The best 360 cameras might be just what you're looking for if you’re a content creator or love to record action videos. These panoramic cameras capture everything around you, making for incredibly immersive experiences.
But the best 360 cameras have another trick: super-smooth video. That's because they can identify the horizon and automatically level your video, no matter how bumpy. Try that with a regular action camera and see what happens.
From their earliest iterations just a few years ago, 360 cameras have come a long way. Not only are they smaller these days, but companies have added more sophisticated technology so that you can track people and objects, no matter where they move around you.
The best 360 cameras you can buy today
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The Insta360 One X2 is the best 360 camera for most people. That's because, like its predecessors, the Insta360 One X2 has the most innovative software and features in addition to being a great piece of hardware.
While larger than the Insta360 One X, the One X2 is now water resistant to 10 meters (33 feet), and has a circular touchscreen display that lets you preview video and change settings on the fly. It also has a longer battery life of up to 80 minutes.
The One X has an updated image-stabilization feature that will make even the bumpiest videos look smooth, and can capture 5.7k video (5760 x 2880) at 30 fps, and 4K video at up to 50 fps. Its FlowState image stabilization algorithm helps smooth shots, and a TimeShift feature lets you slow down or speed up specific segments of your videos.
Read our full Insta360 One X2 review.
For those looking for a 360 camera with more of a traditional action camera design, the Insta360 One RS is your best bet. Like its predecessor, the Insta360 One R, this innovative camera has a modular design that lets you swap out its 360 lens for a wide angle 4K camera or a camera with a 1-inch sensor. What's more, the camera has some other pretty cool features, including video stabilization and a comprehensive app that has a lot of powerful editing tools.
We like that the One RS' display can be turned around so you can frame yourself in videos, but its small size relative to the GoPro makes it much more difficult to navigate on-screen menus. And, like older GoPros, you'll need to use a frame to mount it to anything. But, this is one versatile 360 camera.
Read our full Insta360 One RS review.
Unlike most 360 cameras, the GoPro Max has a small display on its back that lets you view what its cameras are looking at. While it's not as handy as it seems, the large display does make it easy to navigate and change the Max's settings without having to use your smartphone.
The GoPro Max also has a HyperSmooth stabilization feature, so your bumpy video will look nice and smooth, and image quality from the camera — up to a max resolution of 5.6K/30 fps — lives up to GoPro's typical high standards. Plus, GoPro's app is loaded with features, including the ability to livestream video from the Max.
However, the GoPro Max's design requires the use of a selfie stick, and lacks a tripod mount, so you have to use it with one of GoPro's accessories. At $499, it costs more than the Insta360 One X2, but the GoPro Max delivers.
Read our GoPro Max review.
One of the issues with 360 cameras is that, because of their relatively small sensor size, they're not that great when it comes to low-light photography and videos. If you need a 360 camera for that purpose — and price is no object — then you should consider the Ricoh Theta Z1. This well-built device uses two 1-inch, backside-illuminated CMOS sensors, which helps deliver some of the best images we've seen from a 360 camera, especially under less than ideal conditions.
Additionally, the Theta Z1 has dual microphones, which delivered great audio, and the camera's motion stabilization was pretty effective too. The Z1 uses an Android-based operating system, and Ricoh is letting third-party developers create plug-ins for the camera, increasing its functionality. However, this camera lacks expandable storage, it has a relatively short battery life, and you need to use two different apps if you want to edit photos or video. But if you prize image quality above all else, this is the camera to get.
Read our full Ricoh Theta Z1 review.
The Vecnos Iqui is a 360 camera designed for those who want to take photos or videos at a moment's notice. The camera starts up in a flash, and snaps pics just as quick. Its small, pen-like shape makes it a cinch to store in your pocket, too.
Iqui’s app then takes your photo and turns it into a mini-movie, which you can then share with the rest of the world. While the quality of its images aren't up to the level of the Insta360s' or the GoPro's, the Iqui's ease of use will make it attractive to the influencers of the world. However, we wish there was more you could do in its app.
Read our Vecnos Iqui camera review.
Samsung was one of the first companies to make a truly useful 360 camera, and though it's been several years since it released anything new, its Gear 360 camera from 2017 still remains a fairly useful and functional device. The Gear 360 has a fun, lollipop-like shape that makes it easy to hold in one hand, and can even withstand a few splashes. It also has a tripod mount, if you want to attach it to your bike or something else.
