I thought I’d quickly make a post about the QooCam EGO digital stereo camera, which arrived very recently after being ordered through a Kickstarter campaign in February. I’m going a bit into the specs and using the camera in the middle of this post, so please feel free to gloss directly through to the ‘first stereo impressions’ bit for the initial feedback.
The manufacturer, KanDao, gives the description: “QooCam EGO is the World’s first 3D camera for instant immersion. Using stereo 3D technology and magnetic design, the camera lets you capture moments like never before.” “With the detachable magnetic 3D viewer, QooCam EGO is the ONLY headset-free 3D camera. Once the 3D viewer is attached to the camera, the system automatically enters the playback mode, you can then relive all of your precious memories.”
It’s a digital stereo camera for shooting stills and videos. The lens separation (stereo base) is 6.5cm. For other specs, please see the manufacturer’s chart from the the Kickstarter page:
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
If you order one without extras, the box includes one battery, a soft storage pouch, a magnetic selfie mirror (yes, that’s a thing!), a hand strap cord, a USB cable, a lens cloth, the camera and the attachable 3D viewer. They are available to buy through Amazon; here’s the UK Amazon link, currently retailing at £339 (June 2022).
The important thing you’ll need to buy separately is a micro SD card, up to a maximum of 256GB.
When you first get the camera, I really advise you to download the app onto your smartphone and use it to update the camera to get the latest firmware before you use it (see below about the app). To do this, you’ll also have to have more than 50% charge in your battery. Kandao are constantly listening to feedback and making improvements, which are released through the app.
I ordered mine with an extra battery and a charger, and went for the black camera option (which really likes to show dust and fingerprints sorry!), but it’s also available in white. Please note that you can charge the battery directly through the camera using the USB cable, you do not have to buy a separate charger (I was feeling fancy). I do think extra batteries are a good investment as you’ll use a full charge for about an hour’s use of the camera; if you’re connecting it to WiFi though, it runs down extra quick.
I’ve ordered a separate case for the camera body, just a generic one for a similar sized camera. I didn’t like the thought of it clunking against the viewer in the soft bag if you don’t attach it every single time. I’m also a bit worried that there is no cover for the lenses of the camera, so they may get scratched quite easily as their panel protrudes. I asked the manufacturer if they have any plans to make a case, which they didn’t reply to, but I guess it’ll be tricky with a detachable viewer.
Kandao have recently released a quick tutorial video for using the camera:
As a 3-D photography enthusiast, I’m going to focus on the camera function, but there is already a great review on YouTube by 360Rumors for the video function:
KanDao are also sharing video reviews from social media influencers and others on their social media. It’ll be interesting from a user perspective to see if these guys are still voluntarily choosing to shoot 3-D videos with the QooCam EGO in a few weeks time.
THE CAMERA’S STEREO FILE FORMAT
When taking stereo photos, the camera shoots them in JPG format (it says there is a DNG option on the chart, but I don’t have it) and the single saved file is a side-by-side parallel-view (see below for an example). The total stereo JPG file is 8000px wide x 3000px high.
Please note that the images in this post have been automatically reformatted from 8000 to 1080px wide for upload.
The image above (not very inspiring sorry!) is to show the file format straight from the camera.
MANUAL CAMERA SETTINGS
I’ve used automatic mode on my camera to take the photos, but you can adjust a couple of exposure settings by tapping the bottom right corner of the screen. The options are to increase or decrease the exposure value (EV) in increments of 0.3 or 0.4 (from -2.0 to +2.0). There are exposure options of ‘Auto’ or ‘Sport’; Sport gives you the the shutter speed options of 1/250s or 1/120s.
Whilst taking photos, there is a little scene image on the right of the display screen, if you tap it you can change it for the focusing distance from the subject (choices are: 30-35cm (0.9-1.1ft), 35-45cm (1.2-1.7ft), 45-60cm (1.5-1.9ft), 85-160cm (2.8-5.3ft), 130-460cm (4.2-15.3ft), 200cm-inf. (6.8ft-inf.)). This focus is never actually automatic, you need to set it manually each time if you change the distance from the subject, which seems odd compared to all the other settings. I kind of understand for taking 3-D photos that there is a sweet-spot distance for the best 3-D depth, so in theory you shouldn’t need to change it, just need to ensure you’re always the same distance from the subject. In reality: cats and children.
A kind of ‘stereo selfie’ in Auto mode in artificial indoor lighting. This is the unedited stereo straight from the camera. My short arms aren’t the best for giving enough distance from the camera to the subject where selfies are concerned, so you may need a selfie stick to get enough distance (no, I don’t want one).
A kind of ‘stereo selfie’ in Auto mode in artificial indoor lighting. Aligned in SPM to put it more in the stereo window. I can’t help but notice the left lens focus is softer/blurred, it’s quite noticeable on the details on the t-shirt. I’ve since seen this fault in quite a few other images I’ve taken with this camera in low-light. I’ve asked the manufacturer about it and their reply can be found below.
