The world of professional 360 camera is really hotting up. This was an industry that barely existed just last year, but now several companies are pinning their hopes on creating professional 360 cameras for the VR content market. So how do you define a professional 360 camera? In short, a professional 360 camera can create very high quality 360 video and imagery that will look as clear as possible on a VR headset or on a large screen. The camera will be able to shoot 360 images or video with a single shot without manually stitching several images together.
Professional 360 camera usually have multiple lenses and several microphones for capturing 360 audio. Cheaper, consumer 360 cameras can usually only shoot at a resolution of around 4K, where as camera designed for professional work need to shoot at around 8K to create a sufficient quality. Most professional cameras also have several other abilities not found in consumer 360 cameras like the ability to shoot constantly, live stream in high quality and shoot at a high frame rate.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the professional 360 cameras currently available and coming soon this year. I’m going to compare the specs of each camera and then go into a deeper analysis of what each one can do. If you are thinking of investing in a professional 360 camera this post should hopefully make it much easier to choose the right one for you.
Top Professional 360 Cameras of 2018
|Insta360 Pro||Vuze Plus||GoPro Fusion||GoPro Omni||Z Cam S1||Kandao Obsidian||Pilot Era|
|Price||$3499||$1200||$599||Rig alone: $1500 Full kit with cameras: $5000||$2499||$6999||TBA|
|Number of Lenses||6||8||2||6 GoPro Hero Cameras||4 x 190 pro grade fisheye lens||6||4|
|Video Resolution||4K at 100fps 8K at 30fps||4K||5.2K||8K @ 25fps
4K @ 30fps
|6K @30fps 4K @60fps||8K at 30fps 4K at 60fps||8K (7680x 3840) @24fps – 6K (5760×2880) @30fps – 4K (3840×1920) @60fps|
|Livestream||4K||Yes||No||No||Yes – 4K||Yes – Requires Extra Licence||Yes- 4G or Wifi|
|Memory||External SD up to 256GB||MicroSD upt to 256 GB||2x MicroSD 128 GB||6x 32GB SD Cards||256GB MicrSD||SD 256GB||4GB Ram 256 GB TF card|
|Power/Battery||5000mAh removable battery (75 mins) 12V 5A DC adapter||3700 mAh – 2 Hours Recording||1.5hr||2hr||6 x Rechargable Li-Ion batteries.
3 Hours per full charge
|12v Power Input||6000mAh – More than 3 hours continuous recording|
|RAW||Yes||No||Yes||No||No||Yes -Photos Only||No|
|3D Capable||Yes – Maximum at 7680×7680 (8K)||Yes – 4K 3D Photos and Videos||No||No||No||No||No|
|Ports||HDMI 2.0 Type-D (for the monitoring and output of footage)
RJ45 Ethernet interface (for stable cable communication)
USB Type-C (for high speed file transfer)
|1x USB||1x USB C||6x mini USB connections for camera charging and offload, 1x Smart Remote for remote control, 6x micro HDMI connections for video preview||4 x Mini HDMI 4 x SD card||1 x Ethernet Port||TBA|
|Audio||4 Built in Microphones 1 AUX Spherical Sound||360 Spatial Audio||360 Spatial Audio||6 x GoPro Mic||360 Spatial Audio||360 Spatial Audio||4x Mic – 360 Spatial Audio|
|Other Features||Stabilization software||Livestream Software, Splashproof, Gyroscope||Overcapture, Waterproof, Stabilization, GPS, Voice Activation||Comes with Kolor virtual reality editing software.||Stabilization Hardware Included||Full Touch Screen Display, Real Time Stitching|
|Where to Buy||Amazon||Amazon||Amazon||BH Photo Video||Indiegogo||Obsidian Website||TBA|
Professional 360 Camera Analysis
1. Insta360 Pro
- 8K 360 Video
- Slow Motion 360 Video
- Live-stream in 4K
- Internal Stabilization
- 360 Audio
The Insta360 Pro (Check Latest Price on Amazon) has been marketed as the first “affordable” professional 360 camera. At $3500 I wouldn’t call it cheap, but compared to most similar all in one 360 cameras it certainly seems to represent good value.
