February 21, 2014

Spy Gear Panosphere 360 Review

The Spy Gear brand, made by Spin Master, has popped up on the NIC's radar on occasion. For example, they introduced the Spy Gear Signal Launcher (SGSL) and Rocket Launcher (SGRL), both of which were essentially reshelled Buzz Bee Big Blasts (BBBB, or 4B). A few days ago, I found one of their camera items on clearance for $14 in a Target store. So I decided to test it out a little, and I've been moderately pleased.

This toy (which is very small, a bonus for attaching to blasters) comes with a disc for floor placement, a suction cup mount for smooth surfaces, and a strap for attachment to objects and vehicles. It charges via mini USB cable, and has a slot for one microSD memory card (a 2GB card is included). Operation is simple: flip the switch to video to record 15 minutes of video, or to photograph to shoot one picture each second (in case you're looking for that single frame from an action shot). It can hold around 2000 photographs. These numbers can be increased with the use of larger memory cards.

For a simple test, I placed the camera on my dashboard during my daily commute to college, and recorded both video and photos for testing. Afterward, I used the Panosphere Editing Software (embedded in the camera's internal memory) to view and edit the results.

If you open the raw picture file, you get this:

The picture's roughly 1.9 MP in size, although much of it is just black space around the actual image, which is around .6 MP.

The camera itself did fine, with decent clarity in both video and photo mode (this is relative to the fact that it was a clearance kid's toy, mind you). Even with the vibrations from the car, the video remained clear, and the pictures came out without any motion blur. The device uses a small fisheye lens in order to capture the hemisphere around the camera. If you don't like the curved view, however, you'll need to edit the images.

The software, as it turns out, is this product's weakest link. There are no instructions to be found - it took a while to press all of the buttons onscreen and see what things did. In addition, there's no way to edit photos, and limited video editing ability. Here's a few screenshots for science :P

Photo viewer, Panoramic view. The software takes the hemisphere and stretches it out...
...leaving major distortion.
The view finder allows you to view part of the picture, which is helpful for spotting things.
The video editor lets you play the video, record a section of it from the desired perspective, and even change perspective during the recording.
Since you can't edit the photos with the software, I took a screenshot of the viewfinder and cropped it to get the 480p x 320p frame by itself. If you want to do more than that, use Photoshop or GIMP. I imagine you could get larger images by shopping the originals, but I'm not that good yet :P
The "before" picture.
Negative lens distortion helps even things out.
Similarly, the final video product from the software is also at 480p x 320p resolution (HVGA), the same as the screen off that old iPhone 3GS in the back of your junk drawer. Remember how I said you could shift perspective during the software's recording function?

Just thought I'd mess around with the perspective a bit! :P It captures sound decently enough.

While the included software is ok at best, I was happy with the results of a $14 purchase. If you're looking to try one out and don't have a Target nearby, Toys R US has them on clearance for $20, both in store and online.


  1. They are down to $8 and change at Target now... got one... there is no 720p video as advertised, but if you want a fun run-and-gun camera that looks decent and not spend $300 on a GoPro... then it is worth every cent.

  2. I'm actually impressed by how good it is considering it's just a kids' toy!

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