360-Degree VR Camera System Overview Guide
Virtual reality content consists of creating CGI based virtual assets as well as 360-degree immersive media. 360 video has become an increasingly popular medium, with platform giants such as YouTube and Facebook both recently launched their own 360 video hosting platform. Creating 360 video content is much easier for most people than it is to develop virtual assets, all you need is a 360 camera to record and share 360 videos. There many 360 cameras on the market right now that covers from professional studios to average consumers use. This overview attempts to outline some of the popular 360 cameras on the market, we hope you will find this information useful to help you decide which 360 camera you’ll buy. This post will be constantly updated, please check back for more current 360 camera news and updates!
Price : 45,000 USD
The Nokia Ozo has 8 camera lenses at 195-degree FOV with a f/2.4 fixed aperture and shoots at 30fps. Each lens has a 2K x 2K sensor which significantly overlaps one lens over another, which makes stitching become far easier in the post production.
The camera uses more accurate global shutter as opposed to rolling shutter, and eight microphones record spatial audio throughout the capture. Weighing at 9.3 pounds, the Ozo is not your average consumer 360 camera that you can carry around in your pocket.
The Ozo can shoot mono and stereo videos with options to select shooting with four cameras around the center or fire all eight cameras simultaneously. Mono video files are produced with both eyes seeing the same image, whereas stereo video uses two separate videos for each eye to produce “depth” also known as 3D.
Captured footages are imported into the Ozo creator software, which requires unique hardware to run. The software generates a default stitch and allows the stitch lines to be moved around across the image for optimization. Once ready to export, you can export in mp4 or DPX file.
This is one professional use camera that will enable film producers or studios to produce extremely high-quality footages, but definitely not the right camera for the average consumers.
Facebook 360 Camera
Price : 30,000 USD
Facebook says they are not stopping until they connect everyone on this planet and one way to do so is through 360 videos. Facebook, after purchasing Oculus for 2 billion dollars is not falling behind on creating and sharing the reality side of the virtual reality content.
Facebook also developed their unique software and hardware package for the Surround 360 camera, which can produce videos with resolution up to 8K, and used two bottom face cameras to capture videos without including the pole.
Facebook is not interested in manufacturing 360 cameras, instead the company open sourced their 360 camera design for developers and enthusiast to download from Github. The company wants to open source this camera because they encourage more 360 content produced and shared, of course, on Facebook.
Putting the camera together will cost you roughly 30,000USD to purchase and about four hours build time.
Price : 4,999.99 (all inclusive); 1,499.99 (rig only)
GoPro camera has been at the forefront of recording high-quality 360-degree footages.
The GoPro Omni uses 6 GoPro Hero4 cameras and an aluminum rig similar to other 3D printed rigs on the market. A central control unit enables all 6 cameras to be synced, getting rid of the need to motion or audio sync during post production and making stitching easier. But the GoPro Omni is still not a perfect system, the stitching sometimes can still get inaccurate results. The Omni is also not waterproof and offers no waterproof as an option.
The full package priced at $5000USD includes all 6 HERO4 black cameras, 6 HERO4 batteries, 6 x 32gb micro SD cards, one AutoPano Video license, carrying case, lens covers, mini USB cables, micro SD card reader, GoPro smart remote, 7 port USB hub, waterproof shipping case, and tools.
You can also get the rig only for $1500 which you will get a very solid aluminum rig, waterproof shipping case, and tools.
GoPro Omni requires array camera firmware to be installed on each camera. If you purchased rig only package then you will need to perform the update, and there are drawbacks in doing so. The only available modes are photos, video in 1440 at 60fps, and 2.7k at 30fps.
The firmware installation will allow 1 camera to be the master and the five remaining cameras as slaves. This way changes in the master camera setting will also be mirrored to the 5 cameras, as well as powering on and begin recording.
After the firmware update, only the master camera can be paired to Wifi.
If you wish to use Wifi after the update for the 5 slave cameras, you won’t be able to. You must revert back to the standard HERO4 firmware.
The battery also only last barely 3 hours, so it can be a tedious task to have to swap out batteries while shooting in the field to remove face plate on each camera and loosen and removing the screws with the hex key. You would essentially need two people to try to disassemble and putting it back together.
You can charge and remove cameras without having to remove the cameras from the rig. However, when charging via USB, the frame of the rig can put some pressure on USB connection port, where it can be easily damaged if not careful.
The GoPro Omni also does not permit the use of lens caps or ND filters. There’s also some compatibility issues with the tripod mount specifications.
