360 cameras have taken the world by storm rather quickly. They pair incredibly well with VR headsets and are especially useful in taking thrilling videos and images in action situations.
Best 360 Cameras in 2018
360 cameras won’t come cheap though, at least not most of them. They feature two lenses that cost a lot, and the chipset required to process the images and stitch them together is designed with a lot of thought. It’s hard to find the best 360 cameras, especially when so much money is on the line.
We’ve handpicked the 5 best 360 cameras available in the market right now and reviewed them for you.
Our Top Pick
Small Form Factor and a Familiar Operation
The Insta360 One is a small portable 360 camera that attaches to your smartphone and behaves like an extension camera. It captures videos in 4K at 30fps, and has a still image resolution of 24 megapixels. By default, it has a Lightning port connection, but you can buy an additional adapter to use it with Android devices as well.
Even if you have to buy the adapter, the overall cost of the Insta360 One and its performance make it the best choice among its peers.
Samsung Gear 360
360 Recording Now Affordable
The Samsung Gear 360 is an affordable 360 camera that records videos in 4K at 30fps. It has an elegant, simple design and is incredibly easy to operate due to its intuitive UI and small LCD screen. It also features a fantastic battery life of 130 minutes.
For most casual users, there’s no better choice than the Gear 360 if you’re interested in a 360 camera. Samsung has succeeded in bringing this photography niche accessible to everyone with this product.
The Insta360 One is an ingenious solution that makes 360 cameras more accessible to the average user. It’s a tiny device that connects to your phone through a port, automatically launching its highly streamlined app on your smartphone right when it’s plugged in. From there on, you can use it like you would your own smartphone’s camera.
The Insta360 One camera has native support for iPhones and iPads. Until recently, it was exclusive to the Apple ecosystem due to its integrated Lightning port. However, the company has recently released an adapter that allows it to connect to Android phones as well through USB Type-C or microUSB connections. The adapter will cost $30 extra, but even with that the entire kit is considerably cheaper than other 360 cameras out there.
The video quality is fantastic, recording at 4K at 30fps and capturing still images at 24-megapixels. Its app has an easy interface with great editing tools. You can even use the device alone, though you’ll do so via Bluetooth. It also has a battery life of 70 minutes, which given its form factor is acceptable.
- Great form factor
- Excellent app
- Great image quality
- Easy and convenient to use
- Requires separate adapter for use on Android devices
- Mount isn’t fully secure
Garmin is better known for its sat navs and great fitness-focused watches, but they’ve released a high quality 360 camera in the form of the VIRB. As far as build is concerned, this is one of the most ruggedly built 360 cameras out there. It is waterproof up to 10 meters and also dust proof.
What sets the Garmin VIRB 360 apart from other 360 cameras is its video resolution. Instead of 4K, it records at 5.7K. It’s an odd resolution, but it makes sense because 4K in full 360 degrees view simply doesn’t work as well.
With the camera, you also get clip-on cradles for both a regular tripod as well as a GoPro mount. You can operate the VIRB as a standalone camera with a small mono display. You can also control it with its dedicated app from your smartphone. However, you cannot stitch your images in 5.7K on the app – it is limited to 4K. The video quality is still great though. Garmin also adds in GPS and G-Metrix sensors for extreme sports fans who want the extra information.
- Tough, rugged build
- Great image quality
- 5.7K capture
- Requires computer to stich at full 5.7K
- Very expensive
You don’t have to pay several hundred dollars to get yourself a decent 360 camera. Samsung’s Gear 360 is the most affordable renowned 360 camera out there. It doesn’t quite have the image sharpness as more expensive models but given the huge difference in pricing it’s a great product, especially for those looking to get into the art of capturing 360 videos.
The simplicity of the Gear 360 makes it great for younger people as well as those inexperienced in using 360 cameras. You have the guidance of a small LCD screen in the camera for navigating through different modes. The companion app is straightforward and streamlined, offering a great range of viewing and editing options.
The battery life is also excellent – almost double that of what you’ll get in any other 360 camera, lasting for up to 130 minutes on a single charge. At its price, this is an absolute steal, and we recommend it to anyone looking to get their first 360 camera.
- Great design
- Fantastic value
- Easy operation
- Superior battery life
- Image quality not as sharp as more expensive models
It’s no surprise that GoPro has put their hands in the 360 camera niche. GoPro cameras are known for their portability and fantastic performance in action situations. 360 camera design comes naturally for them, so you’d expect the GoPro Fusion to be an incredible product.
