Which 360 Camera Should You Buy In 2024?Jan 29, 2024
In this article, I'll compare the top 360 cameras under $1,000 to help you figure out which is the best choice for 360 videos, 360 photography & virtual tours, as well as which is the best all-around camera if you're looking for a bit of both.
At the end, I'll also share my predictions for future cameras I'm expecting to see by the end of 2024!
The contenders are:
- Insta360 X3. The best and most popular consumer 360 camera of 2023.
- Insta360 One RS. A modular 360 camera and action camera.
- One RS 1-Inch. Another version of the One RS with a 1-inch sensor and much bigger and better lens, making it a top choice for photo and video quality.
- Theta Z1. A camera that is now 5 years old but still holds its own in 2024.
- Theta X. The newer little brother of the Z1.
- Kandao Qoocam 3. One of the newest cameras on this list. A camera with a lot of pros and cons which has received a few updates since it was released a few months ago.
- PanoX V2. From the company formerly known s LabPano, a clone of the Insta360 X3 but more targeted towards Google Street View photographers.
- Trisio Lite 2. Not technically a 360 camera but a camera that rotates and stitches together high-quality 360 photos. It does this so well that it’s been the best budget 360 camera of the past few years.
- XPhase Scan. A smaller, cheaper version of the XPhase Pro X2 at a much lower price point and a more simple design that rotates automatically, just like the Trisio. Just like the previous XPhase, it boasts 134-megapixel 360 photos.
Any 360 cameras that didn't make this list were knocked out in a previous review and, right now in 2024, are too old and outdated to make this list.
For more information on each camera, check out my in-depth reviews on my Youtube channel.
For the latest updates on 2024's top 360 cameras and gear, I consistently refresh my free gear guides throughout the year.
👉 Ultimate 360 Video Gear Guide
The cheapest cameras are:
- Qoocam 3, coming in at $349.
- Trisio and Panox V2 at $399.
- Theta X, Z1, and One RS 1-Inch are the most expensive, closer to $1,000.
The remaining cameras fall roughly between $400 and $600. However, just be aware that since these three cameras are the cheapest, they also come with limitations that the other cameras don't have, which I'll cover in a bit.
Which has the best screen? 📱
Cameras with the biggest screens:
- Panox V2
- Theta X
These cameras boast a fantastic user interface, thanks to their large vertical screens that make changing camera modes and settings exceptionally easy. They resemble mini phone screens, making them convenient to operate even with only one hand in contrast to the horizontal screen of the Qoocam 3, which I find a bit more challenging to navigate.
These cameras maintain an advantage over the One RS cameras, as the screens on the latter are so small that they are effectively unusable.
In terms of screen quality, the Panox V2 is noticeably sharper than the X3, surpassing all other cameras with screens that lack such sharpness.
Which cameras are the MOST fragile? 💔
The bigger the screen and the bigger the lens is, the more chance the camera has of breaking.
Panox, X3, Theta X, Qoocam 3, and somewhat the One RS and One RS 1-Inch are prone to fragility, especially due to their large screens, making them susceptible to smashing when dropped.
Due to having no protruding lenses or a screen, the XPhase Scan is less fragile. However, it features a USB and Wi-Fi dongle at the back, contributing to an unconventional overall shape.
Which cameras are the LEAST fragile?
Trisio Lite 2, since it has one lens only, which means you can put it flat on its back. Also, the lens doesn't stick out much at all, making it much harder to bump or scratch.
One RS, mostly because of the case it comes with that keeps it nice and safe. And it's also the smallest camera of the bunch, therefore less surface area of the camera to get damaged.
Which cameras are waterproof? 💦
Surprisingly, only three of these cameras are waterproof:
- Insta360 X3
- One RS
- Qoocam 3.
Although the Panox is a clone of the X3; it has multiple open ports around the body that would easily let water into the camera and therefore it's not waterpoof.
Which camera has the best battery capacity? 🔋
While all cameras can last an hour or two of shooting when we take a look at the battery capacity, the numbers are very different.
Cameras with the smallest batteries:
- Theta X
- One RS 1-Inch
Cameras with the largest batteries:
- XPhase Scan
The rest are somewhere in between, and Theta Z1's is unknown. Although personally, I've been able to shoot for at least one full day with it.
Theta X and Panox V2 tend to drain batteries faster than other cameras, likely running out first during continuous shooting due to their screens and internal processing. The remaining cameras can easily last half a day to a day when turned off between uses.
Which cameras overheat the most? 🔥
- Qoocam 3
- Panox V2
Both cameras don't seem to handle hot weather very well. Not to say the others can't overheat because they definitely can.
