The best 360 cameras let you capture every angle of life’s moments to create an immersive photo or video experience. The technology splices together images taken with two extreme fisheye lenses. While it requires extra editing to create a cohesive image, 360 cameras provide a unique look at life you can keep for yourself or share with an audience. Content creators, real estate agents, and adventurers are among those who’ve taken advantage of this technology.
Before you take the plunge, consider where and how you’ll use the camera. Adrenaline junkies need a model that’s portable and waterproof, while a real estate agent may need a camera with higher resolution and the ability to take good images in low light. We’ve got a quick guide to help you make your choice, along with our top picks for the best 360 cameras.
How We Picked the Best 360 Cameras
We considered several factors in making our picks, including resolution, ease of use, software, durability, and stabilization.
Resolution: Cameras with 5K video offer much better resolution than 4K. However, if you’ll only be using the video for personal use, 4K with excellent stills might be all you need.
Ease of use: Ease of use included everything from making adjustments and changing modes to downloading and editing images.
Software: The camera’s software package can make or break it. We looked for packages that were easy to use and access.
Durability: We looked for cameras with solid case designs. No one wants to use a camera that feels like it’s going to break every time you use it. We also considered waterproofing, though not everyone needs a waterproof camera.
Stabilization: The quality of the video and photos gets much better with stabilization features. We looked for stabilization, especially on cameras used for videos.
Related: Pick an everyday option with the best digital cameras.
The Best 360 Cameras: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: GoPro Max
Why It Made The Cut: The GoPro Max is a versatile camera that comes with intuitive tools, software, and stabilization assistance, making it the best 360 camera overall.
— Dimensions: 2.7 inches L x 2.5 inches W x 1.6 inches H
— Battery life: 85 to 105 minutes
— Video resolution: 5.6K
— Price: $499
— Works as 360 or single-lens camera
— Good image stabilization
— Nice audio
— Waterproof design (without extra case)
— Excellent software design
— 360 images take extra editing time
— Slow image transfer
The GoPro Max combines its 5.6K resolution with the ability to convert 360 videos into flat video of different aspect ratios, including 16:9, 1:1, 9:16, and 4:3. The sharpness and clarity of the video rely on the viewing angle. This model definitely works better for wider angles than zooming in tight, which can make things a little fuzzy.
Six internal microphones offer impressive audio, considering this camera doesn’t support an external microphone. These microphones can isolate voices well, though wind can cause some annoying ambient noise.
The Max works as a 360 camera or a single-lens camera. However, it’s much better at 360 video than single-lens stills. In the single-lens setting, it can push to 60 frames per second (fps) but actually performs better at 30 fps. The Max comes with smartphone and tablet software that’s intuitive, allowing you to zoom in, out, or adjust the angle. This model’s image stabilization works well for adventurers who want a camera to capture action shots. A touchscreen interface also makes it easier to use in the field.
The downside with this model is that the 360 video and images can take extra editing time. The video and photo transfer time is also a bit long. You’re looking at 45 seconds or more per video.
Best Video Camera: Ricoh Theta Z1
Why It Made The Cut: The Ricoh Theta Z1 outshines the competition in low-light, producing high-quality images and videos with an increasing number of third-party compatibility options.
— Dimensions: 1.8 inches L x 5.2 inches W x 0.9 inches H
— Battery life: About 60 minutes
— Weight: 182 grams (0.4 pounds)
— Price: $999
— Works well in low-light
— Easy-to-use design
— Sturdy build
— Compatible with a growing number of third-party plug-ins
— High price tag
— Video requires two editing apps
— Non-removable storage
The Ricoh Theta Z1 gets kudos as one of the best video cameras because it brings large CMOS image sensors to the 360 game, improving the image and video quality in low light. This model looks like a space-age remote control, with the two lenses on the top end of the camera. Still images can be up to 23 MP and 4K videos at 30fps. The design is definitively high-end yet pocketable at the same time.
We already mentioned that the sensors do well in low light, which means they do even better in good light. It offers excellent stabilization, eliminating most movement unless things are getting really rough.
The Z1’s Android-based operating system is compatible with a growing number of third-party plug-ins, expanding the ways you can use it. For example, there are apps that allow you to do wireless live streaming or control the camera using voice control.
However, the Z1 comes with some not-so-nice design features. The 19GB storage is non-removable. Once it’s full, you have to download the images or video before you can continue recording. That 19GB provides about 40 minutes of video time. Also, you can’t view files until they’re transferred to a smartphone. Finally, the last downside to this model is that it requires two apps to make basic edits. It’s annoying but worth it for the image quality.
Best Pocket Camera: Insta360 One X2
Why It Made The Cut: The One X2’s IPX8 waterproof design can take 5.7K video and fits in your pocket as one of the best pocket cameras available.
— Dimensions: 4.45 inches L x 1.82 inches W x 1.17 inches inches H
— Battery life: 80 minutes
— Weight: 149 grams (.33 pounds)
— Price: $429
— Versatile range of shooting options
— Waterproof to 10m without a case
— Touch screen lets you quickly start videos
— Auto frame feature makes editing easier
— Can have strong ambient noise in certain conditions
The Insta360 One X2 is an upgrade to the already popular One X. This model features a bigger battery and a touch screen to control modes and give you a preview of your images and video before downloading. All of that comes together in one of the best pocket cameras on the market. The One X2 is waterproof up to 33 feet (3 meters). That keeps it safe in an accidental or purposeful dunk.
Shooting modes activated directly on the camera allow you to quickly get videos rolling without pulling out your phone. The app is also where you can use additional features, like ‘Steady Cam mode,’ ‘PureShot,’ ‘InstaPano’ (one tap pano without needing to sweep). However, it’s the auto-frame setting that we’re most impressed with. This feature analyzes video and makes suggestions on where to stitch and reframe, improving final edits (especially if you’re a newbie).
