360-degree cameras are a whole new way to create digital content. Using a camera that shoots a full 360-degree video enables viewers to see the entire area you’ve been filming – ‘in the round’ if you like. It’s a surprisingly easy thing to do too, with several 360-degree cameras on the market that are ideal for the job, even if you’re only just starting out.
To enjoy your output the resulting content can be viewed on everything from Virtual Reality headsets through to mobile phones. Facebook and Youtube also have 360-degree video players, making the whole thing an inclusive experience. However, you can also now produce cut-down 350º videos and photos as regular widescreen content. However, it’s vital to get the right kit so that your end result is memorable. We’ve rounded up the best 360-degree cameras to let you do just that.
How to buy a 360-degree camera
As is the case with any newish technology, you’ll find that the 360-degree camera range is a developing one. A cheap and cheerful solution might seem like a good idea based on their low price tag, but video quality lacks punch as a result.
There’s currently a resolution ‘battle’ going on between the main brands – GoPro, Insta360, Ricoh and QooCam – with the latter now capable of 8K quality. However, even the QooCam 8K camera comes with drawbacks, and it may be worth investigating the smaller and more travel-friendly models that mostly achieve 5.7K resolution.
Always bear in mind that it’s more about the quality of the execution than the quality itself. That’s something that only practice will really let you achieve over time. Done badly, 360-degree video can look amateurish, so it’s important to use a camera that can handle less than ideal shooting scenarios too. Waterproof 360-degree cameras are a real boon, but you’ll want to look out for those with selfie sticks, which make vlogging-style content easier to create.
Controlling your video capture and accessing the resulting footage is best done using a Wi-Fi hotspot from the camera that will connect with your phone, though some now have preview screens on the products that aid the composition and reviewing of footage. A companion app then allows you to edit and share anything you’ve shot.
Depending on your skill level and shooting requirements, any one of the following five best 360-degree cameras will fit the bill.
The best 360-degree cameras you can buy
Replacing the excellent One X, the Insta360 One X2 is our pick for the best 360-degree camera all round right now. This waterproof, pocket-sized powerhouse can add a real wow factor to all kinds of video and imagery, with the second-gen model introducing new modes for vlogging and instant panoramic photos. A comprehensive editing suite offers options for everything from third-person perspective video to time-lapses, freeze-frames, 'smart track' face recognition and much more besides – although be aware that editing on your phone will sap your battery pretty quicky). That niggle aside, this is a 360º camera that will exceed the expectations of anyone trying to do something new and expansive-looking without the need for drones and a camera crew.
Read our full Insta360 One X2 review
This is GoPro’s second effort at creating a 360º camera, and the rugged, waterproof GoPro Max does a great job of bringing the same levels of intuitive use found on its flagship camera, the Hero 8 Black, to the 360º format. At the forefront is some effective image stabilisation called Hypersmooth, which together with its 360º handheld TimeWarp time lapse sequences and SuperView shooting formats equal a 360º camera that creative filmmakers will love. Its polished apps also make it simple to edit and upload videos on the go. The only drawback is, of course, its 5.6K resolution, which leave it looking slightly behind some of its rivals. It weighs 154g.
Can’t decide between straight 4K video and a 360º panorama? Cue the water resistant Insta360 One R Twin Edition, a uniquely modular ‘adaptive’ device that gives you the option of both formats. It’s comprised of a small battery case that you snap-on a processor module (which also hosts a touchscreen that makes composing easy) and either a 360º or 4K lens to total about 121g, though also available is an all-new 5.3K module with a 1-inch sensor developed with Leica. If the interchangeable lens concept is genius, so is usability, with the processor module – which hosts the touchscreen – easily reversible for selfies and vlog-style videos. Capturing video in 4K widescreen or 360º in 5.7K resolution, it all works very well save for a few stitching errors in 360º videos and photos.
