Which 360 Camera Should You Buy In 2023?

Jan 23, 2023
360 camera

In this article, I'll compare the best and most popular consumer 360 cameras to help you figure out which is the best choice for 360 videos, 360 photography, and virtual tours.

I will also determine the clear winner for doing both. Stay until the end to learn about some brand new 360 cameras coming later in the year, as well as my predictions about what I think we'll see by the end of 2023.


The contenders in this comparison are: ๐Ÿ‘‡

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Insta360 X3, which was released late last year.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The One X2, which is the X3's predecessor.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The One RS, which was also released last year, a modular 360 camera from Insta360. The original One R is no longer available for sale, so the One RS replaces it.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Then we have the One RS 1-inch, which is the first consumer 360 camera from Insta360 with a one-inch sensor. 

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Theta Z1, which is now nearly four years old but still a contender in 2023. The Theta X, which is a simpler version of the Z1 released last year.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Trisio Lite 2, which is perhaps the most underrated 360 photo camera. The Xphase Pro X2, which looks like a weapon but boasts 134-megapixel photos.

๐Ÿ‘‰ And finally, the GoPro Max because many of you requested it.


Now I'm going to rank these cameras based on the biggest factors most people look for in a 360 camera:

๐Ÿ‘‰ Price
๐Ÿ‘‰ D
๐Ÿ‘‰ Specs
๐Ÿ‘‰ 360 Videos
๐Ÿ‘‰ 360 Photos
๐Ÿ‘‰ Workflows.


Price ๐Ÿ’ฐ

๐Ÿ‘‰ The X3 is $449
One X2 $429
One RS Twin Edition $549
One RS 1-inch $799
Theta Z1 is around $1000 give or take
๐Ÿ‘‰ Theta X is $799
Trisio is $399
Xphase is $1349
GoPro Max is $399 with a GoPro yearly subscription.

Based purely on price, Trisio and GoPro Max are the cheapest, followed by the One X2, X3, and One RS.

Now, in terms of actual value for money, aka what you get for that price, value for money things look a little bit different.

In my opinion, the X3 delivers the most value for money, followed by the Trisio, followed by the One RS 1-inch


Design Comparison ๐Ÿ“น

Which of these cameras has the best design? ๐Ÿ‘‡

Let's start with screens, and the ones that catch my eye are:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The X3
๐Ÿ‘‰ T
he Theta X
The GoPro Max

These three have the biggest screens, with the X3 being significantly bigger than the other two. This makes using the X3 so much easier because I find the small screen designs of cameras like the One X2, the 1-inch, and the One RS are so small that it's easy to choose the wrong settings and go around in circles trying to do something basic, whereas the X3 is so big, it's almost like having a phone screen attached to your camera.

What about fragility?

The bigger the screen and the bigger the lens, the more fragile the camera is; therefore, the more likely it is to break. Therefore, the cameras that are the most fragile are the X3 with the big screen, the One RS 1-inch with the two big lenses on either side; the Theta is the one with the big lenses, and the Theta X with the big screen.

The Trisio only has one single lens, which makes it the best camera for fragility because you can put it down on its back, and the lens isn't really a risk; and the same with the Xphase, even though it's a really weird shape, the lenses don't stick out from the body which means you can put it down on a table.

All of these cameras are susceptible to smashing a lens, though, so you'll need to be equally careful with all of them.

The cameras that are waterproof are: ๐Ÿ’ฆ

๐Ÿ‘‰ The X3
๐Ÿ‘‰  The One X2,
๐Ÿ‘‰ The One RS
The GoPro Max

These four cameras are strongly branded as action cameras; therefore, being waterproof is a must overall.

With the design, I give the X3, One X2, and Theta X the highest marks because firstly, they're the smallest and most compact, they easily fit in your pocket, but also they all have screens that make the cameras easier to navigate and even preview back your photos and videos. Now let's take a look at the spec sheet.


