t know a price or the rest of the spec sheet for the KeyMission 360 but the camera should be available later this spring so we can fully evaluate it at that time.