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How do these two readily available cameras stack up to one another? With the Ricoh Theta Z1 being in short supply, how do these two competitors stack up? Read on to find out.
360-degree photography is emerging and gaining in popularity as of late. With the recent COVID-19 issues, 360-degree tours of the housing market have been in higher demand. Sales of 360 cameras have been increasing for the duration of 2020 and becoming more popular in the mainstream. In this article, I will give you my impressions of the Insta360 One R and the Kandao Qoocam 8K, having owned both models.
Insta360 One R
The Insta360 One R is unique among 360 cameras at this time. It has the ability to transform between a 360 camera and a 4K action camera. By way of its unique modular design, the 360-degree lens assembly can be removed from the battery and control unit and replaced with a standard 4K video module, much like a regular action camera like the GoPro Hero series. This gives the camera a bit of versatility and utility, when you don’t need a 360 camera you can transform it into an action camera.
There is also a third camera module available with a one-inch sensor. The one-inch sensor gives the camera the ability to take better photos and video than any other action camera currently on the market and bumps the action camera video resolution from 4K to 5.3K. Photos taken with the one-inch sensor are class-leading as well.
The 360 module features dual 1 / 2.33-inch sensors, which is the same sensor size found in the 4K module. The whole contraption is water-resistant to 16 feet with either lens module attached, as well as with the one-inch module. A small touchscreen, about one inch in size, is included on the control module. It should be noted that the device must be placed into its metal cage in order to attain 16-foot water-resistance. Outside of the cage, the device is still water-resistant, but I wouldn’t submerge the device.
Storage is via a micro SD card slot located next to the USB-C charging port. For a more in-depth review of the Insta360 One R, read this article.
Kandao Qoocam 8K
The Kandao Qoocam 8K is also a 360 camera without the ability to play a transformer. With this camera there is no action camera version, it is all 360. It sports a large touch screen on the front of the camera for user input, much larger than on the Insta360 One R. The screen is large enough to be easily useful for changing settings on the device.
The Kandao Qoocam 8K also sports dual 1 / 1.7-inch image sensors with are about 50% larger than those on the Insta360 One R, giving it an advantage in low light situations. The device even sports an internal fan for cooling off the internal image processor that does the heavy lifting for the camera. The internal fan is audible at all times in a quiet room and can become very noticeable when the device is processing heavily.
There is no waterproofing on the Kandao Qoocam 8K so keep it away from the water. It does, however, sport an 8GB internal memory so if you leave the house without an SD card in the camera, you can still get your work done. In the box will be a rubber bumper that affixes to the edge of the device to act as a bump shield.
Obviously, as the name implies, the resolution of the camera is 8K versus the 5.7K resolution of the Insta360 One R. This will, in theory, give sharper photographs and sharper video.
Here are sample photos from each device in a 360-degree spherical format.
Qoocam 8K Indoors
One R Outdoors
Both of these cameras have a touchscreen on the device itself. The Insta360 One R has a relatively small touchscreen that is less than optimal for general use. It can be used for changing camera settings, but it is inadequate for reviewing photos or videos on the screen.
The Kandao Qoocam 8K has a fairly large touchscreen that is useful for changing camera settings and general use. It is large enough to be used for photo review and even video review.
Both of these cameras worked more smoothly for me when using the app on my phone to control the cameras.
The Kandao app on my iPhone was useful for setting the camera up and triggering the shutter. When shooting a burst of photos in RAW mode it took almost a minute for the photo to be viewable on my iPhone 11 Pro. I believe the Qoocam 8K to be processing images on-board and then sending them to my iPhone. There is a quite strong processor in the Qoocam 8K, thus the need for the active cooling fan in the system.
The Insta360 One R app is a very strong point of the camera system. It definitely uses the phone to process videos and still photos in the app. Insta360 makes the mobile app a priority over the desktop version, so there is definitely a strong ability to edit photos and videos on your mobile device.
Since this review focuses (pardon the pun) on the photography aspect of these two cameras, I’d like to list the photography-related features of both models here. I feel that HDR modes and image stacking features are important in these types of cameras as the small sensors and super-wide angle lenses benefit from those features.
