The best 360 cameras are a highly specialised tool that let you create completely unique stills and videos. Able to capture images across 360-degrees, these cameras create interactive content that can be navigated with a mouse or touchscreen. There's nothing quite as immersive as 360-degree imagery, whether you're capturing a landscape, a busy street scene, or a breath-taking mountain bike ride.
While 360-degree files are big and unwieldy, and will requite the right software to process, they are incredibly useful and versatile. You don't only have to use them to create 360-degree content; you can also dive in post-capture and pick out a slice of the scene that you want to convert into a more traditional "flat" image or video. This means you can use a 360-degree camera as a great kind of catch-all camera, for moments when you want to capture the action but aren't sure where it's going to be happening.
You may already be finding all this a bit confusing. If you're new to 360-degree imaging and need a bit of a primer, we have a section you can jump to on how 360 imaging works, which will give you what you need to get your head around the basics.
Once that's sorted, it's time to pick the best 360 camera for you! There's plenty out there – GoPro made its name in the 360 realm with two bites at the apple, first the GoPro Fusion and later the much-refined GoPro Max. While these are absolutely top-of-the-line 360 cameras, there are plenty of other options to choose from, many of which come at competitive price tags.
We really rate the cameras coming from Insta360 in particular, with clever modular products like the Insta 360 ONE R providing something that's compellingly different from the GoPro offering. There are quite a few budget options from lesser-known manufacturers too.
Let's take a look at the best 360 cameras you can buy right now.
The best 360 camera in 2022
The GoPro Max is a pitch-perfect blend of sophistication and useability. It's a deep camera, but also a highly accessible one, and that high-end GoPro waterproofing gives it an extra leg-up over a lot of the other cameras on this list. This is ultimately what clinches it as our #1 choice, though its stills/video quality is also good enough to pretty much manage this by itself. It'll do pretty well as a general vlogging camera thanks to the high-quality on-board microphones, and the app is really well put together, making it simple to control camera functions with your phone. This is one of the pricier cameras we've included, but it really is the best of the best in 360-degree imaging right now.
Read more: GoPro Max review
If you want to get really involved with crafting and editing high-quality 360-degree clips, the Insta360 One X2 is an ideal canvas for your creativity. It offers absolutely loads of options, including special effects like stop motion and 'clone trail', which lets you create a trippy video where you spawn copies of yourself as you walk. Such effects can be a little gimmicy, but they're undeniably cool, and being able to do them easily in-camera is a real boon.
The Insta360 One X2 is an all-around impressive action camera. The way it puts its 360º lenses to so many creative purposes is really impressive, and being able to shoot 'normal' widescreen video is also handy. The One X2 consistently produces exquisite videos and photos, and while it takes time and patience to master, we'd say it's worth the effort. Just be aware that its processing-intensive app demands a high-end phone that can keep up.
Read more: Insta360 One X2 review
The QooCam 8K the best 360 camera right now for image quality. A massive (by 360 standards) 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, 10-bit colour and, of course, that 8K resolution make sure of that. When it comes to the quality of its photos and videos, the QooCam 8K is peerless in the 360º market. Photos have plenty of color and contrast like nothing we’ve seen before from a camera like this. The ability to spit out a great-looking photo from a 360º video is welcome, while the detail, sharpness and smoothness of video – whether in 360º or cut-down to widescreen – itself makes the QooCam 8K a giant leap forward for creative filmmakers. It does have an audible fan, however, the battery life isn't great and it's not waterproof without a housing. It's also pretty expensive.
Released at the start of 2020, the Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition is a very enticing proposition indeed, and may well be an indication of the future for 360-degree cameras. Essentially it's called "Twin Edition" because it's two cameras in one, coming with two lens modules that are easy to swap between. One turns it into a straight 4K action camera, the other gives it 360º-shooting capability, and it's got loads of extra features too, including 5m of waterproofing (which can be extended with a special housing). AI-powered algorithms also augment the various shooting modes, and particularly impressive Auto Frame mode, which can automatically find and pick out the action in a 360º video. A new 1-inch Leica camera mod gives you another option – you can swap out the 360 module for a high-quality action cam.
