It used to be that a camera that recorded 1080p video was good enough. Then it was 4K video. Now, increasingly, people are demanding cameras that can record video in 360º.
The reason for this is that VR and AR technology are getting more popular and commonplace. That means people looking to produce VR content need to start recording their videos in 360º or they’ll be left in the dustbin of 2D video.
Whether you’re on the fence about VR or a complete convert, one thing is certain: all the big tech brands are banking big on VR (and AR) in 2017/18.
What they appear to be hoping for with these 360 cameras is that people will shoot, edit and upload their own content to YouTube, driving adoption of VR headsets.
We’ve seen this with smartphones over the years, but user-generated content from phones, while massive now, did take a while to get to where it now is.
360 video will likely be the same, though plenty of industries – like the adult industry, for instance – are already using 360 video to make their products more engaging.
“Consumer video consumption is at all-time high,” says Gartner, “especially on mobile devices.”
“For the enterprise, the revolution in 360-degree and multilens cameras could improve collaboration through shared virtual surfaces and immersive remote meetings, while video and scene analytics will decode meaning and add more value to video content.”
Red Bull has done a lot of 360 content as well, so expect the trend to gather momentum as more and more big name brands get involved. I cannot wait for a 360 camera app for F1, for instance, where you can sit in the car with the driver right in the thick of the action.
To meet the demand, there are now dozens of camera manufacturers getting into the 360º video camera game. We’ve put together this list of the best 360º video cameras you can buy right now.
The least expensive cameras appear at the top of the list, while the most expensive 360º cams appear at the bottom.
How To Shoot Great VR Video
Before we get to the best cameras you can use for shooting VR video on any budget, it’s important to remember that shooting VR video is a lot different than shooting regular video as you need to take into account 360º of space instead of the normal 180º. With that in mind, the video production agency Wistia has but together a great blog post on the best things they’ve learned since moving into VR video production. These are just a few of their tips, be sure to check out their article for all of them.
1. Keep your subjects 3-5 feet away from the camera.
“360 video essentially limits you to a wide angle shot. This has some implications for camera placement that I’ve learned the hard way. Mainly, you’ll want to keep the camera closer to key action than you’d think,” Wistia says. And point it at their chest level. “Just like different lenses can tell different stories and show different perspectives, 360 camera placement will drastically affect the viewer’s experience. Put the camera low, and you’ll make viewers feel like they’re two feet shorter. Heck, you could even showcase what it’s like to view the world as a mouse. Put the camera up high, and you can make people feel like they are 10 feet tall.”
2. Flat Lighting Is The Way To Go
“The general rules of traditional video lighting no longer apply when you can’t place lighting gear just out of the shot. For 360 video, it’s all about practical lighting and embracing ambient light,” according to Wistia. “One thing I’ve learned from shooting with the 7 camera GoPro rig is that flat lighting is your very best friend. In an ideal situation, each camera will expose for each part of the scene equally. This will have the highest likelihood to produce a seamless stitch.” They suggest that you try to “find a location with pleasant, practical lighting; avoid positioning your talent directly under any overhead lights”; and use “high CRI bulbs in existing lighting fixtures in your shot.”
3. Usa A Lavalier Mic For Capturing Audio
“For the record, I’m a shotgun microphone fan through and through. So this one makes my heart hurt. For capturing your talent’s audio with 360 video, it makes the most sense to use a lavalier mic,” Wistia suggests. “Use a combination of a lavalier mic on the talent and 1 or 2 stereo microphones near the camera rig for realistic, natural sound.”
Now, on to the best cameras for shooting VR on any budget…
Andoer Panorama 360 VR Video Camera
At hovering right around the £100 price point, the Andoer Panorama 360 VR is a great entry-level 360º camera. It features 1920x1440P 30fps and 1440x1080P 30fps 360º video recording.
The camera also sports a 20° Fisheye of Super Wide-angle Lens, with an aperture of f2.0 and an effective focal length of f/1.1mm. The camera also support VR, tile horizontal, hemisphere display, video split-screen display and up-down flip capabilities.
A nice plus is that the camera uses Wi-Fi to connect to your Android device or iPhone so you can control it remotely.
And For The US
LG 360 Camera
The aptly named LG 360 Camera features a great stick-like design with dual lenses–one on front and one on back. The LG 360 sports dual wide-angled 13 MP lenses and 2K video capture and connects to your Mac or PC via a USB-C port.
It offers a microSD card slot, for increased video storage. About 30 minutes of 360º video takes up 1GB of space on this camera. The camera also can talk to your iPhone and Android phone.
And for the US
Samsung Gear 360 Camera
If you’re a Samsung fan, you’ll want to pick up the Samsung Gear 360 Camera for 360º video recording. Taking the shape of a traditional webcam, the front and rear lenses each record 180º video and then the camera’s software stitches them together.
The camera pairs with your Galaxy smartphone via Bluetooth, then uses Wi-Fi Direct to transform the phone’s large screen into a very handy remote viewfinder and to transfer files in one simple move.
Besides 360º recording the camera also is capable of time-lapse recording and loop recording. It’s compatible with the Galaxy Note 5, S7, S7 edge, S6, S6 edge, and S6 edge+.
And for the US
Ricoh Theta SC 360 Degree Camera
The Ricoh Theta SC 360 Degree Camera is one of the more popular 360º cameras on the market. It’s minimalist design and choice of multiple colors makes it a great choice for the design conscious. The camera records 360º video in full HD at 30fps for five minutes.
You then use Wi-Fi to transfer the footage to your iPhone or Android device. It features two 14 MP lenses. By the way, the “SC” in its name means it’s the standard-class model of the Theta series. The SC model, as mentioned above, records 5 minutes of 360º video at a time.
And for the US.
Ricoh Theta S 360 Degree Camera
If you like the Theta SC, but want longer video recording time, grab the Ricoh Theta S 360 Degree Camera instead. This little beauty will allow you to record Full HD 1080p at 30 fps video for 25 minutes at a time. It also allows you to stream 360º video live.
The handy LED Indicator allows you to check the status of live streaming at a glance. The camera features two 1/2.3 CMOS sensors with 14 MP lenses.
And for the US
Nikon KeyMission 360 Action Camera
For those that are looking to spend a bit more on a 360º camera, you might want to check out the Nikon KeyMission 360 Action Camera. The big thing here is that it shoots in 4K UHD video in 360º. That’s pretty dang impressive.
The Nikon KeyMission 360 Action Camera is also designed to capture footage in rough environments, hence the “action” in its name. It’s waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, and dustproof, so you can pretty much record your 360º video with this baby anywhere.
And for the US.
360fly 4K Panoramic 360 Degree Action Camera
Another high-end action camera, the 360fly 4K Panoramic 360 Degree Action Camera features a massive 16-megapixel image sensor with a resolution of 2880 x 2880 pixels.
Yep, this baby shoots in 4K too. The awesome thing about this camera is that it has internal 64 GB memory and 1.5-hour battery life for capturing and storing up to 3 hours of 360° 4K footage.
It also has a built-in accelerometer, e-compass, gyroscope and non-assisted GPS sensors for geo-tagging, as well as dual omnidirectional microphones to capture true stereo sound for more immersive video and VR experiences.