Why only record what is happening before your eyes? With the best 360 cameras, you can film everything around you, which makes for an incredibly impressive experience, especially if you use a VR headset. But the best 360 cameras have another trick: Super smooth video. That’s because they can see the horizon and automatically align your video no matter how bumpy it is. Try this with a normal action camera and see what happens.
Best 360 Cameras
Since their first iterations three or more years ago, 360 cameras have come a long way. Not only are they smaller, but companies have added more sophisticated technology so you can track people and objects no matter where they move around you.
1. Insta360 One X
When it comes to the best 360 cameras, Insta360 has been a pioneer in this category, developing not only new hardware designs but also innovative software and features. Insta360 One X is the best 360 camera because it combines the best of both. The Insta360 One X has a sleek, rectangular shape that makes it easy to slip in and out of your pocket. Although it has a tripod mount, it is just as easy to hold in your hand. The controls are simple: one button to record and one button to scroll through the menus.
The One X has an updated image stabilization function that makes even the bumpiest videos look fluid. It can record 5.7k video (5760 x 2880) at 30 fps and 4K video at up to 50 fps. The FlowState image stabilization algorithm ensures smooth shots, and the TimeShift function lets you slow down or speed up certain segments of your videos. The One X can connect to Android or iOS devices via Wi-Fi or USB, and you can even stream video live.
2. GoPro Hero Max
Unlike most 360 cameras, the GoPro Hero Max has a small screen on the back that lets you see what its cameras are watching. Although it’s not as convenient as it looks, the large screen makes it easy to navigate and change settings on the GoPro Hero Max without having to use your smartphone. The GoPro Hero Max also features HyperSmooth stabilization, which ensures smooth and pleasant video, and the camera’s image quality – up to a maximum resolution of 5.6K/30 fps – meets GoPro’s typically high standards.
In addition, the GoPro application is packed with features, including the ability to stream live video from the Max. However, the design of the GoPro Hero Max requires the use of a selfie stick and lacks a tripod stand, so you must use it with one of GoPro’s accessories. At $499, that’s about $100 more than the Insta360 One X, but the GoPro Max is certainly one of the best 360 cameras.
3. Insta360 One
The iPhone has one of the best cameras for smartphones, but it can’t take 360-degree pictures or videos. The Insta360 One solves this problem; it plugs into your iPhone’s Lightning port and allows you to capture everything around you at up to 4K resolution. (The company also makes a version of the Insta360 One for Android smartphones.) When plugged into your smartphone, the Insta360 One uses the phone’s screen as a viewfinder and allows you to adjust camera settings, live streaming to Facebook and YouTube, and more.
But the Insta360 One can also be used without your smartphone and has a “bullet time” function that allows you to make Matrix movies. In addition, the camera is equipped with Insta360 Stream Stabilization, which prevents your video from looking too agitated and nervous. Finally, the Insta360 application has a number of smart editing tools to make the most of your 360-degree video. Overall, this is one of the best 360 cameras.
4. Ricoh Theta Z1
One of the problems with 360 cameras is that because of their relatively small sensor size, they don’t perform well when it comes to low-light photography and video. If you need a 360 camera for this purpose – and the price is not an issue – then you should consider the Ricoh Theta Z1. This well-designed camera uses two 1-inch CMOS sensors, backlit from the back, which provide some of the best images we’ve seen with a 360 camera, especially in less than ideal conditions.
In addition, the Theta Z1 is equipped with two microphones, which provides excellent sound, and the stabilization of the camera’s movements is also very effective. The Z1 uses an Android operating system, and Ricoh lets third-party developers create plug-ins for the camera, which increases its functionality. However, the camera lacks expandable memory, its battery has a relatively short life span, and two different applications must be used if one wants to edit photos or videos. But if you give priority to image quality, this is the camera for you.
5. Samsung Gear 360
Samsung was one of the first companies to make a really useful 360 camera, and although it hasn’t released anything new for several years, its 2017 Gear 360 camera is still a pretty useful and functional camera. The Gear 360 has a fun, lollipop-like shape that makes it easy to hold in one hand, and can even withstand a few splashes. It’s also equipped with a tripod mount if you want to attach it to your bike or something else.
