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Nikon KeyMission 360 First Impressions

October 25, 2016

Yesterday we had a chance to open the box on the newest 360 degree camera to hit the market, the NikonKeyMission 360. Along with the KeyMission 170 Action Camera and the KeyMission 80 LifeLogging Camera. These 3 new units are Nikon’s shot over the bow of the GoPro warship. Nikon is gunning for them so let’s take a look at what they have got. We will start with the top of the line model, the KeyMission 360 Panoramic Action Camera.

It seems everyone is rushing to enter this Virtual Reality market now that the likes of Facebook and Google are taking it so seriously and Nikon is the newest player.

At this stage the major players in the consumer priced 360 degree camera market seem to be Ricoh with their Theta line, Samsung with their Gear360 and Kodak with their Pixpro line. There are a ton other smaller firms as well and some industry heavy weights like Nokia with very expensive complex cameras. In the beginning most 360 systems for video were built up with arrays of GoPro cameras (as they were small and could fit in a pretty tight ball configuration) and now even GoPro makes their own unit called the Omni. Most of these systems are just too complex for the average user who just wants to dip their toes into the 360 video pond.

This is where Nikon’s KeyMission 360 wants to stake its claim. A simple to use, small form factor camera that can shoot 4k 360 degree video and just get the job done . You will be able to get your footage on YouTube without a bunch of complex steps (like stitching and dealing with 6 batteries and memory cards!) and then move on to the next project - or mission as Nikon would call it.

So how does it feel in hand? Very good in fact! The feel of the case is one of high quality build and all the buttons and doors have a very positive action to them. The unit is water proof and one of the best features has to be the removable and replaceable lens protectors. Fisheye lenses on these sorts of cameras are very sensitive to dust and scratches and not a fixable item. So having low cost lens protectors is a very valuable asset for the KeyMission 360.

There are 2 main buttons on the camera, the movie button top and the photo button on the side. Both of these buttons turn the camera on and seem to always want to take a photo or video at the same time. This is a bit odd but the only other way to turn the camera on if via a bluetooth wake up signal from your paired phone or tablet - more on that later.

There is a nice strong looking metal tripod thread on the bottom of the unit and an anti-twist hole beside it. These are matched to a number of mounting options for the camera and a small tilt-able mount comes in the box. It is matched to adhesive plates so you can mount the camera on things like bike helmets.

There is a sealed battery door with a lock on it and under this you will find the micro SD card slot, the airplane mode switch, micro HDMI and USB ports and of course the battery bay. The camera uses the EN-EL12 battery and claimed life is 230 shots or 1 h 10 min of video. At this stage we are not too sure of battery life just walking around while connected to a smart phone. As it needs both Wifi and Bluetooth to operate these could be a factor. The battery charges in camera using the supplied USB charger (7.5 Watt) and cable.

There are no displays of any kind on this camera and the 3 LED’s that are on the top surface are somewhat cryptic in their meaning. There is a page in the manual that does explain what they all denote depending the flashing type and colours. Simple stated, it is very easy to accidentally record videos and stills on this camera without noticing.

You can’t really control this camera while charging from what we can tell. However you can press the buttons and shoot videos directly from the unit. Of course if you do this your hands and charging cables will be in the shot.

The good news is these are standard Nikon batteries and there are 3rd party versions and chargers for them.

The next part of the KeyMission system is the software. There are applications for both your smart device and your desktop. They don’t ship with the camera and must be downloaded from the internet.

The smart device app is called Nikon SnapBridge 360/170 and can be easily found in all the App Stores.

For desktop you will be looking for the KeyMission 360/170 Utility.

Pairing the KeyMission 360 to your phone can be a bit tricky as the camera needs both a Bluetooth and a WiFi connection in order to function. The Bluetooth is paired by holding down the Movie button for7 seconds until the status lights flash alternately in green and then running the SnapBridge App and letting it find and Pair to the camera. After you get to this stage you need to activate the WiFi and connect to it in your phone’s settings panel. There is a user changeable password for this network and it is “NikonKeyMission” by default. Unfortunately this whole WiFi part of the process is not explained in the manual.

After you get all this phone side of things setup you can actually turn the camera on from the phone by entering the “Remote photography” panel from the Camera button at the bottom of the App. The camera will just power down based on your settings for “Auto off” are in the “Camera Settings” panel.

The Camera settings panel can also be accessed from the Deskop App and a reduced set of settings are accessed from within the “Remote photography” panel by pressing the Gear icon.

Once you attempt to enter the “Remote photography” panel the app asks you to connect the WiFi. You have to leave the app and get to your phone’s settings panel to connect the WiFi of the camera before you can enter the “Remote photography” panel. Once you get past this stage you will see a live view of what the camera is seeing on your phone with a choice of a still or movie button at the bottom to start the capture. There is a button on the live view to reset the point of view to the main front facing lens if you get mixed up looking up or down. The main lens is on the side of the unit that says "Nikon" vs. the back where it says "Nikkor".

I have yet to test the maximum range of the camera to the phone at this stage but this is planned. I like to shoot with my panoramic cameras on tall poles so good range is important.

As for results, the lead photo in this post is a little planet shot in front of michaels camera on Elizabeth Street in Melbourne and here is a short 4k walking video right out of the camera posted to YouTube.

So what are the first impressions?

This is the first camera we have seen that easily produces 4k 360 degree video. The only delay in presenting your footage on YouTube will be the speed of your internet connection. Add to this the small size, lens protection and removable battery and memory cards and you have a lot of valuable improvements over its closest competitor, the Ricoh Theta S.

The Theta S still shines when it comes to hand holding and over all slim size, but if video is your mission you are going to want to have a serious think about the KeyMission 360 as this is exactly what Nikon has built it for.

We are ready to fill your order for the Nikon KeyMission 360 right now.

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Update on Pairing Issues with the KeyMission 360

This camera uses both a low power Bluetooth and a WiFi connection in order to operate remotely from a smart device. The WiFi connection is only used when transferring files and running the live view, otherwise it turns off in order to save battery power. With this in mind you with often find yourself using your system settings on your smart device to connect to the camera's WiFi network - this is normal operation.

Remember that the default WiFi password is "NikonKeyMission".

If you wish to change devices you use to connect to your KeyMission 360 camera you will need to do the following.

      1. In the SnapBridge 360/170 App Connect/Connection options page select End pairing on the smart device you no longer wish to connect with.
      2. In this same smart device's BlueTooth Settings, forget the KeyMission camera.
      3. Remove and re-insert the KeyMission camera's battery
      4. On the new smart device, start the pairing process with the KeyMission 360 by holding down the camera's Movie button for 7 seconds until the status lights flash green.
      5. Press the top button on the SnapBridge 360/170 App Connect panel to start the search process for a new camera.
      6. Follow the prompts and until the camera is successfully connected to Bluetooth.
      7. On the SnapBridge 360/170 App Camera panel press Remote photography. The App will then ask you to connect to the WiFi and take you to the settings App on your smart device. If this is the first time you have connected this device to the camera it will ask you to enter the WiFi password. Once you enter this password you will only need to do it once.

The next time you change back to another smart device that was previously connected to the KeyMission camera, you will not need to re-enter the WiFi password.

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Update on Pairing Issues with the KeyMission 360 - a step by step video showing you the process.