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.
Best 360 cameras: 01 KeyMission 360
Nikon’s first venture into the action camera genre arrived in the form of the distinctive KeyMission 360. And what a debut it was.
Nikon’s flagship 360 camera boasts two large lenses on either side of its compact body. Those two 1.6mm Nikkor f/2.0 lenses front the two ½.3-inch RGB CMOS image sensors.
Image data from these is combined to produce the spherical 360º 4K/ (3840 x 2160) video or 23.9mp photos.
Connectivity is one of the cameras big features and to that end if has every trending type, including Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth version 4.1 and NFC.
This connectivity leads to the SnapBridge 360/170 app for mobile devices and KeyMission 360/170 Utility for PC. These applications enable you to control and view your video as well as edit and share.
Best 360 cameras: 02 Ricoh Theta SC
Ricoh’s Theta line of 360 cameras has proved popular since its launch in 2013, and the new mid-class Ricoh Theta SC aims to be the company’s big seller in this ever-increasing market.
The Ricoh Theta SC is actually comprised of two cameras, and inside each is a 1/2.3-inch type, 12-million-pixel image sensor. Internal processing within the Theta SC then merges images or video from these two sensors into one 360-degree picture.
And the Theta SC also features dual f/2 lenses: one facing forwards and another facing backwards.
The Ricoh Theta SC can record Full HD video at 30 frames per second, and offers 8GB internal memory, which is large enough to store 1600 images or more than an hour of HD video.
Best 360 cameras: 03 360Fly 4K
Announced at CES in 2016, the 360FLy 4K finally debuted in July, looking more like a crystal of Kryptonite from one of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies than it did a cutting-edge action camera. But don’t let looks deceive…
While it’s headline at CES was that the 360fly 4K camera can produce 2880×2880, 360-degree 4K video, the real story here is its amazing companion app, LIVIT, 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.
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.
Best 360 cameras: 04 Samsung Gear 360
It may look like a giant eyeball, but when you think about it… it kind of is.
The Samsung Gear 360 is a large sphere about the size of a billiards ball that boasts dual 180-degree cameras.
Within each camera is a 15-megapixel CMOS sensor, meaning the Samsung Gear 360 can produce 30-megapixel still images that measure a staggering 7,776 x 3,888 pixels.
Other features include bright, f/2.0 lenses, 3840 x 1920 video resolution and a nice feature where you can pair up your Galaxy smartphone via Bluetooth, then use Wi-Fi Direct to transform your phone’s screen into a handy remote viewfinder, as well as transfer files.
Best 360 cameras: 05 Insta360 Air
One of the more portable 360 cameras on this list, the Insta360 Air is the company’s new smartphone camera that captures immersive 360-degree HD images and videos, which can be live-streamed or shared instantly on social media.
The Insta360 Air is designed for Android devices (sorry Apple users) and allows users to share images and videos with one-click uploads to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Messenger and WhatsApp.
Inside the 360 camera is a 210-degree dual fish-eye-lens, which employs real-time image stitching to capture the whole of a scene.
What’s more, a built-in image stabilisation algorithm helps the Insta360 Air capture smooth panoramas, while a dedicated app enables you to edit your 360-degree images and video.
The Insta360 Air also has a virtual reality mode so that users can create fully immersive experiences for their VR headsets.