It’s time to widen your horizons.
With a brand new 360 camera, of course. Though they aren’t something especially new, these little cameras are becoming more and more prominent with the rise of VR headsets. But it’s not only VR headsets that are making these cameras so popular. Many famous Youtubers and Facebook users are also starting to use these cameras to infuse their stories with a more immersive and holistic picture of their surroundings.
If you ever wanted one such camera, we have exactly what you want. Check out our list of best 360 degree cameras, and our short guide that will help you understand better what we are talking about.
When buying a 360 degree camera, there are a few things you need to know about. These cameras are relatively new and are on the rise thanks to the VR technology.
You might have had a chance to see the Google Car on your street with that orb-like thingy on the roof. Well, that’s a 360 cam, but a professional one, and is unavailable to you as a regular consumer. You may have noticed that it has quite a few lenses, and each of these lenses combines to make a full 360 image.
When it comes to commercial-grade cameras, the most lenses a camera can have is three, and the least, one. One example of a three-lens 360 cam is the Gioptic 360 camera. This device combines three separate images to form a full “bubble”. However, most other cams use either one or two lenses. Most popular cameras use two lenses, usually fisheye, and with a viewing angle of at least 180 degrees. Again, such cameras stitch the video or photo together.
Now, the problem here is that cameras that stitch the image together can sometimes have visible seams where the two images were conjoined. On top of that, twin-lens cameras are susceptible to movement, and the images they create can overlap. In this case, the one-lens cameras are better, because their lens has a full 360-degree field of view.
However, it should be noted that one-lens cameras’ field of view is one-dimensional – that is to say that they can only film in a half-sphere. For a full “bubble” (3D view) you will need a two- or three-lens camera, or another one-lens camera. The textbook example of this is the Kodak SP360 camera, of which we’ll talk later.
Another thing to consider when buying a 360 degree camera is what do you need it for. Some of the cameras are not very sturdy, and can’t take that much of a beating. Some are less apt in the video and photo quality department and will produce imagery of worse quality. On top of that, consider the portability of the cam, and the accessories that come with them. Some cams are very small and compact on their own, and powerful too, and they make excellent companions. Some are more professional-oriented and come with mounts and other stuff that will increase the camera’s range of operation and image quality.
Lastly, what you need to consider is the price of the camera and cost-to-performance ratio. The price range for 360 cams is from $100 to about $600. More affordable cameras will have lower video quality or be otherwise inferior to higher-priced cameras. However, some higher-priced cameras may not suit your needs, and some smaller cameras are much more up your alley, like the Insta360 Nano, which is designed to be an iPhone accessory.
One final note – the 360 degree technology is still relatively new and is constantly improving. It will often happen that the end product (the video after it’s been recorded than processed) may not be of the same quality, as the cameras sometimes re-record your footage than piece together the images frame by frame, resulting in the loss of quality.
One of the largest names in the electronics industry is certainly Samsung. It is, then, no surprise that their Samsung Gear 360 is one of the best 360 cameras on the market. It is light, portable, incredibly durable and shoots amazing photos and videos.
Just how amazing? Try nearly 4K amazing for videos and 26 MP for photos. This is one of the smallest and the most powerful 360 cams on the market, hands down. The camera has two lenses mounted on a ball-like body, each of which has a 180 degree wide viewing angle. The camera allows you to shoot full 360 videos and photos, or you can use it to shoot 180 panoramic shots. The lenses are covered in tempered glass to prevent scratches, and watertight to protect them from occasional splashes.
Like the Insta360, Samsung Gear allows you to stream your videos and share your photos with the world instantly. Through the appropriate app, you can not only share the videos but trim, playback and modify your videos in any way you desire, right there on your phone or your computer before sending the video out. In this manner, the camera is not only good for making photos and videos but, with the app, it is self-sustained and a whole lot faster and more convenient to use.
Unfortunately, not even Samsung can make a perfect camera.
