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360 Virtual Reality Cameras

With all the changes that are happening in the world of Virtual Reality and 360 cameras, it’s hard to get an overview of everything that’s out there. As a first post, I’ve attempted to create a full list of all 360 cameras on sale, in pre-order, back-order, announced or mostly vaporware.

The cameras are ranked from cheapest to most expensive. I’ve tried to keep everything as up to date as possible, but if you notice any mistakes, or have more info, please comment at the bottom of the page and I will keep this as fresh as possible.


1. Cardboard Camera

Cardboard Camera Play Store

What is it? A smartphone app available on the Play Store that allows you to take 360-ish pictures and display them with the Cardboard headset.
Where can I get it? On the Play Store if you have Android 4.4 and up.
How much does it cost? Nothing. Apart from the cost of your phone of course. So hundreds of dollars actually.

Cardboard Camera uses your smartphone camera to stitch together a 360-horizontal degree view of your surroundings. It works the same way as the panoramic photo option on many cameras & phones in that you have to rotate your device around as an arrow slowly fills up. It then takes a minute to render your image and then you can watch it through the Cardboard app.

It’s not 360 spherical as you’ll only capture what’s in the camera’s view, so you’ll miss the top and bottom of the sphere. It is also a still image and not video, though audio is recorded as you move the camera. It’s limited, but a good fun way to play around with basic VR photography.


2. Ricoh Theta S

ricoh_theta_s_camera

What is it? Handy camera with 2 fish-eye lenses, creating a full 360 image.
Where can I get it? Right here: Ricoh Theta S
How much does it cost? $349

The Ricoh Theta S is the follow up to one of the first 360 video cameras to hit the market, the 2014 Ricoh Theta M15. The Theta S improves on its predecessor by doubling the megapixels (14MP up from 6.4MP) and the frame rate (30fps up from 15). It comes in a very handy size at only 44mm x 130 mm x 23 mm and weighs in at a relatively minimal 125g.

Though it’s a significant improvement on the previous model, the video quality is still pretty lacking, as you can see on this and this video. Still image quality is great, but if you’re looking for a great video, it’s best to wait for the next model. Hopefully they keep the annual renewal cycle up.


3. 360Fly

360fly camera

What is it? An action camera with only one lens, so not capable of giving a full spherical picture.
Where can I get it? Right here: 360fly HD Video Camera
How much does it cost? $399

The 360Fly targets the action camera market, as is evident from the marketing material, and can be easily attached to a helmet go-pro style. Since it only has one lens, it’s limited to a 240 degree field of view, which basically means that you won’t capture much below the camera itself, leaving a big gap at the bottom of the screen. Resolution is limited at 1504×1504, so don’t expect crips images.

A 4K version has just launched (see below) which improves matters.


4. Samsung Gear 360

Samsung-Gear-360

What is it? Great little VR camera, but you’ll need a Samsung phone for it to work.
Where can I get it? Right here: Samsung Gear 360
How much does it cost? $479

Samsung has gotten into the VR market in a big way, collaborating with Facebook owned Oculus on the Samsung Gear device. The Gear 360 is their first attempt at a camera and by all accords it’s a good one. Its cute design reminds me a bit of the turrets from Portal 2, and its dual 15MP  lenses allow for a full 360 field of view.

You need a Samsung phone to stitch the images together which limit its potential user base. Compatible devices are the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, Note 5, S7 and S7 Edge.


5. 360Fly 4K

360fly-4K

What is it? An action camera with only one lens, so not capable of giving a full spherical picture.
Where can I get it? Right here: 360Fly 4K, but facing delays of ~2 weeks
How much does it cost? $499 (some resellers price it higher due to low availability)

Similar to its older brother listed above the 360Fly 4K targets the action camera market. Resolution has been upped to 16MP or 2880×2880 pixels, almost quadrupling from the original camera. It still only has one lens, so you’ll see the same 240 degree field of view, but otherwise a useful upgrade from the previous model, albeit at $100 more.


6. Nikon KeyMission 360

nikon-keymission-360

What is it? A dual lens camera by Nikon.
Where can I get it? Not anywhere yet. Latest update is that it’s been delayed to October 2016.
How much does it cost? It’s a question mark, but expect anywhere in the $500-$1,000 bracket.