Spec Comparison โš™๏ธ

๐Ÿ‘‰ The X3 has a half-inch sensor. It shoots 360 videos at 5.7k30 and 4K 60, as well as 3K 100 FPS, which was added after release. The X3 also has a single lens mode if you want to shoot in one direction, and this ranges between 1080P 60 all the way up to 4K 30. Insta360  claims the X3 also shoots 72-megapixel 360 photos.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The One X2 has a one over 2.3-inch sensor, which is smaller. It also has nearly identical 360 video specs as the X3. It also has a single lens mode that shoots up to 2.5k50 FPS,  and it shoots 18-megapixel 360 photos.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The One RS also has a one over 2.3-inch sensor, as well as having the same 360 video specs as the One X2. If you were to rebuild the 4K mode of the One RS, which comes in the Twin Edition, that would give you a range of single lens options if you want to shoot in one direction starting at 1080p, anywhere between 24 and 200 frames per second, all the way up to 6K 25 FPS in widescreen mode. The 360 photos of the One RS shoots 18 megapixels.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The One RS 1-inch 360 obviously has a one-inch sensor. For 360 video, it shoots 6K 25, 4K 30, and 3K 50. You could technically say that it shoots in one direction, even though with this build of the camera, you can't, but since it is the same camera as the One RS, you could just buy the 4K mod, which gives you the exact same specs as the One RS. Built as the 1-inch version, though, it shoots 21-megapixel 360 photos.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Theta Z1 also has a one-inch sensor. It shoots 4K 30 360 videos, as well as 23-megapixel 360  photos. The Theta X has a half-inch sensor.  It shoots 5.7K 30 360 videos, as well as 4K 60  photos.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Trisio has a 1 over 2.3-inch sensor and shoots 32-megapixel 360 photos. Unfortunately, the Trisio does not shoot 360 videos. The Xphase has 25 lenses and 25 sensors, all of which are  1 over 3.2 of an inch. These are the smallest sensors on this list. The massive spec of the Xphase, though, is that it shoots 134-megapixel 360 photos.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Just like the Trisio, the Xphase also does not shoot 360 videos. Finally, the GoPro Max has a 1 over 2.3-inch sensor. It shoots 5.6K 360  videos at 30 FPS, as well as 3.6k at 60 FPS.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The GoPro Max does have a single-lens mode called  Hero Mode, which shoots up to 1440p at 60 FPS. The photo resolution of the Max is 16 megapixels.

So going from top to bottom:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The One RS 1-inch and the Z1 have the biggest sensors, which we'll see later on make a significant difference when it comes to photo and video quality.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The 1-inch also shoots the highest resolution 360 videos with single-lens mode.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The One RS built as the 4K mod, has the most amount of flexibility if you were to use it like a GoPro.

However, if you don't want to include the 4K build in this comparison, then the X3 easily takes the cake over the GoPro Max.

Finally, when it comes to photo resolution:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Xphase annihilates the competition, with that extremely high 134-megapixel quality being the main draw part of this camera.

๐Ÿ‘‰ If you were picking a 360 camera just based on the spec sheet and you wanted a bit of everything, to me, the X3 would win. If you also want to shoot in single-lens mode, and if you don't care about that, the One RS 1-inch has the best all-around specs. 

Now that we've seen the spec sheet let's take a look at how that affects the quality of 360 photos and videos from these cameras. While the Theta Z1 and X3 do have video modes, 360 Video comparison, they really are photo-focused cameras. Video modes of both are missing six-axis stabilization, as well as having very short recording limits, making these impractical for serious 360 video capture. For this reason, I'll be leaving them out of the upcoming 360 video comparison, as well as the Xphase and Trisio, since they don't shoot 360 videos.


360 Video Quality ๐Ÿ“น

If you're capturing 360 videos of yourself in broad daylight at close range, then the remaining five 360 cameras are so close  I can barely tell the difference, even the colors, the look, and everything looks the same. For other situations, though, things look a bit different. ๐Ÿ‘‡


Sharpness Comparison ๐Ÿ“ท

Here each of them are in Auto exposure mode, but this time I'm about 10 feet away from the camera and comparing the sharpness between these 5, there is a really big difference.

