Pisofttech Pilot Era 8K 360 camera hands-on first impressions; sample videos and photos

Pisofttech Pilot Era 8K 360 camera hands-on first impressions; sample videos and photos
Pisofttech Pilot Era Specifications and Key Features

Thanks to Pisofttech’s expertise in software and AI, the Pilot Era has several unique features:
1. Realtime stitching for 6K video 15fps. 6K video can be stitched in realtime, in-camera. Imagine never having to spend time stitching 6K video.
2. In-camera stitching for 8K video.  With 8K video, stitching is not in realtime but can be done entirely in-camera. It takes approximately 2 mins to stitch 1 minute of video. By comparison, Insta360 Pro’s in-camera stitching takes 14.4 minutes per minute of video. Most other 8k 360 cameras can’t stitch 360 video at 8K at all and instead require a powerful desktop for stitching.  If the user wishes to use third party stitchers, the camera can output to fisheye format.
As of April 11, 2019, the firmware has been updated to enable in-camera stitching of 8K 24fps video (previously, the video was 8K 20fps).
3. A hybrid stitching approach. Some cameras use simple template based stitching which is fast but can only stitch correctly at one distance. Anything farther or closer will have stitching errors.  Other 360 cameras use optical flow stitching for smoother stitching but it is very processor-intensive and time consuming. Pilot Era uses a hybrid stitching approach that Pisofttech claims to be comparable in accuracy to optical flow stitching but is much faster. In the demos we did, the stitching looked smooth for anything at least one meter away from the camera. The zenith also looked smooth because the Pilot Era’s lenses are pointed slightly upward, resulting is more overlap at the zenith. The nadir stitching was less smooth but was still decent.
4. Stabilization. Pilot Era uses AI to stabilize the video in addition to an internal gyroscope.
5. Intuitive touchscreen controls. The Pilot Era has a color touchscreen with controls that are as intuitive as the controls on a smartphone camera.
6. In the future, they will add additional AI features, such as face recognition, gesture recognition, and being able to generate a depth map from a 2D 360 video.
In this montage, the first 2 clips are at 8k 22fps.  Starting around 0:45 there are four sample clips at 6K 30fps
To me, the video samples have impressive detail. The dynamic range could be better, but it’s not bad. I also like the natural-looking colors and contrast. Stitching is better than I expected for a camera of this size, and looks quite smooth except at the nadir.
Here are sample videos I’ve taken with my prerelease unit, which has non-functional audio:
New HDR photo samples
Pisofttech sent me a prerelease version of the Pilot Era, which I have been testing. Here are my first impressions.
Besides the Pilot Era’s size, the other major difference compared to other 360 cameras is its large 3.1-inch touchscreen.  The touchscreen is similar in image quality to a smartphone screen.  Indeed, the Pilot Era runs on Android and its icon-based interface is very similar to a smartphone, and is very intuitive and responsive.  The touchscreen not only provides an easy interface for controlling the Pilot Era, but is also useful for live view and for reviewing photos without having to connect to a smartphone.
For stitched videos, the videos will be immediately viewable on the gallery, which you can access either from the thumbnail on the bottom left corner of the live view screen, or from the main menu.  For unstitched videos, you’ll see an outline of a jigsaw puzzle icon, which indicates it is unstitched.  Tapping on the jigsaw puzzle icon initiates stitching, which is quite fast for an 8K video (around 2:1 ratio).  The workflow is very convenient, and it is actually easier to use than most consumer 360 cameras (and professional 360 cameras), although I wish that it had batch stitching.
With respect to storage, Pilot Era doesn’t use an SD card.  Instead it has a large 512GB internal memory (enough for 6.5 hours of 8K video).   I transfer videos to my hard drive through a USB Type C cable.   In addition to its large internal memory, Pilot Era also has a very large 7200 mah battery (sufficient for 3.5 hours of 8K video recording), which is removable and can be charged in-camera via the USB Type C port.
 How to use Pilot Era; hands-on first impressions  PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The Pilot Era is estimated to be around $2600, and will launch on Indiegogo in early May, with a few units available at the Super Early Bird price of $1799 (a discount of $800).  For more news on the Pilot Era, including an upcoming video of the Pilot in use, please bookmark this page.  In the meantime, here is Pisofttech’s official webpage, where you can sign up to be notified when their Indiegogo campaign goes live.

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