How long does each camera take to turn on? ⬆️
I timed how long each camera took to turn on, from pressing the on button to the screen being active and ready to shoot.
- One RS and One RS 1-Inch - 4.5 seconds.
- X3 - 7.2 seconds
- Trisio - 7.4 seconds.
- Qoocam 3 - 8.5 seconds.
- Theta X - 16.5 seconds.
- Theta Z1 - 17.8 seconds.
- XPhase Scan - 29.5 seconds.
- Panox V2 - 30 seconds.
Which camera has the best design?
If you wanted the best of a few different worlds, I'd probably choose the X3 since it's got the big color touchscreen, it's waterproof, it's easy to use, and also small enough to easily fit in your pocket at the expense of fragility because of the big screen.
Also, the lenses, they're standard size, but they are a liability, so you will want to consider using lens guards if you take a lot of risks with your camera.
Which camera is BEST for 360 video? 🎥
I'll start by eliminating the cameras that don't properly shoot 360 videos, and that is:
XPhase Scan and Trisio Lite 2—neither of them shoots 360 videos since they're rotating cameras and, therefore, couldn't shoot video in 360 mode since they don't have lenses on the back.
Theta Z1 since it can only record 2-minute clips, and the resolution is 4K, which just isn't up to speed for a 360 video camera.
All of the others shoot 5.7k resolution, with the One RS 1-Inch shooting slightly more at 6K.
Here's what you get straight out of the camera when shooting in Auto exposure with no color correction applied.
How good is the UNEDITED footage?
- One RS displays slightly higher contrast.
- The colors of the Theta X are noticeably less saturated compared to the others.
- Qoocam 3 has a pronounced blue-magenta tint and appears to be overexposed by about half a stop to a full stop.
- The remaining three cameras perform well in bright sunlight and may not require color correction.
After applying color correction, I successfully normalized the exposure and colors for most cameras, except for the Qoocam 3, which proved challenging to work with.
This final shot is usable, but it took a fair bit of work to make it that way, and I'm still not happy with how the colors look. Also, the Theta X seems to capture skin tones more yellow than they should be, which was also hard to fix.
Which camera is the sharpest?
I zoomed in from a wide action camera perspective to a long lens perspective to find out, and it's pretty noticeable that the One RS 1-Inch has the highest quality, with details around the rocks being much sharper, as well as the little people walking around them, which can't really be seen with the others.
Interestingly, the next sharpest are:
- The Qoocam 3, Panox V2, and Theta X.
- Followed by X3, and One RS being the least sharp.
Which camera has the best dynamic range?
All cameras perform well in mixed lighting.
X3 and One RS are helped by the HDR video mode and therefore keep the sun under control the best.
1-Inch and Panox do a pretty good job at exposing the sky, and Qoocam 3 and Theta X seem quite overexposed around the highlight areas of the shot.
However, in the shade, the X3 appeared a bit hazier than the others, and the black areas aren't as black as they should be. So that's just something to keep in mind with the active HDR setting and not to overuse it.
After color correction, all of these shots were usable, and the dynamic range is good enough for most use cases.
My top three cameras of the lot for dynamic range are:
- Panox V2
The other three cameras will need color correction with every shot you take in order to enhance the dynamic range and colors.
Which camera is best in LOW LIGHT?
In order to get the best low light comparison possible, all cameras needed manual exposure to avoid completely blowing out my neon sign. I set the ISO to the lowest setting possible and adjusted the shutter speed until the light became fully visible.
Panox has the most amount of grain by far. Followed by Theta X. One RS seems to be doing slightly better than the X3. The two best by far are 1-Inch and Qoocam 3.
1-Inch excels because of the 1-inch sensor, and the Qoocam excels because of the f/1.6 aperture.
I give the edge slightly to the 1-Inch due to it having more natural colors; however, you should definitely consider the Qoocam as well if you shoot at night a lot.
Which camera has the best stabilization?
While all cameras have built-in stabilization, some perform better than others. The Theta X performs well but the horizon is still a bit bumpy, and it's also quite prone to lens flares that don't stitch very well, causing these big circles which don't look great around the seam line of the camera.
- Panox does a pretty good job at stabilization, but the horizon can still be a bit wavy when you move the camera around.
- Qoocam's is noticeably off, especially when you move quickly. While it will recenter, it seems to get thrown off really easily, which is going to be pretty noticeable for any bumpy shots. So if you're shooting action, I probably wouldn't use the Qoocam.
- One RS is much better. While not perfect, I'd say it stabilizes 95% effectively and is also pretty quick to account for any bumps.