The GoPro Omni does not solve the pain points in 360 video post production workflow. Although it is helpful and time-saving that the cameras are synced, but you will still encounter issues to perfectly stitch your videos.
Prepare to spend time in Autopano to refine stitches, especially if you are shooting high vibration scenes without a stabilizer.
There are also reported bug issues with the Omni Importer where files got misplaced in different folders. So be sure to double check at all times.
Price : 2,140 Euro
A successful Indiegogo campaign, this toss-able 360 camera is finally ready for purchase this year. The Panono Camera has 36 3-mega pixel cameras that would each activate simultaneously. Their software then stitches all 36 images into a single 108-mega pixel image.
This camera does not shoot videos at all, only good for taking 360-degree photography.
Recent Mashable review indicates that the image quality was subpar. Although the photos are in high resolution and image can be sharper than fellow competitors, the quality can vary from time to time. Facial features can also be distorted if the person stands too close to the camera.
The best way to take 360 photos is using a tripod or a selfie stick, but you will need to purchase a tripod adapter ($35) or selfie stick ($45).
The camera is also not an action camera so if you toss it in the air, didn’t catch it and it drops on the ground, you will most likely have to get a new one.
In conclusion, this is one first generation 360 photo camera and is a bit pricey for what it has to offer. Possibly the best thing to do is to wait for a newer generation that can be cheaper and more durable.
Price : 499.99 USD
360Fly 4K camera is shockproof, water and dust resistant. It is equipped with a standard tripod mount, 64gb storage, and single button to power up and initiate recording. The mobile app allows easy capture, edit, and sharing on Facebook and YouTube.
However, the image and audio quality is not the best. Built-in memory storage and battery means that you would always need to deal with over loading memory and charging.
Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K
Price : 825 USD
The Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K is an obvious improvement over video quality than the previous SP360. It offers 4K video at 30fps as well as a wider -angle lens (360 x 235). It is a single camera, wide-angle fisheye lens (235 degree) that capture images and videos in 360 degrees, with no stitching required. 360 footages can be easily shared on Facebook or YouTube
The new Pixpro SP360 is slightly larger than the previous version, so the older version accessories such as the waterproof casing would not fit.
You can also purchase the Duo Pack, which offers twin pack for a 360 x 360 view after stitching the two videos together. It also comes with a remote watch that you pair to the cameras’ menu.
When recording in 4K videos, the camera records maximum 4GB file, about 9 minutes and 20 secs. You could get up to 30 minutes when recording at a lower resolution. Battery life will last for 55 minutes of continuous shooting in 4K at 30fps with the wifi turned off.
The Kodak Pixpro cameras were licensed by JK Imaging Ltd, the original maker of one of the first 360 degree cameras. The type of shoot modes are stills, loop recording, time-lapse, high-speed and continuous videos.
The Duo Pro Pack image quality is better with cameras stationary than a moving clip, for example, filming 360 videos on a moving bicycle. Footages shot on moving objects can cause inconsistent stitch.
If you wish to edit your footages, Kodak provides an editing software for single-camera video which allows users to create videos, join clips, and uploading to PC or YouTube. The software does not allow you to work with the audio. However, uploading to YouTube will decrease footage quality.
Remember that if you chose to get this camera, you will most likely have to spend extra money to buy better software and mounts. We recommend to wait a little longer until future generation 360 cameras become more evolved, and skip out on being an early adaptor.
Price : 799 USD
The pocket size spherical shaped Bublcam is a fun and cool looking 360 camera to carry around and fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. It can also be mounted on to a tripod. The camera is made up of four 5-megapixel cameras (1.2mm lens each), together creates the spherical image, capturing every possible angle in the capture. The camera shoots in either 1440p at 15fps or 1080p x 30 fps.
-Removable microSD slot for 32GB storage.
-Small size (280 grams) and 3.14 inches in diameter.
-Can do both 360 videos and photos
-The none removable battery takes two hours to fully charge while empty. The battery life depends on the mode you are shooting in.
-Lack HD quality.
-Lack audio quality.
Price : 499.99 USD
The Allie Cam is a 360 camera that allows live stream and recording footages in 360 degrees.
The camera can not live stream YouTube 360 videos smoothly at high quality. Best setting for a reliable live stream is 480p which can look nasty in 360-degree video format. HD streaming simply doesn’t work. The app is not very intuitive but must be used with the camera., and there’s also issues with Bluetooth not being able to connect to the app.
This 360 camera is better suited for usage such as 360-degree video surveillance rather than using it for 360 video film production.
