The Whole Picture: VSN Mobil V.360° Camera Review

PRICE $449

Easy to use
Unstitched 360-degree photo and video
Compatible with standard tripod and GoPro mounts
No controls on the camera
Slightly soft video quality

While video quality lacks the crisp wow factor of modern GoPro footage, this single-lens camera represents a huge step in the immersive video market.

Launched in 2013, VSN Mobil is a new face in the tech crowd, and the company just set the bar in the immersive video market with an action camera that shoots unstitched 360-degree video—the V.360º. Comprised of hand-plucked talent from Foxconn, General Dynamics, Motorola, Pininfarina, and Samsung, VSN Mobil has a leg up on the competition out of the gate. With a creative director from the design house that brought us the timelessly elegant Ferrari F40 and a head of engineering who previously served one of the world’s largest defense contractors, you would be correct to assume that the V.360º is equal parts beauty and brain.

The stylish little pepper mill towers over the latest GoPro lineup at a height of 4 inches and weighs in at a bottom-heavy 8.1 ounces. An anodized aluminum base protects a 2610 mAH lithium-ion battery, Micro SD card, Micro USB 3.0, Micro HDMI ports, and a variety of sensors (GPS, Compass, Temperature, Accelerometer, and Gyroscope). Four pinholes in the aluminum housing reveal the LED indicator, stereo microphones, and barometer; the camera sits atop a mirrored, parabolic cone inside a plastic chamber filled with Argon gas. Here’s the key to an unstitched image: the F/3.0 aperture points directly upward into a concave mirror that bounces the field of view back down off the camera’s perch and out all sides of the chamber. The result is a seamless, 360 x 60-degree image presented in 6480 x 1080 HD at 30 fps.

The V.360º has no buttons and must be controlled exclusively with the provided waterproof remote or a Bluetooth/Wi-Fi connected device via the VSN Mobil app (available for Android and iOS). You guessed it—fumbling for the remote or your phone while cruising on your motorcycle, surfing, or even walking the dog does get old fast. However, the intuitive app allows you to set up a live video feed, review your work on the fly, execute basic edits, and easily upload videos and panoramic 8MP photos directly to YouTube and Facebook.

In addition to the app, VSN Mobil offers free desktop software for reviewing footage. It’s worth noting that I could not get the software to function on my four-year-old, quad-core Acer laptop for unknown reasons but that it worked flawlessly on my newer Aspire V5. While the desktop software isn’t good for anything other than playback, you can use nearly any third-party software to edit your .mp4 footage. Keep in mind that videos opened outside of the VSN software will appear split with two 180 x 60-degree images stacked one on top of the other. This split occurs at the LED indicator. You’ll need a microSD card to store your footage.

Entry-level waterproofing that’s airtight to 3 feet for 30 minutes coupled with military-spec shock, dust, and vibration resilience make for an extremely capable unit out of the box. You can’t take the V.360º diving alongside your GoPro without the $60 Dive Bell, but the grenade, as the early-morning surf crew dubbed it, did just fine glued to the nose of my favorite surfboard with the provided mount. The camera excels in bright environments and picked up some unique shots of me simultaneously paddling and dropping in.

Intrigued by the option to activate the recording of a secondary telemetry file and edit V.360º video with RaceRender (or similar third-party software) to display revs, speed, gear selection, and even Gs right on your video, I decided to tear up the streets a bit in my Corvette. Lower-profile GoPro cameras are solid past 150 mph on an exposed suction cup mount, but the larger V.360º started dancing at speeds as low as 40mph while suctioned to the corner of my windshield, and wind noise distorted everything beyond 20 mph. I will opt for a more protected position when I head for the track on race day.

The Bottom Line
The V.360º is just as comfortable in the surf as it is at your best friend’s wedding, and a quick edit with the mobile app will usually let you dial in the perfect shot. This unique little camera is the all-seeing eye that gracefully replaces bulky, multi-camera rigs at a fraction of the cost, but not without fault. Video quality lacks the crisp wow factor of modern GoPro footage, and you still miss everything above the vertical 60-degree field of view. Nonetheless, the V.360º is an impressive camera that allows you to capture your environment in a new, more complete way. The ability to pan around inside an unstitched virtual reality is the stuff of the future, and it is here to stay.