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(Pocket-lint) - With virtual reality headsets becoming more popular and platforms like Facebook and YouTube supporting 360-degree photos and videos, it's no surprise to see more 360 cameras coming to market. 

There is now a range of capable cameras available at wildly different budgets. Each has their own appeal, so the choice really comes down to budget and what you want the camera for. Something small you can slip in your pocket and take on a jaunt or an action camera that can survive being dropped, bashed and used underwater? 

Take a look at our list of the best VR and 360 cameras available to buy, whatever your budget. 

Best 360 camera for video capture

GoProBest 360 Camera Lead image 2

GoPro Max

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  • 6K spherical video capture capabilities
  • Voice control and live-streaming
  • OverCapture user-friendly video editing system
  • 1,600mAh battery
  • Hypersmooth video stabilisation

When it comes to video, especially action-cam footage, GoPro has always managed to produce incredible results. The GoPro Max is another camera from GoPro making waves. 

Video capture capabilities

This device possibly offers the best 360 video capture capabilities of any device we've seen. Likely because it's capable of capturing 6K video at 30fps. Where the GoPro Max really shines though is in usability. GoPro's OverCapture video editing system allows users to easily create brilliant footage from their recordings. 

This OverCapture tech even offers the ability to flatten 360 videos to make them viewable on any device - including TVs and create a "tiny planet"-like view or make sharp transitions at certain points. 

The results are something pretty special and set this 360 camera apart from the crowd. 

Durability and flexibility 

Like other cameras in the GoPro range, the GoPro Max is a flexible and durable camera. This device is waterproof up to 16 feet and can be used underwater and with some abuse - making it suitable for use with watersports.

A removable 1,600mAh battery and a USB-C port that supports fast charging make it pretty flexible too. A touchscreen even lets you see what you're capturing and widens its appeal. 

360 video makes a lot of sense in extreme sports areas and with the sort of footage GoPro fans will be capturing. It's therefore easy to see why GoPro created the Max (itself a soft reboot of the older Fusion camera) and where it sits in this market. As such, it's well worth considering.

The GoPro Max offers some of the best results we've seen in terms of capture quality. It's also easy to use with the OverCapture functionality on a smartphone. It boasts a great feature list and impressive specifications, but it does come with a pretty hefty price tag. 

Conclusion

GoPro's expertise when it comes to action cameras has come to bear brilliantly on the Max — it's great for filming whatever activities you'd want it to, and is also adaptable. When you need 360 footage, it'll produce the goods, but can also film all sorts of other quality video. 

Pros:

  • User-friendly video editing system
  • Tripod mounting as standard
  • Waterproof and durable build
  • Excellent footage results
  • Touchscreen so that you can see what you're capturing

Cons:

  • One of the more expensive 360 camera options

Most feature-rich 360 camera

Pocket-lintbest 360 camera lead photo 6

Insta360 One R

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  • 5.7K 360 capture or 4K wide-angle
  • H.265 encoding with "advanced image processing"
  • FlowState Stablisation" - offers "gimal-like" stablisation

The Insta360 One R is one of those devices that tries to offer you the world on a stick. It's a feature-packed camera that comes in various editions with bundles that include different lenses or attachments and extras. There's even an aerial edition that'll fit certain Mavic drones.

It comes with an "invisible" selfie stick and a multitude of capture options that make things interesting. Everything from night shot capabilities to HDR mode, bullet time, starlapse, timelapse and more. It has a compact frame that can be made waterproof with the accompanying housing.

Capture quality

  • 360-degree field of view
  • Upto 5760 x 2880 at 30FPS
  • HDR and standard video modes, timelapse, timeshift, bullet time and more
  • 100Mbps video bit rate

The Insta360 One R offers some impressive capture quality. Considering all the recording options you get, it seems to do a lot of things and does them well. 

It also has swappable lenses and different mounting options meaning you can use it to capture all sorts of footage, whatever you're planning on recording. Whether action shots using a helmet mount or chilled out strolls through the country with a selfie stick. 

We enjoy interesting modes like "bullet time" where you swing the camera around your head like you're wielding a mace, capturing a surrounding view of yourself and the environment. Other capture options include everything from HDR footage to timelapses.

Video and image sharing

You can edit it all within the app or the Insta 360 Studio and there's a detailed guide explaining how to do that. From there you can then easily share it on your favourite social media platform without much fuss. 

In the free video editor, you can add keyframes and move between various views including tiny planet, fish eye, standard view and more. The software isn't as powerful as something like DaVinci Resolve, but it's good enough to allow for editing, speed ramping, tweaking and even cutting out background noise from your audio. 

