Everyone loves those 360-degree photos shared on Facebook. The social network reports that millions of people watch them every day. They’ve proven popular enough for Facebook to invest heavily in the medium (the company recently launched a 360 app for the Samsung Gear VR). And with this growing interest in virtual reality and 360-degree live-stream content, it’s been no surprise to find plenty of cameras that shoot 360-degree images and video coming out in 2017. We’ve collected together the standout ones here, but you can expect this list to grow.
The new Giroptic iO is a convenient, well-designed, and really easy to use 360-degree camera accessory for the iPhone. It attaches to the Lightning connector, so you have to turn the phone upside down to use it, but the custom app quickly turns around to match. The app is the standout, as it’s incredibly straightforward. The interface is clear, and there are no superfluous buttons to get in the way of shooting and sharing content. We found using the app to be highly stable and fluid.
The company has been working in the 360-degree image space since 2008, and understands that stitching together images to create a single 360-degree picture is quite a challenge, so has been perfecting the technology on the iO camera. It’s available to buy now for $250.
You shouldn’t have to spend a fortune to add a 360-degree camera to your smartphone. Chinese phone manufacturer Ulefone has launched the VRKam, which will cost about $100 when it goes on sale soon. It plugs into a USB Type-C port and comes with its own custom Android app. We tried it out, but it was still under development and often reacted slowly. However, the high-resolution stills and videos looked good, and there are various filters to add to the finished product. It’s also small and light, so the unit can easily be carried around.
Expect to have to import the VRKam from China if you want one.
The Ricoh R is slightly different from other 360 cameras, as it’s designed for standalone live streaming, or for more professional applications. That doesn’t make it any less desirable though, and its ultra-compact size makes it perfect for use by keen YouTubers wanting to try out high-end VR streaming.
A modified version of the Ricoh Theta, the camera records a 1,920 x 960-pixel image at 30 frames per second (fps), and can keep going for 24-hours provided it’s plugged into a power supply — that’s the official claim, although a Ricoh engineer told us it could probably last longer. The real-time stitching of images shot by the two lenses really impresses here, and makes the Ricoh R stand out from other models. The Ricoh R is available as a pre-order for $500 right now, although it’s more of a business solution than a consumer gadget.
Another step up in the 360-degree camera world, the Vuze looks unlike all the other cameras on our list and is aimed at the keen amateur or professional VR content creator. First teased at CES 2016, the camera uses eight Sony sensors around the UFO-like body, which shoot immersive 3D video in 4K resolution. It’s controlled by a smartphone app, and the content is transferred over to the computer ready for editing. We watched 3D video shot on the Vuze using simple clip-on VR-viewing glasses over a smartphone screen, and the footage — shot on a sailing boat — looked amazing. It’s not cheap though, and you’ll have to spend $800 to get one.
ProTruly Darling VR Phone
It’s not just the name that’s weird about this one. It’s a smartphone with a 360-degree camera built into the body, resulting in a very long, and really bizarre-looking device. Rather than rely on the tech to make the Darling stand out, the company will make models made from gold and diamonds. Because why wouldn’t it?
That’s going to mean a massive price tag of at least $1,300 when (if?) it eventually goes on sale, at which time we’d be surprised to see it turn up outside China. It’s also not the first of its type either. Yezz showed off a prototype 360-degree camera phone called the Sfera in 2016, but the device has never gone on sale.