USING THE CAMERA AND SETTINGS
I’ve got to mention here that it takes the camera about 30 seconds to be ready to take photos after pressing to switch it on, which is a bit slow when you’re on the go. You can’t really leave it on ‘just in case’ either as the battery drains quickly and seems to get quite hot when you leave it on.
If you’re one for geeky rules of thumb, the best distance for the camera to be from a subject for 3-D depth will be a smidgeon under 2 meters, but I like things a bit hyper and you’ll find your own preferences anyway.
I’ve already mentioned some of the options on the touch screen, but you can also press the top and drag down a menu for a few more. The settings options in this menu include gridlines and anti-flicker. Since the latest firmware updates there is also a battery save mode in this menu too, which reduces the frame rate during preview and also reduces the screen brightness. Overall, the camera is easy to use and the touchscreen works well to change the settings. Others have commented that they find the buttons difficult to press, but I haven’t (I do also use old analogue stereo cameras, so I probably have fingers of steel).
I’ve found quite a few times in low light that the images are prone to being blurred. I’ve been in touch with Dr. T and he says this is because the automatic shutter speed goes down 1/15s – good luck trying to keep that steady free-hand! We recommend using the ‘Sport’ setting to change this to 1/120s so the ISO is changed accordingly. Of course the higher the ISO, the more noise you’ll introduce. There is a thread on the bottom of the camera so you can attach it to a tripod to keep in steady for slow shutter speeds.
VIEWING THE IMAGES
With no viewer attached, you can press the button on the right side of the camera to open the gallery, and flick through the mono versions of the images.
Once the viewer is attached, you can press this single button on the right side of the camera again to switch between the saved 3-D images and videos and the live view in 3-D.
I REALLY enjoy attaching the viewer on the back and instantly seeing the images and videos in 3-D, it’s a great experience that reminds me of ViewMasters. I also like the quality of the viewer itself, and with a lens separation of 6.5cm, like the camera’s lenses, it works well for me. This lens separation is the same as the ViewMasters (see below). I’ve shown the EGO’s viewer to friends, however, who have said that they find the viewing lenses too close together for their eyes (we come in all different shapes and sizes!)
The only thing you have to watch is that the touchscreen and the part of the viewer which attaches to it are clean, otherwise you’re going to see every bit of dust through the magnifying lenses of the viewer. The fibres from the soft pouch that comes with the camera seem to really enjoy clinging to the screen, it does give the images a retro 1970s dirty slide feel though! I also can’t help but notice that when I pass the camera with its viewer attached to people who have never used the camera before, their first instinct is to put their fingers RIGHT on the lenses. Better have some glasses wipes at hand!
USING THE APP
**UPDATE 9/6/2022** The Android app has just been updated: version 220.127.116.11, and you can now connect the camera to your Android smartphone via WiFi with the app and it doesn’t appear to overheat the camera as much, but still drains the battery very quickly (much like the GoPro cameras). I now have a problem though that I can only see mono versions of pictures/ video in the app; when you save them, however, you get the full-res and size stereo image file. It’s not yet on par with the iPhone app (see below), but at least that’s an improvement on last night! Please note that there are ongoing updates to improve the firmware and the app, so these problems may be ironed out by future updates or even fixed by the time you read this. **UPDATE 01/08/2022: The Android app’s functions now match the iPhones, huzzah, thank you Kandao!**
In better news, I’ve tried the camera with the iPhone app and it works perfectly, you can even see the live feed from the camera whilst using it and use it as a remote trigger. You can open the camera’s gallery, download each video/image to the app and then save them directly to the phone with a few available format options. You can save them as 2-D (single mono half), 3-D full width side-by-side, 3-D half width (squeezed) side-by-side, or 3-D parallel-view (cropped for easier viewing). I’m not sure if it’s just mine, but the camera gets quite hot and the battery drains really quickly when connected to WiFi and the app; it used a fully charged battery within 20 minutes.
FIRST STEREO IMAGE IMPRESSIONS
I have to point out the lens separation, similar to the human eye separation, is great for taking stereos. It gives a nice depth to the images at the right distance.
I’ve already noticed quite a bit of noise and blur in low light with this camera when using it hand-held. I’m unsure yet if the stereo photos are an improvement on the most popular but discontinued digital stereo camera, the FujiFilm W3 3D, in this setting, other than the images being slightly higher resolution. I have since made a comparison post here.
I can also see on some other photos I’ve taken that a few of the white highlights are blown on the automatic settings, but be aware that the screen makes them look worse.