Also, the camera is quite pricey, and for that price, it shouldn’t have any technical problems. However, Samsung Gear has some stitching problems, especially when it’s handheld, probably due to your hands shaking or moving while you walk. This problem is much less noticeable when you use the tripod, but we feel that a camera like this shouldn’t have any problems at all, with a price tag exceeding $200.
All in all, if you use a Galaxy and fancy taking 360 photos and making live videos, you will definitely want to check Samsung Gear 360 out. It’s a bit pricey, but, if you’re already sporting a Galaxy Note S7, you might as well go all out and get this fancy camera too.
Now this is one serious device. The 360fly is one of the best (if not the best) 360 cams on the market, but one of the most expensive ones. The camera is designed with maximum utility in mind, offering amazing video and photo quality, excellent portability and a wide range of accessories to accommodate your every need.
This little camera is a true work of art. It shoots in 4K quality, something that is hard to expect from a 360 camera, and 2880x2880 stills. And it does it with a single lens. The ball-like body is simple, durable, water- and dustproof. The lens is also covered with tempered glass to make it scratch free and shockproof. The entire thing can be submerged under 3 feet of water and it will still work perfectly. The camera also comes with a total of 64 GB of internal memory. It comes with built-in telemetry sensors, an e-compass, a gyroscope and a non-assisted GPS.
Naturally, the camera is compatible with smart devices, both iPhone and Android, and you can use an appropriate app to configure your videos, add filters and effect to your still and, of course, share your work online.
There are two cons that work against this camera – the price and the app. The problem with the app is that it is still sort of in the development phase. The app could use some serious updates, as many customers report it as being buggy. Until these bugs are fixed, the app will be quite a hindrance for an otherwise excellent camera.
When it comes to the price, this is a very expensive camera. It costs about $470, which is not surprising, considering the features, but the buggy app kind of overrates the whole thing. Of course, if you consider buying the accessories, you will easily cross the $500 mark, and even hit $600.
Overall, the 360fly is one powerful single-lens camera. The single lens means that there is no stitching, and the camera’s video and photo qualities are great. It also comes with a wide range of accessories that increases the ubiquity and utility of the camera. When you add the shooting modes to that, this device is truly amazing. If only it had a great app, this camera would take the market by storm in a heartbeat.
In the world of cameras, picture quality and portability are key. What use you have for a superb camera of an average man off the street if it can’t fit into your pocket? And what use is a camera that is small and portable if it can’t deliver awesome shots? Well, Ricoh Theta SC has both of those qualities. The dual lenses capture the world in a full 360 view, and the camera is nice and small enough to fit in your shirt’s chest pocket.
So, what makes Theta SC so special? The things that make it special is its compactness and ease of use, together with a very good photo and video quality. The camera uses twin F2.0 lenses (the same kind found on Samsung Gear 360 camera) which shoot in 14 MP quality. The camera is has a very simple stick-like design and has an intuitive recording button for convenient use when your phone isn’t within your reach. Of course, the camera can also be paired up with your phone via an app (compatible both with iOS and Android), and you can even use your phone as a viewfinder.
Of the modes you can use with this camera, you can shoot a time lapse, DR compensation, Multi-shot (with noise reduction), and HDR compensation. Naturally, the app allows you to refine your videos and stills and share them instantly. The camera doesn’t have an internal memory storage but supports MicroSD cards. The device is also compatible with a substantially tall tripod, and you can use this tripod to shoot some great immersive photos and vids and make tiny planet stills.
The camera, of course, has its bad moments too. For one, and this is a very common problem with two-lens 360 cams, is that there are some problems with stitching. However, if you’re using the stand, it gets much better, because it is stable. Not only that, but when you put it on the stand, the camera doesn’t even have that hole that appears at the spot where the camera should be. Also, keep in mind that this camera sports fish lenses, and that that may create some distortion in the photos.
Overall, the Ricoh Theta SC 360 camera is a really decent device. It boasts decent photo and video quality, and, combined with a stand, it really stands out. The many shooting options also up the value of this little cam, and the fact that it is so small and portable makes it an excellent traveling companion. However, if you relate the 14 MP to the camera’s price under $300, it feels like it’s a little overpriced.
