A first look at Nikon's KeyMission 360 VR action camera

Nikon's VR entry has surprisingly good software stitching.

Nikon may have pro photographers in the bag with its line of DSLRs, but the point-and-shoot market has all but disappeared, leaving in its wake action cams from GoPro and others. This year at Photokina, it's showing off the KeyMission range, which features the life-logging KeyMission 80, the GoPro-aping KeyMission 170 and, most interestingly, the VR video-producing KeyMission 360. We took a closer look at the latter, although our experience was confined to looking and feeling our way around the device, and watching some sample footage.

The KeyMission 360 feels well put together. Nikon's obviously learned from other action camera manufacturers that there should be as few steps between picking up the KeyMission and starting a shoot. This is a spartan device. The camera's two largest faces are dominated by ultra-wide angle lenses, behind which sit 20-megapixel 1/2.3-inch sensors, capable of capturing footage in 4K. The top of the camera is dominated by a record button, and also has a low battery indicator. One side of the device features a button for cycling through modes, while the other is a flap that hides space for a swappable battery and memory card. Nikon says the KeyMission is shockproof up to 2m (6.5 feet), and waterproof down to 30m (just shy of 100 feet), and it's also going to be selling silicone cases to further ruggedize the camera.

That sample footage, by the way, looked great, especially on the 4K displays at Nikon's booth. We also checked out footage in an admittedly low-quality VR headset, and while that wasn't a great guide for fidelity, it did show us that Nikon's algorithm for stitching is pretty damn good.

In around 10 minutes of footage, I noticed one bad "tear" -- a line where the output of the KeyMission's two cameras didn't meet up and it severely impacted the experience (if you're confused as to what I'm talking about, go look around on Google StreetView). There wasn't much in the way of warping, and the output is also almost entirely spherical -- the very bottom and top of the scene can be slightly obscured, but not by much.

So early signs seem good -- they better be for the KeyMission 360's MSRP of $500 -- but we'll have to put it through its paces properly when it arrives this October.

Steve Dent contributed to this report.

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