The iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S are both fantastic tools for photography enthusiasts. And only because the iPhone is widely used, there have been an assortment of accessories that were designed to help create even better photos and videos. It started out with the olloclip, and now Kogeto stepped it up with its Dot. A lens attachment designed to let you capture 360º panoramic video. If that doesn't sound breakthroughly awesome, we don't know what iPhone accessory tops that off. Is the Dot good enough to replace an entire camera crew with a single 360º lens? We've put it thru the test so be sure to check out the full review after the jump!
Shooting amazing 360º videos isn't going to come cheap. The Dot lens attachment for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S will run you $79.99, and comes in four different colors. Luckily our good friends over at BiteMyApple were generous enough to let us have a go. Out of the box, the Dot comes with a soft storage pouch for when you aren't using it and that's pretty much all that you're going to need. It also doubles as a lens cloth for cleaning. Apart from downloading the free iOS app of course.
In a nutshell, the Dot is a plastic snap-on exoskeleton case with a compact catadioptric optical system lens which Kogeto calls it its iCONIC lens. Or put simply, this lens works by reflection much like a telescope. It then easily snaps onto the back of your iPhone. Buttons and ports remain fully operational while using the Dot. Much like the olloclip lens attachment, the Dot will not work with any protective case as it's a case of its own. Once the Dot is attached to the back of the iPhone, it's got three individual raised points to raise the screen from getting in contact with a flat surface when laying front face down. This becomes handy when shooting video hands-free.
In order for you to start using the Dot, you'll fist need to get the free Looker app. You'll have to use the Dot app and not any other camera app when using the Dot lens attachment. The Looker app takes the warped footage and converts it to a full single 360º video on the spot. Optionally, you can dewarp the footage you took into a very wide panoramic format within the app when you want to edit on a computer. Kogeto has a helpful how-to guide to help you with that as well. Uploading it to Kogeto's platform will then automatically put everything back where it belongs.
All of this looks really well put together to say the least. The Dot is beautifully designed, but I'm afraid I've got some bad news to share with you. When holding the iPhone screen side down to take video using the Dot, it's virtually impossible to compose or make sure you've got the right focus. And before you think about spending $80, you should know that while you'll be able to easily shoot 360º videos in the most compact and portable way possible, the end quality of the finished product is just unacceptable. You can have the perfect weather conditions to shoot video, however the Dot greatly sacrifices quality for panoramic viewing pleasure. Try putting your iPhone into a plastic bottle with peanut butter smeared all over and you'll still get better picture quality than you would with the Dot.
Since YouTube doesn't support 360º videos yet, you'll have to use Kogeto's Dotspots sharing platform and upload service which is free and works really well to be honest. Kogeto does limit your videos to 8 minutes so keep that in mind. Click and drag left or right to navigate within the 360º video above that was captured using the Dot and an iPhone 4S. Navigated around the video is fluid and can also be done within the Dot's Looker app on the iPhone before uploading. I've never shot full 360º video before, let alone this easily so I'll give the Dot some props for working as it should, albeit the quality is greatly degraded to a point where you lose so much detail, sharpness and clarity. Not to mention auto-focus doesn't work as well with the Dot lens attachment.
Panning around thru the 360º video is fun and interesting until you realize that you end up missing most of the action around the subject regardless. To fix that, you can click the panoramic viewing angle to view the entire 360º video you shot all at once without missing a single second of action that would otherwise go unnoticed when panning around within the video yourself. Although the Dot's iCONIC lens has been treated with AR-coating and such, glare and self reflection caused by the outer protective thin glass dome housing of the lens itself is very distracting and messes up the iPhone's camera focus quite a lot. Low quality video is one thing, but having the effect of shooting thru a plastic bottle show up in your videos is very disappointing.
The Dot is more of a novelty gadget than a practical one. While it's neat to capture 360º videos, you're losing a lot of quality and you aren't getting HD resolution. I can see the value of using the Dot when going on a road trip or creating your own little Google Street View-esque video, albeit $80 seems overpriced at this point. You're better off investing in a GoPro camera or olloclip, both of which allow you to capture HD high quality video at very wide angles. Move around more and focus on what's really important at a better video quality without any obtrusive attachments that won't even keep your iPhone protected. Save your money by not being lazy. Unless Kogeto finds a way to make the Dot capture clear, better quality video, we're going to hold off.