The $299 Iqui is the opposite of what I’ve come to expect from a 360-degree camera. It was developed by Ricoh-spinoff Vecnos and the team that created the first consumer 360 camera, the Ricoh Theta. You can see that camera’s DNA in the Iqui (pronounced ee-kwee) and what made the Theta special back in 2013 is what makes the Iqui unique in 2020: simplicity.
The original Theta was essentially a 360 snapshot camera. You turned it on, pressed the shutter and it created a spherical image once you piped it through its mobile or desktop app. Back then you couldn’t share the images directly to social media and, honestly, you still can’t really. The Theta evolved into a more powerful platform for creating 360 content whereas the Iqui seems to be trying to recapture the snapshot feel of the original. International prices aren’t currently available, but $299 converts to about £230 or AU$410.
It has more lenses but it’s actually smaller
The Theta used two large lenses to create spherical images. It was compact and you could fit it in your pocket but it was thick and heavy and you’d know it was there. The Iqui has four lenses — three around the outside and one on top — and it’s basically the size of a thick Sharpie marker. You can easily slip it into your pocket or purse.
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The Iqui has three buttons: power, shooting mode (photos or video) and a shutter release. Turn it on and you can take a photo or record up to 30 seconds of video, although video isn’t the point really. At least not in the traditional sense.
It’s made for social
The idea is that you’ll take a photo and then transfer it to your phone via the Iquispin app (any 360-degree photos will work with the app if you want to give it a try). Once you’re in the app, there’s a selection of templates that turn your 360 photo into an MP4 video that’s 8 to 14 seconds long. It basically animates the photo using spins, twists and other moves to give you a look at everything and everyone in the photo. The clips are small in size and length and they’re a common file type that can be shared on any social platform.
Pairing with your phone is a snap
Any barrier to using a product like this puts it in immediate danger of ending up in a drawer. Pairing is certainly a frequent barrier that comes up. For example, GoPro struggled for a while to make it easy to connect its cameras to your phone. Now the process is little more than tapping a couple of times on your phone screen. That’s already where Vecnos is with the Iqui.
You turn the camera on, open the app, bring the camera near your phone and you tap Connect in the app and you’re done. With the app you can download what’s stored on the camera to your device so that you can edit (and by edit I mean apply a template) and then share your clip. The renders happen fast and if you like what you see, you can quickly export the images for sharing. The app also lets you remotely control the camera.
The biggest hurdle is the price
I like 360-degree photos and videos but I have no interest in editing them. A camera like the Vecnos Iqui is something I would use and so would my kids. It’s like the 360 equivalent of an instant-film camera: It’s simple and straightforward with a sharable result that’s different than a basic snapshot from your phone. And I haven’t even used all of the features yet because they won’t be available until an app update in October. When the Iqui is available on Oct. 1, it will be $299 and a travel charging case will run you another $98 when it arrives in November.