Here’s the first consumer-style 360º camera that can shoot 8K resolution. Although it’s heavier than most 360º cameras, the 228g QooCam 8K captures 7680x3840 pixels. That means that you can record everything in hi-res 360º then reframe it later to regular widescreen shape without losing much sharpness. It’s also got a 2.4-inch colour OLED touchscreen and can capture in 4K slo-mo, something rivals can’t match. It’s an optional extra, but QooCam’s selfie stick is recommended for vlogging; it automatically gets edited-out of photos and videos. Its massive 1/1.7’’ CMOS sensors also enable 10-bit colour, so this is a step-up for the 360º market that will put pressure on the likes of GoPro and Insta360 to rethink their next products.
Here’s an excellent-quality 360º shooter ideal for occasional users. The flagship product in Ricoh’s line-up of 360º cameras, the Z1 has a 1-inch CMOS image sensor able to capture 360º video and photos in 6720x3360 pixels. That’s 7K, which is impressive for such a small device, though it does come with some limitations.
For starters, 360º video is actually output as a 4K video file, while inside is a mere 19GB of storage, and unlike all other 360º cameras from rival brands, you can’t add your own memory card. However, if you’re after occasional, and top quality, 360º videos and photos that excel on colour and in low light, the 182g Z1 is eminently travel-friendly.
GoPro knows a thing or two about the action camera market and has extended its range to include the beefy 360 Fusion. This robust unit records pristine 5.2K video at 30 frames per second or 3K quality as 60fps. Adding extra appeal is the capacity for using GoPro developed OverCapture software that delivers 16:9 video too.
Inside the rugged casing there is also GPS, an accelerometer, gyroscope and a compass too. You get full connectivity including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth plus groovy 3D audio. This dazzling array of features is supplemented with the mounting flexibility of being a GoPro, which means it can be attached to just about anything, plus there’s waterproof capability down to 5metres. That full feature set might be more than a beginner will ever need however.
The Insta360 One is a camera for the more adventurous 360-degree shooter. It’s a bit like a cheaper version of the GoPro Fusion, mostly because it packs the FreeCapture mode for turning your 360-degree footage into 16:9 aspect ratio standard video. There’s also the curio that is Bullet Time, which delivers fast frame-rate slow-motion footage for those with a desire to be a tad artistic. However, it also boasts more conventional charms including being able to produce chunky 24-megapixel stills and the Raw file format is offered too. We also like the practical tripod thread in the body and that 3840 x 1920 at 30fps capture quality looks pretty good to us too.
Think of the Samsung Gear 360 (2017) as a modded version of an earlier incarnation and it’s a perfect entry-level 360-degree camera that’ll let you dabble in immersive video without too much financial outlay. Sure, the 4096 x 2048 at 24fps maximum video resolution isn’t always the best, but the device is light (130grams), likeable and incredibly portable too. Of course, there are other benefits, with the main plus being that it’s a cinch to use thanks to the supporting app. Battery life is pretty good with a running time of around 2 hours and you can edit and share content with ease thanks to the way it works in harmony with a raft of devices. Being a Samsung means it can also be teamed up with the Gear VR headset, for a truly ‘in the round’ experience.
Garmin might be really good at producing sat-navs and high-tech timepieces but it’s also done a very good job with the VIRB 360. It feels bulkier than rival models, due to its 160gram weight and meaty design lines. However, the bonus with that is you get 360-degree video capture with resolution up to 5.7K. So with 2880 x 2880 (x2) at 30fps at your disposal, plus 15-megapixel stills you’ve got a formidable shooter. Add immersive audio from the four microphone arrangement along with GPS, a gyroscope and accelerometer and you have a bit of a monster. Capture quality is excellent, there’s a neat stitching feature within Garmin’s own VIRB Edit software and the unit is waterproof into the bargain.
Ricoh was one of the first to join the 360-degree camera collective and has been developing the Theta nicely with each successive release. Central to its appeal is the compact and bijou design, which weighs just 121grams. Considering its fairly small dimensions the technology packed inside allows you to squeeze 4K video – 3840 x 1920 at 30fps - plus live streaming from its Android-based innards. On top of that, there are quad microphones too, which delivers an immersive audio experience. You’ll get around 80 minutes of use from the battery, while Wi-Fi and Bluetooth mean you can edit and share with no cable hassles and the supporting app is easy enough to get your head around.