The Pro can shoot 8K 3D 360 video, which is high enough for professional VR productions, as well as equally large 360 photos. If you need very high quality 360 video for a VR production, then the Pro is definitely the most cost effective for this purpose. Insta360 has thrown everything but the kitchen sink into the Pro to try and produce the perfect all in one professional 360 camera, so I’d call this camera the jack of all trades professional 360 camera.
Live streaming in 4K can be done with just a few clicks and you can even shoot slow motion 360 video at 100fps. Several microphones produce ambisonic audio and a power socket keeps the camera running for hours at a time. Stabilization software developed specifically for Insta360 makes sure your 360 video looks smooth and doesn’t give the viewer a headache.
The Insta360 Pro has many of the features found in far more expensive cameras, so if you are looking to get started with professional 360 video production but need to keep to a strict budget, it’s difficult to recommend anything else.
Insta360 Pro Video example
2. Vuze Plus
Let’s look at a much cheaper camera, but one that still provides pro level features. The Vuze Plus is an 8 lens 360 camera that can shoot 4K 3D 360 video. This is one of only a few 360 cameras that can shoot stereoscopic (3D) 360 video, which is important because 3D 360 looks far more realistic when viewed on a VR headset.
The Vuze features specialized optics in each lens to maximize the quality of the video, however the overall resolution is limited to 4K which is low compared to other professional cameras.
At just $1200 the Vuze is a very cost effective way to get started with pro level immersive video, particularly if you intend for your video to be viewed on a VR headset.Amazon
3. GoPro Fusion
This is the cheapest camera I’m recommending and while not technically aimed at professionals, the quality of the video is shoots makes it equal to other much more expensive devices.
The Fusion can shoot 5.2K 360 video, and it can do so very well. The lenses are high enough quality to capture plenty of detail, work well in low light and record with excellent dynamic range. While it can’t shoot in 3D and lacks livestream capability, the Fusion is a realistic option for those who want to capture professional quality 360 video but have a sub $1000 budget.
Be aware that while the Fusion video is excellent there is a reason many of these other cameras are much more expensive, and there is a limit to what it can achieve. Having said that, it’s the only camera on this list that’s small enough to carry in your jacket pocket, attach to a selfie stick and durable enough to take underwater!Amazon
3. GoPro Omni
The GoPro Omni Rig has been a staple of professional 360 video production for a few years now and is still the one to beat. It’s expensive, difficult to work with and a pain in post production, but it can produce some absolutely stunning 360 video which is still unrivaled in terms of quality and consistency. It’s hard to argue with the power of 6 GoPro’s tied together with a electronic rig that regulated their shooting, memory and battery. 8K video at 30fps looks will more than satisfy any VR user watching through their headset. The Omni can shoot to a maximum of 120fps, which reduced the video quality but allows for slow motion. One feature not found in the Omni is livestreaming as the stitching of the 360 video is done in post production.
If you are most concerned with the quality of the 360 video you produce and you are prepared to spend a bit more time working in post production, either renting or buying an Omni should guarantee quality.
360 Time lapse shot with the GoPro Omni
4. Z Cam S1
The cheapest option in this list of professional 360 cameras, the Z Cam S1 is still quite the power house. Using 4 fish eye lenses the Z Cam S1 can shoot 6K 360 video and livestream in 4K. The video produced by this camera is of sufficient quality for most professional VR productions and is extremely easy to produce. Sttiching is done inside the camera which saves the operator the hassle of stitching in post production. An ACDC power adaptor means you don’t have to worry about the camera running out of power during a long shoot or live streaming session.
For $2.5K this is a relatively inexpensive 360 camera for professionals starting out in VR video production. It may not have all the bells and whistles of some other cameras on this list, but it can shoot amazing 360 video, and thats what really counts.
Video footage from the Z Cam
Other Pro 360 Cameras
The below cameras are either no longer in production, but are still-available to buy, or are awaiting release.