VSN Mobil 360 Camera
Price : 449 USD
What is special about this 360 camera is that it does not require any stitching, as the 360 footages gets recorded in one shot. It uses one camera but a conical mirror to record videos in 360 degrees. Unlike most other cameras on the market, the VSN 360 camera does not capture spherical images. The camera instead records a 360 degree panorama with 60 degree FOV.
The device is equipped with Snapdragon 800 processor, GPS, Wifi, altimeter, barometer, and an accelerometer.
This camera is more suitable for home surveillance rather than producing 360 videos for viewing pleasure, as the image quality is exceptionally stunning.
The app and the remote is required to operate the device, although the design of software is not very intuitive. The slot for mini SD card is also hard to reach especially for those with big hands.
There is no clear instruction manual that comes with the camera on how to work with video files, so you will need to do a little research on your own.
Ricoh Theta S
Price : 349.95 USD
The Ricoh Theta S is the third generation 360 camera by Ricoh. This is one of the earliest consumer grade 360 camera to hit the market, and possibly one of the best selling camera. Ricoh claims that the demand is super high on these cameras that they can barely keep up with production. Theta S has two sensors and lenses pointing in opposite directions to capture up to 25 minutes of video.
The new Theta S offers a new image sensor which gives you 14-megapixel quality images, and 8GB built-in memory. The device has built-in wifi and smartphone app, and the option of shooting at 1920 x 1080 or 1280 x 720 resolutions.
If you are considering an entry level 360 camera that is easy to use and won’t cost a fortune, this would be a good option. A step up to 4K you can also consider the Kodak SP360.
Samsung Gear 360
Price : 349.99 USD
In comparison with the current 360 cameras on the market, the Samsung Gear 360 is possibly the most affordable camera at the highest quality. The Kodak SP360 shoots in 4K but you need to buy two in order to film in full spherical. The Ricoh Theta is also another option but it only shoots 1080p, and the picture quality doesn’t look too promising stretched to a full immersive view.
With the Samsung Gear 360, we finally have a turnkey 360 video in a single integrated device. The only drawback is that you must pair the camera with a Samsung Galaxy S6 or S7. So if you already own a Samsung Galaxy S6 or S7, this camera is definitely for you to shoot some high-quality 4K 360-degree videos.
The Samsung Gear 360 front and rear sensors each capture 180 degrees to generate a seamless 360-degree filed-of-view. Every angle of your capture is recorded in 3840 x 1920 high resolution and 25.9MP photos.
Price : 599 USD
Recognized as a first class industrial design at the 2016 IF design award, Insta360 was produced by Shenzhen Arashi Vision Co., Ltd as the first real time stitching 360 video camera. You can take ultra HD photos and videos as well as live streaming. The camera shoots in 4K at 30fps. The design enables easy mounting on tripod, attachment to drone, and simply holding with hand.
This camera is very competitive in terms of quality and price, as it has a wide potential for professional use such as live concert stream, real estate, tourism. and aerial photography.
The 32gb memory card slot is located on the bottom which can be easily removed and replaced. There’s also a USB port where you can attach your devices.
Insta360 Nano 360 Camera
Price : 197 USD
Regarded as the smallest 360 degree camera in the world, the pearl white Insta360 is a highly rated 360 camera perfectly compatible with iPhones 7/7 plus and iPhone 6/6 plus. Or you can simply use the camera on it’s own. The camera is also compatible with other smartphones with a transfer cable.
The footages are shot at 3040 x 1520 resolution at 30fps and can share in real-time on Facebook, WeChat, and live streams. It comes with 64GB storage, VR app, 360 player/studio/plugin, as well as a cardboard headset.
The dual lens combines images taken from cameras in real time and you can get a preview exactly how the final footage will look like. The images are stitched in real time so you can livestream and the camera will be able to track head movements when viewing on VR headsets. The software is compatible both PC and Mac, where the files can be converted from .insv to mp4 file. Pictures can be exported as jpeg.
Giroptic 360 camera
Price : 499.99 USD
The Giroptic 360 camera take a complete footage at 2048 x 1040 using sensors and stitches images together within the camera. The video quality is better than most others on the market but not the best. There are two manual button that allows you to start and stop recording and switch between modes, but you won’t be able to change the settings without the smartphone app. The app allows you to see a live feed from the camera, start and stop recording, stabilize images, and making changes to other settings. You can also publish via the app to YouTube and Facebook.
-Replaceable battery and memory card.
-Water resistant (up to 30 feet deep)
-LCD display has LEDs display which can be hard to read under direct sunlight
-Trouble with stitching all the images when combined
-Video quality is great but not the best of it’s class.