Unlike some other tech blog rankings, our best 360° cameras list is not affiliated with any 360° camera manufacturer. Our rankings are based solely on our experiences with the cameras and are thus 100% independent.
Three-sixty photography and videography is constantly evolving. As hardware becomes more and more accessible, it’s easy to get lost amid the plethora of options on the market.
We’ll start by giving an overview of the technology behind 360° cameras and follow up with a list of the best devices on the market right now (mid-2021).
A closer look at 360° cameras
What is a 360° camera?
Three-sixty cameras can capture static scenes (360° photos) and innovative action sequences (360° videos), which cannot be shot with a conventional, 2D camera. No matter where you point the camera, you won’t miss any part of the surrounding environment because the capture is spherical. Hence the name 360° camera.
How does a 360° camera work?
Imagine the recorded scene, not as a flat rectangle, but as the inner surface of a sphere. When viewing a photo or video in a 360° player, you are looking out from the center of that sphere, navigating the inner surface by dragging the image. Try clicking and dragging the photo in the Panoraven player below.
That’s the software part. How does the device physically capture this sphere? Three-sixty cameras, like traditional cameras, use flat sensors. But unlike their conventional counterparts, 360° cameras employ two back-to-back fisheye lenses, each capturing 180° of the environment. The camera merges these two hemispherical images to produce a spherical view.
A 360° image is, by definition, static. You can navigate the image at will, focusing on any portion of the virtual environment.
360° videos are more sophisticated. While you do have the freedom to watch any region, the action of the video continues regardless of your point of view. This means that it is possible to look in the “wrong” direction at a significant moment and miss the action that the videographer wanted to highlight. For this reason, we advise purchasing a photo rather than a video solution if your professional activity allows.
What does 360° technology offer your business?
Three-sixty cameras provide several shooting options. Quite popular are panoramic photos and videos, which are viewed through a specific player. Scroll up to see the player we are developing.
Three-sixty filming also affords a creative way to shoot classic “flat” videos. Recording the entire scene allows you to follow any subject during post-production. Since the camera covers all possible shots, you don’t need to frame the subject precisely, a definite advantage over a conventional camera.
These innovative cameras are revolutionizing the way companies present their products and services. Virtual tours of professional environments and simulated displays of merchandise are increasingly common. Want to leverage the technology for your business, but don’t know where to start? Read our guide to VR and 360° photography.
On the other hand, if you’ve already decided to invest in one of these technological gems, you’ve come to the right place. Our team specializes in 360° production, and we are passionate about our field. To understand what the market offered, we reviewed a slew of cameras that covered a range of applications.
This guide is the fruit of our in-house testing. (To deliver the best advice on this dynamic market, we regularly update our rankings [Mid 2021].) Without further ado, the top 360° cameras available today!
The best 360 cameras on the market right now
Insta360 ONE X2: the best option for most
Price: $429 | Weight: 149 g | Dimensions: 113 x 462 x 29.8 mm | Waterproof: 10 m | Photo resolution: 18.5 MP | Video resolution: 5.7K | Memory: MicroSD (not included) | Mount: Tripod socket | Battery life: 80 minutes
Fitting the needs of most users, the Insta360 ONE X2 is one of the best 360° cameras overall. Indeed, the ONE X2 provides the most advanced software and features on the market, in addition to boasting quality hardware.
The camera can take 360° photos at a resolution of 6080 x 3040. The photo rendering is precise, and the HDR function allows you to obtain excellent colorimetric results, even in low light.
On the video side, the ONE X2 has an impressive image stabilization feature, which will make the most chaotic videos look smooth. It can capture 5.7K (5760 x 2880) video at 30 fps and 4K video at 50 fps. The FlowState image stabilization algorithm allows for smooth shots, while the TimeShift tool enables you to slow down or speed up video segments quite efficiently.
The Insta360 ONE X2 differs from the ONE X in several aspects. Heavier than its predecessor (which remains a good product for the price), the ONE X2 resists water down to 10 meters (33 feet) and has a longer battery life of up to 80 minutes. The camera also features a circular touchscreen that lets you preview videos/photos and change settings on the fly.
