Motorola just formally announced the newest addition to its collection of Moto Mod add-ons, a 360-degree camera that magnetically attaches to the back of any of the Moto Z series of devices.
I had a few minutes to try out the new Mod, and it more or less works pretty much as advertised. The white back case isn’t much thicker than Motorola’s other wireless charging add-ons — except for the giant, two-sided camera that sticks out of the top. The module is probably a little bit too big to casually keep attached to your phone as a day-to-day option, but the modular nature of the Moto Mod system makes it super simple to detach it when you’re not using it.
Once attached, the phone automatically recognized the Mod, with the standard camera app offering a toggle between the 360-degree camera and the regular, onboard camera. When it comes to actually shooting with the Moto 360 Camera, you’ve got a few different options for taking pictures with such an expanded field of view. There’s a split-screen mode that shows you what the front and rear sensors are seeing; a sliding, panorama-style mode, which presents a pannable preview; a spherical fish-eye view, which can be zoomed and rotated; and a circular mode that overlays the rear view on top of a background of the front-facing side.
Shooting with the 360 Camera is a little slow — there was a noticeable one- or two-second delay between pressing the shutter and the picture actually taking, presumably due to the time to process and stitch the camera’s separate viewpoints together. Panning around the live feed was also a little slow, for what I assume to be the same reason. (In an interesting quirk, due to the location of the sensor on top of the phone, any pictures you take have a weird result of the phone itself appearing invisible in your hands.) Still, the results are pretty sharp. Motorola is certainly using the two 13-megapixel sensors to good effect here.
The only major feature that I wasn’t able to try out was the live-streaming function, which Motorola is promising for a future software update after the 360 Camera launches on August 10th.
There’s certainly a lot to like about the Moto 360 Camera, especially if you already have a Motorola Z device and are looking to dive into 360-degree photography. But the $299.99 price point feels really steep for what you’re getting. True, the Moto Mod offers a better, system-level integration of the 360-degree cameras into the regular camera app and more convenient design, but whether or not that’s worth the markup over options like Samsung’s Gear 360 camera is still unclear.
Photography by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge