Nikon Is First Big Camera Maker To Get Into VR Video, By Sean Captain

Nikon says image quality will be the killer feature in its rugged, $500 KeyMission 360 virtual reality camera.

When you think of major camera makers, names like 360fly, LG, and Ricoh may not spring to mind. Such newcomers have staked out early spots in the emerging 360-degree virtual reality video market. That changes today as Nikon launches its KeyMission 360 virtual reality camera.

Nikon teased the device way back in January at CES, but it’s finally released all the specs, the price (about $500), and availability (October). It also launched a pair of traditional action cameras today. Aside from a famous name, what else does Nikon have to offer against over a dozen competing models?

“They’re all about imaging, no question about it,” says Steve Heiner, a senior technical manager at Nikon. “That’s why we make the lenses in the cameras…We’re into very high-quality imagery.” It will be a few weeks before anyone knows if Nikon has met that goal, although it has put out some slick video samples.

The KeyMission 360 already has some tough competitors. Tech reviewers have been gushing about the image quality of the 360fly 4K (about $500) and the Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K (about $450), for instance. All three cameras offer 4K/Ultra HD resolution, although only the Nikon captures the full spherical view with no blacked-out sections (which often appear at the bottom of the video). That’s because the KeyMission 360 actually contains two 20-megapixel cameras, one on each side under roughly 190-degree wide-angle lenses. (You can, however, connect two of Kodak’s cameras to get seamless video, for twice the price.) Heiner brags that Nikon’s in-camera image stitching, which combines the two hemispheres of video, is cleaner than that of other multi-cam models, which also remains to be seen.

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