360 cameras buying guide featured

I’ve been following the news on 360 camera and the scale of it is getting bigger day by day.

Anyways a few weeks back, I decided to get the Insta360 One, which is deemed by many as the best 360 cameras out there as of now, as I wanted to try out how good it can be.

I didn’t expect much to start off with, but at the end of the few weeks testing and learning all the different features out, I was really impressed by it.

The scale of how much you can tweak and edit your videography, the look on your friends’ faces when you show what that little device can do, and the needlessness to point the camera in a specific direction is one of the many things unique about 360 cameras.

Anyways, moving on the main article, how do you decide which 360 camera is right for you? Because there’s no hard and fast rule as to which is the best, I’ve decided to collate all my experiences on choosing one.

Main Ways of Obtaining 360 Footages

Let’s just start by running through some alternatives of gettting 360 shots.

1. Affordable 360 Action Camera Add-on  – For Photos Only

pano 5+1 360 action camera add-on

Though not very common, it’s actually an affordable way of obtaining 360 photos (can’t for videos) if you own a GoPro action camera.

The Pano 5+1 (available on Amazon) is an example where you can stitch 6 photos together. When used with GoPro’s 12 MP photos, it can create a 65 MP 360˚ photo!

2. 360 Frames Holding Multiple Cams – Omni Cameras

omni types 360˚ cameras

This is the most expensive method of obtaining 360 footages because it consists of many individual cameras strategically placed in a custom frame such that it covers every angle of the shot.

3. Independent 360 Cameras – The Main Bulk of 360 Cams

independent 360 cams

This is the main type of cameras we’ll be talking today, which are able to take 360 shots on its own and doesn’t require any additional mounts or rigs.

How Do We Choose?

There are 3 big factors you have to consider when getting one

  1. Price
  2. Technical Specs
  3. Product Features
  4. Compatible Mounting Accessories

1. Price

This should be your main concern because 360 cameras aren’t cheap to start with especially when compared side by side to action cameras or even digital cameras. However, on the other hand, if you’re comparing with a DSLR, and want to try out 360 photography, this honestly shouldn’t be much for you. 😛

As a general guideline, the cheapest 360 cameras are around 150, the ‘at least usable’ ones.

Of course, you’ll be able to find 360 cameras below 100 especially from Chinese brands, but avoid that, the support and features are bad and I guarantee you’ll be bored of it.

As for the mid-band of 360 cameras, they usually range about 200 – 400 USD and most of the cameras here offer the best value for money. More on what you can expect below from each price range here.

2. Technical Specs

Looking at a camera’s specifications is one of the ways of quickly gauging how good the 360 camera is. However, there is still more to it such as the features that it offers, which we’ll be covering more on below.

Anyways, below are some of the specifications you’ll have to take into consideration.

Image Resolution & Frames Per Second (FPS): Video quality at least 2.5K at 30fps

The image resolution is one of the key components that decide your video’s clarity. The higher, the better. However, that comes at a price.

Frames per second which is equally as important, it decides how smooth your video is going to be. Anything above 24fps is considered smooth enough for normal video playback but if you’re into slow-motion, you’ll need at least 120fps to maintain smoothness.

Battery: Battery Life & Type

gear360 battery cover

Battery life should be at least 70 mins non-stop recording. Also, notice whether or not it has interchangeable, removable batteries, or are built-in. Interchangeable ones are usually better, though not that common in 360 cams.

Storage Space: At least 64Gb supported

lg 360 camera storage micro sd card

Most cams use an external micro-sd card as their main storage.

You’ll need to see the maximum storage memory card supported. 64GB and above would be ideal.

As 360 shots take up way more space than a traditional camera, my recommendation is to at least purchase a 32GB memory card or larger.

Size/Dimensions: Small or Rugged?

small or rugged 360 cams

Is it small and portable? Or bulky but rugged (waterproof, shockproof)? Smaller ones are usually less durable but larger ones are harder to carry around. No one size is better than the other as it all boils down to your needs.

Bigger and durable ones also generally cost more than smaller & mobile 360 cams..