When you hear Nikon, you immediately think “wow, this is an awesome camera”. Unfortunately, in the case of KeyMission, it isn’t all as pink as you might think. The camera is still decent, and has plenty of good sides, but we’re afraid that the cons outweigh the pros this time.
Nevertheless, we’ll try to be as objective as possible, and present what good this camera has to offer, and not berate it mindlessly. The camera offers 4k video quality and can take 24 MP stills. However, field testing proved otherwise, and this camera is barely any better than the Theta S and the Theta SC cameras. The camera is also said to be shockproof and waterproof, as well as dust proof, and we have to say that in this respect, it is just as advertised. The camera also stitches well, a little better than the Theta S, but there is some overlapping and blurred imagery in the corners. Take note that this is only when the camera is absolutely still, and that this won’t be the case if the camera is moving.
KeyMission also comes with an app that will allow remote control. However, the app is quite buggy, and the Bluetooth connection often snaps, snapping even at a distance of 4-5 feet. The SnapBridge app allows sharing, but, unfortunately, it most often doesn’t work than it does. The camera is compatible with a mount, and one that can be even put on a helmet. However, due to the problem described in the previous paragraph, you won’t have much luck with the helmet mount.
As for the problems, we’re afraid that there are many. Aside from underwhelming performance, contrary to what’s been advertised, the camera has other flaws. For example, we said that the camera is shockproof – however, the lens cover is not tempered glass like in Samsung Gear 360 or 360fly, but plastic. The plastic is easily scratched, and you will find that the easily damaged cover takes much away from the photo quality that isn’t that great, to begin with.
But there is an even bigger problem. This camera, such as it is, costs almost $500. Also, if you decide to buy the accessory bundle, you’ll have to pay another $150 for it. That comes to a total of $650 for a device that doesn’t perform as nearly as advertised. At this point, we have no choice but to say that the camera is wildly overpriced. This is by no means a high-end camera like the 360fly, but more of an entry level cam.
With the ever improving iPhones, it is only reasonable to assume that the accessories for these cells will improve as well. One of the best accessories is exactly the Insta360 Nano Camera. With this little thing, you will finally be able to breathe a new life into your photos and videos and create some truly remarkable shots.
Let’s say right off the bat here that the Nano is one of the smallest cameras on the market. If portability and subtlety are what you're about, then Nano is right up your alley. The camera is only 2x1x2 inches. Of course, being designed as an attachment for the iPhone, it stands to reason that the camera is supposed to be small. This way, the camera looks very stylish, attached to your iPhone, but is also very good at its job.
In fact, it is so good at its job that you’ll be simply taken away by the quality of your shots. The problem small cameras, in general, is that they often lack something in the video quality department, because you can’t really fit a fine large lens into it. However, Nano is not just one of the smallest cameras on the market, but one of the best too. It shoots pictures in 3040x1520 resolution, albeit only at 30 fps. Also, the lenses are pretty wide too, and each of the two covers a 210-degree field, ensuring the photo is stitched right, and that you don’t have any blind spots.
The camera can be utilized in many ways. With the appropriate app, you can stream your videos and post your photos directly to your Facebook or YouTube, or you can save the videos and use it with a pair of VR goggles. For the purposes of storage, the camera comes with a MicroSD card slot, and you can use memory cards of up to 64GB.
Of course, no product is ever safe from a few defects, and, with 360 cams being a relatively new thing, it is hard to imagine they would go without any hiccups. One of the bad things about the Insta360 Nano is that it gets hot very quickly when attached to your phone. The camera draws a lot of power from the battery, which is why it gets quite hot. That being said, this excess heat can damage your battery, and you certainly wouldn’t want that, considering that smartphones aren’t exactly known for especially long-lasting batteries.
The other concern is the app you use with the camera. The app certainly needs a little bit of work and has a little bit of a learning curve to it. We would certainly like to see an easier-to-use app in the future, as the current one can cause a lot of frustration, especially when streaming.