Conclusion

The Insta360 One R manages to pull off being a jack of all trades without much in the way of compromise. A brilliant little camera with a lot to offer and plenty of highlights too. 

Pros:

  • A multitude of capture modes and footage options
  • Easy to use free editing software
  • Swappable lenses and mounting options

Cons:

  • Some elements of the software and UI can be a faff

Most affordable 360 cam

Pocket-lintSamsung Gear 360 image 4

Samsung Gear 360 (2017)

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  • IP53 (Dust and Splash-proof)
  • Various capture modes including video, photo, time-lapse, looping video and landscape HDR
  • 1,160 mAh battery
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth v4.1, USB 2.0 (Type-C)

The Samsung Gear 360 is part of the company's "Gear" range of smart products designed to accompany the various Samsung flagship phones available. As such, this 360 camera works well with both the Samsung Gear VR (to view the photos) and the latest Samsung phones via the accompanying app

Despite this, the camera is actually pretty capable, easy-to-use and boasts a number of specifications that make it interesting. It's also one of the most affordable 360 cameras available. 

Capture quality

  • 360-degree field of view
  • 4K video capture (up to 4096 x 2048 at 24FPS), 15MP photos (5472 x 2736)
  • Micro SD card slot compatible with upto 256GB 

The Samsung Gear 360 uses two 360-degree lenses to capture either 4K video or 15MP images through a variety of capture modes including video, photo, time-lapse, looping video and landscape HDR. The results are fairly good, especially for the price of this camera. 

However, like many of the other 360 cameras out there, the fully stitched images are quite clear close-up, but distant objects are fairly blurry. The stitching itself though is well done and the split between the two images is often barely visible. 

This camera pairs with a range of Samsung phones and will also work with Apple iPhones, but frustratingly won't work with other Android devices. If you have a compatible smartphone you can access a live view of the camera for capturing purposes, as well as access to a wide range of different settings and tweaks. 

You don't need a phone to capture images or video if you don't want to though. A small monochrome screen on the device allows you to easily power on the camera and switch between the basic capture modes as well as settings to snap photos on the go. 

We also like the addition of the tripod mount underneath which allows you to put the camera to more adventurous uses if you should feel the need. 

The Samsung Gear 360 is IP53-rated, making it dust and splash proof, but not fully waterproof like the GoPro Max. It is compact and ergonomically well designed though, making it easy to take with you. It's small enough to fit nicely in your pocket and pop it out when you need it. 

Video and image sharing

  • 130-minute battery life when recording 2560 x 1280 at 30fps
  • Sharing via connected Samsung phone

The Samsung Gear 360 captures images and video that can be shared via the app on your smartphone. It can also be accessed, processed, edited and shared on PC or Mac with the accompanying Action Director software.  

Thanks to a USB-C connection, it's not only easy to quickly charge this camera, but also to easily download the images captured on the MicroSD card. The software can then be used to stitch the captured images into a 360-viewable photo or video and shared from there. 

If you're using the Smartphone app, you can share directly from there. You can also start a live broadcast via Facebook or YouTube too, though obviously the latter requires passing the data from the camera to the phone and then onwards, which results in lower-quality resolutions. 

The Samsung Gear 360 is an easy-to-use camera. Although the photo and video results aren't necessarily the best, the price point of this device and flexibility of its features and settings make it pretty appealing.

Conclusion

The stitching of images and videos is also surprisingly impressive and a much speedier process than the Acer Holo 360 - especially when using the Action Director software on PC.  

Pros:

  • Quick image and video processing via Action Director software
  • USB Type-C charging/interface port
  • Great ergonomics and compact design
  • Includes tripod mount

Cons:

  • Only compatible with Samsung phones and Apple iPhones 

Most premium 360 camera

Pocket-lintGarmin VIRB 360 image 9

Garmin VIRB 360

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  • Tripod mounts and grips included
  • Four microphones for spatial audio recording
  • Single and dual lens capture
  • Various photo modes including single shot, burst, timelapse, 360-degree front and back
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC connections
  • Waterproof to 10 metres
  • Built-in sensors for G-Metrix data overlays

The Garmin VIRB 360 is simultaneously both one of the most expensive and most interesting 360 cameras on our list.

This camera is an impressive little box of tricks. Packed into the fat little body is some high-end tech. This includes not only two 360-degree lenses capable of capturing 5.7K footage and 15MP photos but also a mass of other tech too. There's GPS, GLONASS, barometer and accelerometer sensors designed to capture data as you record and four microphones for spatial audio recording too. 

