360 cameras, or 360 degree cameras, open up a whole new world of possibilities with photography and video, allowing you to capture scenes, landscapes and action sequences in a way that traditional cameras simply cannot. You don’t even have to worry about where you’re pointing your camera!
When it comes to buying a 360 camera, there are many different options to choose from, all varying in terms of features, applications and prices. For example, while certain cameras are better for catching intense and unpredictable action sequences, others are ideal for recording in low-light settings.
Resolution, image stabilization, stitching, live-streaming, and usability are just a few of the features you need to consider when choosing a 360 degree camera. Beyond that, you’ll also want to consider the strength of the camera’s compatible editing software. Finally, of course, the price: some 360 cameras exceed $1,000, so you need to find a model that fits your budget.
In this article, we’ve reviewed the best 360 cameras, taking all of the above factors into consideration. But before we get into the list, let’s take a look at exactly what 360 cameras are and how they work.
What is a 360 Camera?
Put simply, a 360 camera is a camera that lets captures the world as you see it in 360°. 360 cameras capture video from up and down to left and right, and they also shoot spherical still images. Capturing images and video with a 360 degree camera adds a new dimension that creates a completely different viewing experience than a regular camera.
How Do 360 Cameras Work?
360 cameras work by using multiple camera modules to capture footage which can then be digitally combined into a fully spherical video. Most use two back-to-back fisheye lenses that capture a 180-degree angle of view. As well as spherical video, 360 camera footage can be made into 2D video weaved from frames after the recording process.
When you take a picture with a 360 camera, it automatically stitches the two hemispherical images captured by the lenses together to create a 360-degree spherical image. When viewing a 360° image or video, you’re effectively positioned in the centre of it, and you can navigate by either dragging across a touchscreen or physically moving your smart device. The best 360 cameras also come with companion apps, usually for both mobile and desktop, that open up a wide range of editing choices.
There are many uses for 360 cameras. They can be edited into regular flat footage in which you can point the camera where you like to direct the narrative view, after you’ve recorded the footage, providing more creative control. Images can be used to take rectangular wide-angle shots and panoramas, while 360 videos allow you to create a range of effects from footage taken from a static position.
One example of 360 video camera footage in practical use is realtors using them for virtual tours, while they’ve long been popular on YouTube channels covering things like extreme sports and music festivals. 360 degree cameras can also be used to create images and video for virtual reality content. If you have a VR headset, 360 footage puts you right into the centre of the action, creating a truly immersive viewing experience. There are also 360 car cameras which, unlike a standard dashcam, allow you to record all around your car, so all angles are covered in the event of an accident.
The Best 360 Cameras
As we’ve already touched on, there are many different options when it comes to buying a 360 degree camera. To help you out, we’ve profiled the top 360 cameras available right now. We’ve covered the features, uses and price of each camera to help you pick out the best 360 camera for you.
GoPro MAX – Overall Best 360 Camera
- Price: $490 — Available on Amazon here
It’s hard to look past the GoPro MAX when selecting the best 360 camera of 2021. You can shoot single-lens HERO style video for recording immersive videos of outdoor adventures and sports, so it’s the ideal 360 action camera, while the shotgun-mic performance and front facing screen mean it’s also perfect for vlogging.
As you would expect from a GoPro, this camera is waterproof down to five meters, even without a case. It also has a battery life of 78 minutes, which is one of the longest of all 360 cameras.
One of the best things is that you can record dynamic clips without worrying about framing and then later edit your footage in the companion 360 camera app. The editing workflow is smooth and user-friendly, and you can easily turn 360-degree footage into 2D film using the app’s OverCapture software.
Other useful features include excellent HyperSmooth stabilization, 360-degree TimeWarp sequences, distortion-free 270-degree panoramic shots, voice control, and four lenses: Narrow, Linear, Wide and Max SuperView.
The GoPro MAX includes a one-year GoPro subscription that gets you unlimited cloud storage and total camera replacement. A 64GB SD card and a camera case are also included in the price. This price of this GoPro 360 camera is very competitive, and when you consider the quality you’re getting, it’s a bit of a bargain.
Insta360 ONE X – 5.7K 360 Camera with Excellent Stabilization
- Price: $840 — Available on Amazon here
This camera has it all – dual fisheye lenses, brilliantly image stabilization, excellent stills and 5.7K video quality, and 60-minute battery life, all while being slim enough to fit in a shirt pocket!
These features make the Insta360 One X great for both capturing action and editing, the two key ingredients to producing great video. It offers some unique special effects for perspective and time manipulation, so it’s a great option for semi-pro videographers looking to produce high quality widescreen video. There’s also a companion 360 camera app for advanced video editing and subject tracking on your smartphone.
This Insta360 camera has a 6-axis gyro system and ‘FlowState’ stabilization, which produces smooth video in good light and means that playback stays level regardless of how the camera is angled. There is sometimes a slight bit of shimmer during low-light shooting, but this is a minor flaw to what is an overall excellent model. If you buy the compatible selfie stick, the camera stays hidden during recordings so that it looks like you’re a bystander rather than holding the camera.
The Insta360 ONE X comes with free delivery and a one-year warranty. This camera was a huge step forward in terms of quality and usability upon its release in 2019, and it’s still one of the best around.
