what is a 360 camera 360 camera 101

I’m sure you’ve heard tons of recent news about 360-degree cameras and they are really everywhere. But you’re not so sure as to what it is or how it works exactly. That’s why today, we are going over what a 360 camera is and pretty much everything you’ll need to know about it.

People are slowly starting to realise the potential of it, how a small little compact device that can fit easily into your pocket can create such an immersive, mind-blowing video that allows you to experience brain-whopping events you never thought is possible, without even being there.

It does so by literally capturing your world from every angle, so when played back especially when coupled with VR technology, will allow you to relive the moment again.

Content:

What Is A 360 Degree Camera?

different types of 360 camera insta360 nano s pano 5+1 360fly gopro omni
Smartphone add-on and independent 360 cameras are the most used ones.

360 cams which are also known as omnidirectional cameras has a 360˚ field of view, which in other words, means it’s able to film everything around the camera.
Click here to view the a 360 photo made by the Insta360 camera.

How It Works

elecam 360 2 wide angle lens
Traditional 360 Cameras Dual Lens

There are many types of 360 cams but the majority of 360-degree cameras use 2 different wide angle lens at opposite sides of the camera to film the full 360˚ footages.

dual spherical view of 360 camera in office

The raw result will look something like this after the processor combines them into 1 shot, which is also called a dual spherical view, and has a 2:1 aspect ratio.

Stitching & Processing

The raw dual spherical view can be processed and stitched into many different views, or what we call, perspectives.

These are examples of the different perspectives that can be created from the dual spherical view:

insta360 one different perspectives
Different perspectives of 360 shots.

Why You Don’t Want A 360 Camera Below 4K Res

The resolution for 360 shots doesn’t quite equate to the resolution that you see on a standard video.

You might think 360 cameras that films at 2K are fantastic as it’s going to give you clear crisp 2K video right? Nope.

Quality drops as you ‘zoom in’.

For this example, the 4K isn’t the standard resolution and is not even close to the 1080p clarity you watch on Youtube because the 4000 pixels covers the whole span of the 360 video, but the actual area that you are watching is probably only a quarter of it, so if it’s a 4K video, it translates to about a 960p video quality.

insta360 one video sample cropping
Quality is lost as it gets closer

This is the reason why I would only recommend 360 cameras that are able to film in 2K or higher.

–> Check out my 360 camera buying guide here! <–

Applications of 360 Cams

Now you’ve got a better basic understanding of 360 cameras, let’s move on to how we harness this technology to improve our lives!

Virtual Reality Technology – Entertainment & Businesses

virtual reality headset

VR and 360 cameras are very tightly knitted together because, with a VR headset, it allows you to fully experience and immerse yourself in 360 footages.

Although it’s mostly used for entertainment such as ‘teleporting’ to experience another place or for virtual reality games which are quite popular, I’ve notice some property management companies starting to implement it because as a result of 360 cams, they can get a better visual representation on their property than normal photos so their potential buyers wouldn’t even have to step out of their home to view the property and in turn save a  lot of time and money for both the buyer and seller.

Panoramic Picture Art

360 camera panoramic art

Sure, a normal phone or camera can film a wide-angle or panoramic shot but who can guarantee there are no deficiencies from the stitching of shots at different angles? Why not use a 360 camera to effortlessly grab the whole frame at once without needing any stitching or much processing? That’s actually how some professionals take the smooth panoramic shot

Dynamic Motion Timelapse (Panoramic Timelapse)

For those of you who don’t know what a timelapse is, it is simply the process of fast forwarding a video that’s taken a long period of time. Click here to read my full guide on it.

Timelapse on its own is already cool enough but with 360-degree cameras, you can easily up your game by creating motion time-lapse, which is a timelapse that pans.

A motion timelapse is basically a timelapse that pans, so at the end, you’ll have a moving panoramic time-lapse.

Perspective Change

As 360 cameras take such a wide video, you can literally animate within the frame to create cool effects that cannot be achieved with normal cameras by changing the field of view and distance.

These 4 applications of 360 cameras are just some of the many ways of using 360 cameras to create unique graphics video effects that normal cameras can’t be matched.

Summary

From future prospect property sites to a tour in your favourite place in the world, the possibilities of an immersive experience using a 360 camera are endless.

With 360 videography and photography becoming more and more integrated into our life and the media industry, more technologically advanced and cheaper 360-degree cameras are being released into the market.

So, Should You Buy It?

If you were to ask me a few years ago, I’d definitely have said no. The firmware was poor, support by social media wasn’t even existent.

However, if you’re talking about the present, 360 cameras and virtual reality technology are everywhere. Social media have noticed the prevalence of 360 footage and are constantly improving their support, with 360˚ live streaming capability all easily set up. It also integrates with your phone really well so you can edit, share, shoot all your videos effortlessly.

So my answer to you is YES! It really adds a special element and goes beyond the typical holiday snaps that you see on your feed every day.


That’s all for now! Hopefully, by now you’ve got a better idea of what a 360 camera is, and what it can do!

If you’re interested in looking at my top 360 cameras 2018 recommendations, check out my article on it here! Or read more here if you’re not sure what to look out for when buying a 360 camera!

Until next time, thanks for reading and have a great day!

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3 Comments

  1. Wow! 360-degree cameras have come a long way.
    Your post on these amazing devices is really informative. I’m really interested in getting one for myself now.
    What kind of software is needed to process the raw spherical views into the different perspectives?
    How do you take 360-degree video while holding the camera? It seems that you would always be shown looking into the camera from one angle, like a selfie.
    Thanks,
    Ed

    1. Hi Ed, thanks for dropping a comment.

      The software used to process depends on the manufacturer and what they’ve made for the camera you’re using. That’s why I recommend buying only cameras reputable for 360 cameras because if not, the software is really bad, giving you a bad user experience.

      As for taking a 360 video, you can use a selfie stick or simply hold it similar to a normal camera. You won’t really be shown looking into the camera because you can edit to show the front portion only.

      Hope this helps and if you’ve any other question, feel free to leave a comment down below. 🙂

  2. Im glad to see technology being included in every day life. With vr displays starting to be included at a cheap enough entry point these 360 cameras will be more valuable and useful as it can completely immense someone in the moment. Gopro seems to be my favorite type as its so durable and commonly seen in professional sporting events showing how durable it is. My question is how can you incorporate the video into 3d?

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