- The same goes with the 1-Inch. While this camera shouldn't be used for action shots since it's too fragile, it will still stabilize more or less on the level of an action camera.
- X3 stabilization is close to perfect. Since this is the most popular 360 action camera at the moment, it seems like they put extra effort into its stabilization. After taking literally thousands of shots with it over the past year, I can't think of any times where the shots were noticeably shaky.
Next, I tested the stitching by sacrificing my extreme good looks and turning the seam line of all six cameras directly towards my face from a few feet away. There were no major stitching errors, but there were some minor ones with Theta X and Panox.
If you look at the brim of my hat, my head is a bit misshaped with the Qoocam, but I'll forgive it just this once. All Insta360 cameras didn't have any stitching errors at about a 4-foot distance.
Now I'm about an arm's length from the cameras, and there's the same issues as before. I'm now much more misshaped with the Qoocam, and the One RS and One RS 1-Inch have compressed my head just slightly, but nothing major. The X3 is easily the best of the bunch.
Now adding extremely close range, not only am I misshaped, but I'm also missing half a face with most of them, which is to be expected. The X3, again, stitches much better than the others.
I'd say this is because of the design being in the sweet spot of not being too thick that part of the scene is missed in the stitch line and also having lenses that aren't too flat that they don't fully see sideways. So stitching can definitely be considered as a big pro of the X3's design.
It is worth noting that the X3 is the only camera of the bunch that has a dedicated 4K single-lens mode, whereas the others don't, except the One RS but only when rebuilt with the 4K lens; otherwise, you have to shoot in 360 with the rest of them.
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360 Photo Quality 📸
Which of these cameras is the best choice for virtual tours?
Cameras with the highest resolution:
- XPhase Scan - 134 megapixels, which is crazy high.
- Insta360 X3 and Panox V2 - 72 megapixels.
- Qoocam 3 - 62 megapixels.
It's important to be aware though, that judging cameras just based on the spec sheet can be misleading if they're made up of low-quality components like the sensor and the lenses. Companies often overinflate the spec numbers of the cameras to make them sound more impressive, and those numbers don't live up to the quality you get when you shoot with them.
Let's take a look at what the photos look like straight out of the camera without any editing. If a camera has an inbuilt HDR mode, I use that for this first comparison.
When I zoom in extremely close on the brightest window here in my office, all cameras completely blew out the sky except for Trisio and XPhase Scan.
XPhase did well, not so much because of the dynamic range, but rather because it generally exposes photos on the darker side, and this naturally brought the sky under control, whereas Trisio shot the correct exposure. All other cameras did well enough to capture the roof of the house except for the Qoocam 3 and Panox.
Looking at my photo wall below, and again, despite being too dark, XPhase is sharper than the rest, with Qoocam and Theta X being the next sharpest.
The others are all usable except for X3, One RS, and Panox, all of which are too blurry to consider using for interior virtual tours, especially without any editing or enhancement.
In the next comparison, I color corrected all nine shots by following the best virtual tour workflow for each individual camera, and suddenly the field became a bit more even.
Theta Z1 performs the best by far, thanks to the Dual Fisheye plug-in. It's without question the best of the bunch for dynamic range; this shot is really impressive, followed by Trisio. I'd put 1-inch, X3, and XPhase Scan in third place.
Qoocam and Z1 also have the most noticeable purple fringing at the edge of the window, which I intentionally didn't fix so you could see. In terms of dynamic range, all cameras perform well, aside from One RS and Panox.
Which camera has the best sharpness?
XPhase definitely takes the cake and is so much sharper than all the others, with 1-inch and Theta X being close behind. Qoocam, Panox, Theta Z1, and Trisio all do a pretty good job as well.
Noise & Haze
I noticed that the Qoocam consistently had the most noise, and this was even after using the DNG8 mode, which is supposed to reduce noise. It's not a deal-breaking amount of noise and isn't so noticeable from a wider perspective, but it's just something to be aware of.
One RS is also pretty noisy as well, and the X3 is really hazy. This is something I've consistently found when shooting 360 photos with the X3 in mixed lighting, and hence why I don't recommend it for virtual tours. It takes a lot of time to edit the contrast back into the shots, and still, you can't often get it where it needs to be.
The Theta cameras also have a fair bit of noise, and the Theta X is also really soft in this part of the shot, as that's where the stitch line is, and blurry stitch lines are one of the biggest flaws of this camera and something you need to be aware of if you're considering it.
The top four cameras for low noise are:
- XPhase Scan
- Panox V2
- Insta 360 1-inch
- Trisio Lite 2
So based on this comparison, with all factors considered, I'd rate them in this order for virtual tours:
- XPhase: for its impressive sharpness and low noise.