- Specialises in Streaming 360 Video
- Capable of continuous Live Streaming for up to 48h
- Maximum 4K Resolution
The Orah 4i is primarily a 360 camera for streaming. Even though the video resolution is limited to 4K, less than some others on this list, its livestreaming capabilities are second to none. If you are looking for a 360 camera to livestream an event, the Orah is going to be your first port of call. 4K resolution is actually perfectly adequate for livestreaming 360 video, mostly because livestreaming anything more would require an insane internet connection. The Orah can be hooked up to a power supply and livestream constantly for 48 hours, far more than any other camera. Heat dissipation technology means that no noisy fans are required to keep the camera cool and it can connect to Facebook and YouTube in a breeze.
3 Hour 360 Live Stream using Orah 4i
The Sonicam is a new entry into the world of professional VR cameras, in fact it won’t be officially released till September 2017 (you can still back it on Kickstarter here). If you are interested in professional 360 live streaming then you should pay close attention to this camera. The Sonicam will be limited to shooting 4k resolution 360 video, but it makes up for this will its amazing audio credentials. 64 (!) separate microphones within the camera will record 3D abisonic sound designed to mimic reality as much as possible. 360 video can also be recorded in 3D, which is a nice touch but the usefulness is questionable. No other camera plays such close attention to audio which is a huge part of creating immersive VR video.
All of this is designed with live streaming in mind, which I’m sure is partly why the camera does not shoot at the highest resolutions. No point live streaming n 8K if no one has the internet speed to get it to work! Some other interested features include water resistance, GPS, Accelormeter and Gyroscope.
When Facebook announced they are developing camera hardware, everyone pays attention. Facebook has been the tech company most enthusiastic about 360 video and VR. They bought Occulus and have been accepting 360 video on their platform for over a year now. Facebook wants us to create amazing 360 video to share on their platforms, so instead of waiting for someone else to create the right tech, they’ve decided to do it themselves.
The Surround X26 is a professional 360 camera with, you guessed it, 26 lenses. These lenses work together to shoot full 360 video in 8K. Most excitingly, the camera will utilise a new technology called 6 Degrees of Freedom (6DOF) which allows people using a VR headset to actually move in their 360 video. This is accomplished with software that can predict the depth of objects even if the camera does not actually capture them.
Facebook will also be releasing a smaller and cheaper version called the x6, which is likely designed for mass market. Professional VR video makers will likely be far more interested in the X24 and its unique features. Not much more is know about this camera, but Facebook say the camera should be available by the end of 2017. Sign up to my email alters (sidebar) to keep track of this camera.
Nokia unexpectedly rose from the dead and surprised the VR world when they announced their first and only 360 camera, the Ozo. The most expensive camera on this list, the Ozo is a serious piece of kit that is probably limited to film studios. Of course you can rent the Ozo for a much lower price than its actual cost (often over $20,000), but is it worth the price? The Ozo does feature an impressive array of specs; it can shoot in 8K at 30 fps, stitch video in real time, has a 500GB solid state drive, can connect to 4G and can shoot in RAW. The gaain many cheaper cameras have similar specifications, so why the high price? The individual lenses sin the Ozo are of a very high quality so 8K from the Ozo may look better than 8K from a different camera, although in most cases you won’t notice a huge different.
So is it worth it? Unless you absolutely must have the very highest quality VR video for your project, I’d recommend one of the other cameras purely down to value for money. If budget isn’t a concern, then the Ozo does produce the best quality 360 video in most situations, for now at least.
Video footage from Nokia Ozo
These are the top choices for shooting professional 360 video for VR and each camera is completely unique. I can’t tell you which one is the best, as this will entirely depend on your project and what you want to use it for. I will say that if you are mostly interested in static video, the Insta360 Pro is an excellent value choice. If you want a camera for live-reaming events, then the Orah 4i or Z Cam S1 are both proven devices. All of these cameras represent a huge step up from the consumer level cameras, so regardless of your choice you’re guaranteed be way ahead of the curve and able to create some truly unique video.