If you are considering the ONE X2, remember to buy the extra protective cap. It’s a shame that the case is not a standard accessory since daily handling makes it essential.
The Insta360 ONE X2 is a great camera that is very versatile. It has well earned its position among the best 360° cameras, and we recommend it to all amateurs and professionals who do not need super high quality. A 360° tech enthusiast, I use this camera every day.
|Excellent image stabilization||Relative heaviness|
|Waterproof body||Somewhat tedious video editing process|
|Good color and photo/video detail||No included protective case|
RICOH THETA Z1: the choice for pro photography
Price: $ 999 | Weight: 182 g | Dimensions: 133 x 48 x 30 mm | Waterproof: No | Photo resolution: 6720 x 3360 | Video resolution: 4K | Memory: 19 or 51 GB | Mount: Tripod socket | Battery life: Approximately 60 minutes
Released in 2019, the RICOH THETA Z1 is still competitive and deserves its place in our ranking. The company usually designs a new 360° camera every year, but that schedule couldn’t be met this year for obvious reasons. Therefore, RICOH will probably release the Z2 in 2022. As a consolation, the Z1 benefited from an update in May 2021, which increased the internal memory from 19 GB to 51 GB.
The THETA Z1 can capture 23 MP (6720 x 3360 px) photos and 4K videos, but the image quality is much greater than these numbers suggest. Thanks to its 1-inch sensors – larger than other 360° cameras – the Z1 shoots high-resolution photos and videos with excellent dynamic range.
No doubt, photo quality is the crowning glory of the THETA Z1. Compared to other 360° cameras, the Z1 produces better raw photos and gives you more control over the exposure. Under low light conditions, it is superior to other models. In fact, we prefer the Z1 over the QooCam, which has a higher resolution on paper, precisely because the Z1 is more reliable in terms of photo rendering, especially in low-light situations.
But the THETA Z1 has a drawback: price. At $999, it remains too expensive for most amateurs. Moreover, the camera has not decreased in price since its release two years ago. Logic would have that the Z1 be more accessible ($200-$300 less), and we regret that this is not the case.
Still, the THETA Z1 did receive an upgrade to its internal memory, which had been a meager 19 GB. The added storage made filming possible, but 51 GB is not much when it comes to videography. Even my Insta360 ONE X2, which carried a 64 GB card, benefitted from a memory upgrade to a 128 GB card. Therefore, because of its limited capacity, the Z1 is not the best camera for shooting 360° video.
Finally, note that the THETA Z1 isn’t waterproof, making it unsuitable for shooting aquatic and other extreme sports.
If you have the budget and want to shoot professional 360° photos (e.g., virtual tours), you should seriously consider the RICOH THETA Z1. Provided that photo quality and rendering consistency are your priorities, this camera is a great choice.
|Exceptional photo quality||High price tag|
|Auto HDR mode||Built-in 51GB memory – no Micro SD slot|
Kandao QooCam 8K – image quality above the rest
Price: $599 | Weight: 245 g | Dimensions: 179 x 57 x 33 mm | Waterproof: No | Photo resolution: 29.5 MP | Video resolution: 7.7K | Memory: 64 GB plus MicroSD (not included) | Mount: Tripod socket| Battery life: About 60 minutes
Released in 2020, the QooCam continues to be one of the best 360° cameras in 2021. This is mainly due to its ability to take 8K shots, which sets it apart from competitors in the same price range.
However, no device is perfect, and the QooCam suffers a few minor defects. Fortunately, these issues do not significantly impact image or video quality. Kandao is also very active in resolving any bugs in the internal software. Since the launch of the QooCam, the company has released numerous firmware updates for the camera.
On the technical side, the QooCam 8K integrates two large, 20 MP back-to-back sensors, each capable of capturing 200° of view. While the quality does not compare to that of expensive cameras intended for seasoned professionals, Kandao is taking steps in that direction. Another highlight of the QooCam is a longer lifespan than other models with similar prices. Longevity and technical competitiveness make this camera a wise investment.
Note that in addition to a MicroSD slot, the camera has an internal memory of 64 GB. Native storage is valuable because you can easily forget to remove the MicroSD from your computer; I’ve done it myself.
