Best 360-Degree Camera 2017

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Capture the World, All Around You

The 360-degree camera – the new gadget tech geeks yearn to have. If you in any way have a social presence, it’s not enough today to show 2d images of just what’s in front of you.

To step up from the thousands of other social media celebrities, the 360-degree camera is going to allow you to capture your scenery of wherever you are in its entirety. There are so many choices in the market now, with varying price points for you to choose one you are comfortable with.

 

  Insta360 Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K Nikon KeyMission 360 Ricoh Theta S Samsung Gear 360 (2017)
 Image Insta360 360 VR Camera Insta360 Air (Micro USB) - CINMAIR/B, Black, compact Kodak PIXPRO SP360 4K Premier Pack VR Camera  Nikon KeyMission 360  Ricoh Theta S Digital Camera (Black)  Samsung Gear 360 SM-R210 (2017 Edition) Spherical Cam 360 degree 4K Camera (International Version) 
Video Resolution   1080p  720p, 1080p, 480p, 4K, 2.7K 1080p, 4K 720p, 1080p  4K, 2.7K
Dimensions 1.5 x 1.5 1 x 1.5 inches 1.9 x 2 x 2.1 inches 2.4 x 2.4 x 2.6 inches 5.1 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches 3.9 x 1.8 x 1.8 inches
Weight 1 oz 4.5  oz 7 oz 4.4 oz 4.6 oz
Read Reviews Insta360 Reviews Kodak Pixpro SP260 Reviews Nikon KeyMission 360 Reviews Ricoh Theta S Reviews Samsung Gear 360 Reviews

What are you using your 360-degree camera for?

If you’re an outdoorsy, action person, you’re going to need a 360 cam that is tough, rugged, and all-weather proof. You would want it to be able to be mounted on your helmet or chest harness.

If most of your use are going to be indoors, you can probably save a little bit on getting a not so rugged option. Some of the cheaper ones we’ve tested are very small in size and can be plugged straight into your smartphone, but the image quality isn’t as great as the cameras with larger lenses and image sensors.

If you have the money for it, the Insta360 Pro is the most impressive. At $3,499.00 (as of October 20, 2017 - 9:29 pm), you’ll be paying for 8 lenses that capture 360 and 360 3D, ultra high definition VR. I mean, check out the video quality here, it’s unbelievable!

Should you go 4K?

It’s common now to see camcorders shoot in 4K quality, a format that packs a whopping 8MP of detail into each individual frame. You’ll find 360-degree cameras that shoot in 4K as well, only those pixels are stretched across a sphere rather than being limited to 16:9 video frame. At this high level of detail, you’ll get a natural 360 view of all the objects in the screen, including those that are far away from the lens.

If you shoot less than 2k, say a 1920 by 960 pixels, there’s just not enough detail captured to present a clear, crisp 360 video image that our HD generation is used to. However, if you’re just getting started with all this 360 business, there are decent 2K models with nice images, especially if you’re just capturing stills.

Reception at the Avant Garden #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Ricoh Theta S, $326.95, Amazon.com

Stitching your scene together

Your 360-degree camera shoots using multiple lenses. To view the this seamlessly, the images captured will have to be stitched together. Sometimes, this done within the camera itself, like the Nikon KeyMission 360, and some others will need a software on the editing computer, like Samsung Gear 360.

Nikon KeyMission 360, Theta S, $496.95, Amazon.com

The technology isn’t perfect yet

Keep in mind, we’re not yet at the level of capturing absolutely perfect 360-degrees shots. Even with the most expensive of models, objects that are too close, moving to the side at a certain angle, are bound to disappear momentarily into to void. Lenses are supposed to blend adjacent images to create a seamless image, but we have yet to see a  360 camera that does this flawlessly in all situations.

Once stitched into equirectangular projection, you can now edit the video as any normal video file. The most up-to-date version of the Adobe Premiere Pro handles 360-degree footage wonderfully, giving you an option to output it into a format that can go directly onto Facebook or Youtube.

Viewing 360-degree footage

You have a few ways of viewing 360 degrees VR videos: i) clicking and dragging with your mouse to pan the scenery, ii) tilting and panning around with your phone or tablet, or iii) using a VR headset to immersively view the 360 scenery.

Summary

Out of all the 360-degree cameras we looked at, we discovered that the Nikon KeyMission 360 gives you a very high-quality video, but it costs quite a fair bit and can’t really be used as a standard 16:9 action camera. The Samsung Gear 360 (2017 version) is affordable and can double as a 16:9 camera, but it’s really currently limited to Samsung Android phones. It does have an iOS app, but for now it’s too buggy to be in any way enjoyable for iPhone users.

We predict the technology to progress quickly, but if you’re eager to jump into the 360 space and really must get your hands on a 360-degree camera, there are a few options to consider.

Insta360 Air

If you’re looking for an affordable option to add 360-degree video capture ability to your Android phone, the Insta360 Air is at the right price point. People absolutely love this for its stills, but expect a little of glitches sometimes when it gets too video heavy.

Insta360 360 VR Camera Insta360 Air (Micro USB) - CINMAIR/B, Black, compact

 

Kodak PIXPRO SP360 4K

PIXPRO is one of the earlier 360-degree cameras to add 4K recording capabilities. If you’re eager to an early adopter, this is an affordable one to go 4K with. Be aware, it might be a bit cumbersome and takes a bit of figuring out, especially on how to stitch the footage from different lenses together, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it.

Kodak PIXPRO SP360 4K Premier Pack VR Camera

Nikon KeyMission 360

You’ll be pleased with the KeyMission 360’s ability to change out batteries when it runs out of life. Having spare battery juice you can swap quickly really helps. Accessories are top quality, for example, the monopod that bundles with this is as solid as a police baton.

Nikon KeyMission 360

 

Ricoh Theta S

With only 4 buttons on this thing, it is ridiculously easy to use. When you physically press the shutter on the Ricoh Theta S, the response is instantaneous and you’ll capture the scene without any lag. But, without a viewfinder you won’t be able to see what you’re capturing. The only way to see what’s in the shot is to use the phone app, with which you might find a minimal lag (about 1 second).

Ricoh Theta S Digital Camera (Black)

 

Samsung Gear 360 (2017 Version)

The new Samsung Gear 360 is the perfect match if you own a Samsung phone, but you’re still out of luck if you’re an iOS (app still a bit buggy). You can do 360-degree live streaming with this, which is pretty cool. Lenses are positioned even better in this version to reduce stitching issues.

Samsung Gear 360 (2017 Edition) Real 360° 4K VR Camera (US Version with Warranty)

All prices are last updated on 2017-10-21 / Product images credit: Amazon.com

Maya Leighton

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Maya Leighton

Best known for her gadget coverage, Maya has written hundreds of tech reviews — scrutinizing every small details for brilliant review pieces. Maya is a fixture at every major tech announcement event and has never missed a single CES.

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