For me, I like cameras that are smaller as it’s more convenient to bring around and to mount, since I don’t require much durability such as waterproofness, etc.

Compatible Devices: IOS, Android or Both?

Check if the 360 cam is compatible with your phone.

Most 360 cams can work with both but just to be on the safe side, check the compatibility.

3. Features & Software Support

insta360 one features
Insta360 One’s Features

A lot of people are hyped about the price and the specs of it but little do we know that the features and support of the camera are actually the most influential part of your experience and whether or not you’ll like the camera or not.

Whether the features are good or not can’t be determined as straightforward as looking at the specs sheet for the specifications because it can easily be falsely advertised. This is where you should check out reviews and decide from there.

Furthermore, the editing features are especially important because 360 cameras for a fact, aren’t exactly convenient to have as it needs a special video player to process and watch, that’s why having a good software to convert a 360 to a standard & shareable video, is imperative.

Below are some of the software features that you’ll have to think about and find that out from reviews (usually):

App – Smartphone & PC: 

Is the connection reliable? Is the app stable or full of glitches? User-friendly or difficult to use?

Editing/Converting Features :

How easy and fast is it to edit videos? (though some does not require editing at all(eg. Giroptic iO)

Recording Features:

insta360 one recording features

Other than normal video recording and photo taking, does it have slow-mo (bullet time), live streaming, or image stabilization built-in to it?

Durability:

key mission durability waterproof shockproof

Does it have any waterproof/shockproof/dustproof capability? 

4.  Compatible Mounting Accessories

insta360 one mounting drone

I’m sure for most of you, this shouldn’t come to mind initially when you’re choosing a 360 camera but in the future, if you are planning to mount or waterproof it, the worst thing that can happen is realising that there are no accessories for it and because of that, you can’t film your once in a lifetime moment.

This isn’t that important, instead of something to be mindful of, as most 360 cameras have already tons of accessories compatible (third-party & original) with it, and you should have no problem with them.

For a start, I’d recommend checking if the basic accessories, which are the waterproof case and/or protection case (usually comes with the camera), are available.

Other than the accessories, you should also check the mounting option(s) offered. There’ll usually be a standard tripod thread on the bottom, mostly used for mounting on selfie sticks or tripods. If there isn’t, I’d advise you to avoid the camera.

What You Can Expect From Different Price Range

Specs Under $100 Entry Level: $100 - $200 Mid Range: $200 - $400 High End: Above $400
Video Resolution 2K - 3K 2K - 4K 4K 4K - 6K
Photo Resolution 1.3 - 5MP 5 - 16MP 16 - 24MP 15 - 29 MP
Image Stitching/Processing Manual Stitching In-App Stitching In-App Stitching
Optical Flow Stitching
In-App Stitching
Optical Flow Stitching
Image Options (RAW, HDR, LOG videos)
Live Streaming 2K Up to 4K Live Streaming Up to 5.7K Live Streaming
Stabilisation (6 Axis Image Stabilisation) (6 Axis Image Stabilisation - Best: Rylo found here)
Slow-Mo & Time-lapse
Voice Control, Remote Activation
Water-resistance (Splash-resistance Only)
Value For Money
Examples -Andoer A360II
-Gear 360 2016
-LG 360
-2017 Gear 360
-Insta360 Air
-Giroptic iO
-Insta360 One
-Xiaomi Mi Sphere
-Ricoh Theta V
-Garmin Virb 360
-Nikon Keymission 360
-Rylo 360
I don’t recommend anything below $100 because most cameras at that price range either have very limited use or have poor firmware and support.
The price range which I recommend is between $200 – $400 because the quality and firmware at this price range are amazing and it’s pretty much everything that the most of us will need.

That’s all to my 360 camera buying guide. Hopefully, by now, you have a better understanding of how to buy a 360 camera!

If you have any questions, thoughts of any other thing I should add, please feel free to comment down below! 🙂


Also, if you’d like to know more about my top recommendations on 360 cameras, head on to my top 360 cameras 2018 recommendations here! 

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