360-degrees of awesome.
No question about it—the popularity of 360-degree video and imagery is exploding, and it’s no coincidence that the new boom arrives smack-dab in the middle of 2016’s virtual reality revolution. Today, anyone can view 360-degree images and video in a browser, smartphone, tablet, or headset, and YouTube’s 360-degree Videos Channel and Facebook’s 360 community have become major destinations for immersive and streaming content.
Just as the smartphones of a decade ago ushered in an unprecedented wave of consumer videography, today’s VR craze promises to launch a brand-new army of first-time creators. A number of relatively low-priced cameras have recently hit the market, equipped with game-changing storytelling features—like wide panorama shots and spherical images capture that allow viewers to visually manipulate scenes for different angles and perspectives. Hey, maybe you could even capture some 360-degree footage from the NBA Finals. Click through to learn more about the latest crop of 360-degree cameras.
Ricoh Theta S
The Ricoh Theta S ($350 MSRP, available for $346.95 on Amazon), a conveniently pocketable spherical photo and video camera, makes it extremely simple to capture original content for your favorite VR headset—so simple, in fact, it only has one button. Its twin, ultra-wide-angle lenses can stitch together spherical images or produce full HD video at 30 frames per second (fps). With f/2.0 lenses, shutter speeds from 1/6400 to 60 seconds, and a 1/2.3-inch image sensor, the cam yields a 14 megapixel (MP) output. You can live stream video via USB or HDMI, or use the camera’s onboard Wi-Fi to transfer footage to your iPhone.
Once there, the Theta + Video iOS app lets you filter, trim, or alter the view and color of 360-degree photos and videos. Another mobile app, the Ricoh Theta S, assists with shooting via a live-view feed and remote control. It’s compatible with the Google Street View app, too, so get ready to capture and publish photo spheres to Google Maps.
The new 360fly 4K ($500 MSRP)—a single-lens, 360-degree video camera that can live stream immersive video—is intent on making everyone a VR creator. Its 16MP image sensor offers a resolution of 2880x2880 at 30fps on a 240-degree vertical field of view. It’s housed in a water-, dust-, and shock-resistant body; other features include a GPS sensor, barometer, altimeter, and accelerometer.
Time-lapse video mode, and a setting that starts recording based on motion or sound, conveniently allows the device to double as a home security camera. Just charge it up, connect it with your iOS device using the 360fly app, and you’re good to go. The app functions as a remote control and lets you share videos on Facebook and YouTube, while the Livit app lets you live stream. You can even edit videos, with controls for filters, music, and slow- or fast-motion. You can also create and share standard 16:9 video and stills.
The new Giroptic 360cam ($499 MSRP) takes a novel approach to 360-degree video. It can produce a single photo or video at the press of a button using three 185-degree fish-eye lenses to capture footage at 2K resolution up to 30fps or 4K still images. The 360cam gyroscope and accelerometer provide image stabilization for recording video, time-lapse, photo burst, or live broadcast, while three microphones capture sound. All images are stitched inside the camera in real time—no need for post-production or stitching software.
Made of magnesium alloy and rubber molded into a unique pear shape, the unit is built in two parts to facilitate modular attachments: A rubber cover firmly seals the body for underwater excursions up to 30 feet for 30 minutes. Once turned on, an invisible LED screen appears through the camera body conveying a digital readout. The Giroptic 360cam app for iOS devices allows users to remotely control the camera over Wi-Fi, as well as view, edit, and share photos and videos via social networks.
VSN Mobil V.360-degree Action Cam
If you’re in the mood for rocky, sandy, water-sporty adventures, the VSN Mobil V.360-degree Action Cam ($449 MSRP) has you covered. This panoramic VR sports-video camera is shockproof, dustproof, and waterproof up to three feet for 30 minutes. Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, you use one button to capture 360-degree video and photos with 6480x1080 video resolution up to 24fps with a 60-degree vertical field of view. Camera sensors include a barometer, accelerometer, GPS, and altimeter, and an included silicone cover enhances durability and reduces wind noise. The package also includes a Bluetooth remote.
Other features include time-lapse recording, dual microphones for stereo audio, and a surveillance mode via motion and audio detection sensors. The camera can even act as a Wi-Fi hotspot where up to five people can view and stream footage.
For more advanced options, try operating the V.360-degree with an iPhone using the V.360-degree Camera companion mobile app.
The spherical ALLie Camera ($499 MSRP, available for the same price on Amazon) has two back-to-back fisheye lenses that help to reveal a super-wide world—both outdoors or at home. Two 8MP sensors—each with a 2.8mm fixed lens, a 188-degree field of view, and 4096x2048 resolution—are combined with 10 infrared LEDs to give you night vision and let you film in dark environments with full 360-degree surveillance mode. An integrated microphone and speaker provide two-way audio, letting users communicate with each other. You can view the video feed from anywhere and store recordings to your iOS device using the company’s mobile app for iOS. If your device has gyroscopic motion sensors, you can just tilt and move the screen around to change perspective or view footage through a headset. Recording and playback are also available via the company’s subscription-based ALLieCam Cloud storage.
Kodak PixPro SP360 4K Action Cam
The palm-sized Kodak PixPro SP360 4K action camera ($499 MSRP, available for the same price on Amazon) captures circular 2880x2880 video at 30fps via a dome-shaped, fixed-focus, ultra wide-angle 235-degree lens. The shockproof, dustproof, splash-resistant camera’s 12MP backside-illuminated CMOS sensor supports a variety of resolutions and frame rates, with output ranging from 16:9 rectangular video at up to 4K resolution to circular fish-eye video. The camera also shoots stills at resolutions up to 8MP or a 10-frame burst. Use your iOS device to remotely monitor shots and control the camera via the app. You can also edit and stitch together the output with companion desktop software.
LG 360 Cam
Despite that the LG 360 Cam ($200 MSRP) was originally created as a friendly companion to the company’s G5 smartphone, you can still use it with an iPhone if you’d like. With two sensors—one on each side and pointing in opposite directions—the cam’s 13MP, 200-degree wide-angle lenses can capture 2K 360-degree video in addition to recording 5.1-channel surround sound. It supports both 360-degree (two lens) and 180-degree (one lens) image capture. There’s no built-in display, but you can use your smartphone’s LG 360 Cam manager for iOS as a remote control to view your recording in real time. The LG 360 Cam is compatible with YouTube and Google’s Street View app, letting you publish, share, and explore a variety of 360-degree videos and photos.
Nikon KeyMission 360
Nikon has dipped its pinkie toe into the action cam and 360-degree imaging arena with its upcoming KeyMission 360 action camera ($499 MSRP, coming soon). Capable of recording 360-degree video in 4K Ultra HD, this pocketable unit features dual lenses and image sensors on opposite sides of the device, with images from each combining to create a single immersive 360-degree video or still. The camera is designed to be pocketable, easy to use, and rugged—it is waterproof in depths up to 100 feet, and stands up to dust, shock, and cold. When reviewing your footage, just swipe within the app on your iPhone to get panoramic views of everything you recorded.