- Theta Z1: for its superior dynamic range.
- 1-inch, Theta X, and Trisio: for doing well enough at most aspects of 360 photography.
I do think Qoocam is usable for virtual tours, but it's just not the obvious choice, so only consider it if you're on a budget. The others I would personally avoid, at least for interior virtual tours.
If you're not looking to do any editing, however, I would recommend the Trisio since it has the best dynamic range straight out of the camera and has good enough all-around quality to charge for.
Now I also need to point out that since the XPhase and Trisio are rotating cameras, you'll need to mount them safely and never use them handheld or with a selfie stick; otherwise, the shots won't stitch. They take about 20 seconds to shoot per photo since they each need to spin, engage exposure, then they need time to rotate and capture the individual photos.
Also, XPhase is heavier than the Trisio and can't be used with a traditional monopod since it would move too much, and that would affect the stitching. So XPhase recommend using a tripod with a 10 kg payload. I used a cheap light stand, which worked great. But this also means the nadir is a factor with the XPhase since you'll need a bigger stand for it, therefore, it needs more time to edit out that stand.
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Which camera has the best workflow? 🧑💻
While each of them has its own unique workflow, the better question to ask is, does it have a fast workflow or not?
From firsthand experience using all nine of these cameras, I can tell you the answers.
- With the three Insta360 cameras, the answer is absolutely yes.
An easy and fast workflow is one of the key selling points of Insta360 cameras, and it really is so easy to download and edit your footage in the Insta360 mobile app and desktop software, both of which are completely free for Insta360 users and are extremely user-friendly and fast.
- Theta Z1
Unfortunately, it's a much more involved process to edit Theta Z1 virtual tour photos since, to get the best results, you need to shoot with the Dual Fisheye plugin, which shoots automatic bracketed shots that you'll need to download, merge, color correct, and stitch yourself manually on your computer. And even though the results are worth it, it is a time-consuming process, and you will need to do them one by one. So the answer is no for the Z1.
- Theta X
Theata X is much faster since the stitching is done in-camera, so you literally just download the file to your phone or computer, and they're good to go.
- Qoocam 3
I'm happy to say that Kandao has addressed the extremely slow workflow issues that it previously had, where it just took a ridiculous amount of time to stitch your footage that it made stitching basic clips an overnight job.
Whereas now, they've updated the software, and it's much faster. Not as fast as Insta360 cameras, but I'd say it now takes roughly twice as long. So like 10-20 minutes to stitch 10 minutes worth of footage compared to like 10 hours like it was before.
The photo editing workflow with Qoocam 3 is pretty long and annoying because you need to use two different desktop softwares to merge and stitch your shots with a color correction software in between, making this a 5 to 10-minute process per photo to stitch a shot with basic color correction.
- Panox V2
While it does have a good feature of being able to stitch your shot in-camera, it's kind of weird because you have to select your clip manually and tell it to stitch there on the camera. And for the exact same 10 minutes of footage I shot with all of the other cameras, on the Panox, it took about 45 minutes to stitch. And that's too long to sit there looking at your camera and also makes shooting a lot of shots impractical.
- Trisio and XPhase Scan
Even though the apps of these cameras are really on the basic side, the workflow is actually pretty fast since they both shoot JPEG. You download the photo wirelessly from the camera to your phone, then save the image to your camera roll, and you're good to go. You can then AirDrop it to your computer if you're on Apple or send it any way you like.
So workflow is something to keep in mind. Do you have the time to wait around for your shots to stitch and take multiple steps in your workflow, or do you want something much faster?
Cameras that you shouldn’t buy ❌
- One RS
I never fully understood the purpose of the modular 360 cameras when they behaved the exact same way as the conventional 360 cameras and they had the exact same specs. It was the same with the previous One R camera, and it's the case with the One RS, which right now as a 360 camera is an inferior version of the X3 with the only upside being that it's modular and it can be a 4K 360 camera. But so can the X3 with single-lens mode, making the One RS in 2024 useless. Don't buy it.
- Theta X
This is a tough one because you would say that it's in the top half of cameras for virtual tours. However, it was never one or two; it has always been three and below. And why would you pay $800 for number three? Unfortunately, it just has no unique selling points, and I can't think of any reasons why you would buy it over the other cameras.
Cameras that you should consider 🤔
- Panox V2.
While it did okay for 360 photos and videos, it was never in the top half for virtual tours. Despite the slightly lower price compared to the X3, it doesn't offer much better, except the bigger screen and its Google Street View ability.