The Gear 360 takes good photos and videos (up to 4K in size), and livestreams to Facebook and YouTube, too. However, there are a few big caveats: it only works fully with Samsung smartphones (from the Galaxy S6 and up), and while it works with the iPhone 7 and later, not all of the camera's features are supported. If you have a Samsung smartphone, though, the Gear 360 is a fun accessory.
Read our full Samsung Gear 360 review.
Small and compact, the Rylo 360's small GoPro-like profile makes it a great 360 camera for action sports, as its low profile is ideal for attaching to a helmet, bike, or any other action-y activity. However, if you're going to get it wet, you'll want to get the Adventure Case (sold separately), as it lacks any sort of waterproofing. The case, which is increasingly hard to find, costs around $70, and only provides water-proofing for up to 10 feet.
We liked the footage we shot with the Rylo 360, and what makes it even better is its motion stabilization, which keeps the horizon level no matter how bumpy the ride.
Before purchasing this camera, readers should note that Rylo has been acquired by VSCO. While Rylo will no longer make 360 cameras, the company will honor the warranty on existing cameras.
Read our full Rylo 360 review.
Now this is an interesting 360 camera. Not only does the Vuze XR take 360-degree photos and video, but its two cameras can pop out, parallel to each other, so you can take 180-degree stereoscopic images and video, too. If you've ever used a VR headset, these types of images add a real depth.
We liked the simplicity of the Vuze XR's mechanism — a press of a button causes the two camera to open — as well as the sturdy build of the camera itself. We also liked the lollipop-like design of the camera; its built-in handle made it a cinch to use and carry around. In general, the Vuze XR also delivered quality images and movies, but it had trouble in low-light conditions, and we wish its desktop app were more fully-featured.
Read our full Vuze XR review.
What to look for when buying a 360 camera
When shopping for a 360 camera, you'll find that they tend to fall into two camps: small, pocketable stick-style devices, and larger squarish (or circular) cameras. The former, such as the Insta360 One X, tend to be less expensive, and are designed for more casual and impromptu shooting. In the second category are cameras such as the GoPro Hero Max, which are larger and more expensive, but tend to produce higher-quality video. Generally, the design of the latter type of 360 camera also means you'll have to attach it to a tripod or some other mount if you want to capture good footage.
Be sure to think about how you plan to use a 360 camera before you purchase it; if you want to get some fun selfies with friends, then the stick-style cameras will fit your needs well. If you want to capture hair-raising exploits when you go skydiving or skiing, then a larger camera may be the better option.
How we test 360 cameras
You get a lot of weird stares and comments when you test 360 cameras. By now, people are used to seeing action cams like the GoPro, but both the shape and way you mount 360 cameras immediately draws attention.
As they need to capture a full 360 degrees of action, most 360 cams are designed with more than one bulbous lens. And, if you don't want half of the image to be the side of your head, you have to mount the camera pretty far from your body.
You'll also want a selfie stick. With few exceptions, the shape of most of these cameras made them hard to securely hold in my hand.
All of the cameras work with a smartphone in a similar manner; when you turn these cameras on, they all create a Wi-Fi hotspot, which you then connect to with your phone. From there, you open the companion app, and use your phone's display as a viewfinder. For the most part, connecting the cameras to my smartphone was an easy process, and the video feed from the cameras was relatively smooth and stutter-free.
- Don't need a 360 camera? Check out the best action cameras
- Best GoPro camera: Which is right for you?
Be sure to check out all of our camera picks:
Best cameras | Best DSLR cameras | Best action cameras | Best waterproof cameras | Best point-and-shoot cameras | Best instant cameras | Best mirrorless cameras | Best cheap cameras | Best GoPro camera | Best GoPro accessories | Best drones | Best iPhone lenses | Best iPhone tripods |DSLR vs. mirrorless | Best Nikon accessories | Best Sony a6000 accessories
The best apps and software for editing, managing, and sharing your photos:
Best photo organizer apps | Best photo storage sites | Best photo editing software | Best photo editing apps | Best photo collage apps
Actually, we were well aware of the Ricoh camera; we reviewed it last year. http://www.tomsguide.com/us/ricoh-theta-s-camera,review-3457.html