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Rylo is a game-changing 360-degree camera from the makers of Hyperlapse

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Shoot first, frame later

Just like the $299 Insta360 One or the $699 GoPro Fusion, Rylo is a 360-degree camera that’s not really about filming 360-degree photos and videos. Rylo, which costs $499 and goes on sale today, is a dual-lens camera that lets you do creative things with the full 360-degree sphere of imagery, like transforming it into a regular, flat video that you can reframe as much as you want.

That means you can shoot with this camera and not worry about the composition until you go to edit on your phone. There, you’re able to look back at the footage, spin it around like you would with a 360-degree video, and pick, crop, and export a 16:9, 1080p video. (It can also save and export the full 360-degree versions, if you like.)

And, since Rylo boasts two of the co-creators of Hyperlapse, the app for Instagram that produces super-stabilized time lapse footage, this camera also creates extremely smooth footage without the usual warping. It basically uses all that extra information from the 360-degree sphere that you’re not going to use to stabilize the footage. You can even hand hold the camera and the footage will still look stable, though it will come with a small grip / tripod, and Rylo (the company) will sell a case that attaches to GoPro mounts.

Unlike GoPro’s or Insta360’s take, though, you can’t point your phone to perform this “recapture.” Instead, the Rylo app only lets you manipulate the 360-degree footage on your phone’s screen via touch interactions, and whatever you’re viewing is what will export. (This means you could cut out a portrait video if you hold your phone vertically while editing.)

Rylo’s introduction video, which shows a few sample clips.

Where Rylo gets especially interesting is some of the other software features that are built into the app, like object tracking. This can be used to simply follow a person or thing that’s moving around the camera and keep them in frame, which is handy.

But another example that Rylo’s cofounders showed me was a video that was shot, handheld, out the sunroof of a car that was going across the Golden Gate Bridge. Looking at the footage on the phone, they were able to tap and hold on one of the bridge’s arches to set it as a of point of interest. Then, as it played back, the “virtual camera” made it so that the view was always locked on to the arch. As they drove under, the footage smoothly turned 180 degrees to keep the arch in view, as if someone had been pointing the camera at it the whole time.

You can take this even further and set multiple points of interest across the length of a video, either to focus on different subjects or to better smooth out (or speed up) the virtual camera’s path, too.

Another example I was shown was shot by co-founder Chris Cunningham. In it, he’s running through a park being chased by his dog, filming the scene with the camera down at his side. Normally that footage would be too shaky, or he might have pointed it in the wrong direction. But with the Rylo camera shooting in every direction, he was able to carve out a really smooth 16:9 clip of his dog nipping at his heels.

“As a consumer, when you’re capturing something, you dont know ahead of time what’s going to happen, right?” cofounder Alex Karpenko asks, rhetorically, during my demo. “Your kid might decide to run right and you might figure that out too late.” This is one of the things that makes video look unprofessional, Karpenko argues, because “in film this never happens. In film everything is planned.”

The ability to shoot first and frame later helps get rid of some of that anxiety, Karpenko says. “We built a camera that captures everything around it so you no longer need to point the camera.”

The Rylo camera uses two 208-degree lenses with f2.8 apertures, back to back, on a form factor that’s a bit smaller than a GoPro. Each of those two wide-angle lenses is paired with a Sony sensor — the kind you’d find in most current high-end cell phones, Cunningham says. It captures up to 4K video at 30 frames per second, and has a battery life of about an hour, though the battery is swappable.

It only works with iPhones for now, though Rylo says an Android version is on the way. You have to use a cable (currently, Micro USB to Lightning) to transfer the footage from the Rylo camera to your iPhone. Cunningham says this is so people aren’t fussing with slow Wi-Fi transfers of 4K footage, but it’s also undoubtedly saving them a little space and putting less stress on the battery life, too.

Digital photography is all about capturing and processing information, and in some cases more information can let you do fantastic things. That’s why the idea of taking a 360-degree sphere of video and using all that excess information to make your “normal” videos look better, or just different, is such a fascinating idea.

Photo: Rylo, Inc.

Like I said, Rylo’s not the first to try and tackle this idea. But it has a simple and more fun looking app than the GoPro’s Swiss Army tool approach, or Insta360’s underdeveloped software. Rylo’s stabilization also looks uncommonly good, though perhaps that’s no surprise considering the Hyperlapse pedigree.

What surprised me the most in the brief time I saw the camera, though, is the quality of the imagery it captures. Cunningham says that comes from a deep involvement with the creation process of Rylo, and the cofounders are very proud of how closely they worked with their Chinese manufacturing partners to solve the hardware side of this product. The company also has a handful of folks who worked on the cameras at Apple, too, so that has probably helped.

One of the last sample videos Cunningham showed me was much less kinetic, but still impactful. It was footage of a picnic he had with his family. Instead of sitting there and concentrating on actively filming the people around him, he was able hold the camera up and worry about capturing the right moments later. It’s the kind of thing, again, that GoPro’s or Insta360’s cameras can do. But Rylo’s aiming for that Goldilocks spot in the middle — not too pricey, not too dense or too simple on the software side — and hoping it can make 360-degree cameras start to grow out of their niche.

Correction: The GoPro Fusion costs $699, not $799 as this article previously stated.