We have had the S1 in action of productions for some time now. We felt it was time to report on its suitability for 360 video production.
The S1 is a mid-professional level 360 camera system which integrates 4x 4K sensors and 4x 220° lenses into one small, slim unibody camera system. It records a in a variety of recording formats, but the most common are 4K30fps and 2.7k60fps. These result in 6K and 4K maximum masters respectively after stitch.
Image quality is pretty good and slightly better than the GoPro omni system, resulting in slightly sharper images due to better lenses. The dynamic range is similar as is the noise sensitivity.
The cameras are aligned in a much better geometry than the GoPro Omni’s diamond configuration. Vertical stitch lines are easier to manage with objects crossing. Importantly the camera sensors are pixel synced and usefully record to actual full size SD cards. No more fiddling around and losing MicroSD cards.
The overlap is reasonable enough to give flexibility when needing to move the stitch line and while the body gets very hot (too hot to touch at times), the camera itself never overheats and shuts down. The small parallax distance of the cameras reduces usable minimum distance of objects to around 0.75m (in many cases 0.5m). This means it can film in very small spaces such as inside cars, or have objects cross close to camera reasonably effectively.
The four sensor configuration does have one major downside and that is that the nadir and particularly zenith coverage is poor. Ceilings often need additional post GFX to clean up as the images are warped heavily as the extreme edges of fisheye lenses. Rarely will you achieve consistent ceilings in normal internal shoots. Externally it is not a problem as the distance is far enough for the parallax to not be an issue.
The included battery system (supplied without batteries) is ok, but unfortunately designed so that it restricts access to the Ethernet port on the base of the camera. This is a huge issue as the only way to monitor the camera and change settings is through an external computer. We include a small portable router and a different battery system in our kits to deal with this issue, but it is annoying to have to use a computer rather than a tablet or phone to connect to our portable router solution.
Unfortunately the camera records at 60Mb/s which is fairly heavily compressed into an H.264 codec. In the next generation, we are hoping for 100Mb/s or prores recording to lessen the compression artifacts in the images.
We have yet to try the Wonderstitch optical flow software, but hear excellent things about it. Optical flow stitching is the future of 360 video stitching, but right now it is hugely processor intensive and slow. We also note there are some noticeable stitch issues in optical flow when people move across stitches closer to the camera.
We would choose the S1 over Omni due to higher image quality and better geometry, although they both suit different jobs. The S1 is probably the best general solution in the mid-range of professional 360 cameras on the market right now.