Read more: Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition review
There is an Insta360 EVO which offers both 360 imaging and 3D but it's boxy and bulky, and we prefer the enduring appeal of of the Insta360 ONE X, thanks to its shirt-pocket design, excellent stabilization and an app that offers advanced video editing and subject tracking on your smartphone. Insta360 makes a great play about this camera's 6-axis gyro system and 'FlowState' stabilisation, and it's every bit as good as they say – we got the odd 'shimmer' during low-light shooting indoors, but in decent light it's as smooth as you like, and playback stays level however you angle the camera (just make sure you calibrate the gyros now and again). Even better, if you get the optional 'invisible' selfie stick, it's hidden in the recorded footage and it looks like you're a bystander in your videos and photos and not actually holding the camera at all. On release, the Insta360 ONE X felt like a massive step forward in simplicity, usability and quality for 360 cameras, and it still works brilliantly now. The only reason we've put more recent 360 cameras above it in our list is that newer models offer better quality, versatility or waterproofing – but for casual 360 experimenters and travel videos, the One X remains superb.
Designed to make shooting 360-degree and 180-degree photos and videos into an easy and intuitive process, the Vuze XR is effectively two cameras for the price of one. With the press of a single button, you can switch between 360-degree (2D) and 180-degree (3D) modes, shooting half a sphere or a full sphere of VR footage as you please. The XR also allows for in-camera image stitching as well as live broadcasting, further opening up your creative options, and the useful smartphone app also allows you to better monitor and control what you’re doing. The integrated hand grip makes it excellent for casual day-to-day usage – it’s not waterproof unless you add a separately sold case, so don’t go bringing it on kayaking trips and the like, as you would the GoPro Max. Beautifully designed, and producing excellent footage to match, the Vuze XR is an excellent tool for 360-degree imaging though perhaps a little bulky and offbeat for mainstream users.
Bear in mind that while the Vuze XR is still widely available in the US, it's currently a little harder to find elsewhere, so international readers may want to consider one of the other options on our list.
Read more: Vuze XR review
While it’s been pretty much eclipsed by the GoPro Max, which is a superior 360 camera in most ways worth mentioning, the GoPro Fusion is still widely available and is only getting cheaper, meaning it’s worth considering if you want a high-quality product for a budget price. Its “Over-capture” functionality – rebranded to “Reframe” on the Max – is still useful, allowing you to select parts of 360-degree footage to convert to a more conventionally viewable high-resolution video. While it wasn’t and isn’t quite as smooth as contemporary marketing material liked to make out, it still works pretty well, and expands the usefulness of the Fusion.
The first Ricoh Theta Z1 was announced and released in 2019 – back when a 360-degree camera was still at least something of a novelty. Since then, not much has changed, save for a slightly revamped version launched more recently, boasting 51GB of storage rather than the original’s rather limiting 19GB. It’s worth double-checking which one you’re getting before clicking the “Buy” button.
The Ricoh Theta Z1 produces impressively high-quality 360-degree video – as you’d hope at this price. It’s not as rough and ready as some other cameras on this list, without waterproofing or a protective shell, but it’s got a smooth design that’s comfortable to hold and intuitive to use. Its sensors are slightly larger than are usually found on cameras of this type, which improves dynamic range and arguably makes up for the fact that some other cameras edge it out in raw resolution terms. It’s expensive, but this is definitely an option worth considering.
How 360 imaging works
When visualizing how 360-degree images are captured, imagine someone photographing a sphere from the inside, making sure they get every contour of its inner surface. That’s essentially what 360-degree cameras do – place you in the centre of a sphere, and use extreme wide-angle lenses to capture everything around that point.
The sensors are ordinary ‘flat’ types, but the key is in the lenses, which are extreme fisheyes capable of capturing a 180-degree view, placed back to back. This captures two hemispherical images, which are then merged to produce the final 360-degree image. A viewer can then explore this image with a mouse, touchpad, touchscreen, or a VR headset, depending on how they’re viewing the image.
360-degree videos are, naturally, more complex than stills, as the action all around the viewer will continue even if they’re not looking at the portion of the image where it’s happening. As streaming platforms get more sophisticated, live 360-degree broadcasts are also becoming more common, which is an unparalleled way to immerse yourself in an unfolding event (short of, y’know, actually being there).
Editing 360-degree imagery can be a daunting task, though it is possible to divide them up into smaller ‘windows’ to handle individually, giving yourself a bit more control. In stills, you can crop out one of these windows entirely and export it as a ‘flat’ image. In video, this flexibility allows you to essentially simulate camera movements like tracking, panning and zooming, even though your shot was captured from a fixed position. Handy!
There is one thing to be aware of when dealing with 360-degree imagery, which specifically is resolution. As the surface area of a 360 image is much larger than a conventional one, 12MP on a 360-degree camera means something pretty different than 12MP does on a DSLR, and you can’t crop in as close expecting the same level of detail.