Vuze+ VR camera
$995 | vuze.camera

As someone who has been involved in the 360 video community for what is (too) quickly approaching half a decade, the rate at which the medium has evolved in recent years, from both the hardware and software perspective, continues to blow my mind, and the Vuze+ is just another reason why.

The Vuze+ is an upgraded version of HumanEyes Technology’s flagship Vuze stereoscopic 3D 360 camera. For the unfamiliar, the original Vuze was perhaps the most consumer friendly entry-level and affordable stereoscopic (3D) option. The main difference between the original and the Vuze+ are the IP65 instead of IP64 dustproof/water-resistant rating, the addition of spatial 360 audio, upgraded lenses, and the ability to livestream.

While there are a few aspects not to like, and I’ll get into those a bit below, those are almost negated (depending on your intended use for the camera) by the aspects that are very much to like, including the quality, the build, and the ease-of-use, especially at the impressive price point. After all, the original Vuze was good enough for National Geographic to film the first 3D VR footage in space and Discovery VR used the Vuze+ to capture VR footage for Sharkweek (with the optional underwater housing case).

Key features:

  • Eight F2.4 fisheye lenses
  • Stereoscopic (3D) at 4K/30p or monoscopic (2D) at 4K/60p
  • 4-microphone spatial audio
  • Livestreaming at full resolution
  • IP65 (dust tight, water jet proof)

Design

The Vuze+ is very well-designed. I was immediately surprised by how hefty a piece of quality machinery this was, especially for what is essentially a portable stereoscopic rig.

The camera has two buttons, one for power/mode and one to start/stop capture, as well as two LED lights to help indicate camera status such as photo, video, and recording. Hidden behind a thick rubber flap between two of the lenses is the slot for the microSD memory card, the mini-USB 2.0 input/output plug, as well as a battery charge status LED and Wi-Fi on/off and status indicator LED. There is a standard 1/4" 20 tripod thread on the bottom of the unit.

The Vuze+ ships with a small handle, lens cloth, USB charger and cable, and a quite trustworthy thick padded hard-shell case.

Though the battery is not swappable, it does provide a respectable 90-120 minutes of recording power, and you can attach an external battery pack if needed. The internal battery charged from empty to full in a little under 2 hours. The app displays both battery levels and memory card space remaining.

The included hard-shell case for the Vuze+ is compact and protects the camera very effectively.

One of the main attractions of the Vuze+ is its capability to livestream in full resolution to various platforms that support 360 video including Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and any Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP). It should be noted that in order to livestream, the camera needs to be connected to a computer, which acts as the stitch-box. This also allows you to save the out-of-camera video while you stream. Currently the livestream feature is available for Windows PC only.

Also, brownie points to the manufacturer, HumanEyes, for including mini VR glasses for a mobile phone and an international plug adapter, which as any media professional will be quick to tell you is a much appreciated touch.

In the field

Overall, the Vuze+ is very easy and fun to use. The camera records onto a single microSD card and there is a companion app for both iOS and Android that gives you control over ISO, shutter speed, and exposure. You also have record setting options that include choosing between 80 or 120Mbps bitrate, 50Hz or 60Hz anti-flicker, and 3D 30fps or 2D 60fps recording. The app also has an incredibly convenient digital bubble level to ensure an even horizon for every shot.

The Vuze app has a very convenient digital bubble level – very helpful when setting up a shot.

You also have the option of adjusting exposure settings for each of the four sets of lenses independently, a fantastic feature typically reserved for much higher end rigs like the Insta360 Pro 2. It worked great for automatic exposure adjustments but, unfortunately, more often than not, the app crashed when I tried to manually change the exposure settings on a Samsung Galaxy Note 8. It's worth noting that others I spoke with did not have this problem.

Exposure can be adjusted independently for each of the four sets of lenses on the Vuze+, a feature typically reserved for higher end VR cameras.

With all that being said, my main, and perhaps only, gripes with this camera lie in two glaring omissions in the app’s functionality.

One, there is no live view on the app while recording. As the nature of 360 video is such that you have to be out of view during capture, not having an option to be able to preview what the camera is recording is borderline mind-boggling.

Two, while you can preview still 360 photos on your mobile device, the mobile app will not stitch 360 video files, so in order to preview video footage, you need to offload and stitch using the computer software.

Overall, the Vuze+ is very easy and fun to use.

While the image quality is pretty good for a stereoscopic camera at this price point, not being able to see or preview video captures in the field are sure to make for an inefficient video production. For this reason, I’d be more than comfortable using this as a B-camera on a professional job, but not as my main camera for principal footage.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that the Vuze+ only records in h.264/mp4 format, and as of this writing, you do not have access to the raw, uncompressed individual camera files. You can however, output from the provided HumanEyes VR Studio software in ProRes.

Post processing / Desktop app

The Vuze+ workflow is fairly straightforward: once you connect your camera or offload the footage to your hard drive, you launch HumanEyes VR Studio software, which has 3 tabs – Import, Preview & Edit, and Render.

The Vuze desktop app, Vuze Studio, is used to process and stitch your footage, and is organized into three basic functions: Import, Preview & Edit (shown), and Render.

The software is easy to navigate and offers some pretty handy and effective features. Anytime you work in stereoscopic 360 you're going to run across some stitching issues, and Vuze Studio gives you decent tools to fine tune those stitches. Often times, simply choosing reference frames in parts of the video where stitches are most apparent produces very acceptable results.

Other times, be prepared to spend some time refining stitches using the provided sliders to adjust the four stitch points, especially for moving subjects within a couple meters (6 feet) of the camera.

Vuze Studio software provides some powerful tools to fine tune stitching between cameras.

