Nikon’s new KeyMission range combines a rugged body with immersive 360° stills and video capture...
Up until now brands like GoPro, Olympus and Ricoh have dominated the action cam market, but it’s a pie that Nikon obviously want a part of with the launch of its highly anticipated KeyMission range. Heading up their new three-part line-up of cams is the KeyMission 360, a device that touts dual lenses for 360° VR (virtual reality) capture of a scene. The immersive all-angle stills and video it produces places viewers in the centre of a 3D world, allowing them to experience a place or journey like never before. While this kind of technology has been seen in devices like the 360Fly and Ricoh Theta, none of them had the same kind of rugged credentials, leaving their use limited to rather mundane activities. This camera arrives on the promise that it will record action the way you remember it, in almost any conditions.
Waterproof to 30m, shockproof to 2m, freezeproof to -10°C and dustproof, all without additional housing, the KeyMission 360 can take a battering and keep going with ease. Weighing in at just 198g and measuring a mere 6.6cm on its longest dimension, it still remains impressively portable and comes with a variety of mounts for attachment to numerous surfaces.
To produce its stills and video, the camera has a dual setup of back-to-back lenses and sensors that simultaneously record when activated, with their output automatically stitched together in-camera for a single file. Each of its two optics is a fixed 1.6mm f/2 (8.2mm full-frame equivalent) lens with a 180˚ angle of view (the overlap from the two used for clean stitching). Anything beyond 30cm away from the front of the device will appear in focus in images, while things particularly close to the camera’s top, bottom, or sides might not appear in images at all as they’re outside the angle of view. Stitched stills from the KeyMission 360 are output as JPEGs, while video can be captured in 4K UHD resolution at 24fps or Full HD at 24fps, both saved to Micro SD. The camera benefits from digital stabilisation, although this does not work when set to shoot 4K.
While at first it might seem strange that this camera has no display and its external controls are limited to ‘on/off’ and ‘Record’ buttons, it reflects how the device is best used. While it can be operated solo, many people will want to control it via a smart device. Unlike a standard camera, the all-encompassing perspective that it captures means that successful composition requires a new process. Rather than carefully aligning a scene’s focal points using a classic technique like the rule-of-thirds, it becomes much more important to consider the exact placement of the camera itself, and how its proximity to subjects make them appear to the viewer in an image.
A live video stream to help users judge their creations can be seen using Nikon’s 360 SnapBridge smart device app for this purpose. This app also allows remote control of basic camera functions including white balance and exposure compensation, and the wireless transfer of images. The KeyMission 360’s battery life is rated for 230 shots or 70 minutesof video.
Handling and performance
Once a connection is established, controlling the KeyMission 360 via a phone or tablet is simple and straightforward. However, it’s in making this initial connection that frustration can often arise. While the in-box guide to the camera offered little help in the process, Nikon have, thankfully, now released more in-depth instructions on their website to aid first-time users.
Also frustrating was the range of connection, which was slightly disappointing, regularly dropping out if the distance between the 360 and smart device was further than around 10 feet. This will often limit how the camera can be operated if you don’t want to appear in the shots yourself.
Performing best in well-lit conditions, free of heavy contrast due to it’s limited dynamic and ISO range, the KeyMission 360 is capable of some great quality results. On playback, a seam from the stitching of the two camera feeds was visible in images and video, but it's subtle enough not to be too much of a concern for most users.
For the price, it's a well-built camera that’s capable of some very impressive and immersive footage so it's a great buy for action fanatics. It’s a shame that connecting it to an external device is a bit of a faff, as it’s otherwise an extremely solid action cam.
Resolution: 21.14MP (7,744 x 3,872px)
Format: JPEG & .MOV
Sensor: 1/2.3-in. type CMOS X2
Lenses: 1.6 mm f/2 (8.2mm equivalent)
Shutter speed: 1/8000sec–1 sec
Autofocus range: 1ft - infinity
Vibration reduction: Electronic
Video: UHD 4K (2160) at 24fps
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
Battery: 230 shots (CIPA) or 70mins video
Weight: 198g with battery & SD card
Dimensions: 66x61x61mm (WxHxD)