A 360-degree camera can take more than just a photo, it can also capture a place’s atmosphere and mood, since you can look at the image with a VR headset and immerse yourself in the photo, with you being at the center. To date, many manufacturers have already released the second generation of their cameras.
Jump directly to a 360-degree camera
|Samsung Gear 360 (2017)||Kodak PixPro 4KVR360||Vuze|
|Ricoh Theta V||Insta360 One||Panono|
This is why 360-degree photos are so spectacular
Why get a 360-degree camera in the first place? Well, because the 360-degree photos you can take with them are impressive. At the touch of a button, you can take a full panorama picture and forever preserve the location’s atmosphere.
You can view photos taken with a 360 camera on your smartphone but the true value of the images only becomes really impressive when you put on some VR glasses.
With the Gear 360, Samsung has presented a manageable and good consumer camera for 360-degree photos and video. The 2017 successor is now set to outshine the first Gear 360, which it manages to do to a great extent. Its housing is ergonomically built and irons out some of the first generation’s weaknesses. The latest generation especially demonstrates its strengths when the camera is used without a smartphone. In fact, certain media actually use Samsung’s camera. You can view all the details about the Gear 360 (2017) in our review:
At $200 (at the time of writing this), the Gear 360 (2017) is quite affordable, and its predecessor has now dropped to $120.
The Ricoh Theta V is actually a new product. Ricoh has already been selling a 360-degree camera, the Theta, and it has now unveiled its successor. From a technical standpoint, it can now take 360-degree photos at a resolution of 5376 x 2688 pixels. On the video end, the new Theta V supports 4K recording at a resolution of 3840 x 1920 pixels – optionally compressed with h264 or h265. Furthermore, 4K live streams can be done via USB connection. The video frame rate for video recording is at a steady 29.97 fps.
Cleverly, in a few simple steps, the Theta V can turn into a remote control and stream images to your TV. Its position sensors allow you to control a cursor on the television. The whole thing worked well when I tried it out briefly, although I did detect a bit of lag.
The Insta360 One is currently only compatible with iPhone, but this should change soon because an Android-compatible version is in the works. Of course, the Insta360 One can take 360-degree photos and videos. Furthermore, there are live streaming options.
However, the bullet time shots are a big highlight. In such videos, the camera seems to fly around the subject while time stands still. In fact, the Insta360 One also flies around during bullet time shots. The trick lies in recording a slow-motion video, and then the accompanying rope is digitally removed from the image.
Kodak is a well-known giant in the camera market. And now there is a 360-degree camera from Kodak, the Kodak PixPro Orbit360. While normal 360-degree cameras use the same viewing angles with two lenses on both sides, Kodak uses two different focal lengths in the PixPro, making the camera suitable for many different shooting scenarios. It can film 360-degree panoramas or classic wide-angle films. All in all, the Kodak PixPro 4KVR360 is tailored toward athletes and users of conventional action cams.
The maximum picture resolution is 7360 x 3680, and it creates 360-degree videos in 3840 x 1920 at 24 fps. If you want to shoot at 30 frames per second, you need to seriously lower the resolution.
The Vuze is a 360-degree camera that can create 3D shots. To that end, it is equipped with two cameras in each of four directions, allowing it to create a 3D effect. The viewing experience is actually more immersive than in classic 360-degree cameras.
This is due to the fact that subjects – especially moving ones – clearly stand out from the background. As a result, the 3D experience is actually very clear and spatial, because depth information is available to the eye. Simple 360-degree cameras do not achieve this level of quality. From a technical standpoint, the Vuze uses eight Sony IMX408 sensors, which take 3D images in four directions. According to the manufacturer, the resolution of the recorded videos or photos is 4K per eye.
However, the Vuze is not a very affordable product: At $800, it's not a device you would just buy on a whim. However, for this price, you can do significantly more than with the usual consumer product that only takes 2D images in 360-degree mode.
With the Panono, we finally enter territory that would more likely appeal to professional users. The Panono takes 360-degree photos using 36 image sensors, making premium detail quality possible. The Panono does not offer video functionality. Instead of stitching images on the connected smartphone, the Panono cloud is used.
The smartphone app (available for Android and iOS) uploads the image data to the cloud and the panorama is calculated from the 36 individual pictures. It offers a great solution for sharing 360-degree images, since Panono allows for image sharing via a link or a simple embed code for site operators. It is also possible to download an image as a stitched JPEG.
The sample images from the Panono are impressively rich in detail. Of course, it is also due to the enormously high resolution – 108 megapixels. Even with a Gear VR, the images look better than many other 360-degree images that you would otherwise see. You can tell that the pictures still have quality reserves for higher resolution VR glasses.
Naturally, the Panono is by no means a bargain at over $2000. However, there are currently few alternatives for sophisticated 360-degree photography. For anyone wishing to have it shipped to the US, you might have to add a fee so it's worth checking that out first.
The Insta360 Pro enters an even higher price range - it costs $3499. This 360-degree camera stands out due to the fact that it can take three-dimensional 360-degree videos with its three lenses. However, that in itself is not enough: There are numerous live streaming options and editing features through PC and Mac software. Optical Flow Stitching is exceptionally practical, which sees Insta360 reducing stitching errors to a minimum, since the stitching algorithm can correct errors using recognizable optical structures. Conventional static stitching mostly makes do with using previously determined image overlaps for merging.
Even the technical specs are very gratifying. The camera takes pictures at a resolution of 7680 x 3840 pixels – both stereoscopically, or using a 3D effect, and non-stereoscopically. Users can choose whether the camera stitches in real time or whether it will be carried out during post-production. The maximum resolution for classic 360-degree videos is at 7680 x 3840 pixels at 30 fps, although this is only possible if the stitching is performed on a PC. In real time, the limit is 3840 x 1920 pixels and 30 fps.
Verdict: 360-degree photography and videography requires different imagery
There is a plethora of 360-degree cameras, and they are brilliantly suited to create personalized, immersive content. Vacation memories or the city architecture emerge in a life-like manner with VR glasses. Consumer cameras provide the basics for this, but the images cannot compete with normal smartphone photos or large cameras from a quality standpoint. In the end, you have to find your own imagery for 360-degree content, and not even the best technology can help you with this.
People with high demands for quality have no choice but to use expensive solutions such as Vuze, Panono or Insta360 Pro. In particular, videos in this price category also suffer from blurry details from time to time.
The issue of showing and sharing content is only selectively solved. Although there are services like Google Photos, it is not always the first choice. Panono uses its own cloud services - including all the advantages and disadvantages that it entails.
Do you have a 360-degree camera? Or is classic photography with a smartphone or camera enough for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!