And it absolutely is. Functionally, this camera is incredible. It is waterproof up to 5 meters, which isn’t as much as the Garmin VIRB, but still better than none at all. The video resolution is 5.2K, which is more than 4K to fit better in a 360 capture.
The design is what you’d expect from a GoPro. A simple, filleted square shape with a QuickCapture button, a Photo button, and voice command operation. The Fusion is easy to operate and the software that comes with it is simple and effective.
The one major downside to this camera that prevents it from being the best 360 camera available is that it requires two microSD cards. These SD cards need to be matched, one for each lens, which makes transfer of images to computers a little more complicated.
- Fantastic performance
- Slim design
- Easy operation
- Reliable connectivity and app
- Requires two microSD cards which can make things complicated
We love the form factor of the Ricoh Theta V. It’s an elegant, slim 360 camera that can fit in your pocket. Shooting at 4K for video and 14MP for still images, the Theta V is an elegant solution to the 360 conundrum.
The best part of the camera is its incredibly simple and easy operation. You don’t even need the smartphone app to start a shoot. Just set the Theta V to stills or video mode, press the button, and that’s it. The smartphone app follows this simplicity by offering a great interface. You also get VR option in the app.
This camera’s small form factor means it doesn’t have any SD card slot. You’ll be limited to its 19GB internal memory. While that may seem plenty, 4K videos can take a lot of space, though it will only be a problem for enthusiast level individuals.
The still image quality of the Ricoh Theta V is fantastic. The video is high quality as well, but there are some image inconsistencies like with most cameras where the two hemispheres are stitched.
- Wonderful design
- Exceptionally simple to operate
- Easy to view and edit in the app
- Memory is fixed at 19GB
The nature of using 360 cameras is such that they’ll likely fall from you at least once. A rugged 360 camera will go a long way in ensuring its longevity. Not only that, but it will also let you use it more exploratively.
Make sure the camera you are buying has enough durability to fit your needs. If you’re going to be using 360 cameras in wet conditions, having one that is waterproof is extremely important. You should also look at the general build and the toughness of the camera, and whether it can withstand any accidental drop.
360 cameras are complicated little devices, but they don’t have to be complicated to use. Companies have made utilizing these cameras incredibly easy with streamlined controls, single press functions, and great apps.
The small, pocketable versions like the Theta V and Instant360 One are popular because they are incredibly easy to use. If you are a casual shooter, the Gear 360 is the ideal choice because it is specifically designed for those inexperienced in easy 360 cameras or want to recreationally.
GoPro Fusion and Garmin VIRB are more nuanced, and slightly more complex. Still, anyone with basic video capturing knowledge should be able to operate them normally
Finally, there is the image quality. Let’s get this out of the way: no 360 camera is perfect. This is because they use two wide angle lens to capture two images, then stitch them up together. The part where they are stitched is often stretched and has artifacts or other kind of imperfections.
More importantly, 4K on a 360 camera is not the 4K we’re normally used to. This is because the 4K resolution is stretched across a very wide aspect ratio – wide enough to, well, be 360 degrees. For this reason, the image quality won’t be as sharp as you’d expect from a 4K TV.
Companies like Garmin and GoPro have tried workarounds such as increasing the resolution to 5.2/5.7K. While this does make image quality better, the more important feature is the processing within the cameras that stitches the two hemispheres together. This is usually directly correlated with what you’ll pay for the camera.
Why do I need a 360 camera?
Nobody truly needs a 360 camera, but it’s a fantastic way to show off some thrilling action and take stunning photos. They are especially useful if you are a blogger or like to vlog while traveling and while on adventures.
What are good situations to use 360 cameras in?
360 cameras are very useful in showing off an entire region. Say you want to show your friends the atmosphere of a great restaurant you visited. A 360 camera will make it easier. The best situations to use 360 cameras in though are when performing thrilling activities such as sky diving, skiing, underwater (if your camera is waterproof), and more.
Is there some way to remove the artifacts in the videos and images where there is stitching?
Unfortunately, although optics and digital image processing have come a long way, some kind of distortion will always be noticeable even in the highest quality of cameras. However, to what extent the distortion occurs is usually correlated with the quality of the camera. More expensive cameras tend to perform far better in stitching the two hemispheres.