This gives you the power to create some pretty impressive footage using this camera, not just in quality, but also in the information you include. Videos look pretty awesome with speedometers and other G-Metrix data overlays visible during playback. Especially if you're planning on doing something sporty with the camera. 

The Garmin VIRB 360 is also designed to be rough and rugged. This 360 camera is waterproof to 10 metres, though Garmin doesn't reveal what, if any, IP-rating the body supports. Still, it shows it's capable of recording in wet environments and will stand up to some abuse. 

In the box, Garmin has included two attachments which allow you to connect a tripod using the usual screw mount. A small and capable, hand-held tripod is also included which allows for some nifty and steady shooting if you can find somewhere to stand it. 

This camera also includes another attachment which allows you to connect the camera to GoPro style mounts - opening up a world of possibilities for attaching to helmets, suction cups, handlebars and much more besides. 

Capturing is as simple as pressing a button on top to take photographs and pushing a slide on the side to record video. An LCD screen on top gives you easy access to change basic settings and flip between capture modes too. The result is an easy-to-use camera that's a joy to play with. 

Voice control is also an option saying "OK, Garmin" allows you to give verbal commands. You can then ask the camera to start/stop recording, take photos and more besides. 

Capture quality

  • 5.7K/30FPS, unstitched or 4K/30FPS, stitched
  • 15 MP photo capture
  • Automatically stitched photos and videos

We were suitably impressed with the capture quality of the Garmin VIRB 360. It's not surprising that with such impressive specs under the hood, this camera is capable of not only capturing high-quality video but images too. 

As well as recording 360-degree video at a maximum of 5.7K, the Garmin VIRB 360 also has a number of other capture options that include standard stills from either lens, burst mode, timelapse capture and slow-motion too. 

It's easy to grab imagery and video footage with just a couple of clicks and the camera automatically does all the legwork in processing what you've snapped too. 

We did experience some minor issues with stitching occasionally with photos (people missing parts of their heads) but this is fairly common on these sorts of cameras and is often forgivable. Otherwise, the quality of the footage and imagery is pretty reasonable. 

None of these cameras is yet mind-blowing in terms of the end results. Despite the specifications, the technology is not quite there yet and you can easily see the degradation in quality the further into the distance you look, but this camera still has a lot going for it. 

The Garmin VIRB includes spherical stabilisation capabilities and footage can be edited to reduce shake and wobble with a simple couple of clicks. The results are remarkable too. It's the ease-of-use, brilliant capture capabilities and flexibility where this 360 camera really shines. 

As if that wasn't enough, the camera is also capable of recording for up to an hour on a single charge. Spare batteries and dual chargers are available to purchase to keep on recording if you so wish too. 

Video and image sharing

  • Spherical stabilisation capabilities
  • Free desktop editing software
  • Mobile app for settings tweaks and sharing on the go

For us, one of the highlights of the Garmin VIRB 360 is almost certainly the way it handles stitching of images and videos. This processing is done automatically on the device meaning it's almost seamless.

You can choose to use the iOS or Android app to share content while you're out and about or use the free desktop software to edit footage once you're back home. But even importing photos and videos from the device onto your PC or Mac you'll find their already stitched and ready for viewing or sharing to Facebook, YouTube or wherever else you wish to use them. 

There's a Google Cardboard functionality built right into the app too, meaning you can pop your phone into a VR headset and view footage you've captured in full 360-degree glory. 

There's a lot of flexibility here. Apple users can even live stream via the smartphone app, so there are plenty of different ways to capture and share content.  

The Garmin VIRB 360 is one of the best 360-degree cameras we've seen. It's flexible, capable and powerful. We loved the automatic stitching and the easy-to-use accompanying app and software that make it a breeze to easily create and share your content. 

Conclusion

Stand-out features include powerful video stabilisation, brilliant G-Metrix data overlays, easy editing and spatial audio recording. 

For us though, the best feature is likely the one you'll take for granted - the automatic stitching and processing. This is seamless and results in content that can be viewed and shared as soon as it's exported. This means it can be seen without any dull waiting around for the camera to process the footage beforehand like we experienced with other cameras we've tested. 

Pros:

  • Automatic on-camera stitching and footage processing
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Simple pairing and controls via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC
  • Free app and desktop software makes editing and sharing a breeze
  • Waterproofing and rugged design
  • Flexible mounts and adapters mean you can potentially stick it to anything

Cons:

  •  Hefty price tag
Writing by Adrian Willings. Originally published on 12 April 2016.