It's a new year, so it's time for a new camera review! VR and 360 cameras are evolving at a rapid pace, and it has become a challenge to keep up with the latest technology. If you’ve been tasked with creating a VR experience, the first step on your journey is to select the right camera for the job. As with any camera purchase, there are a lot of factors to consider.

4K video seems like high resolution for your TV, but when you divide that between two lenses and wrap that around all 360 degrees of a sphere, it is barely HD quality, so it really should be where you start. You’ll always have the option of compressing it down if you need to save space. And don’t forget the quality of the optics themselves. High numbers for resolution, sound great, but if the image doesn’t start out sharp, it won’t make any difference. Price is a factor in any purchase decision, and you’ll find a range of options when looking at 360 cameras.

For this review, we’ll look at 4 of the leading 360 cameras, discuss their pros and cons, and then look at the same picture taken with each camera, with sub-optimal lighting conditions to really test its strength as a shooter.

Insta 360 One X

✔  Solid Photos and Video
✔  Companion App is top notch
✔  Pocketable form factor
✖  Requires the phone App to fully control

The Insta 360 One X has a lot going for it. It certainly has the best form factor of the cameras in the review, being easily pocketable. The photos and video taken with the device are crisp and clear, and having a thin camera body allows it to maintain a more seamless stitch, even when you are closer to the camera.

The Insta 360 comes with Flowstate stabilization, which does a great job of smoothing out the bumps of moving the camera around without compromising the quality of your shot.

It has a pretty interesting feature called “bullet time”, which allows you to swing the camera around above you and generate an effect you may remember from The Matrix, where the scene is in super slow motion and the camera rotates around you.

The companion app is the best of the bunch as it allows you to cut and trim the video easily, and output it with proper resolution and compression. It doesn't require any other tools to do the job.

  • Video Resolution: 5.7K at 30fps
  • Photo Resolution: 18MP
  • Battery Life: 60 minutes
  • Price: $399.95 (Amazon)
  • Onboard Storage: None (requires Micro SD card, not included)

GoPro MAX

✔  Rugged, Waterproof to 5M
✔  Can be used for standard and 360
✔  Voice commands for shooting
✔  Hypersmooth Video Stabilization
✖  Not all Software available for Windows
✖  Pricey

GoPro has upped their game with the MAX camera.  It's slim, rugged, and waterproof down to 5 meters. The MAX is probably the easiest camera of the bunch to set up and use, led by the touchscreen interface on the camera. Although it no longer creates separate video files for each lens like the Fusion did, you will still be required to have the desktop software to convert and stitch the 360 video together to get that single equirectangular file. Images, however, are stitched directly on the camera.

The GoPro is much more rugged than the other devices in this roundup, and can even be used for underwater filming up to five meters without a cover, so don’t be afraid to take it out in the rain. In fact, it even comes with additional protective lens covers that snap on.

The GoPro Max shoots richer and more colorful video and photos than the other cameras in this review, with deeper blacks and more accurate color balance, likely owing to superior sensors and its next generation chip for processing video inside the camera.

  • Video Resolution: 5.6K at 30fps
  • Photo Resolution: 16.6 MP
  • Battery Life: 78 minutes
  • Price: $499.99 (Amazon)
  • Onboard Storage: None (requires Micro SD card, not included)

Yi 360


✔  Crisp pictures
✔  In-app stitching for images and 4K videos
✔  Bargain price
✖  No Mac OS stitching/editing software

The Yi 360 matches the highest resolution video in this roundup at 5.7K. Image quality is impressive, giving incredibly crisp pictures for its value price. The camera has an intuitive OLED display on top with plenty of information, and scrollable arrow keys that let you adjust settings without the phone app.

It also has a unique feature that solves one of the most common problems with 360 video shooting: getting yourself out of the shot. The camera can take a series of three separate still images, five seconds apart, with you standing in three different places. The camera software will identify you, and remove you from the photo. It actually works very well, so don’t be afraid to try it for your production work. It also has a time lapse video setting which can be great for introductory scenes for a VR experience, as well as lots of camera settings that a semi-professional videographer may want to use.

The phone app itself will stitch video at 4K resolution or less, but if you select the highest resolution, you’ll need to use the companion desktop application to stitch it for equirectangular format. Unfortunately, there is only a Windows version of the application, so Mac users are asked to find a third party app.

  • Video Resolution: 5.7K at 30fps
  • Photo Resolution: 16 MP
  • Battery Life: 50 minutes
  • Price: $159.00 (Amazon)
  • Onboard Storage: None (requires Micro SD card, not included)

Ricoh Theta V

✔  Slim, pocketable form factor
✔  Warm, crisp photos and video
✔  Works equally well with iOS and Android phones
✖  No expandable storage

Ricoh was a pioneer in the 360 camera industry, and the Theta V is their consumer entry in the market. 4K video and images are recorded with good color, and the slim form factor is great  for transporting the camera around.

Unlike many of the other cameras, it’s ready to go right out of the box. Storage and battery are completely built in to the camera. This ease of use is also one of its faults. You can’t expand the storage or bring an extra battery if you are out on the go and want to do a lot of filming. You would be surprised how fast you can fill up storage with 4K video.

Ricoh offers several desktop apps for stitching, streaming, and converting, which can be a bit confusing. The basic app is the one that is necessary to use the camera, as no video stitching is done on camera.

  • Video Resolution: 4K at 30fps
  • Photo Resolution: 14MP
  • Battery Life: 80 minutes
  • Price: $339.00  (Amazon)
  • Onboard Storage: 20GB

Photos for VR

With each camera, I took the exact same photo of some VR headsets sitting on my desk, here in my office, in what is certainly sub-optimal lighting. This should give a good comparison test as to how well the camera will take pictures in a challenging environment. I also filmed video of multiple scenes indoors and outdoors to get a comparison of their video capabilities. Note that the pictures are clipped from a 3D rendered view of the full 360 scene so they are represented properly in this 2D view, and also so you wouldn’t see me behind the camera!

Insta 360 One X

The Insta 360 One X gets crisp lines and good quality, but seems to struggle a bit in low light. The colors appear a bit washed out when compared to other shots in this review, even from the less expensive models. The outdoor shots fared much better.

GoPro Max

The GoPro MAX had the best photos and videos in most situations. The color balance is more accurate to reality, and the shots  maintain their crispness, even in lower light environments. I also felt that the video stabilization was the best of the group, as you would expect from a company that has the lineage of GoPro.


Yi 360

The Yi did a decent overall job of accurately portraying the lighting and colors in the photo. The text on the headsets is readable, even in the edges of the field of view. Video from the camera was solid, producing sharp, clear frames, with good audio pickup.

Ricoh Theta V

The Theta V had warm colors, but is showing its age as far as overall quality and sharpness.. Video was good, but not quite as good as the output from the other cameras in the group.

Picking the Right 360 Camera for VR

In any review, you need to pick a winner, but it’s a little tough here in that the different cameras excelled in different areas. If you will be shooting video or photos in any type of wet or dirty environment, then without question the GoPro MAX is the way to go. Even with the higher price, it’s the only one that could survive the elements. The Yi 360 is the bargain buy, producing  reasonable output at the lowest price. The Insta 360 One X is a great all around camera with the best companion software to produce your output.

I guess the best way to pick a winner is to choose the camera I ended up using for my own VR scenarios, which in this case is the GoPro Max. I like having the controls on the screen of the camera, and the sharp output with accurate color balance can’t be beat.