One downside of the QooCam 8K is the noise of the internal fan and the lack of waterproofing. (It is possible to buy a separate waterproof shell.) Several users have reported that the lens is somewhat fragile. Furthermore, although you can connect an external power bank, the battery life remains rather short. In defense of the QooCam, higher energy consumption is not unreasonable, given the quality of the photos and videos.
Finally, the autofocus can be erratic. In a few cases, we had to capture several 360° photos before we were satisfied. For a professional application, where you can’t afford to waste time on finicky functions, the QooCam lacks the needed dependability.
In conclusion, the QooCam 8K is the camera for amateurs and semiprofessionals, non-sportsmen who want the best photos and videos at a reasonable price. If you are not obsessed with quality, pick the Insta360 ONE X2 or, if you have the budget, the RICOH THETA Z1.
|8K videos and photos||Loud internal fan – excessive heat gain|
|64 GB internal memory plus MicroSD slot||Relatively short battery life|
|4K slow motion at 120 fps||Sensitive lenses; unreliable autofocus|
GoPro MAX – The camera for outdoor and sportive shooting
Price: $379 | Weight: 115 g | Dimensions: 25 x 64 x 69 mm | Waterproof: Yes | Photo resolution: 18 MP | Video resolution: 5.7K | Memory: MicroSD (not included) | Mount: Tripod socket | Battery life: 85 minutes
If you want to record immersive videos of sporting excursions or outdoor adventures, the GoPro MAX is one of the best 360° cameras for the task.
The MAX is waterproof down to five meters without a case, and the editing workflow through the app is relatively straightforward. If you want to turn your 360° video into a traditional 2D movie – one of the innovations facilitated by 360° cameras – the app’s OverCapture software makes the job easy.
The GoPro MAX expands many features of the GoPro Hero 8 Black (its predecessor), including HyperSmooth stabilization and 360° TimeWarp footage. Qualitatively, the photo and video results are slightly poorer than those of other contenders in this ranking. This is the primary limitation of the camera and prevents it from achieving top status.
On the other hand, the MAX is solid and waterproof. Equipped for sports outings, it frees you to capture the drama of the moment without sweating over the direction of the shot or the integrity of your device.
Besides the GoPro interface, the MAX is comparable to the Insta360 ONE X2.
We recommend the GoPro MAX to sportspeople and outdoor adventurers. The rest should select a different model, such as the ONE X2, to obtain better images under indoor or other low-light conditions. For the others, its quality in low light and the general quality of the photos indoors – (however very correct) – should point you towards another model, like the X2.
|Ease of editing via the app||No traditional 4K capture|
|Robust design||Inferior performance in low light|
|Waterproofness to 5 m without a shell|
A few additional models to mention
360° and 3D hybrid models
For 360° shooting, you can ignore these cameras. Their quality doesn’t come close to the standard. But for 3D imaging, consider the Vuze XR, which offers good value for the money.
Insta360 ONE X2 vs. ONE R and ONE X1
The Insta360 ONE R provides no technical advantage over the Insta360 ONE X2. Choose the latter if you place image quality before camera design.
We observed that the Insta360 ONE R has a design closer to GoPro devices, which may appeal to some. The only other feature that tilts us in favor of the ONE R is its modularity. You can buy multiple accessories, including a drone attachment.
If you are interested in a specific use, explore the lenses and mounting options available for purchase. The quality of the renderings remains fairly good.
From a lens perspective, the ONE X is equivalent to its successor, the ONE X2. Indeed, its technical specifications differ little from those of the ONE X2. The update tends to improve the physical and software aspects of the camera. Now waterproof, the ONE X2 boasts a touch screen and new, more efficient photography modes. The battery also has a greater capacity.
The release of the ONE X2 may lower the prices of the ONE X1, particularly on the secondhand market. Those on a budget should keep their eyes open for a good deal.
If you don’t plan to use your 360° camera for commercial purposes, we recommend the Insta360 ONE X2. An alternative for GoPro fans is the GoPro MAX.
The Insta360 ONE X2 is also a good choice for professional applications, especially if your customers are looking for competitive prices, not premium photo quality. For larger clients, we advise using the RICOH THETA Z1. If you don’t have the budget for the Z1, go with the Kandao QooCam.