The Best Professional 360 Cameras in 2020 [Buying Guide]

Are you looking for a professional 360 camera to create virtual tours, video tours of livestream an event for VR? There are plenty of consumer cameras available but these aren’t up to the job if you want the highest quality 360 media possible. In this post I’ll take you through the current crop of pro-level cameras for shooting 360 and what they are specifically great for.

Top Professional 360 Cameras in 2020

SpecsTheta Z1Insta360 Pro 2Pilot OneX-Phase Pro S
Image
Lenses x2 1.0-inch back illuminated CMOS image sensors x6 f/2.0 sensors x4 1/2.3" Sensors x25 f/2.2 Sensors
Best For
  • Virtual Tours
  • 360 Video Tours
  • Livestream
  • Virtual Tours
  • 360 Livestream
  • Virtual Tours
  • VIDEO
    Max Video Resolution 4K (3840 x 1920) @30fps
  • 7680 x 3840 @30 fps HDR (8K 2D)
  • 7680 x 7680 @30 fps HDR (8K 3D)
  • 8K (7680*3840) 24fps N/A
    Max Bit Rate 80MBPS 120MBPS N/A
    Video Modes
    • Timelapse
    • Manual
    • Noise Reduction
  • Standard
  • LOG
  • cHDR
  • Standard
  • N/A
    Stabilization Horizon Correction Flowstate PilotSteady™ technology Horizon Correction
    Livestream 4K [email protected]
  • [email protected]
  • [email protected]
  • N/A
    Audio 4 Channel Microphones Ambisonic x2 Micophones N/A
    PHOTO
    Photo Resolution 23MP (6720 x 3360) 12000 x 12000 8192 x 4096
  • 16384 x 8192 (134mp) stitched
  • 200 megapixels unstitched
  • Photo Formats
    • JPEG
    • RAW
  • JPEG
  • DNG
  • JPG
  • JPEG
  • DNG
  • Photo Modes
    • Noise reduction
    • DR correction
    • Auto HDR
    • Interval shooting
    • Internal Composite Shooting
    • Shooting with self-timer
    • Shooting with multi bracket
    • Auto
    • Shutter Priority
    • ISO Priority
    • Shooting with self-timer
    • Manual
  • Timelapse
  • HDR
  • Countdown
    • Auto
    • Shutter Priority
    • HDR
    HARDWARE
    Screen LCD Display Mini LCD Display 2.2 Inch Touchscreen None
    Memory 19GB Internal 6 x MicroSD cards + 1 x Full SD card
    Battery Li-Ion, Approx 600 Photos, 60 Minutes of Video 5100mAh removable battery 3400mAh Battery 3400 mAh - 250 shots
    Other Features
    • Expandable Functionality via Plugins
    • 360 Spatial Audio
    • Built In GPS
    • WiFi Antenna
    • Built In GPS
    • 6GB RAM
    • Pilot Tour - Automatic Virtual Tours
    • Geotagging
    • Optical Flow Stitching
    WHERE TO BUY
    Amazon Insta360 Available on Amazon

    Pilot One

    The Pilot One is the second generation 360 camera from company Labpano. The Pilot One is designed to be an all-in-one 360 camera for creating virtual tours. The camera has built in virtual tour creation software which automatically uploads your geotagged images to the cloud where a virtual tour is created almost instantly.

    Labpano calls this “Pilot Tour” and is a great way of creating virtual tours at a high volume. The 4 lens setup allows for more accurate stitching and the high resolution images look very sharp. One downside to the Pilot One is the lack of DNG RAW capability. The automatic nature of the Pilot One means that editing is not a part of the process so you may have to sacrifice some quality compared to other cameras.

    The Pilot One can shoot high resolution 8K video, however it’s limited to 24fps which is not ideal for 360 video. One major feature of the Pilot One is the livestream feature which is automatic and easy to set up for continuous livestream. 4G and 5G connection capabilities results in high quality, smooth live streams. You can plug in the Pilot One for continuous power supply for long streaming sessions.

