What 360 camera should I buy?
People have been making 360-degree images for years, but recently a new breed of ‘360 cameras’ has hit the market promising to end the multiple exposures and hours of stitching frames together in Photoshop.
Such is their convenience, 360 cameras even remove the need to sweep your camera across a scene, which camera phones introduced as the last great innovation in this niche of photography several years ago.
With a dedicated 360 camera you can simply press the shutter button and, depending on the make and model you have, the camera will record your 360 scene with a single fisheye lens or two lens situated back to back.
We had a look at some of the best 360 cameras on the market to find out what they offer for photographers seeking a wider view of the world.
Garmin ViRB 360
A great all-rounder that might be the best consumer 360 camera on the market
- Dual 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS sensors
- 5.7K resolution
- In-camera stitching up to 4K
- Voice activation
- Built-in GPS
Garmin has quietly developed perhaps the best 360 camera on the market with the VIRB 360, offering a robust build quality, expansive feature set, ease of use and stellar image quality. Its 5.7K resolution is the highest res available at the consumer end of the market; however, for make spherical videos at this resolution you’ll need to use Garmin’s free VIRB Edit software to render the raw footage before sharing it.
Otherwise, the Garmin VIRB 360 stitches your 360 videos and images in-camera at up to 4K resolution, meaning you can share them instantly from your phone via the excellent companion app. Or if you don’t want to use the app, the VIRB 360 has an excellent voice command system allowing you to control the camera remotely and perform all of its functions.
Having tested a lot of 360 cameras, the Garmin VIRB 360 offers probably the best combination of image quality, build, portability, features and ease of use.
Like the talented athlete who has all the raw tools and is just waiting to put them all together
- Video resolution: 5.2K @ 30fps or 60fps @ 3K (3008 x 1504)
- Photo resolution: 18 megapixels
- Burst mode for still images up to 30fps
- Voice activation
- 360 audio
Deep breath. I’m including the GoPro Fusion on this list because it’s image quality is some of the best I’ve seen from any 360 camera. It’s also got an impeccable build quality and sits within that vast GoPro ecosystem with mounts and accessories for just about everything you might want to do with it.
But the GoPro Fusion has also been the most frustrating 360 camera I’ve used. It’s got so much potential, but is let down by some of the basics. I’ve had my Fusion nearly six months, and still I cannot use GoPro’s Android app to control it. Images and video aren’t stitched in-camera; you must render them in Fusion Studio, but the software is a bit of a mess. Video processing, even at lower resolutions on pro spec Macs, takes inordinately long compared to other cameras and software.
However, as I said, these are the basics, and GoPro is issuing regular firmware updates resolving some of these issues. So I’m putting my faith in GoPro and its track record with its action cameras that the Fusion is going to soon evolve into the best 360 camera on the market. It’s got the fundamentals down already; once the software around it comes up to speed, the Fusion will be a beast.
Ricoh Theta V
The best image quality of all of the super portable 360 cameras
- 4K video at 30fps
- 14-megapixel still images
- 360 livestreaming
- dual f/2.0 lenses
- dual 1/2.3-inch, 12-megapixel sensors
If the GoPro Fusion’s and Garmin VIRB 360’s 5.2K and 5.7K respective resolutions are just numbers to you, and if you’re not interested in upgrading your memory cards or computer and buying new storage drives to house 4GB 1-minute videos, let alone the higher price tag, then the Ricoh Theta V is probably the best 360 camera for you.
The Theta V is so small you can slip it in the pocket of a tight pair of jeans and not notice it’s there. Images are sharp and detailed, rich with colour and you can share them easily via the much-improved app. Ricoh has also added four new built-in microphones for better spatial audio and a range of new accessories, such as a microphone and an underwater casing.
A brilliant little all-rounder with one of the best apps and software you’ll find
- 2880×2880 4K video
- livestreaming capability
- timelapse video mode
- built-in GPS
- 1.5-hour battery life
The 360Fly 4K looks more like a crystal of Kryptonite from one of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies than it does a cutting-edge action camera. But don’t let looks deceive…
While it’s headline is that it can produce 2880×2880, spherical 4K video, the real story here is its amazing companion app, which allows users to live stream their content to a variety of platforms.
Other features include a time-lapse video mode allowing you to choose between .5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60-second shutter intervals and a robust design that’s waterproof down to 30m. It’s basically a golf-ball sized action camera that’s also still one of the best 360 cameras I’ve used still 18 months after its launch thanks to its incredible versatility.
The 360Fly 4K can also be set to automatically start recording video and still images based off movement and sounds, while an Accelerometer Activated Record Mode programs the camera to automatically begin filming when it detects acceleration.
Kodak PixPro 4KVR360 / Orbit360
A robust camera with a wide range of features that will surprise you with its versatility
- Dual 20MP CMOS Sensors
- Three Multi-View Angles:
– 360° Spherical / VR Mode
– 197° 4K Ultra Wide Mode
– 235° Dome Mode
- 4K video at 24/15fps
- High-Speed Video mode
We were a little surprised that the PixPro 4KVR360 / Orbit360 cracked our best 360 cameras list. But once you take it out of the box and get a feel for that build quality and attention to detail, its quality becomes apparent.
The Kodak PixPro 4KVR360 / Orbit360 4K offers a lot of nice features and is very user-friendly with a hybrid action camera design that offers a lot of versatility. If you’re looking to make the leap into 360 imaging, the PixPro 4KVR360 / Orbit360 4K is priced well and is a solid performer, if not the best.
YI 360 VR
The YI 360 VR offers the complete package in spec and portability
- 5.7K video at 30fps
- 4K livestreaming
- dual 220-degree f/2.0 lenses
- price tag just $399!
YI Technology out of China has been quietly producing some of the best action cameras on the market, causing some to even place them ahead of the vaulted GoPro Hero cameras in the pecking order of things. So when YI revealed its 360 VR camera with cutting edge specifications at a bargain basement price, the whole industry took note.
Our tests of this camera are still pending, but by all accounts we can expect stellar image quality and ease of use. What’s particularly exciting about the YI 360 VR is its 4K livestreaming capability, which is something we were hoping the GoPro Fusion would incorporate.
At its $399 price tag, the YI 360 VR is one of the cheapest cameras on this list and also boasts the best specifications. What’s the best 360 camera? Before we’ve reviewed it we can officially say the YI 360 VR is best. Instead we’ll just answer that question with: No comment.