Nikon KeyMission 360 Review

Nikon KeyMission 360 Review ImageNikon KeyMission 360 Review Image

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The Nikon KeyMission 360 is one of the three action cameras that Nikon have launched alongside the KeyMission 170 and the KeyMission 80. As the name suggests, its key feature is that it can record 360 degree photos and videos. Dual-lenses capture an entire 360 degree view, and the Nikon KeyMission 360 can record in 4K video quality. The KeyMission 360 is waterproof, shockproof and freeze proof. The sensor inside the camera is 23.9 million pixels, and is 1/2.3-inch type sensor. Other features include the ability to control the Nikon KeyMission 360 from your smartphone, compatibility with MicroSD cards and dual 1.6mm lenses (equivalent to 8.2mm in 35mm format). The Nikon KeyMission 360 retails for $499 / £419.

Ease of Use

Because of the nature of the camera, the Nikon KeyMission 360 is quite an odd thing to look at. The body of the camera is square, while the two ultra-wide angle lenses bulge out from two sides of the camera. It’s quite a chunky camera, but you can still fit it into most jacket pockets with ease – a slim trouser pocket may be out of the question though.

In terms of buttons and control, there is very little on the camera body itself, with almost all of the operation taking place via the free Snapbridge 360 / 170 app which is available for Android and iOS.

There are two important buttons though. On the top of the Nikon KeyMission 360 there’s a button marked with a red dot, while on the side, there’s a smaller button which doesn’t have any markings – both are textured to help you easily find them while you may not have good visibility (i.e. underwater). If you press the top button, the camera will automatically switch on and start recording a video – in whatever setting you were last using. For the button on the side, if you press that, the camera will switch on and take a still image, again using whichever setting you have previously been using. The problem here is that the buttons don’t have much in the way of resistance so it can be very easy to accidentally switch on the camera and start recording when you don’t want to – wasting both battery life and memory card space.

Nikon KeyMission 360
Front of the Nikon KeyMission 360

Also on top of the Nikon KeyMission 360 you’ll see an LED for indicating the battery status. It’s not all that helpful for assessing how much battery is left until you get close to running out, when it will glow orange – you can check the battery status via the app if you’re concerned, but generally the battery is good for around an hour’s footage (which is why it’s problematic when the camera switches on when you don’t want it to). Unlike the other KeyMission cameras however, it’s possible to change the battery for another one – it’s worth buying spares if you’ll be capturing lots of video. That’s especially true when you consider that the battery is quite slow to charge – it takes around three hours for a full charge.

The battery itself is found behind a door which requires a two step process to open it. First you must release the lock, then slide across a switch to open the door – it’s a little fiddly, especially if you’re using gloves etc, but it’s designed to stop the door from opening when you don’t want to – such as underwater or during dusty conditions and it does that well. Underneath the door, you’ll find the battery, which is released by flicking a small switch. There’s also the HDMI port, the charging port and the MicroSD card slot. You’ll also see there’s an airplane mode switch, which means you can use the camera without it trying to connect to your phone – which is particularly useful for saving battery if you’re happy to record or take stills without any input from your phone.

Nikon KeyMission 360
Front of the Nikon KeyMission 360

Setting up the link between the Nikon KeyMission 360 and the Snapbridge app is a little fiddly – in fact I had to look up a guide on how to use it as it wasn’t particularly self-explanatory. Basically, you need to connect the camera via bluetooth, and then connect via wi-fi if you want to do things like remote control the camera and change settings. You can download images over bluetooth alone. Once the camera has connected once, it’s easier to connect it again, but the app is not particularly reliable and it can refuse to connect, crash or not recognise the camera, seemingly without warning or reason.

Once in the app, you can change lots of things about the Nikon KeyMission 360. There are lots of different movie options, with the default being “Standard”. You can also shoot super lapse videos, or loop recording, or record a time-lapse. You also have the option to change resolution – 4K is the highest, but you can also shoot Full HD or other formats. For still images, you can change the size of the image, or you can switch a self-timer on or off.

Nikon KeyMission 360
Top of the Nikon KeyMission 360

There are also a few limited manual type options available, for example you can change the white balance and the exposure compensation. You can also choose to shoot in standard, vivid and monochrome, while you can switch on options for Active D-Lighting (which optimises for high-contrast scenes) and Underwater mode.

Away from the photographic options, there are also several camera specific options, such as changing the length of time auto-off takes, the ability to synchronise the clock, formatting the memory card and so on. If you want to charge the camera by plugging it into your computer, there’s an option for that here too.

If you choose to remote shoot, you’ll see an image displayed on your phone’s screen of what the lens is seeing. As it’s a 360 degree camera, you’ll need to “move” around the screen by using your finger to move the viewpoint and angle. Because of the way the camera is set up, it can be pretty easy to accidentally cover one of the lenses with your fingers, and of course, it being a 360 video, you will be in it too. When you press the record button on the phone screen, the live view feed will stop and you won’t be able to see what you’re recording – which is a little odd.

Nikon KeyMission 360
The Nikon KeyMission 360 In-hand

Also packaged in the box is a silicon jacket for adding extra protection to the camera, as well as underwater lens protectors which boosts the underwater depth rating of the KeyMission 360 from 20 metres down to 30 metres – it could be useful for divers and so on. A mount adapter is also included, with two different bases – one which is flat, and one which is curved – the latter is designed to be used with curved surfaces, such as a bike helmet.

A simple piece of software can be downloaded to allow you to view videos and photos on your computer – but it’s pretty restricted in what you can do with it. One handy feature is the ability to flip a video, which is useful if you had to mount the camera upside down for some reason.

When you upload videos from the 360 directly to YouTube, it automatically formats it for 360 viewing. This also means you can watch it with a VR headset, such as Google Cardboard, for the best experience.

Nikon KeyMission 360 Review ImageNikon KeyMission 360 Review Image

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Image Quality

The Nikon KeyMission 360 is intended for quite a niche purpose, and for that reason it’s perhaps unfair to judge it as we normally would.

For example, while it is possible to create “standard” still images, the stitching can look rather odd – and it’s unlikely to be a desirable effect. What’s much better is the effect when you’re viewing through a 360 viewer, such as the Nikon software, where you can move around the image as it’s intended to be.

In terms of video, the Nikon KeyMission 360 is sharp, especially when shooting in 4K. If the subject moves between the two lenses, you can sometimes see a little oddity in terms of the stitching – for instance, someone’s head may start to disappear if they happen to be in the exact wrong place for a second or two – but the overall impression is very good, and very interesting.

It’s a shame that the maximum frame rate is 24p for 4K shooting as this isn’t quite as smooth as 30p. It’s also only 24p for Full HD which is even more disappointing – but depending on the subject this may not be too noticeable.

There’s no optical image stabilisation, so some situations may result in quite jerky footage. If you can stabilise the Nikon KeyMission 360 yourself – such as on a tripod, then you’ll probably get the best footage possible.