- - Cheap and fun
- - Allows capture of 360 degree photo and video with single button press
- - Software 'unwarps' photos quickly and easily
- - Low quality pictures / video
- - A very limited number of phones are supported
- - Autofocus struggles to work
Available for £19.99 here.
A device that lets you take 360 degree photos and videos with a single click of your phone wherever you may be for under £20. It sounds almost too good to be true, but that is exactly what BubbleScope intends to offer.
How Does It Work?
The BubbleScope basically comes in two parts – the ‘scope’ part which makes your phone camera able to take 360 degree photos, and the ‘case’ part which holds the whole thing onto your phone. You essentially clip your phone into the case and the scope channels light down mirrors so that your camera ‘sees’ 360 degrees out of the top of the scope.
In theory this means that a single click will capture all 360 degrees of view. In addition, the cases are made specifically for each phone so they fit very nicely.
The first thing to note is that picture quality will depend heavily on your phone. If you’re using an older phone with a poorer quality camera, then obviously the final image is going to be of lower quality. However, the BubbleScope is also capturing a far wider field of view than your normal phone camera and so the detail will suffer significantly. As a rule of thumb, an Iphone camera has a standard field of view of between 50 and 60 degrees, so moving to 360 means a huge drop in picture quality for any single ‘part’ of that photo or video.
In addition, the BubbleScope works by reflecting light from a dome mirror into the camera via another mirror. Anyone who knows their camera lenses will know that the more mirrors and glass you add, the lower the quality becomes. This is a £19.99 product, not a £2,000 DSLR lens, so the BubbleScope of course loses more quality due to this.
To put it simply: Photos are okay for ‘fun’ as shown above, video quality verges on unusable even for that.
Having said all that, if you have an iphone 5, which has an 8mp camera, you’ll end up with a picture which is usable for fun, but certainly far away from being high quality. When compared to the Google Cardboard camera the BubbleScope is significantly lower quality, see the video below as an example:
Another issue that I’ve found with BubbleScope is the auto-focus function. The problem is, the phone doesn’t know where it should focus and with the full 360 degree spectrum to aim at, it picks a middle distance and ends up leaving everything looking soft and out of focus. This is a big issue with this kind of solution and it is hard to solve. You can of course try manual focus on the phone and select you focal point, but it is still going to result in large parts of the photo looking very soft. This isn’t such a problem when the depth of the subject is small (so indoors), but this is a significant limitation of the system.
Selection of Phones
One of the biggest issues with the BubbleScope is that the set up has to be just right to fit over the camera lens and work. That means that each phone has to have a custom made case. This means that BubbleScope is only available for: Iphone 4, Iphone 4s, Iphone 5, Galaxy S3 and Blackberry z10.
These are now phones which have been left behind and don’t even have great cameras. I’d be interested to try this on my Galaxy S6 with a 16mp senor, but alas, I cannot.
Is This VR?
Another big draw back is that photos are 360 degree, but look up or down and you will quickly see that the photos / videos do not expand at all in those directions. Whilst I think this is good in a way (giving a wider field would result in even poorer picture quality), it means that you will not be immersed into a Virtual Reality with this tool. You can see this in the video above, try scrolling up or down and it is obvious very quickly!
Overall I think this is a great idea – especially for video which you can’t capture using other apps on your phone, but it falls very short of being usable in practice. It’s a massive shame, because VR photography / videography for the masses would be a wonderful thing. I’m sure it will come, but this isn’t it.