Kandao QooCam 8K – Best 360 Camera for 8K Footage
- 360 camera price: $599 — Available on Amazon here
With its 8K resolution, Kandao’s QooCam is one of the very best 360 cameras out there when it comes to image and video quality. This model has two 20MP CMOS sensors that capture 8K photos at 30fps and 4K video at up to 200fps.
The QooCam 8K can create APS-C level image quality and allows you to crop 360 footage into a widescreen format without losing resolution quality – a first for non-pro models. It has a 6-axis gyro, IMU sensor and advanced stabliziation technology, while the dynamic range, color and contrast is brilliant for both stills and video.
This is larger and heavier than other 360 cameras on the market, and it’s not waterproof, so it won’t be suited for every time of recording. However, it’s the smallest 8K camera in the world and the 2.4-inch OLED touchscreen does make for easy control and framing, so for 8K you can’t go wrong.
The camera’s partner app is fairly basic, though there is a useful express mode which downscales footage for easy editing on your mobile.
Another thing to consider is that the QooCam is one of the pricier 360 cameras, with various other purchase options available if you want to add accessories.
Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition – Dual Lense 360 Camera with 4K Wide Angle
- Price: $479 — Available on Amazon here
The highlight of the Insta360 One R is undoubtedly its swappable camera modules. Released at the start of 2020, this is essentially two cameras in one as it doubles up as both a 360 cam and a traditional 4K wide-angle shooter.
The two lenses are easy to swap between to suit your scenario. This Insta360 camera is capable of capturing 360-degree footage in 5.7K at 30fps, so it also delivers high quality imagery and recordings.
Beyond its modular design, the One R has excellent FlowState stabliziation and stitching, AI algorithms that preserve footage detail, Bullet Time shots with automatic horizon levelling and smart speed-ramping, and an impressive Auto Frame mode which recommends the best perspectives to add to your edit. It’s also waterproof down to 5 meters.
On the downside, the One R does have a very small screen, and there are some software processing issues in low light, but overall, we think it’s an innovative and high-quality model.
You can buy the standalone camera, and there are various other purchase options available. Like with the One X, the One R can also come with an invisible selfie stick that allows you to capture unique third-person perspectives.
Rico Theta Z1 – Best 360 Camera for Low Light
- Price: $999 — Available on Amazon here
The Ricoh Theta Z1 is easily one of the most expensive 360 cameras on the market, but it’s also without doubt one of the best. With this camera, you get what you pay for, and that’s top quality.
One of the standout features of Ricoh’s flagship model is its ability to produce high quality photography and videos in low-light. Many 360 cameras struggle with this due to their small sensor size, but the Theta Z1 uses two one-inch, backside-illuminated CMOS sensors with superior noise reduction to ensure this isn’t an issue.
This Ricoh 360 camera also boasts a newly developed lens unit which reduces ghosting, flare and purple fringe, using an aperture mechanism to achieve higher resolution. The result is some of the best images you can get from a 360 degree camera.
This camera has a sturdy, user-friendly design, effective motion stabilization, and live streaming in 4K. It also has four microphones which record sound from four different directions. Another nice bonus is that third-party developers can create plug-ins for the Theta Z1 for increased functionality.
While it doesn’t have the longest battery life and lacks expendable storage, if you’re looking for the highest possible image quality, you can’t go wrong with the Theta Z1.
Vuze XR – 360 VR Camera with 180° Stereoscopic Footage
- 360 degree camera price: $399 — Available on Amazon here
The Vuze XR isn’t your average 360 degree camera – its two cameras pop out so that you can also take 180° stereoscopic photos and video. You can quickly switch between modes at the click of a button, so you can shoot half a sphere to a full sphere of VR footage, allowing you to tell your story from every angle.
The camera shoots footage in high quality 5.7K resolution and it also offers in-camera stitching and live broadcasting. 60 fps dramatically reduces LCD motion blur, so it’s a good choice for filming action sequences, and flexible control settings allow you to set exposure compensation, ISO, shutter speed and step in or out of your shot using the Capture Delay self-timer.
One of the best features is Vuze Cast, which allows you to stream 360° or 180° footage directly to VR headsets via DLNA and broadcast live on YouTube and Facebook in full-view perspective.
The Vuze XR is well designed with an integrated hand grip that makes it suitable for daily use. It’s not the best in low light and the desktop 360 camera app has fairly limited features, but it’s still probably the best 360 VR camera around.
It costs around $399 for the standalone 360 video camera, or you can pay more for the tripod, selfie stick, and underwater case pack.
Ricoh Theta V – Simple 360 Camera with 360 Spatial Audio
- Price: $399 — Available on Amazon here
Ricoh is known making 360-degree video creation mainstream with 2016’s Theta S and the follow-up takes things up another level. The Theta V may look similar to its predecessor, but it packs in a lot more power while maintaining the elegant design and simple controls.
This is the ideal handheld camera due to its tall, slim shape, and you simply need to set it to stills or video mode and press the shutter-release bottom to get started. Alternatively, this Android-based camera can be operated remotely via the mobile app. The app is also easy-to-use and boasts simple yet effective VR viewing options, while there’s the separate Theta+ app for editing.
The Theta V can be used for 4K video recording, 4K live streaming, and it even records 360-degree spatial audio courtesy of its four microphones. This Ricoh 360 camera isn’t a rugged action cam like the GoPro MAX, but it’s excellent for other applications as it shoots incredibly realistic spherical footage and offers a variety of shooting modes for different scenarios.
The Theta V isn’t among the cheapest 360 cameras out there, but offers great audio and video recording.
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