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Kodak Pixpro SP360 review: Get fun, immersive video from Kodak's little 360-degree rugged action cam

This superwide-angle camera will change the way you -- and others -- see your adventures.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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6 min read

The Kodak Pixpro SP360 is not your typical action cam -- something you can tell just by looking at it.

kodak-pixpro-sp360-product-photos-04.jpg
7.4

Kodak Pixpro SP360

The Good

The Kodak Pixpro SP360 puts a rugged 360-degree camera in the palm of your hand. It can also be used as a more typical action cam capturing ultrawide-angle 1080p video. A large assortment of accessories is included.

The Bad

The 360-degree video is circular out of the camera and using Kodak's software to unfold clips to other views greatly reduces the quality of the video, which is merely good to start with, for the price. The onboard controls and menu system aren't particularly intuitive and the camera's Wi-Fi starts up every time you turn the camera on, preventing you from quickly starting a recording. The large lens is tough to keep clear of fingerprints.

The Bottom Line

The Kodak Pixpro SP360's 360-degree video is fun to view and experiment with, while its regular full HD video means you're not stuck with a one-trick camera. The rest of the package could use some fine-tuning, though.

It's a small box of a camera that's shock-, dust-, freeze- and splashproof with almost the entire top taken up with an f2.8 8.25mm lens (35mm equivalent). That is a very, very wide lens capable of capturing a circular 360-degree view in photos or video.

Why would you want to shoot 360-degree videos? That's a fair question and if you've never used one, it would be easy to see it as a gimmick. However, it does bring a more immersive feel to point-of-view (POV) video, delivering the action from all sides. If you're looking to add something different to your POV movies, it gives you another view to work with.

Still, if you're not sold on how it can enhance your videos just yet, JK Imaging, the company that licenses the Kodak brand for its Pixpro cameras, has made it so the SP360 can also pump out regular 16:9-ratio full HD video with a more traditional field of view minus much of the extreme distortion from its lens.

Mount the camera with the lens pointing up or down and you get 360-degree photos or video that, with help from desktop and mobile apps, can be played and played with in multiple ways. Aim the lens directly at your subject and you can record ultrawide-angle movie clips like those you'd get from just about any other action cam.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features

Compared to other 360-degree cameras like the VSN Mobil V.360 and Giroptic, the SP360 is ultracompact and even by action cam standards it's fairly small measuring 1.6 inches wide by 2 inches high by 1.5 inches deep (41 by 50 by 38mm). Again, most of the top (or front) is consumed by the lens, but you'll find stereo mics next to the lens, too.

On the side opposite the lens is a compartment for the removable battery that Kodak rates at 160 minutes of continuous 1080p video; my anecdotal testing came within striking distance of this mark, but with the Wi-Fi off.

Speaking of Wi-Fi, every time you power up the camera, it starts in Wi-Fi mode. In order to start recording you need to press the power/mode button again or use the wireless to connect to your computer or mobile device. There is no way to quickly go from off to recording. Not the end of the world, obviously, but a quick-start option would be nice.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A small monochrome screen lets you see and navigate your settings. Like many point-of-view cameras, you'll need to connect to a smartphone, tablet or computer to get a preview from the camera to setup your shots.

Though you're likely considering the SP360 for its video capabilities, the camera also takes photos -- one at a time or in bursts of 10. It can also do time-lapse video and loop recording. Loop recording, commonly used for recording while driving, will continuously record video breaking it into 5 or 10 minute segments until your memory card is filled or until the record button is hit again. Once the card is filled, it will start overwriting the segments starting with the first.

The SP360 also has a motion-detection setting that, when activated, will start recording when the camera picks up movement in a scene and stops when there is no movement for 10 seconds. Once it sees movement again, it will start recording a new clip.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As for mounting the camera, there is a tripod mount built into the camera, just above a door covering a Micro-USB port, Micro-HDMI output and microSD card slot (cards up to 32GB are supported). The camera also comes with a nice assortment of mounts, though what you get depends on the package you buy. I tested the $400/£350 Extreme Pack, which included: waterproof and skeleton housings, bar and suction-cup mounts, extension arms, a head strap, two vented helmet straps for different camera positions and adhesive mounts for surfboards and curved and flat surfaces.

There are also Explorer and Aqua Sport Packs, each about $50 less, that basically split the Extreme Pack up for land or water use. Frankly, if you can afford the extra cost, it's well worth the money to go for the Extreme. Regardless of the pack you go with, you also get an external battery charger, an AC adapter and Micro-USB cable for charging the battery in camera, a carrying case, protective and glass lens covers and a cleaning cloth.

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Screenshot by Joshua Goldman/CNET

Using the camera effectively isn't as straightforward as other action cams, but the learning curve is still reasonably painless. Point the camera up or down and set the resolution to 1,440x1,440 pixels or 1,072x1,072 for capturing an MP4-format video that looks like a globe.

Once you've got your clip, you can open it up in Kodak's desktop software, which is available for Mac or Windows. The software can unfold the software into different shapes (you can see them in the screenshot above). When it's unfolded you can use your mouse or the buttons in the software to zoom in and out, rotate or pan through the video.

However, for any of this to be visible outside of the software, you have to hit the record button in the player window. This essentially acts as a screen capture, turning whatever happens in the player into a new movie clip. (You can also just unfold and save clips.) Unfortunately this comes at the cost of quality, dropping the video bit rate from about 16Mbps to around 8Mbps, resulting in less detail and more artifacts.

On the other hand, when you point the camera's lens directly at your subject, you can opt to record full HD video with a wide-angle look that is typical for action cams. This means that with the SP360 you'll have one camera that's capable of shooting video with many different looks, giving you more creative options when it comes time to edit clips together into one movie.

Video quality

The SP360 is basically a point-and-shoot video camera, and like many point-and-shoots, the camera's design, features and shooting capabilities are what you're mainly paying for here (as well as all the accessories) and not spectacular video quality. If the video quality is what's most important to you, there are better options for your money; granted, they don't do 360-degree video.

You'll get the best results by shooting in 1080p at 30fps or, for 360-degree video, 1440p at 30fps. This gets you clips that are pleasing to watch at smaller screen sizes with good detail and bright, punchy colors. Viewed closely at larger sizes, you'll notice compression artifacts and subjects look pretty flat with mushy details. Worth noting is that there is significant distortion toward the top and bottom of the picture, so if you're shooting something or someone that you want to look normal, you'll want to make sure they are as close to the middle of the frame as possible.

The clip above starts with the 360-degree video that's been recorded with the various available effects to give you an idea of what's possible. (The jumpiness of the video is caused by me manipulating the clip using a computer mouse. There are controls in the desktop software that make movement much smoother.) At about the 4:15 mark you can see what the video 360-degree video looks like straight from the camera along with some audio. Audio quality is pretty good, though like other action cams, it doesn't handle wind noise well. Chances are you'll be putting music over your action scenes anyway. The remainder of the video clip is shot in 1080p.

Conclusion

With the Kodak Pixpro SP360, for your $400, £350 or less depending on what pack you pick up, you're getting a camera that does a pretty cool trick that can also be used as a regular camera for capturing yourself doing pretty cool tricks (or anything else). It's not perfect, but it is an easy way to spice up your videos without buying multiple cameras.

kodak-pixpro-sp360-product-photos-04.jpg
7.4

Kodak Pixpro SP360

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7Image quality 6
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