Overall the Insta360 Nano is a very decent little gadget. It has decent resolution and is free of the problem mostly associated with such cameras, and that is bad stitching. The app is a little bit sketchy and takes a time to get used to it, but overall we think you will enjoy this little thing.
Sometimes you’re not looking for a superb camera, but for a nice, cheap, entry level device. Enter LG G5 Friends cam. This is one of the cheapest cameras on the market, and one with the best value at that price.
This incredibly affordable camera boasts two lenses with a 200-degree viewing field. Those 200 degrees are especially useful in 360 photography, as it helps stitch the photos together better. The cameras can shoot in 2k and the cameras are rated to 13 MP. The footage and photos you make can be uploaded directly to Google Street view and to YouTube 360. The design of the camera is very similar to the Theta SC and the Theta S cameras, making the camera very compact, light and overall handy. The camera features a shutter release button, and a few LED lights that show you if you’re filming or taking photos.
The camera is also compatible with Android and iOS. It can also be used in conjunction with a VR headset. It can also take a micro SD card. However, the biggest selling point of the G5 is its price. At about 100 dollars, the cost to performance ratio is very favorable. For example, the Theta SC boasts a 14 MP camera, but it costs more than double what the LG costs. This means that the camera has great value for the money, and anyone looking for a beginner’s camera should check this one out.
Of course, being a budget product, the camera has flaws. One of the biggest flaws is the stitching. Though the camera is always on point, the seam is very visible. It is even more visible in low light conditions and appears as a blurry line. The camera also has problems shooting in very bright settings, and the photo may become washed out.
The camera also features auto-capture. However, the camera is very slow to act, and the photos will be less than satisfactory. This being said, the auto-capture is next to useless, and you are strongly advised to take the photos manually whenever you can. In addition, the camera won’t work unless you don’t have a memory card, which might be a minus for some.
In the end, this is a solid product. Like we said, it has great value, and the cost to performance ratio is nearly superb. The camera produces photos of reasonable quality, and stitches fairly well, with the seam being visible but tolerable. Anyway, for 100 bucks, it is hard to top this product, and we wholeheartedly recommend this product to any hobbyists and enthusiasts who are interested in 360 photography.
Just like Nikon, Kodak is a big name in the photo equipment business, only, unlike Nikon, Kodak did not disappoint in the 360 cam realm. Their PIXPRO SP360 is a very decent (and decently priced) 360 camera and has much to offer to both a beginner and a professional.
The camera might not be able to shoot in 4K, but it can still make 1080p full-HD videos. The camera can also take superb stills in 7680x3840 resolution. The lens is 360x214 degrees, and, if you combine another SP360, you can get a full 360x360 image. On top of that, the camera is waterproof, shockproof and dirt-proof. Indeed, the SP360 is a camera intended for action shooting under any circumstances. In fact, the camera is so action-oriented that you can even take it snorkeling with you, with the right accessories, of course.
The camera also comes with an app that is compatible with both Android and iOS. Unlike most cameras, the SP360 connects to the app via Wi-Fi and not Bluetooth. The app can be used to remotely control the camera, review and refine your footage, and share it on social media and live-stream it. Finally, the camera has a good selection of modes, like time lapse and loop, so that you can express your artistic ideas more easily. The camera has a wide selection of accessories too, the Aqua pack being only one of them.
The camera is good, but it’s not perfect. Or, rather, the camera is perfect, but the supporting app is not. The tech is still rather new, and it might take some time to perfect it, but, as of now, there are quite a few hiccups in the video processing department. For starters, the end product is actually much different than the raw footage. The way this camera makes a ring or a dome video is by re-recording the video you made, then unfolding it. The same happens with photos and this, unfortunately, reduces the quality of the video. The app has a lot of options for you to choose from, but the modes need refinement for the camera to become what we dreamed of.
All in all, the Kodak PIXPRO SP360 is a splendid device. It is very reasonably priced considering what it offers and offers the most value next to the LG G5. We like in particular the fact that the camera is very sturdy, and that, with the right accessories, you can take it anywhere, and it will perform at its peak. The addition of another camera gives you a full 360x360 view, which can be both a pro and a con, because smaller and less expensive cameras offer this mode, albeit not in such high quality. Overall, this is a camera we would definitely recommend.