The not-so-great parts of this camera are the overpowering ambient noise in certain (windy) conditions and the high price tag.
Best Waterproof Camera: Insta360 One R
Why It Made The Cut: The Insta360 One R’s waterproofing doesn’t limit its ability to create great video and images and offers excellent stabilization.
— Dimensions: 9.1 inches L x 4.3 inches W x 2.4 inches H
— Battery life: 40 minutes
— Weight: 0.85 pounds
— Price: $429.99
— Excellent 4K video (unless there’s poor light)
— Handy modular design lets you swap out lenses
— Excellent stabilization
— Downloading requires going through apps
— Loses video quality in low light
The Insta360 One R’s modular design offers unique film and photo opportunities. The battery makes one module, the lens another, and the screen the final modular piece. Despite those extra connection points of the modular design, its IPX8 waterproof rating holds up to five meters. This camera is especially nice for those just getting into 4K and 360 videos.
In adequate light, the One R takes excellent video. It only gets blurry at the very edges of the lenses. You can upgrade or swap out modules for different lenses, providing greater flexibility in its use as you develop more skills and get more adventurous.
The touch screen display lets you scroll through and choose settings, but it’s on the small side. That can make things feel a bit crowded. The One R’s stabilization feature works well and helps capture clear images in good light. However, if you’re in low light, you lose quality and clarity. Finally, the interface allows for easy editing, but to get to that point, you have to first download the images or video through apps before you can put it on a laptop or PC.
Best Cheap Camera: Ricoh Theta SC2
Why It Made The Cut: The Ricoh Theta SC2 will still set you back a bit, but it’s more affordable than other options and takes great still 360 photos.
— Dimensions: 5.14 inches L x 0.9 inches W x 1.78 inches H
— Battery life: 70 minutes
— Weight: 4 ounces
— Price: $296.95
— Shape and portable size
— Upgrade storage (14 GB)
— Takes excellent still photos
— Poor video quality
— Lack of stabilization
The Ricoh Theta SC2 comes in less than many of the 5K cameras on our list, but that’s because it’s not focused on video. Instead, the best cheap camera on our list is designed and does better at still photography. Large, high-quality lenses take clear 360 still photos, making this model one of the best photo cameras, too.
It’s been upgraded from the Theta SC’s 8GB memory to 14GB. However, there’s no way to expand that memory. If you fill the memory, you’ll have to download everything to clear more space.
The well-made case feels much higher-end than the price suggests. The design makes it easy to hold or attach to a selfie stick or tripod for stabilization. And, you’ll need that extra stabilization. One reason this camera doesn’t do great at video is that it lacks stabilization features. Even though the video isn’t great, it can take 4K video. However, if you’re looking to live stream, this isn’t the camera for you.
Things to Consider Before Buying a 360 Camera
Resolution: Higher resolution cameras come with an equally higher price tag. It’s best to decide what kind of resolution you need for what you want to do with the camera. You’ll get the best views and clarity with 5K resolution or higher, which many cameras have. If you’re creating YouTube videos, VR, or using images for a business, anything less than 5K will leave the final results wanting.
If you like to take quick 360 photos or videos for social media, you probably don’t need ultra-high resolution. A model that’s 4K or lower will work if your needs are more about capturing quick moments or if you’re focused on photos rather than video.
Software package: Here’s the downside of 360 cameras — the final result requires more editing than standard photos or videos. Consequently, these cameras typically include a software package. The camera and software design make a big difference in functionality and editing ease. Most cameras connect to a phone app, where you can edit images. Some also include desktop or tablet software too.
Software that lets you pan, set angles, or cut between shots will improve your results. These kinds of editing controls allow you to create a visual path for viewers to follow rather than letting them explore the spherical space on their own. Some models do automatic stitching and image stabilization. (Stitching is the process of aligning two 180 images to create a 360-degree view.) These extras may cost more, but they can save you time in editing and recording in the long run.
Form factor: If you’re attaching the camera to a helmet, bike, or other outdoor gear, a small form factor that’s portable and waterproof works best. If you’re looking for something along the lines of the best pet camera or best drones for kids, you’ll also need a model that easily attaches to other devices via ports or other attachment devices.
However, 3D video recording and shooting with a tripod works better with larger spherical cameras. These larger cameras also tend to be more stable than portable, pocket-sized models.
Q: What is a 360 camera?
A 360 camera has two extreme fisheye lenses to capture 360 degrees of video or images. You have to ‘stitch’ the images together in editing, making these photos or videos more time-intensive in the editing process.
Q: Is a 360 camera worth it?
360 cameras can certainly be worth it for the right person and activities. They’re small, and many can mount to a helmet, bike, or other equipment. These cameras can capture outdoor adventures from every angle, creating an immersive experience.
YouTubers, vloggers, and real estate agents often use these cameras to provide new angles and intense views for their viewers or clients. Some cameras can live stream, taking the editing process out of your hands. The quality of the video or photos will be slightly less, but you can instantly send your adventures out for others to see.
Q: Why would I want a 360 camera?
You would want a 360 camera to enhance the images and video that you take of your activities. In some cases, that could be skiing down mountain slopes or kayaking down rapids. For others, it could be taking photos of a day on the beach or at an aquarium. These cameras are also used to make virtual reality videos, allowing viewers to explore the image using their home computer or laptop.
The GoPro Max offers the best blend of video and image quality with durability and price. It’s a high performer that offers diverse uses and an intuitive interface. If you’re looking to save a few dollars purchasing the best 360 camera and you’re really only interested in still photography, the Ricoh Theta SC2 saves (quite) a few dollars. This model’s sturdy but portable build makes diving into 360 photography a pleasure.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.