Kandao Qoocak 8K
- Photo formats: JPEG, RAW
- Photo resolution: 29.4 Megapixels
- Photo modes: Still images, Timed photos, Super HDR, Time-lapse
- Shutter speeds: 1/6400 – 1 second
- ISO: 100-6400
Insta360 One R
- Photo formats: JPEG, RAW
- Photo resolution: 18 Megapixels
- Photo modes: Standard photos, HDR photos, Burst, Interval photos, Night Shot, PureShot
- Shutter speeds: 1/8000 – 1 second
- ISO: 100-3200
Kandao Qoocam 8K
The workflow for the Kandao Qoocam 8K is more traditional and in line with what a professional would expect when shooting with a mirrorless or DSLR camera. Photos shot at the highest quality using image stacking are going to need to be processed in software on a computer. When tested, there was an HDR mode that used multiple exposures to gather more dynamic range, but the photo quality suffered compared to image stacked photos.
Since my testing of the Qoocam 8K, Kandao has released a firmware update with “Super HDR”, which is an automated HDR setting that combines three image-stacked exposures for extra sharpness and quality. The reviews I have seen of the Super HDR have been promising indeed.
Insta360 One R
The Insta360 One R has a more mobile workflow since it relies so heavily on its software app. It is easy to take photos or video with the One R, edit them in the app and export to the mobile device’s camera roll or photos app. From there, it is simple to do any final edits and then share or send the photos to social media.
The photos taken with the One R can also be edited on a computer. If shooting RAW photos, you will definitely want to edit on a computer as the mobile app deals with JPEG images.
Kandao Qoocam 8K
I was really impressed with the detail and sharpness of still photos from the Qoocam 8K up close. Images were well-detailed and sharp indoors with great color accuracy. Past about twenty feet or so, the images softened up. I found that in outdoor scenes, images were so soft at a distance as to be virtually indistinguishable from most other 360 cameras shooting at lower resolutions. It should be noted that my camera was an early model and I understand Kandao was working to alleviate that problem.
Other quality of life issues were the short battery life of the Qoocam 8K. In using the camera on a live, paid shoot I found that I really had to work to get the whole shoot completed before the battery ran out. In practice I found the battery to last about an hour. Since the battery was not replaceable, the camera had to go back onto the charger for the next shoot. There was no option to swap batteries.
The camera just seemed more fragile to me as well. It was never designed as an action camera so there was no “robustness” in my opinion of the Qoocam 8K. The bottom of the camera wasn’t really flat, so it didn’t like to stand up and when placed on a flat surface it tended to fall over onto those huge, delicate fisheye lenses. Either work with this camera on a tripod at all times or make a special place for it to lay down on your desk for editing to protect those lenses.
Insta360 One R
The Insta360 One R is a robust camera, as one half of the camera’s purpose is one of an action cam. The image detail of the camera is acceptable, with most images being a little soft. Color rendition is good and overall the image quality is good enough for social media purposes, but I’d hesitate to use this camera for paid, professional work.
I like the fact that the camera has more than one purpose in life, however, having dual roles tends to make the camera second best in both of them. That said, the One R is hanging with the best of the best in both the action camera world and the 360 world. The One R is definitely a better action camera than it is a 360 camera, compared to the Ricoh Theta Z1. It really is unfair to compare the One R to the Theta Z1, the Theta Z1 being a single purpose 360 camera at twice the price. When compared to the other 360 cameras in the same $500 price range, the One R is neither better nor worse than any other 360 camera available.
Where it separates itself is the 4K action cam ability, water-resistance, overall robustness, and swappable battery.
I ended up sending my Qoocam 8K back and sticking with the One R. After all was said and done, the One R was just a more well-rounded camera for my use and provided me with an action cam on top of the 360 camera. The workflow was more streamlined and mobile, there was an easily swappable battery on the bottom of it, it was water-resistant, and the whole device seemed less fragile.
While not quite as sharp as the Qoocam 8K up close, it was close enough. At a distance, the differences between the Qoocam 8K and the One R in still photos were pretty small in my opinion.
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