Prediction: 360 cameras are going to take off in a big way in 2017. But there are currently only three 360 cams I think consumers should even consider buying and they all have one thing in common: they shoot 4K video. In my humble opinion, it’s best to future-proof any video you’re taking as much as possible — you’re future selves will thank you (in the near-future you’ll be glad you don’t need to upgrade again and in the more distant future you’ll appreciate clearer memories).
360 cams are becoming popular just now thanks to VR (virtual reality) and the ability to embed 360 degree content in places like Facebook and YouTube. In short, people are on the cusp of being able to enjoy fully (or at least more) immersive, non-flat content. And it can be very enjoyable: being able to look around in any direction using a VR headset or simply by dragging a finder or a mouse on the screen is very cool. Virtual tourism is going to be a thing (even if you’re just visiting your past in a way that makes it feel like you’re actually there again).
And yes, 4K video is the future (for now). With four times the resolution of regular 1080p footage, things look clearer. 4K TVs are coming down in price (check out the Samsung KS8000 I recently reviewed to see how pleased I was with it) and it won’t be long before the ability to view 4K is everywhere.
Because of YouTube, especially, I think 360/VR content is going to get big fast. Creators like Casey Neistat have already experimented with VR video and it seems like a new horizon/niche that creative content creators can exloit. So in a way, these cameras might be considered some of the best new cameras for YouTube.
Last year I made a roundup featuring the best 360 degree cameras, but I feel that post is already outdated. There are (still) some great cameras on that list, but most of them are not 4K shooters. So I guess you could consider this list a bit of an update to the previous one. Unfortunately, cameras like the Ricoh Theta, Samsung Gear 360, LG 360 Cam, the Bublcam and the Giroptic don’t make the cut this round.
When people think 360 cams, it wouldn’t surprise me if they pictured the 360fly 4K. That’s because it’s perhaps the most well-known 360 cam thanks to the fact that it’s sold in Best Buy, has a very unique (and cool-looking) design and had a successful predecessor (the 1080p HD version).
There is a lot to like about this camera including a 16-megapixel image sensor, 64 GB of internal memory (which can store up to three hours of 4K 30 video) and a respectable one-and-a-half hour battery life which should be plenty to capture most events.
Adventurers and travelers will appreciate the built-in accelerometer, e-compass, gyroscope and GPS sensors which can geo-tag content. But you don’t have to be filled with wanderlust to appreciate the two omnidirectional mics.
The one big potential drawback to this camera is that it has a 360° x 240° field of view. That means that it will capture a full range of view horizontally, but you won’t see all of the lower bit of a view.
All-in-all this is a solid camera and a good recommendation for people wanting to get started with 360 video content. It’s feature set definitely isn’t perfect, but if you like what it does it’s a solid choice.
I really like the way the Vuze looks; in a world where so many 360 cams are either spheres or sticks, here’s one that took a different route.
The Vuze features eight Full HD cameras which, when stitched together, create an immersive 4K end product. That’s pretty impressive for a device that’s only 12x12x3 centimeters!
Plus, if you have a colorful personality, you’ll appreciate all of the expenses I’ve color options available (as opposed to “just black” or “just white” like you’ll get from many manufacturers).
One feature I like a lot about Vuze is the accompanying software (Vuze Studio). A great 360 camera is nothing without usable software (regardless of the hardware and specs) since you’ve got to be able to easily edit and share footage for it to really matter to you or anyone else. And yes, most 360 cams come with proprietary software — some of which definitely seems like an afterthought. Thankfully, Vuze Studio seems pretty well thought out since they’ve even included automated production and editing!
Finally, Vuze comes with a VR headset so you can relive your footage right away.
Nikon KeyMission 360
The Nikon KeyMission 360 takes full 360 video in 4K using 2 cameras and 2 sensors; each on the opposite side of a square frame. Unlike the other cameras listed here, this is an action camera so it’s rugged. In practical terms that means that this camera is water resistant, dust resistant and can handle drops better.
If you need to capture something like action sports in fully immersive 4K for VR applications or if you are in a harsh environment where it’s wet or rainy or snowy or hotter or colder than normal then this is a great option for you.
Plus I like that this camera is from a name brand with lots of credibility in the camera space (whereas most VR and 360 cam makers are upstarts by comparison).
Finally, I’m a fan of the design of this camera. It doesn’t look as weird as some other 360 cams do, for instance, and it’s fairly compact. The button placements seem easy to use as well and with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, there’s also plenty of convenience here as well.
- If you’re looking for the cheapest 4K 360 camera out of the bunch, go with the 360Fly 4K.
- If need the toughest 360 cam that shoots in 4K then the Nikon KeyMission 360 if right up your alley.
- If you want the best software experience I’d say Vuze is the way to go here.