Remember 360 cameras? Well, it turns out that not only is spherical video not dead, it’s just finding its lane. On YouTube you can find 360 videos of some of the world’s most beautiful places, and if you’re really into it, you can experience these videos in VR.
Admittedly, it was pretty hard to get into 360 video back when the first cameras hit the market. Early 360 video was difficult to edit, and even then, the only places you could post it was in specialty web players. Everything is different now; most 360 cameras do the video stitching automatically, and it’s super easy to upload 360 videos to YouTube.
Similarly, the price of 360 cameras has also fallen. There certainly are pro and prosumer cameras that cost north of $1,000 (sometimes very far north), but if you’re trying to keep it casual there are also some darn good options in the $500 range as well.
What to look for
Before we get into the product recommendations, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, and probably most importantly, you should think about your workflow. Sure, the specs of each camera are important, but someone looking to make high-production YouTube videos is going to have a much different experience than someone looking to take some unique vacation pictures and videos.
A lot of this comes down to where the video editing happens. If you’re not prepared to edit 360 video in Adobe Premiere or Final Cut (yes, DaVinci Resolve people, we see you), then the camera’s dedicated app will be critical, and some are definitely better than others.
For example, the GoPro and the Insta360 both have pretty robust community support and full-fledged apps, whereas the Kandao Qoocam and the Xphase Pro S2 will likely be better for those who are technically adept enough to go it alone.
If you are prepared to edit your 360 content in professional apps like Premiere and Photoshop, then all of these cameras will work for you, but you’re probably looking for some additional features like external audio jacks, HDR, bracketing, and RAW support.
This is a specialty 360 camera that trades versatility and ease-of-use for raw resolution. It has 25 cameras that combine to create 134 megapixel images. Virtual tour creators might be interested in this camera, but unless you’re a pro, the Insta360 One X2 will likely be a better option.