Here the 1-inch by far is the sharpest, and I'm not just talking 0.3 of a k; it looks several k's sharper.

The One RS performs the worst, and the GoPro Max, I'm surprised it's holding its own against much newer cameras, and it's just as sharp, if not sharper, than the X3, but both are nowhere near the level of sharpness as the 1-inch. ๐Ÿ‘‡

One of my favorite features of the X3 is active HDR which is Dynamic range for 360 videos, essentially HDR video that you can use while the camera is moving, and of these 5 cameras, it's the only one that has it in 360 mode, so if you take a look at the blue sky behind me on the left you don't see that with the other four, and this will be a really handy feature if you're ever shooting in mixed lighting, and you want to retain highlight detail and shadow detail. 

Here I am INSIDE again; the 1-inch has the best sharpness and the least Noise by far. I intentionally made this really tricky for all cameras by putting my neon light on and having bright light coming in through the windows, and you can see I'm clearly defined with the 1-inch and GoPro Max and the other three, I'm a bit washed out. ๐Ÿ‘‡

Punching in further and the neon looks best on:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The 1-inch
ollowed by the X3
Followed by One X2

While the GoPro Max is as good as the 1-inch for low noise, the overexposure in the light and the window is a bit too much to bear.

If you're planning on shooting indoors a lot, then there's only one serious contender here, and that's the 1-inch; because of that one-inch sensor, it's able to handle low light better, as well as mixed lighting situations without the shot being completely ruined by overexposure.

Also, it's worth noting that the GoPro Max has a drifting problem. Again if you're shooting solely outside, then all of these cameras are great options, however, if I were to rank them overall for the 360 video capabilities, then the 1-inch comes in a very definite first, and the X3 goes in second because of active HDR being a great option in mixed lighting as well as having so many different modes, frame rates and resolutions to shoot in.

I'd put the GoPro Max in third because it's performed well overall, followed by One X2 and One RS.


360 Photo Comparison ๐Ÿ“ธ

With no editing, which of these cameras is the best for 360 photography and virtual tours? ๐Ÿ‘‡

Well, let's start with if you don't want to do any editing whatsoever. Here's what the cameras look like in their respective HDR modes without any color correction applied. The cameras where you can see any kind of detail at all in the sky are:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Theta X
The Trisio
๐Ÿ‘‰ The Xphase.

 The rest are too blown out to retain any highlight detail.

The roof tiles look the sharpest on:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Xphase
The 1-inch
The X3

The camera with the most accurate colours straight out of the camera, in my opinion, is:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Theta X.

If you choose to color correct, which you should if you're shooting virtual tours, then this is where it gets interesting.

So starting with dynamic range:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Theta Z1 has the best dynamic range out the window thanks to the Dual fisheye plug-in that I used in this comparison which the other cameras don't have.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Then the Trisio and Theta X are the only other cameras where you can see the sky outside.

However, when we look at the interior dynamic range around my 360 neon, I can't believe I'm saying it, but:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The X phase has the best dynamic range. Here I used six shot inbuilt HDR with the Xphase, and has done a great job inside, as has the Theta X.  

Now let's look at sharpness. ๐Ÿ‘‡

If you're seeing what I'm seeing:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Xphase is so much sharper than all the other cameras. Sharp enough that you can read the writing on my light, as well as the YouTube plug, whereas the other cameras are too blurry at this level of zoom.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Trisio is the second sharpest; as you can see, it's the only other camera to pick up details like this.

๐Ÿ‘‰ I can't believe I'm saying it, but the texture on the wall is the smoothest with the Xphase as well, despite having the smaller sensor of the lot. I can barely see a speck of noise in the Xphase, whereas even the smoothest of the others, which I think is the 1-inch, still has a little bit of noise.