    Overall the Pilot One is a feature packed camera that’s great for virtual tours especially. Users have found that the automatic VR tours can be hit and miss, but when it does work it reduced the workflow for shooting virtual tours considerably.

    PROS:
    • All-in-One System
    • Auto VR Tour Creation
    • GPS Module
    • Continuous Livestream
    • 8K Video
    • Large Touchscreen
    • Apps

    CONS:
    • Pilot Tour Software Can Be Buggy
    • Limited Editing
    • Images Can Seem Bland

    Buy on Amazon

     

    Insta360 Pro 2 – Best for Video

    One of the older professional 360 cameras is the Insta360 Pro 2, however it’s the most tried and tested and is especially great for shooting high quality video. The Pro 2 features 6 individual lenses and can create 8K video in both 2D and 3D. HDR video mode increases dynamic range considerably and LOG mode allows the user full control of color editing in post production.

    Video shot with the Pro 2 is also stabilised thanks to Insta360’s Flowstate stabilization technology; this makes the Pro 2 the best professional 360 camera for moving video. Insta360 has also developed a Premiere Pro plugin that allows you editing directly from the camera files; this makes the usually long workflow process significantly shorter.

    Many people have also used the Pro 2 to create virtual tours thanks to the excellent photo capabilities. 12K photo resolution results in very sharp images and the same HDR mode automatically improves the quality of the images without editing.

    The Pro 2 is my recommended professional 360 camera for high quality video projects. The Pro 2 has been used by companies like the BBC & National Geographic as well as many VR producers around the world.

    PROS:
    • High Quality 8K Video
    • 3D and 2D
    • Flowstate Stabilization
    • Premiere Pro Plugin
    • HDR Mode for Photos and Video

    CONS:
    • Expensive
    • Requires 6 SD Cards
    • Large and Bulky

    Buy from Insta360

    X-Phase Pro S

    best professional 360 camera

    If you want the highest quality image for your virtual tours then the X-Phase Pro S offers the best 360 images of any professional 360 camera right now. 24 individual lenses and a max resolution of 200 megapixels results is images that can match up to a DSLR in terms of sharpness and overall quality.

    For virtual tours there’s probably no other all-in-one camera that can match it, however there are some serious limitations. For a start there’s no video capability nor can you livestream. The editing process is also quality complicated, which raises the question whether its better to use a DSLR.

    PROS:
    • Very High Resolution Images
    • Excellent Stitching Quality
    • Small and Compact

    CONS:
    • No Video or Livestream
    • Complicated Workflow
    • No Screen

    Ricoh Theta Z1 – Best for VR Tours

    The Ricoh Theta Z1 has become the workhorse of the Virtual Tour industry. Its dual One Inch lenses are able to create high quality 360 images with excellent dynamic range in a variety of environments.  DNG mode allows you to get the most out of these images and a relatively easy editing process means you can create high quality virtual tours quickly and efficiently.

    The compact size and shape of the Z1 means its easy to transport and use, making it perfect for semi-pro users such as real estate agents and construction workers.

    360 photos shot with the Z1 are limited to 23 megpixels which can’t quite match up to the other professional 360 camera in this list; however bare in mind that mode virtual tours are viewed on mobile screens where this isn’t as much of a concern. You should also look elsewhere if shooting video is your main aim as the Z1 isn’t a great option for this

    The Theta Z1 has been the most in demand 360 camera of the past year for virtual tour creators thanks to its excellent lens technology and easy to use design. The Z1 is the cheapest camera on this list and is great for those looking to get serious when creating virtual tours.

    PROS:
    • One Inch Lenses
    • High Dynamic Range Photos
    • Lightroom Plugin
    • Small and Easy to Use

    CONS:
    • Limited Image Resolution
    • No Expandable Memory

    Buy on Amazon

    Owner of threesixtycameras.com. Writer, photographer and videographer. You can see my YouTube channel for guides of how to shoot 360 video. I've written for The Times, Digital Photography School and Sunday Express. 

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