Digital stereo cameras are rare. It’s been twelve years since the Fuji W3 and Panasonic DMC-3D point & shoot digital stereo cameras were released, with few new options since then. Many of us shoot with paired cameras or make single-lens “cha-cha” stereo photos for lack of better options.
Enter the QooCam EGO 3D Camera, released in June 2022. The EGO 3D is designed by KanDao, a Chinese brand specializing in 360 VR and videoconferencing cameras. Their expertise is applied to the EGO 3D with an imaginative, if flawed, design. Chatter about the EGO 3D on discussion boards, 3D-Con 2022 workshops about the camera, and a $50 discount from KanDao piqued my interest, and I’ve been shooting with one for about two weeks. The camera retails for about $370 on Amazon.com.
Few cameras interest me enough to write a review, but this next-generation stereo camera has potential. Word around 3D-Con was split between stereographers frustrated by its limitations and those intrigued by its possibilities.
The diminutive EGO 3D fits comfortably in one hand and slips easily into my pocket. A rubberized outer material keeps the camera water resistant (over time, this material degrades to goo – my eleven year old Sony 3D Bloggie is already sticky). The camera feels solid and has no moving parts other than a power button, shutter button, and playback controls.
An oddly-shaped, high resolution 2-D touchscreen takes the place of an autostereo display or viewfinder. A novel viewer accessory attaches magnetically to the camera’s screen for viewing and shooting 3-D. In practice, the viewer’s fixed focus and dirt & smudges on the screen limit its effectiveness. My viewer is already consigned to a drawer.
The battery is charged through the camera’s USB Type C port, and a separate battery charger is not included. Also not included is a MicroSD memory card – I had to scrounge one from my old HTC 3D Evo to get started.
The camera’s 65mm intraocular lens spacing distinguishes it from the minimal separation of recent smartphone-based stereo cameras like the Red Hydrogen One, but its wide f/1.8 lenses mitigate the separation at distances beyond 15 feet. This device’s optimal distance from the subject is up close, and a selfie mirror accessory is included. At 3-D Con 2022, George Themelis of the Detroit Stereoscopic Society exhibited comfortable stereo photos taken by this camera from a six inch distance. Conversely, subjects captured fifteen feet to infinity with the EGO 3D exhibit less depth than similar cameras with longer lenses. Barrel distortion is also evident at these distances.
The fixed focal length lenses lack a mechanical or digital zoom, a feature I don’t miss. More bothersome is the camera’s manual focus, with five presets for macro (1ft), 1.2 to 1.7 feet, 1.5 to 1.9 feet, 2.8 to 5.3 feet, 4.2 to 15.3 feet, and 6.8 feet to infinity (the camera is calibrated for the metric system, hence the decimals). I have the best luck keeping the focus set to infinity but nevertheless have lost a few shots to incorrect focus settings.
The camera outputs side-by-side, parallel view (left image on the left) JPEG files in a 4:3 aspect ratio, with a generous 8000×3000 resolution. Vertical misalignments of up to 30 pixels have been reported, so alignment in Stereo Photo Maker is a necessity. Image quality is fair. Indoors, the camera lacks a flash but does not suffer for it. Outdoors, a twelve step manual exposure range compensates for imperfect light, and I achieve good results with my exposure stopped down to -0.7 on bright, cloudless middays. A green color cast affects outdoor shots and necessitates correction in photo editing software.
The shutter is slow for a modern camera. To capture motion without blur, I keep my shutter set to Sport mode, the fastest setting at 1/250s.
I’ll have to test the EGO 3D’s impressive 3-D video specs later. A social network for sharing 3-D photos is a part of the package that I’ll ignore.
Impressions and Critiques
I’m having fun with my EGO 3D, but janky performance makes it too unreliable to be my main stereo camera. KanDao has been actively posting firmware updates to improve the EGO 3D’s operation.
An obvious camera to compare the EGO 3D against is the Fuji W3. The venerable W3 is loaded with automatic features like focus and exposure, but operates like a traditional point & shoot camera from the late film or digital era. With its long boot-up process, touchscreen, dearth of physical controls, and built-in networking, the next-generation EGO 3D behaves more like a computer than a camera.
Being a computer, a firmware update for this device is required out of the box (think of firmware as the device’s operating system). The first action necessary after unpacking the EGO 3D is to connect it to a WiFi network, install the QooCam app to a smartphone or tablet, and wirelessly connect the camera to install the updated firmware. A lot of hacking happens before taking the first picture.
Complaints about the stiff shutter button have been addressed by KanDao with a touchscreen button that was added in a firmware update. The physical shutter button lacks travel and feedback, and is adjacent to the power/mode button. I lost more than one shot by accidentally hitting the mode button instead of the shutter.
Battery performance is miserable. With WiFi disabled and “Battery Saver” enabled in settings, the battery drains at a rate of about one percent each 40 seconds. My fifteen year old Canon SD1000 cameras hold longer charges. The culprit is likely the 2 ½ inch, 1440×1600 touchscreen, a bright, high resolution, high framerate display that, curiously, cannot be toggled off. The mostly unused Customize Settings button on the back of the camera would serve perfectly to quickly turn on & off the display, but that option is not available. An external battery can be connected via the USB Type C port, at the expense of added bulk. At 3D-Con 2022, Gene Mitofsky demonstrated a battery grip that attaches to the EGO 3D’s ¼ inch tripod mount, a fair compromise.
The EGO 3D runs hot. Too hot. Hot enough to feel in your pocket. The device’s excessive temperature is likely exacerbated by the always-on QuadHD touchscreen. An “Auto-Stop Rec Temp” in the camera’s settings, set to Standard or High, attests to this flaw.
KanDao designers and engineers created a device with tremendous potential for stereo photographers, but some unusual design decisions mar this first iteration. Its small size and natural lens separation are ideal for a general purpose stereo camera.
Early adopters are advised to be patient with the camera’s quirks, and anticipate firmware updates to improve its performance. The EGO 3D shows promise, and gives me hope that it’s a step towards an “EGO 3D 2” stereo camera to shoot 3-D without compromise.