The SoloShot 3 is the third edition of what the manufacturer calls their robotic cameraman. For you who aren’t familiar with this product, it’s purpose is to follow a target around with it’s camera either taking video or photos. What makes this tracking camera different is that it not only pans from side to side, but also tilts up and down. It has a 2000 foot range from the tag which is carried by the target to the camera.
The first two versions had pretty good reviews but were handicapped by fairly long and exacting calibration procedures to get the base station with the camera to lock on to the tag that was carried or worn by the target. The SoloShot 3 carries with it a bunch of improvements and new features promising fast pairing, powerful cameras and really cool editing and social sharing capabilities.
The SoloShot 3 went into preorder status in mid-2015 and I placed my order just after Thanksgiving of that year with a promised spring delivery. The good news is that I got my SoloShot 3. The bad news was that it was fall 2017.
There are plenty of blog posts and you can follow the update notices on the SoloShot Facebook page so I won’t go into a long sad story about delays. What I will say is that throughout the process SoloShot did an admirable job at the old transparency thing. After a couple of missed dates, they started talking more about what was going right and going wrong and less about dates.
I thought their emailed update messages to preorder customers like me were a good mix of taking responsibility, describing ongoing issues and thanking customers for hanging with them. Handling bad news says a lot about a company and they certainly had some bad news to deal with.
As you look through the reviews, be sure to notice whether they’re about the process or about the product. Right now, most of the negative stories are about the delays, not the product itself.
Well, enough of that. Since they’re shipping now you won’t need to worry about that! What I did gain through the experience was a bundle that cost me over $500 dollars less than what they’re retailing for now. I got the Soloshot base, tag and Optic 65 camera bundle.
SoloShot 3 Overview
As I mentioned earlier, SoloShot refers to the SoloShot 3 as your robotic cameraman. The earlier versions often showed folks surfing with the SoloShot sitting on the beach capturing all the action. By the time the SoloShot 2 was shipping, folks ended up using the SoloShot for a bunch of things that weren’t envisioned in the beginning.
Here are just a couple of the things it can be for:
- How about following your kid through the BMX course or running up and down the soccer field while you actually get to watch directly, that is not through your camera’s viewfinder?
- Or, filming equestrian activities for rider feedback much like a football teams’ post-game film study?
- For me, I want to use it to capture video of RC model airplanes that I like to fly.
- And of course, surfing.
And all without rounding up someone to be your cameraman.
What’s in the SoloShot 3 Box?
The basic SoloShot configuration includes the SoloShot base, the camera, the tag and a couple of accessories. The camera choices are the Optic 25 and the Optic 65. The Optic 25 is the less expensive of the two and has some significant limitations when it comes to video resolution. The Optic 65 has a powerful zoom feature and will record in several resolutions up to and including 4K at 30 frames per second.
The tag is a small rectangular box with a very small screen on the top along with two control buttons. It’s about half the size of a TicTac mint box. The tag’s main purpose is to use global positioning satellite (GPS) data to determine its position and to transmit that to the SoloShot’s base.
The base is where the magic happens. The base also computes it’s position using GPS and after comparing it’s position data to the tag’s data, it points the camera at the tag and automatically adjusts the camera’s zoom factor. Now since the goal is to track a moving target, that’s a lot of math going on in the base.
Besides the main parts, the kit comes with an arm band and plastic clip to hold the tag, a tripod adapter screw to fit the base’s 3/8 threaded hole, a heavy duty USB cable used for charging the base and a quick start guide. Expanded instructions are available on the SoloShot website.
SoloShot 3 Initial Setup
When you have the SoloShot 3 out of the box and assembled, during initial power-up it will search the SoloShot site for the latest firmware and start an update process. With that in mind, you’ll first need to set up a SoloShot user account. I found that this worked better using the ‘connect via Facebook’ option using the SoloShot app on my smartphone. Entering my email and selecting a password failed and after a couple of tries I went with the Facebook option. I entered my Facebook credentials and I was good to go.
The other thing you will need is a micro SD card. Soloshot has a list of tested SD cards on their website on the FAQ page. Use one of these. You’ll see they are high speed and high capacity cards. Users have reported problems with the SoloShot recognizing SD cards so go with a known card first.
If all works as planned the SoloShot will update the base device, update the tag then the camera all to the latest firmware edition. Some users have reported issues and, I, too, had to try a slightly different approach my first time through with some advice from SoloShot tech support.
There have been several firmware updates in the week’s following release so some of those hiccups have been resolved and lots of folks have reported no issues during the initial out of the box update process. My follow on updates have all worked smoothly.
SoloShot 3 Operations
When powered on, the screen on the back of the base presents several menu choices. Using these mini apps, you can link the tag to the base, set your tracking mode, field of view, framing and trajectory. These are explained in more detail in the video at the end of this review. Once you’ve made you setting choices, the base takes about a minute to calibrate. During this time, it spins around and raises and lowers the camera angle to cover the sphere it can record in.
The tag needs to be on and positioned away from the base due to the accuracy of the basic GPS system. When the tag gets too close to the base, it can’t resolve an accurate tag position.
Once calibrated the SoloShot 3 base follows the tag wherever it and the target go. Recording can be controlled either at the base or from the tag.
As described in the linked videos, you have the opportunity to set several variables to best suit the situation you’re in. Since I’m often shooting flying model airplanes, I usually shoot in the flight mode with wide field of view and center framing. Other choices for these variables can be set for following your kid on the soccer field or a rider at an equestrian event.
This video describes opening the box and the SoloShot 3 initial setup:
This video goes deeper into the operation of the SoloShot 3 devices:
The Soloshot3 is pretty much the only thing on the market that does what it does. Other trackers don’t track vertically and have more demanding setup routines. As a new and sophisticated device, it’s got some bugs along with some promises of greater capabilities to come.
My initial impressions have be pretty favorable even though I’ve had to try a couple of things more than once to get all the parts to play well together. There are a couple of Facebook groups filled with helpful users who have shared experiences and ideas.
If you’re into photography, have a special motion video need and enjoy leading edge technology and the joy and frustration that includes, the SoloShot 3 is definitely worth you consideration. I’m enjoying mine.
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