Ease of Use
Image captures are made through the dedicated Pixi Pano360 app, which is available for Android and iOS platforms.
The supplied remote control works by a bluetooth wireless connection, or sequences can be controlled via the app on your smartphone. We alternated between the two for image captures.
As mentioned, in operation the Pixi Pano360 offers 4 shooting modes, photo, panorama, video and time-lapse. For all shooting modes a 3-second or 10-second timer can be used if necessary. Also, the camera light of an attached iOS phone can be turned on or off in all the modes.
Let’s briefly go through each shooting mode.
The photo mode enables to select down to 5° (up to 360°) how much the Pixi Pano360 rotates for a single capture and the rear camera can be selected on the phone too. We found this the most limited of the four modes.
Panorama mode creates a 360° capture. A 2-axis level informs you whether the camera is level or not. This is the only mode where the 2-axis level is available. It would be great if the level was available in all the shooting modes.
Smartphone photos created in the panorama mode are a bit hit and miss - sometimes information is missing. When the photos are a hit, they look good thanks to the level rotation and fixed speed of panning - both of which are tricky handheld.
In video mode, the camera continues to rotate until the user manually presses the record button to finish the capture.
The speed of head rotation for photo, panorama and video mode is approximately 15 seconds for a full 360°.
Finally, there is the time-lapse mode, which is no doubt the biggest selling point of the Pixi Pano360 and where we will put most of our attention.
There are five options for the recorded time-lapse speed: 4x, 8x, 12x, 20x and 40x. However, the device itself rotates at the same speed for all time-lapses, at approximately one hour for a 360° rotation.
The faster the time-lapse rate, the smoother the results. We took the same footage at 4x speed and 40x speed and the latter is much smoother, though possibly still not smooth enough for our taste.
With one fixed speed, it is possible to calculate the time needed for a time-lapse to cover a particular angle of view. For example, a rotation of 90° takes a 15 minutes and a rotation of 180° takes 30 minutes.
We were a little disappointed by the limitation when it came to manual control over time-lapse sequences.
Without the detailed information beforehand, we hoped that there would be precise control over total rotation angle and speed for a single time-lapse sequence.
Sadly, the rotation speed is set to a single speed depending on the shooting mode; 15 seconds for photo, panorama and video modes, and 1 hour for the time-lapse mode.
We would love to be able to select the total angle of rotation in the time-lapse mode in the same way you can in the photo mode. Again, it would be handy to have manual control over how quick the rotation speed is.
Clearly the device is capable of speed variance, given the quick rotation in 3 of the shooting modes and the slow rotation in the time-lapse mode. That said, a fixed 15-minutes for a 90° rotation is a fair speed to work with for time-lapses.
Using a smartphone for time-lapses and the exposure is locked to the first capture. This essentially makes time-lapse sequences during the changeable light impossible.
Start the sequence when its cloudy outside and the time-lapse will be too bright when the sun comes out. This of course goes for time-lapses over sunrise and sunset.
Manfrotto instructs users to position the smartphone in the adaptor in portrait format. This is logical for photo and panorama still image captures, but for videos and time-lapses the reality is that most are shot in landscape format. The user can ignore Manfrotto's instruction and mount the smartphone for video capture however they wish, however, the app stores the videos in portrait format so it will need to be rotated post capture.
Use a camera on the Pixi Pano360 for time-lapses and it needs to have a time-lapse shooting mode. The user requires the understanding that the time-lapse rotation is 360° over 1 hour* in order to select the desired frequency of image captures in-camera.
We set a compact system camera’s time-lapse mode to its quickest frequency of 1 second between each capture, which by our calculations should be 10 pictures for every 1° of rotation**. The time-lapse still felt a tad juddery, which was surprising.
Ultimately, when you put together the sum of all parts, the Pixi Pano360 should be able to deliver comprehensive manual control over angle and speed of rotation for all shooting modes. Other functions such as the panorama mode's spirit level would be handy in all modes too.
We hope Manfrotto is able to improve the functionality through a firmware update and/ or an update of the app.
The Pixi Pano360 appears an ideal match with the Pixi Evo tripod. In a controlled setting it is. However, often the extra height that comes from using a regular tripod gives you better angles to work with. Also, the increased sturdiness is beneficial to smooth time-lapses created by the Pixi Pano360.
There were times when out and about over a long weekend in the breezy Peak District that a ‘proper’ tripod was required for smooth, wobble-free captures. The appropriate support for the Pixi Pano360 is an important consideration.
*We learned this information from our own use of the Pixi Pano360 and have since had confirmation from Manfrotto.
**We worked out our calculation like this: 360° over 60 minutes = 6° per minute. 1 second captures = 60 captures per 1 minute. Therefore 60 pictures / 6° = 10 pictures per 1°.