The Gear 360 takes great photos and videos (up to 4K) and also streams live images to Facebook and YouTube. However, there are some big caveats: It only works with Samsung smartphones (starting with the Galaxy S6), and although it works with iPhone 7 and later, not all camera functions are supported. If you have a Samsung smartphone, the Gear 360 is a fun accessory. Overall, this is one of the best 360 cameras.
6. Kandao QooCam 8K 360
The QooCam 8K is the best 360 camera of the moment for image quality. A massive 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor (according to 360 standards), 10-bit color, and, of course, this 8K resolution is the guarantee. Regarding the quality of its photos and videos, the QooCam 8K is unrivaled on the 360º market. The pictures have a lot of colors and contrasts, which has nothing to do with what we have seen before with a camera like this one.
The ability to spit out a beautiful picture from a 360º video is welcome, while the detail, sharpness, and fluidity of the video – whether it is 360º or reduced to a widescreen – make the QooCam 8K a giant step forward for creative filmmakers. It has an audible fan, but the battery life is not long and it is not waterproof without a case. It’s also quite expensive. Overall, this is one of the best 360 cameras.
7. Vuze XR
Here is now an interesting 360-degree camera. Not only does the Vuze XR take 360-degree photos and videos, but its two cameras can exit, parallel to each other, so you can take stereoscopic images and videos at 180 degrees as well. If you’ve ever used a VR headset, these types of images add real depth. We liked the simplicity of the Vuze XR’s mechanism – one press of a button opens both cameras – as well as the robustness of the camera itself.
We also liked the design of the camera, which resembles a pacifier; its integrated handle makes it easy to use and carry. In general, the Vuze XR also delivers quality images and movies, but it has had problems in low light conditions, and we would have liked its desktop application to be more complete. Overall, this is one of the best 360 cameras.
8. Garmin VIRB 360
The Garmin Virb is a rugged action camera that is waterproof to a depth of 10m and comes with clip-on cradles for a regular tripod mount and a GoPro mount. You can operate it as a stand-alone camera via a small mono display and three multi-function buttons, or you can control it via the VIRB application. VIRB’s still images have medium sharpness, but with very few color bangs and well-mixed seams where the two hemispherical images are stitched together.
Its capture at 5.7K should give better results, but this requires a computer. Stitching in the application is limited to 4K, but the application’s HyperFrame Director provides simple but effective tools for adding smooth panning and angle changes to create separate standalone movies for saving and sharing. Built-in GPS and G-Metrix sensors also provide data overlays for extreme sports enthusiasts who want their viewers to see this additional data. Overall, this is one of the best 360 cameras.
9. Ricoh Theta V
The Ricoh Theta V is immediately sympathetic. Its tall, slim shape is perfect for holding in one hand without obscuring any of the lenses, and you have easy access to the controls. They are very simple and you don’t need the smartphone app to start shooting. You set the Theta V to photo or video mode and press the shutter button to capture the image – and that’s all there is to it. The smartphone app is just as simple. Overall, this is one of the best 360 cameras.
You can browse through the images on the camera and those already transferred to the app, and just press a file on the camera to view it to start the transfer and delete the image from the camera’s memory – and since it’s set to 19 GB, that’s probably just as well. The application has basic but effective VR viewing options, and there’s a separate Theta+ application for editing your images. The quality of the still image is very good, and the video is not bad either, although there are some strong purple bangs where the two hemispheres meet.
10. GoPro Fusion
The GoPro Fusion is now discontinued – but you may now find it discounted at very low prices in some places, and for that reason, it’s worth considering. It’s thinner than the Garmin VIRB 360 and, like its other action cam rivals, it’s waterproof, but only up to a depth of 5m. With a maximum video resolution of 5.2K, the Fusion uses a feature called OverCapture to enable the extraction of ordinary “flat” Full HD movies from its spherical images.
The extra resolution can be used either by the companion smartphone application or by the free downloadable GoPro Fusion Studio software. The QuickCapture button allows you to start recording with a single press, even if the camera is off, and a Photo button allows you to do the same. You can also use voice commands to start and stop recordings and add highlight tags to find key moments later. Like other 360 cameras, the Fusion is actually two cameras back-to-back. Overall, this is one of the best 360 cameras.