The Rylo camera captures a 360º spherical image. Its companion mobile app makes it possible to export standard HD video from anywhere in the image.

Over the past couple of years I've tried quite a few consumer-oriented 360º cameras, and while I'm generally excited about the future prospects of 360º photo and video, I've also been of the opinion that applications and technology need to improve before it really gets traction with consumers.

Part of my ambivalence towards 360º video stems from the fact that few of the cameras I've tried really do anything unique. Almost universally, they capture spherical video that requires a VR headset to view, or which requires the viewer to drag around an image to find the part of the scene they care about.

The Rylo Camera ($499) takes a different approach. Although it captures 360º photos and video, it does so with the idea that you can later select a region of the image from which to create a standard 16:9 HD video. It's basically like an action cam that lets you decide where to point the camera after you've shot your footage.

It's basically like an action cam that lets you decide where to point the camera after you've shot your footage.

On the hardware side of things, the Rylo looks much like any other VR or action camera. It has two fisheye lenses and records 4K spherical video or 6K spherical photos. The body is aluminum and feels very solid – much more so than most action cameras I've used. A small door provides access to the MicroSD card and battery, and a small display shows remaining battery and recording time.

However, it's the software that makes the Rylo really interesting. Video is copied to your mobile device via the included cable, and the camera's companion app provides numerous opportunities for getting creative.

Before you even begin working with your footage, the app applies automatic horizon leveling and image stabilization. You don't even notice how effectively this works until you turn these features off, but once you do so it becomes apparent that this correction is really good.

This video shows the same clip with the Rylo's image stabilization and horizon correction turned on (left) and turned off (right). It works very effectively.
Video by Dale Baskin

To begin editing a video, you simply open a clip and select your desired framing within the app. You could export your HD video at that point, but you would be ignoring the software's best feature: the ability to direct the camera after the fact.

One way to do this is to tap and hold the screen, then select the option to 'Look Here'. Doing so locks the camera at that position and creates a keyframe. It's possible to create multiple keyframes at different locations throughout your clip, and the software will virtually tilt and pan as needed to transition between them.

Even better, you can let the software do the work for you. In addition to 'Look Here', there's also a 'Follow This' option that locks onto a subject and tracks it, smoothly panning and tilting like a virtual camera on a gimbal. I found this feature surprisingly effective, and it produced very natural looking footage.

My friend Stu West offered to take the Rylo skiing with his family for a day. In this video we used the app's Follow This feature to track the skier down the hill. Stu pointed the camera straight ahead through the entire run; most of the camera movement is the result of virtual panning by the Rylo app.
Video by Stu West
The clip above illustrates how subject tracking is directed on the Rylo. Simply press and hold on your subject and click Follow This. the Rylo app will automatically tilt and pan (in a virtual sense) to create the appearance that your subject is being followed by the camera.
The Rylo's subject tracking isn't perfect. The app understandably struggles when the skier in pink becomes very small and gets mixed in with other skiers in similar outfits. However, we also see an example where the app gets confused when she passes in front of a skier wearing white. In many cases, starting the process and directing the Rylo app to try again results in correct tracking.

If you want to see the world a bit differently, there's also a 'Tiny Planet' view that shrinks the entirety of your world down into a small sphere.

In addition to motion control, the software also includes the ability to trim clips and perform basic corrections including highlights, shadows, vibrance, and tone (WB). It's fairly basic, but enough that you can generally adjust the footage to your taste.

The biggest challenge I ran into when shooting video was adjusting my own behavior. I had a tendency to point the camera at my subject as it moved around, much like you would do with an action cam. That actually made editing a bit more difficult, so I had to learn to hold the camera still, then virtually change my camera direction later using the app.

This clip shows an example of the Rylo's Tiny Planet mode. (Note: the camera records sound in this mode, but we chose not to include it.)
Video by Stu West

The Rylo can also be used for still photos, but I found the experience less satisfying. There's no way to remotely trigger the shutter from your phone; instead, you have to physically press the shutter button, meaning that your hand is guaranteed to cover much of the photo. As with video, you can select your framing after the fact, but the largest image size is 1080p video resolution, though in practice resolution appears to be somewhat lower than that.

Of course, the Rylo is also a 360º camera that can be used to export spherical images or video. In that sense, it doubles as a VR cam if you want to share a VR experience.

Battery life is respectable. Rylo claims 60 minutes of continuous recording using the interchangeable battery, which is just about enough to fill a 64GB memory card, and based on my experience that seems about right.

The Rylo captures 6K spherical VR photos. It's possible to export framed images at resolutions up to 1920x1080 pixels.
Photo by Dale Baskin

Speaking of memory, one thing you'll need is a lot of free space on your mobile device. At its high quality setting, the camera records at a rate of approximately 1GB/minute, and your phone will need enough free space to copy all the footage.

As much as I enjoyed using the Rylo, it's not perfect. The 1080p video files it exports are, in reality, somewhat lower resolution. That's not surprising considering that total resolution for the entire spherical file is 4K. That said, it looks very good on a smartphone screen, so if you're sharing to social media where people are likely to watch on a mobile device it will look fine.

...the camera records at a rate of approximately 1GB/minute, and your phone will need enough free space to copy all the footage.

It would also be nice if the camera were waterproof. The included 'Everyday Case' with handle is well designed and very effective, but if you want more protection you'll need to spring for the 'Adventure Case' ($69).

The Rylo is a great example of a 360º camera done right. Rather than just capturing spherical video and expecting your audience to view it as such, it provides a set of tools that allow you focus in on telling your story, as well to share that story in a way that's comfortable and familiar to most people. Sure, I wish the video quality were a bit better, but I'd likely choose the Rylo over many action cameras because it provides such an easy way to direct the action after the fact.

It's also a reminder that there's a lot of potential opportunity for 360º cameras if manufacturers are willing to think outside the box. Or, maybe I should say outside the sphere.

What we like

  • Tightly integrated hardware and software make editing and exporting videos a snap
  • Image stabilization is insanely good
  • Subject tracking is very effective, resulting in very natural looking – but automated – camera movements

Improvements we’d like to see

  • Higher resolution, particularly for still photos
  • Ability to trigger photos/videos from the mobile app
  • Improved weather sealing