Shooting with the Nikon KeyMission 360
tl;dr: Pairing is a pain — follow this setup & troubleshooting guide; don’t use the SnapBridge app — start recording manually with the on-camera button & get the remote for shooting photos; connect a battery pack when recording to extend recording life.
The KeyMission 360 camera (US$500) is Nikon’s entry into the 360 camera market. There are some definite pluses to working with the KeyMission – bright colours, sharp images, footage coming stitched right out of the camera (and it’s waterproof down to 100 feet!) – many people have (justifiably) complained about the camera. Unreliable pairing and dropped connectivity, poor battery life and a wide, soft, stitch line are common complaints. What follows are a few tips to help mitigate some of the most frustrating aspects of camera, so you can focus on shooting.
DON’T USE THE APP (SERIOUSLY)
The SnapBridge 360/170 app is… well… terrible. I’ve spoken to Nikon reps who’ve readily admitted as much.
That said, the single best thing you can do to improve your shooting experience with the KM360 is to avoid using the app as much as possible. In my experience, you can get away without using the app (besides the initial setup) unless you need to adjust exposure. Hopefully you won’t need to be adjusting exposure repeatedly during a shoot & it’s something you’ll only need to do when you first arrive on-site.
The cameras record button is positioned pretty prominently on top of the camera — use it. Set your position, check your height, hit the record button & walk out of the scene — it’s easy enough to trim you out of the scene in post. Infinitely easier, it turns out, that wrestling with the remote camera controls on the app.
Nikon offers a Bluetooth remote for the KM360 that can power the camera on/off & also triggers photo & video recording. At US$60 it’s pricey but compared to fighting with connectivity issues of the app, it’s well worth it.
I don’t use the app for video (see above) but for taking photos it’s pretty much essential. Remote control of the camera via the app requires a wifi connection but the remote control only needs a Bluetooth connection, making it a quicker and more stable option for shutter control.
FWIW, the wifi signal put out by the KM360 seems fairly weak. Practically speaking, this results in a signal that is easily drowned out in busy locations where there a number of competing wifi signals from phones & other wireless transmitters. I suspect this is why so many people experience connection failures when trying to shoot is busy public places — even more so for journalists trying to get a signal at a crowded presser.
Battery life on the KM360 is pretty standard for the form factor — about 40min in conditions that aren’t too hot or cold. We ship kits with a spare battery, but using an external battery pack can effectively eliminate battery worries for a day of shooting.
When I shoot I typically tape a USB phone battery charge back to my tripod. I haven’t done the tests to determine the exact amount of recording time with this setup (which would vary, depending on the charge pack, I imagine) but I also haven’t run down the battery during a day of shooting with that setup, either.
Standard battery packs for mobile phone’s seem to work fine — I tend to prefer one’s that have an AC adapter for plugging directly into the wall, but that’s just me.
PRO TIP: You can leave a USB cable connected to the KM360 while recording & it will *not* show up in the video, provided you wrap it tight to your tripod. The KM360 has a “dead zone” of approximately 12cm from the center of the camera where the it won’t pick up any information. So the camera’s open side door & the USB cable sticking out of it won’t appear in your final video — yay parallax!!!