PanoClip provided us with its set of lenses for 360° photos. What better chance to dust off the old iPhone X and test them out. In this review, I’ll explain that while I think the basic idea of this add-on is is very interesting, it does have some very uncomfortable limitations. I’ll also show you some fantastic 360-degree photos along the way.
- ✓Lower price than a 360-degree camera
- ✓Several cute animations for exporting photos
- ✓Easy to set up
- ✕Questionable lens quality
- ✕Uses regular iPhone cameras
- ✕Only compatible with one smartphone
- ✕Makes it impossible to use FaceID
- ✕Coves the automatic brightness sensor
- ✕Shoots photos slowly (due to iPhone limits)
Relies on your iPhone's cameras
The model that I tested is only available for a few smartphones. There are three different variants in total:
The three different versions of the lenses aren’t interchangeable or usable with other devices. They don’t even have their own sensors and can only be used by positioning them on the phone because they depend on the device’s cameras.
Since the price for the accessory is $50, you should consider how long you’ll be using the phone to pair with it before going ahead with the purchase. The price is lower than other 360-degree cameras that use dedicated sensors, but the quality is as well...
Easy to put on and take off
There is one positive about the PanoClip: the lens system is quick and can easily be configured. The small cavity where you insert the iPhone has a precise shape that guides your phone in. If you have a protective cover on your iPhone, it’ll still fit as long as it’s thin. Unfortunately, this is one of the only good things I’ll have to say about the accessory in this review.
Panoclip comes in a package without much else: there’s a leaflet with a QR code for downloading the accompanying app, lenses and a small bag for transport. There’s no cables because the lenses are passive and there are no electronic components inside it.
Perhaps more could have been done from a design point of view: t he PanoClip lenses protrude from the frame and the structure that supports them is squared and made of a plastic that doesn’t seem very strong. The lenses are mounted on the top of the iPhone and cover a portion of the display together with the various sensors arranged in the notch.
Maybe PanoClip hasn’t thought about it, but it’s impossible to use FaceID with the lenses mounted on the smartphone. So you’ll be forced to either remove the lenses each time you use them or use your pin. The ambient light sensor is also covered, which forces you to raise the brightness manually.
Of course, the position of the lens can’t be changed when using the iPhone cameras, but PanoClip could have worked a little bit more on the design of an accessory that contains absolutely nothing but the lenses themselves.
Insurmountable physical limitations
So we get the point, but how does the iPhone X take photos with these lenses? Well, don’t expect any miracles .
The lenses aren’t of the best possible quality, and even iPhone X cameras are known for the poor quality of their 360 pictures. Unfortunately, the quality of the 7-megapixel from cameras doesn’t capture images as well as the 12-megapixel rear camera.
This results in a 360-degree photo of very low quality where the demarcation between the two cameras’ shots is clearly visible (also a result of the PanoClip software that doesn’t stitch the photos in a precise way). The brightness in the two shots also varies, and not just by a small margin. The results are very similar to photos taken with Motorola’s Moto Mod 360 Camera, and that’s not intended to be a compliment.
What also struck me was how slow the device took pictures. I learned from this accessory that iPhone cameras can’t take pictures at the same time due to software (or even hardware) limitations on Apple smartphones.
This all forces the PanoClip to take two separate shots at two different times, which extends the capture time and leaves room for possible errors caused by the movement of the phone or the subjects in the frame. This also prevents you from being able to record videos, but that’s not PanoClip’s fault.
A fun social element is included
Although the photos aren’t really the best, the PanoClip app, which is entirely dedicated to 360° multimedia content, works well and has a slightly lowered interface so you can use it with your lenses in place.
The app is divided into three tabs: the central tab acts as a gallery of your shots and is the place where you’ll find the button to enter the shooting mode, the tab on the right contains the settings, and the one on the left lets you socialize with all PanoClip product users . Some of the 360-degree photos and videos that are on the platform are truly amazing!
From the app, you can export your photos both in 360-degree format (useful for avid social media users who like this type of photo) or as a snapshot or still image of the sphere. You can also export a small animation of the spherical photo or video format. Tiny planet, crystal ball, 360° panoramic and many other animations are possible. There are also the ubiquitous Instagram-style filters and some stickers.
A gadget you can do without
Unfortunately, the smartphone imposes too many limitations that PanoClip cannot and will not be able to solve. There is a big difference in the quality of the shots taken with the two cameras, even in optimal lighting. And the fact that there’s no video recording mode really detracts from the value of the whole device.
The app is sufficiently well-maintained and there are many pleasant ways to export photos. The social aspect is probably the most interesting part of the device, since it allows you to observe content captured with higher quality cameras.
Since the price is too high to simply try out, I would’ve preferred if this little gadget was $10 or $20 cheaper. But for 50 bucks I expected to be able to at least review the photos on the display of the smartphone without thinking about their poor quality.
The PanoClip Snap-on 360 Lens is a cute gadget that will keep you entertained for the first few days before it moves into the drawer as soon you see the quality of your shots.