A Natural Disaster of a 360 Camera — Nikon KeyMission 360: Second Impressions

The Nikon KeyMission360 filming a scene for The Washington Post in Muir Beach, California.

If you read my first impressions of the Nikon KeyMission 360 on Medium you know, at the time, I was quite a fan of the little tank of a camera.

If you’ve read virtually any review of this camera, professional or just on Amazon, you might think I’m crazy. I know Robert Hernandez of USC is in that category.

At the time of the KeyMission’s release, I would still argue it was the best in-camera 360 stitching machine on the market for $499. Today, the story is a little different.

So after almost a year filming I have some advice, warnings and a little crow to eat.

TL;DR — don’t buy one unless your covering natural disasters.

Pairing the KeyMission

Let’s get this out of the way first. Pairing the Nikon KeyMission 360 sucks. The app is unreliable — especially when you are on a cliff with a hang glider about to begin filming (still upset).

I’ve found a fantastic video tutorial (below) and article from 360 Rumors to help with a little of the frustration.

Pairing the Nikon KeyMission 360 to iPhone (Mic Ty/360 Rumors)

Nikon has also responded to the thousands of complaits by authoring a pretty good explainer for how to unpair and repair the camera.

Two uses for the KeyMission a year later

  • A 360 Tank: First off, this camera is a tank. It goes with me on every shoot because when it’s -10, snowing and wind howling to knock over your monopod, this is the camera I break out.
  • Repairability: If you do shatter one of those lens protectors, this camera is one of the few that you can order a replacement part pretty quickly/easily ($39 at B&H). This is particularly helpful when you use it workshops/classrooms where drops occur.

Final Recommendation (I promise)

So, my initial recommendation was this should be an essential in every journalism program. After one year, a lot of bad filming conditions and dozens of other cameras out there, I would still recommend this camera to a newsroom/J-School, but I would not recommend buying more than one depending on your size/budget.

If you live in Florida where it rains and hurricanes hit on a semi regular basis — maybe buy two.

This camera is a great last last resort. Period. Nothing can kill it except itself (pairing).

That’s it. In the past year it has been leapfrogged multiple times in picture quality, stitching and certainly reliability. It is a perfect “blind shooter,” meaning filming without looking at a preview on your iPhone — think of it as a harkening to the days of film photography.

It will still drive you crazy with pairing, and Nikon has not made any public plans to improve this.

My advice, get one if you need to film hurricanes, tornados or wildfires and always test before you leave the office.

For alternatives, I am currently testing the Insta360One as a companion to my Insta360Pro camera bag and will post a review shortly. The Samsung Gear 360 (2017) has yet to provide usable files that I can stitch (seriously, we still have to stitch with a consumer camera) and drop into Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere.

More to come…

Steve Johnson is the CEO and founder of Boundless a storytelling agency based out of Washington, D.C. He and Boundless have pioneered immersive storytelling techniques at The Weather Channel, Washington Post and Kellogg Foundation. You can see more of their work here.