I’m really excited to see Nikon get into the 360 camera game. Many of the devices that have come out so far have been from niche manufacturers. So what can we expect when one of the big camera players jumps into the fray? Specs so far show a dual-lens set up which deliver a 4K spherical 360 image. You’ll be able to take it 30m under water and it will withstand drops from 2m. It’s rugged, alright. Other than that, we don’t know much yet.

So where is it? It was announced earlier this year, but earthquakes that hit Japan in April have impacted Nikon’s suppliers, so the most recent update is for the device to start shipping in October. Software improvements may also have a role to play in the delays.


7. Rumored GoPro 360 VR Camera

Go Pro 360 VR

What is it? A potential entry of GoPro into the consumer facing 360 camera market.
Where can I get it? Only in your imagination so far.
How much does it cost? Not a clue, but if I were a betting man, I would say in the $500-$1,000 bracket.

GoPro is the runaway leader in action cameras, pretty much having invented the category a decade ago. They got involved early in 360, but only by assembling a bunch of standard GoPro cameras into a VR rig. Jump Odyssey, a collaboration with Google, listed further below is an example. The problem with these type of rigs is that you need a lot of GoPro cameras to build them. Since they clock in at $400 each, things get expensive rather quickly.

So it makes sense for GoPro to get into single device cameras as well. Back in January during CES, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman said as much by hinting that the company will build a ‘more casual’ spherical camera some time soon. When is anyone’s guess, but given that the competition is heating up, and GoPro can use a winner amidst a terrible stock price slump, I hope it will be soon.


8. Bublcam

Bublcam

What is it? A nifty 4-lens camera capable of capturing a fully spherical 360 view.
Where can I get it? On the Bublcam website. But it’s currently sold out.
How much does it cost? $799

Advertising itself as the first 360 spherical camera, the Bublcam sports 4 separate lenses, each capable of capturing 5MP images with a 190 degree field of view. Software is provided to stitch the images together into a full spherical view. It can record 30fps at 1440 x 1440p.  And it comes in a small package. The camera is a mere 80mm in diameter and weighs 280g.

Bubl was launched on Kickstarter and seems to have run into some of the usual problems we see there. As of writing, the Bublcam is sold out. According to the company website, they are working towards new production and will reopen orders once the schedule has been confirmed, but no dates are given. We’ll have to wait and see.


9. Vuze Camera

Vuze Camera

What is it? A disk shaped 8-lens camera; comes with smartphone VR headset included.
Where can I get it? Currently on pre-order on the Vuze website. Expected to ship in October 2016.
How much does it cost? $799

Built by the guys behind HumanEyes, an established player in the field of 3D photography and animation solutions, the Vuze is an 8-lens camera capable of capturing a spherical 360 image. Available in four different colors, it will come equipped with a mini tripod, a smartphone VR headset and software to stitch the images together and share them.

By having so many lenses the Vuze should be able to get closer to the high-end multi-camera rigs in delivering a stereoscopic experience. Currently the camera is on pre-order, with shipping expected to commence in October.


10. Kodak PixPro SP360 4K – Dual Pack

Kodak-PixPro-360-4k

What is it? A set of 2 4k action cams, strapped back-to-back to create a full 360 image.
Where can I get it? Right here: Kodak PIXPRO SP360 4K
How much does it cost? $899

Kodak (or actually JK Imaging licensing the Kodak name) has done something really clever here. You can buy the PixPro SP360 on its own and it’s a fine action cam, but you can also buy a dual pack which comes with a plastic housing to strap the cameras back-to-back and give you a 360 spherical capable device. As a result you get some of the best image quality in a sub-$1,000 camera, with each camera capable of shooting at 2880 x 2880p.

It is however still an early iteration with a few teething issues. The stitching software is quite finicky, not the easiest to use, and the design for the bracket leaves something to be desired as it makes simple tasks like changing batteries quite difficult.


11. GoPro Camera Rigs – Multiple companies

Go Pro 360heros mount

What is it? Aluminium housing capable of holding 6 GoPros.
Where can I get it? Available from Selens, Fantaseal, 360Heros, and others.
How much does it cost? $159-$379

And now we’re getting to the multi-camera rigs. These are mounts, generally aluminium, that allow you to hook up 6+ GoPro Hero cameras to capture a full spherical image. They are shipped without the cameras, so expect to pay approximately 6 times $400 on top of the mount price for the full set-up. You will also need to purchase separate stitching software to merge the images from the cameras together. The most popular option is Autopano by Kolor, which adds another $450-$550.