Now you can remove noise easily in the Topaz Suite. However, if your camera doesn't produce much noise to begin with, that's always going to be preferable.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Unfortunately, the Theta X falls short in this area of the shot because this corner of the room is where I aim the seam line of all cameras, and this is one of the main weaknesses of the X. Looking at one more area of this image and again it looks best with the Xphase, the photo print and the plant look the clearest and has the most amount of overall detail including really nice smooth surfaces.

So I'm going to say it:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Xphase is the best 360 camera for virtual tours.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Followed by the Z1, Theta X and Trisio which all produce professional results for virtual tours.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Then the 1-inch and X3 come in after that. 

That said, you could definitely use all six of these cameras for paid virtual tour shoots. Over the past few years, the Xphase team have clearly addressed some of the major flaws of the camera.  


Thoughts on XPhase Pro X2 ๐Ÿค”

The main one, back in 2020, was that it didn't have a good dynamic range for virtual tours but having taken a bunch of samples, I can say that isn't true anymore. This dynamic range looks fantastic, and these shots are just so sharp the Xphase really pushes the limits of what a 360 photo camera can do.

It's not all sunshine and roses, though.

The main flaws of the Xphase images are:

๐Ÿ‘‰ I've noticed in general there's a pink color cast which needs to be corrected later on.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The stitching isn't always a hundred percent on straight lines. It's noticeable, but it's not a deal breaker.

๐Ÿ‘‰ You can't get too close to the Xphase, so it's not really a selfie camera because it clearly prioritizes the focus on distant objects and not close ones. So I'd only shoot with the Xphase in situations where the detail in your scene is more than three feet away from the camera.

So now that we've compared these cameras on most of the important stuff, there's one thing we need to talk about, how easy are they to use, and how easy or complicated are the workflows?


Workflow ๐Ÿ‘จ‍๐Ÿ’ป

Well, with all of the Insta360 cameras in this video, I'd say that an easy workflow is one of their best assets.

They are constantly updating the mobile app and the desktop software, and it's really at the point now where you can create highly complicated edits in minutes and by far, these cameras have the best workflow when it comes to reframing 360 videos or exporting as actual 360 videos or actual 360 photos.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The GoPro Max is pretty easy as well. However, I've noticed GoPro have stopped developing their software when it comes to 360. The Trisio is easy to use and has a fast workflow where it's literally just the tap of a button. It captures your photo, and it downloads your photos easily to your phone's camera roll.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Theta X also has a super fast workflow where it's one button to shoot, and you will instantly have a high dynamic range photo which looks awesome. As we saw earlier with the Theta Z1, it's a little more complicated. While you can use the inbuilt HDR feature, the strength in the Z1 really is in bracketing using the Dual fisheye plug-in, and that is a longer workflow to do, as is bracketing with any camera.

๐Ÿ‘‰ So with the Z1, you're basically doing more editing to get a better end result, which is justified if you're doing virtual tours for clients. However, it's going to take at least five minutes per photo to edit your images. Which you can do with all the other cameras, but I feel like you need to do it that extra bit with the Z1 because its primary workflow is now using the Dual Fisheye plug-in. 

๐Ÿ‘‰ Finally, we've got the Xphase which does not have an easy workflow. It's mostly because of underdeveloped software. It requires following lots of steps even to update the firmware of this camera. The mobile app looks exactly the same as it did several years ago, and because these images are so big, each photo is going to take time to capture and to stitch later on.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Again for a great result, this is the price you pay, but in terms of workflow, this camera is going to take you extra time to work with to get those awesome shots.


Cameras You Shouldn’t Buy ๐Ÿ™…‍โ™‚๏ธ

So now that the comparison is done, which camera should you buy? Well, I'll start with the ones you shouldn't buy.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The first one is the GoPro Max because it's so old now; it's seen no firmware updates in ages.

They basically stopped working on this camera. While it still does work, and it does a good job, you wouldn't buy it in 2023 over something else.