I have also noticed a difference in the lenses, usually, there’s more of a soft focus in the left lens when taking a closer photo, and the more I’ve used the camera, the more I’ve noticed it. I’m not sure if this is a fault specific to my camera. I’ve since been contacted by the manufacturer and they’re being really helpful to try and work it out. Looking at the stereos in the camera’s viewer with this problem doesn’t particularly detract from the experience as you can’t always notice it, but once you try to edit and enlarge them, it’s very noticeable. Let’s hope an update comes along to fix this issue.**
**Reply from Kandao 30/06/2022, after they asked for sample images from my camera:
We do notice the out-of-focus issue from the pictures. The dilemma also commonly exists in the design of SLR lenses or mobile phone lenses. The current solution in the industry usually is to calibrate it by autofocus. For Qoocam EGO, we are still working on our way to solving this issue by firmware update in the future. I am sorry for the inconvenience caused.
Currently, we suggest keeping the subject distance from 60cm to 3m (1.9ft to 9.7ft) to obtain a better stereo effect. Then we highly recommend viewing it on the headset or EGO 3d viewer which will provide you with a better viewing experience.
**I’ve inspired a few friends to buy the camera and, so far thankfully, none of them have the same problem with the difference in focus, but I have heard other people have the same problem. I contacted Kandao again to check on the update, as I had my reservations about it being able to fix my camera:
Further reply from Kandao 05/08/2022: “Hi, we are trying to figure it out but it’s far more difficult than we expected, so we may need more time. The problem is that the image-control chip does not have focus processing, so we have to build our own. And we cannot promise we can fix it. Thx for your kind understanding.”**
So I’m most likely stuck with a stereo camera which has lenses which won’t focus the same. Exchanging it has never been offered. Please bear this in mind before parting with £340 as it sounds like it’s a bit of a ‘lucky dip’.
Just as a side-note, they also sent me a random message about an issue I’ve not reported, but I know some people are experiencing: “The vertical parallax correction has not been implemented and we are working on that. Thx for your patience.”
I’ve seen a few of these cameras have since appeared on eBay and it’d be interesting to understand why people are selling them so quickly after launch.
A low-light stereo, with all settings on Auto, showing a bit of noise and blur, and softer focus in the left lens (but look at the cute kitty!)
Better lighting and a better image. I notice that the right image now seems a bit softer than the left, noticeable on the details of the table and the right chair. Not noticeable in 3-D though, which is the main thing!
Just to add a bit of geekery, you can see a comparison of the size of the cameras (without the QooCam EGO’s viewer) and the lens separation between the EGO and the W3 below (the W3’s lenses are 1cm further apart):
I’ve since made a post comparing the camera to the Fujifilm W3 and Panasonic Lumix 3D.
A FEW MORE QOOCAM EGO SAMPLE IMAGES
Full resolution image straight from the camera – taken outdoors with plenty of light. The lenses appear to have the same focus and the depth is great.
Image edited slightly in SPM to put it in the stereo window and frame it. Despite good light, the left image is blurred, but the right’s focus is spot on.
Full-resolution image straight from the camera. The left image details are blurred, especially noticeable on the numberplate (the left lens was clean in all of these photos).
Full-resolution image straight from the camera. The left image details are blurred, especially noticeable on the horses’ noses (you may need to click on the image to see the details)
Overall, there do appear to be both benefits and drawbacks of having a brand new digital stereo camera. I’m really excited at the prospect of being able to carry around a lightweight but sturdy and compact twin lens 3-D camera easily. The viewer does add a bit of bulk, but the experience of viewing the images and video in it straight from the camera is fantastic, and the images look great quality with enough light. The camera is easy to use and being able to connect it to your phone and download the images directly is so convenient.
The biggest drawbacks for me at the moment are the serious battery drain when it’s connected to the WiFi (even without the WiFi it drains quite quickly and gets hot with use), having to wait quite a while after you start it up to take a photo, having to manually select the distance each time it changes, the difference in the focus of the left and right lenses, which is becoming more apparent the more I use the camera, and the super slow automatic shutter speed in low light making it prone to blur (I’d like to see more options too for the manual shutter speeds). I know this post is about using the camera for still images, but I’ve also since found that when taking videos, the sound is occasionally out of sync with the video. I have to add though that I’m finding the customer service people at Kandao helpful as they are actively seeking feedback and offering advice, although, so far, it hasn’t resolved the issues with my camera, and an exchange has never been offered.
Are these early drawbacks enough to put me off the camera? Not entirely, I enjoy using it, and I use a LOT of different stereo cameras.
Looking from a different perspective though, this is the first compact digital stereo camera for 10+ years and could potentially put true stereoscopic 3-D photography/videography in the pockets of a new group of users (as long as it doesn’t just stay in their pockets after a while!). You never get over the excitement of seeing your own photos come to life in 3-D, and the great attachable viewer that comes with this camera really enhances the experience, giving instant gratification.
I do worry though, that once the files are transferred to a smartphone, folks who aren’t such hardcore stereo photography geeks will be asking the big question ‘Now what?’ There are a few tutorials on this Blog, however, that’ll help with that 😉
I think this review may be too early to do justice to the camera; it is newly released and I’m sure there will be app and firmware updates to follow to iron out some of the creases. I look forward to putting it through it paces with more time to understand how to optimise it as a digital camera with its settings. I’m also looking forward to hearing how others find the camera and viewer.
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