Slowly, we’re coming to the end of our list. Our penultimate product is the Topvision TV100, a great cam for hobbyists and enthusiast, and even professionals worldwide. This camera is intended for streaming and mapping, and boasts fair photo quality as well as durability.
The camera features two lenses, each with a 220-degree viewing angle. The video quality of the camera is very decent, rated to 960p and filming at 30fps. The photos boast the resolution of 3008x1504 pixels, which is very solid. The camera comes with a mini tripod mount which is very useful for panoramic shots, as it allows the camera to sit steadily and stitch the two sides together better. The camera is also compatible with MicroSD cards, and can support a 32GB one, but not more. The device is very sturdy too, and is waterproof (thanks to the case included in the pack), shock- and dirt-resistant.
The camera, of course, comes with an accompanying app for your computer of smart devices. The app allows you to manipulate and refine your footage, as well as live-stream it and post it directly to YouTube. The device is also very useful for making Google Maps too, and is an excellent choice if you want to create a very immersive VR experience. As for the price, the cam costs about $160, making it very affordable, and giving it good cost-to-performance ratio.
This camera, unfortunately, suffers from some tech-related problems. This camera has a reset button, but be prepared to familiarize with it more than you’d like. The camera freezes up often, and you will need to reset it on quite a few occasions. Another problem with the camera is that the battery doesn’t hold a charge when not in use. The battery will allow you to film for about 2 hours, but you’ll have to charge it after every use, or, more precisely, before every use. This, we think, is a major design flaw, and it might prove as a great inconvenience.
Another problem that appears is very similar to the one SP360 has. During the processing, the video and photo quality drop significantly, which is another nuisance.
Overall, TV100 is not a bad camera. In fact, at its price, it is a very decent camera. It shoots reasonably good quality video, and is quite sturdy. However, we fear that you might have a problem with it constantly freezing, and the battery not holding a charge. Otherwise, this camera is a blast to work with.
HiCool is a single lens camera, which means that it has no stitching problems. The camera has a 360x220 degree wide viewing field. The cam is very versatile, and allows you not only to use it as a 360 cam, but also as a dash cam, and it can be even mounted onto a helmet. The device is also very sturdy and can be used as a full-fledged action cam that you can take with you skiing, hiking, rock climbing or cycling. The gizmo's very light weight adds to the camera’s portability, further fortifying its usability in various action-packed situations.
As for the video quality, the camera shoot videos in 2448x2448 resolution, at 30fps. The photo quality is quite decent, and it takes 16MP photos. There is an accompanying app for the cam, and there you can review your videos and pictures, and refine then upload and share them.
We also have to note that the camera comes with the same waterproof case the TV100 comes with, and this allows it to be submerged as deep as 30 meters, with the device running perfectly. The device also supports an external memory card, up to 64GB.
HiCool is one of the best cameras around, and it is very good for its price tag. However, keep in mind that a single lens camera will have a much harder time creating full 360x360 images and videos. For that, you will need another camera or an entirely different model. Also, the same problem occurs as with the TV100 and the SP360, where some of the quality is lost during refinement and processing. Be that as it may, the loss of quality is much less with the HiCool than with the other cams in its class.
Overall, this might be one of the best cameras on its list, in its price range, or course. The cam costs about $150, as we stated above, and is even better than the TV100 that boasts a similar cost. We are particularly fond of how action-oriented this camera is, and, for anyone looking to record their adventures, this is the camera we recommend you get.
And there you have it, nine 360 cameras of all shapes and sizes. In the end, there is no definite winner, as each of these cams can be used to cater to a different situation. Essentially, the real choice is yours – you need to assess your needs and choose the camera that will perform the best in a given scenario. We’ve done our part, and the only thing we are to do is to wish you happy shooting!
Gareth Otwell is a 28-year-old tech geek. Currently working at a big IT company. He chooses to widen the topics he writes about so as to provide his readers with an all-in-one go-to platform that they can use to research for just about anything. Read more