Insta360 have far outperformed GoPro when it comes to 360 camera, so I would consider an Insta 360 camera instead, except the One X2. This is another camera you shouldn't buy because the price is so close to the X3 that it just wouldn't make sense.

While it was a great camera in its time, the X3 is an improvement over the One X2, so don't buy it.


Cameras You Should Consider ๐Ÿคท‍โ™‚๏ธ

The cameras on this list that you should consider are:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The One RS.

While there was this massive amount of hype around the One RS last year, the hype was over something that we more or less had before in the One R and One X2, and while it wasn't updated in the One R series, the differences were so minimal.

The main one really was 6K flat video if you shoot at the 235 to 1 aspect ratio, which is a pretty niche use, but otherwise, I wouldn't buy this camera unless you're looking for a modular camera that can also perform like a GoPro. Personally, I just like having two cameras. It's kind of annoying having to rebuild your camera into different things, so if you prefer to shoot 360 content, just get a dedicated 360 camera. 

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Theta Z1.

This camera has been a reliable choice for the past four years. However, in 2023, it's not an obvious choice anymore due to the sheer amount of competition, as you saw earlier.

If you've already purchased the Z1, then this is still a camera you can use professionally for years to come. However, the price point right now is just too much to justify as a new purchase when there are other options at similar price points like the X phase and the Insta360 1-inch, and those two cameras exceed the Theta Z1 at their specific use cases. It will still be a good choice if you shoot photos at night time since the 1-inch sensor delivers far superior image quality than the rest; however, that's a pretty niche use case.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Theta X.

Many people were unhappy last year that it didn't have a one-inch sensor, it didn't shoot raw, and it was seemingly a step backwards from the Z1. Well, again, I think the Theta X is a niche camera for a niche audience, but it performs extremely well for that niche audience, and that niche audience is people that want to shoot virtual tours with amazing dynamic ranges without having to do any editing.

The inbuild HDR feature is extremely impressive in most situations, combining that with a 60-megapixel resolution and this is the perfect camera for Real Estate virtual tours. It's too expensive to buy for 360 videos, and it doesn't have the editing flexibility of the Z1 or 1-inch, so I'd only get it if you want quick 360 photos with amazing dynamic range. 


Cameras You Should Buy ๐Ÿ™‹‍โ™‚๏ธ

Now for the cameras, you should buy.

Let's start with 360 photos, and with the low end of the price range:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Trisio Lite 2 is the obvious choice.

If you want to spend less than 400 on a camera for virtual tours. It doesn't shoot 360 videos, so only get this if photography is your main use case.

If you're willing to spend more, well, a thousand dollars more, then:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Xphase Pro X2 will be a great investment for any virtual tour business.

As you saw, those images are so sharp, and with the few firmware updates they've released over the past few years, they have tackled the bad dynamic range issue, as well as some other frustrations I had when shooting with the Xphase, like, the camera constantly freezing.

If you're looking for high-quality 360 photos:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Xphase will decimate the competition in most 360 photo situations.

The main downsides are the Xphase doesn't shoot 360 videos, and the workflow feels a bit bare bones, so you need to be really patient when shooting and editing with the Xphase. However, if you are a patient person, you'll get these fantastic results that come close to 360 photos taken with a DSLR.

For 360 video, my recommendations are:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Insta360 One RS 1-inch
The X3.

If you want to spend less than $500, get the X3.

If you're willing to spend more for more quality, get the 1-inch. While the 1-inch doesn't have the action features of the X3, it does have that one-inch sensor which means better videos and better photos, and I really would get this for more considered shoots where you might be shooting 360 videos for VR, or you just want more overall quality for your reframe 360 videos. 

๐Ÿ‘‰ The X3 is the better choice if you're shooting 360 videos for social media or any type of action content, it's got a lot more features that are action friendly, like being waterproof, having a smaller and easier-to-use design, and it's cheaper if you were to break the camera.


If you're looking to shoot both 360 video and 360 photos, which 360 camera should you buy?