In other words, you’ll be looking at anywhere between $3,000 – $3,500 for a set-up like this. The advantage is a much higher resolution image, and because of the multiple cameras you get a stereoscopic effect, e.g. you can see movement between objects on the foreground versus the background.

And as you can see in the image above they start at 6 cameras, but you can get rigs for more than that if your budget allows.


12. GoPro Omni

Go Pro Omni

What is it? A synchronized 6-camera array produced by GoPro.
Where can I get it? Available on pre-order. Expected to ship July 2017.
How much does it cost? $4,999

GoPro has seen other companies start building rigs using their cameras and is now getting into the market itself.  The Omni is a synchronized 6-camera array that ships with specific firmware intended to make camera synchronization a breeze. That ability to synchronize at a pixel level is what GoPro hopes will set the Omni apart from its many competitors; and for those who are getting tired of the endless fine-tuning of the stitching this could be the solution. On the software side, stitching will be done through a GoPro software suite developed by Kolor, the same company responsible for the Autopano product.

It’s not cheap, but neither are the rigs mentioned before, and with camera synchronization built in this could really shake up the GoPro mount business.


13. GoPro Odyssey

Go Pro Odyssey

What is it? A synchronized 16-camera array produced by GoPro.
Where can I get it? Only available to select group of content producers. Apply here.
How much does it cost? $14,999

And now we’re leaving earth and heading for loftier price tags. Next up from GoPro is the Odyssey kit. It’s a set of 16 synchronized Hero cameras, optimized for Google’s Jump platform. It will set you back a cool $15 grand, and even if you had that type of cash lying around it’s only available to industry insiders. Creators or companies who will actually go out and make cool videos with this. On the site is an application form for their limited access program.

It’s not clear how many of these have shipped. According to a May article in The Verge they are now in the hands of the first people who got through the program, but that’s about all the detail we have. The good news is that they’re still accepting applications, so you could be next.


14. Facebook Surround 360

facebook-surround-360-camera

What is it? A synchronized 17-camera array.
Where can I get it? You’ll have to build it yourself. Facebook intends to release the blueprints summer 2016.
How much does it cost? Estimated component cost: $30,000

So where’s Facebook in all of this, you may be wondering. They did after all drop $2B on Oculus when it was not much more than a man in a garage. With the Rift coming out earlier this year, you’d think they would be all over the camera side of things, so people can start to upload 360 selfies and videos to the mothership. You would be wrong though.

So far Facebook and Oculus have focused on the VR hardware side of things, but at the most recent F8 conference, they announced the Facebook Surround 360. It’s a design for a 17-camera rig, and true to Facebook’s hacker origins, you can build it with off the shelf parts. The rub of course being that you’ll have to build it yourself, though I’m sure some companies will jump in the gap for anyone who lacks the skill or will to do so. On the upside, Facebook will release code for stitching software, so that is taken care of.

Price of course is another consideration. According to one of the designers, the total cost of parts came to ~$30,000, so this is squarely aimed at the professional market. It looks cool though.


15. Nokia Ozo

Nokia Ozo

What is it? A high-end 8-camera device capable of capturing 360 video and audio.
Where can I get it? Why, on the Nokia website of course.
How much does it cost? $60,000

Tell me you’re as surprised as I am to see Nokia at the end of this list. That Nokia? Yes, that Nokia indeed. I have no idea why they’re in this market, but there you have it. The most expensive, top spec, 360 spherical camera that you can buy is the Nokia Ozo. It is built for the film industry and features 8 cameras, each capable of capturing 2K x 2K images. It also does 360 spatial audio and comes in a robust case, so you can take it to any location shoot you like.

It’s the type of device where the accessories cost more than most other cameras. To wit, there’s a docking station for $1,500 and a battery pack bundle for a mere $5,000. If you ever see any professional Hollywood VR work, it was probably shot on this.

Tags : 360360 cameravirtual realityVRVR camera
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