Vuze Studio does have something called 'adaptive stitching' (beta), which works quite well as it seems to analyze the scene and movement and adjust its stitching to accommodate for those variables. However, you'll need to render the video in order to see the results of this adaptive stitching. In the samples below, watch the woman walking in the center of frame to see a short example of before & after stitch refinements. The second set of videos show how well it did in both standard and adaptive stitching from 3, 5, 7 and 10 feet (1m to 3m) away.

Editor's note: For the best experience, we recommend viewing the 360 clips below using either a mobile device or a head mounted display like Google Cardboard.

Samples: standard vs. adaptive stitching

The first video above was created with standard stitching, while the second was created using adaptive stitching. Watch the woman walking in the center of the frame to see an example of standard vs. adaptive refinements.

Samples: standard vs. adaptive stitching at different distances

The two videos above show the effect of standard vs. adaptive stitching at 3, 5, 7 and 10 feet (1m to 3m) away. The closer an object in the scene is to the camera, the more challenging the stitching becomes.

Finally, if you so desire, you always have the option to employ a proven near-perfect optical-flow stitch using a third party software like Mistika VR (which has a Vuze+ preset).

One thing to be aware of is that the on-board mics are quite sensitive to wind noise, so if there's a slight breeze and audio is important to your shot, I'd recommend a spatial recorder like the Zoom H2N with a windscreen to record audio separately.

Horizon stabilization works quite well for static captures. If there is excessive walking or movement without using a gimbal or stabilizer, don’t expect to be able to remove all of the shake and jello-ing as well as, say, the GoPro Fusion or the Rylo Camera, which, to be fair, were designed as action cameras and are just two-lens monoscopic cameras, making this sort of stabilization much less cumbersome. Alternately, as mentioned above, you can use third party software like SGO’s Mistika VR for more advanced software stabilization options.

Samples: walking video without stabilization vs. stabilization with adaptive stitching

The two videos above illustrate the camera's video stabilization. The first video has no stabilization and standard stitching, while the second has stabilization enabled and uses adaptive stitching.

Since the camera already has an internal accelerometer and gyroscope, I wouldn’t be surprised to see future firmware/software updates remedy these issues.

The ability to easily add a nadir logo on the bottom (as well as on the top if desired) is a huge plus, as anyone that has had to format their own equirectangular logo in a program like PT Gui knows it's typically an obscenely tedious process. VR Studio also makes it very easy to select your center field of view by simply dragging the video to your preferred focal point before rendering. Furthermore, Vuze Studio has a built-in tool to crop to 180˚ stereoscopic VR, a format Google is pushing heavily to help further immersive content adoption.

Vuze Studio makes it easy to select the default center for the field of view, ensuring that your viewer will be initially directed to your recommended point of view.

In the advanced Blending tool, you can choose from 'none,' 'low,' 'medium,' and 'high' to choose the amount of blending applied between the 4 sets of lenses. I found that 'medium' seemed to provide the best all around blend.

Vuze Studio has an advanced blending tool that allows you to apply different levels of blending between lenses. I found that the medium setting generally provided the best all around results. The fluctuations seen between lenses in this view are less noticeable when viewing the content in 360 format.

In the advanced Color Matching tool, you have the choice of 'none,' 'by neighboring lenses,' or 'entire sphere.' All work very well to tone down the image so that there are no extremely noticeable exposure fluctuations, especially in a headset.

Vuze Studio also provides an advanced color matching tool that lets you specify how color matching is performed between lenses. As with blend modes, the fluctuations visible in this view are not as noticeable when viewing the content in 360 format.

You also the get the option to adjust basic settings like exposure, highlights, shadows, temperature and saturation.

Finally, you have several options for output, including presets for YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps (360 stills), Vimeo and HumanEyes Zone, a proprietary platform to share VR sites through a single website link. Additionally, you can manually set output parameters, which gives you a choice of h.264 or ProRes, monoscopic (2D) or stereoscopic (3D), 4K or 2K resolution (or custom), spatial or stereo audio, cube map or equirectangular projection, as well as aspect ratio and video bitrate.

The image quality and dynamic range is pretty good for a rig this size and, especially, at this price. The one thing that was apparent in certain conditions, especially in scenes with high contrast, say through tree branches or rooftop edges, was chromatic aberration - noticeable purple fringing was introduced.

In some scenes with high contrast some purple fringing is noticeable.

Conclusion

While it may not fit the bill as a primary camera for most professional stereoscopic 360 shooters that are already accustomed to higher-end 3D rigs, there is still a place for the Vuze+ in many 360 shooters' kits. Coming in at around $1000, aside from the original Vuze, there is no better deal for a stereoscopic rig. It's easy to use, does a very decent job, and for those either jumping from monoscopic 360 video/photo to stereoscopic, or those that want to experiment with stereoscopic, it's a good option considering the next cheapest 3D option would run almost 3x the price. This is a great way to dip your toes in without breaking the bank.

The Vuze+ can also serve as a great B-camera and as an option for shooters in specialty markets such as real estate and journalism where they may forego many of the above issues that might plague a more produced shoot.

While there are a few drawbacks, between the acceptable optics, the software, and the user experience, what this gives you, for the price, is quite impressive. Keeping those things in mind, you can't really go wrong with the HumanEyes Vuze+.

What we like

  • Good price point for a stereoscopic rig
  • Well designed, heavy and sturdy
  • Live-streaming capabilities
  • Approachable and functional software
  • Built in optimized presets for Google Maps / YouTube / Facebook outputs

What we'd like to see improved

  • No Live Preview while recording video
  • Can't preview video files in app – need to offload and stitch.
  • No optical-flow stitching
  • Software stabilization
  • Chromatic Aberration in certain high-contrast conditions
  • No uncompressed recording