Well, while I hate to keep recommending the same thing over and over again, I really do think that the best choices are:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The One RS 1-inch

๐Ÿ‘‰ The X3

Clearly, they're the best two cameras for 360 video, but also they shoot quite good photos. With the one-inch sensor of the 1-inch it comes close to the Theta Z1 and Theta X, which, yes, you could use to shoot professional virtual tours and build a business around.

It also shoots the highest resolution and best quality 360 videos in bright light as well as low light, which is also one of the strengths of the 1-inch. With the right manual exposure settings, your shots will not only be Noise free but will be better quality and have less motion blur than other cameras.

So if that's your use case and you're willing to spend a bit more, then:

๐Ÿ‘‰ The 1-inch is the best camera of the lot

๐Ÿ‘‰ Although I'd say the X3 isn't that far behind

While it is lacking with 360 photos, as we saw with virtual tour examples, it does shoot much better photos outside, especially when using pure shot mode.

Then with 360 videos, you know the rest. It's got active HDR and all of the great editing options that come in the app and the desktop software that makes this camera by far the best 360 camera under $500 for 360 photos and videos in 2023.

So if you don't need it for a niche purpose but you want to shoot a bit of everything, then the X3 really is the obvious choice. 


Upcoming 360 Cameras ๐Ÿ“ฃ

Now let's talk about some upcoming cameras coming this year.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Lab Pano PilotPano

This was announced a couple of months ago to crickets, the reason being the specs were exactly the same as everything we currently have. I won't dismiss this camera too soon because I do have one on the way, but to be perfectly honest, I don't have high hopes.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Qoocam 3
๐Ÿ‘‰ Qoocam 3 Ultra 

Kandao is releasing two cameras, both named Qoocam, which to me seems strange; given the reputation of the Qoocam 8K, you'd think they'd move away from that name because it wasn't a great name to begin with. Was it?

Here are some clues in the Qoocam 3 press release:

๐Ÿ‘‰  The design looks exactly like the GoPro Max.
It's waterproof
๐Ÿ‘‰ 5.7 K video
๐Ÿ‘‰ 62-megapixel photos.
๐Ÿ‘‰ It does 4K 60fps 360 videos, which could be interesting.
๐Ÿ‘‰ It has two 1.55-inch sensors, which is slightly smaller than a one-inch sensor.
๐Ÿ‘‰ It will have an aperture of f 1.6, and four built-in mics for spatial audio, so nothing that groundbreaking, but I guess we'll see when it gets released.

The Qoocam Ultra is supposed to be an 8K camera, again I'm very suspicious, but hopefully, they've learned from their previous mistakes and do thorough r and d before releasing a camera. 


My Predictions For Upcoming 360 Cameras ๐Ÿ”ฎ

And now for my predictions for upcoming 360 cameras this year.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The first one is new, or several new cameras from Insta360.

So here's what I'm predicting, the Insta360 Go 3, which is their wearable action camera, not a 360 camera but thought I'd mention it.

I predict they'll release the One RS2 or something with a similar name. I'm predicting this because I've noticed that they're clearly competing with GoPro and DJI by entering the action camera space, and this is what you get with action cameras. It's one new camera per year. So you can expect the One RS 2 to come later in the year with about a five per cent difference between that and the previous camera.

๐Ÿ‘‰ I don't think Insta 360 will release an X4 this year, simply because they just released the X3, and it's too soon to be releasing another X camera unless again they go for the same approach as the action cameras by releasing one new one every single year.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Will there be a new GoPro 360 camera? I wouldn't count on it, though, because they haven't released anything since the Max, and that's been a pretty significant time period, so clearly, GoPro aren't prioritizing 360 cameras.

๐Ÿ‘‰ My final prediction is for a new Trisio camera. This thing is one the most bang for your buck 360 cameras released in the past couple of years, and it's a simple concept of the rotating camera. So clearly, they've got a winning camera concept here, so what's to stop them from making something even bigger and better?


Happy 360ing!

Ben Claremont


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