Since Street View is the background of Panox, formerly known as Lab Pano, they have integrated a really good shoot and upload system to Google Street View. Where you don't even need a phone or a computer; you sign into your Street View account on the camera, and your shots can be uploaded as you shoot with GPS.
This makes it a really good choice for Google Street View photographers. Since, with Street View, you're mostly shooting outside, you don't need to worry about mixed lighting situations. As you saw, it performs well enough in broad daylight. So if your primary focus is Google Street View, then you should consider this camera; otherwise, don't.
- Qoocam 3
While, when it was released a few months ago, it had more red flags than I could count, they have fixed a few of these things. For the $350 price point, it actually delivers photos and videos of really decent quality.
Despite some other issues I have with the camera, like it overheating a bit too easily and the clunky workflow, I do think it's a decent camera, and you should consider it. Just not if you've got a little bit more to spend.
Cameras you should buy for VIRTUAL TOURS ✅
- Trisio Lite 2
It is so easy to use, and the results are really impressive. While it only shoots 360 photos, it does that well enough to justify the $400 price point. It doesn't have any advanced features like manual exposure or RAW, so only consider it if you're a beginner.
If you're slightly more intermediate to advanced, I'd recommend:
- Theta Z1 or the XPhase Scan.
After looking at those comparisons, the Z1 still offers the best dynamic range of the bunch, especially when you spend the time to edit your shots properly. And the sharpness of the XPhase is undeniably better than every other camera.
So if you're considering either one, you might want to ask yourself, what do I prefer better Dynamic range or higher quality?
While the XPhase can shoot decent dynamic range, it's not on the level of the Z1, and it also has the disadvantage of being a new camera from a small company and is therefore a little bit more unpredictable than the Theta.
The Theta Z1 has lasted the test of time because it was originally built with really impressive sensors and lenses that are unlikely to be beaten anytime soon. So if you don't mind taking a bit of a gamble, try the XPhase; otherwise, the Theta Z1 won't let you down. The noise and chromatic aberration issues that it sometimes has can easily be fixed in editing.
Cameras you should buy for 360 VIDEOS ✅
For 360 videos, if you're a beginner with a budget of under $500, then the obvious choice is:
- Insta360 X3
This camera is feature-rich and has very few flaws. The main one being the fragility of the design. Otherwise, this is the most popular 360 camera for a reason and is still the best 360 camera under $500 in 2024.
If you do have a little bit more to spend, up to say $1,000, then you want to consider:
- One RS 1-inch.
The main reason being it shoots significantly better 360 videos than the other cameras, thanks to that 1-inch sensor and Leica lens. It's fantastic in low light, it's fantastic in daylight, and I see this as a great choice for intermediate 360 video creators shooting for VR and for more professional shoots where you want the best quality possible from the smallest camera possible.
My #1 choice for 360 photos AND videos 🏆
If you want the best of both worlds, a camera that shoots great 360 photos and 360 videos, my number one recommendation is:
- One RS 1-inch.
Since, as I mentioned, it shoots the best 360 videos but also shoots 360 photos good enough that you could charge for. Also, it obviously has the advantage of the faster and better workflow that all Insta360 cameras have.
My Future Predictions 🔮
What other cameras might be coming in 2024?
- Insta360 X4
No doubt it's going to come out. I'm predicting September will be the release date, and it will be a 5 to 10% improvement upon the X3.
- One RS 2 and One RS 1-inch 2
Hopefully, they can think of a better name than those. They will probably be released again with a very small spec bump. Just don't forget that this camera already has a 1-inch sensor, so there's only so far you can improve it.
I will say that the number one thing that people are requesting with the X4 are user-replaceable lenses since there have been literally hundreds and hundreds of people smashing their X3 lenses. So if they're smart, they'll add that.
Don't wait all year, though, for the X4 because, again, it's only going to be like a 5 to 10% improvement and not worth waiting months and months for when the X3 is already a really good camera.
- Qoocam 3 Ultra
This has been confirmed and displayed at CES this year. Its main features are 8K 30, 5.7k 60, and 4K 120 FPS, as well as having an HDR video mode, which does sound great on paper. But just keep in mind that all Kandao cameras over the past 5 years were released too early when they hadn't been fully tested and ready for release.
So there will be a lot of buzz around this camera when it's released. But if you are considering it, please just wait until a few reviews are out from a few people to really find out the flaws so you don't end up paying to be a beta tester.
- A 360 camera from Canon
This will be their first-ever 360 camera, and it's actually a 360/180 camera, similar to the Insta360 Evo of many years ago. And this, again, promises to be 8K 30, which could be very promising.
However, 360 is a new field for Canon, so it's not guaranteed that all the software and firmware and hardware will be fully optimized for every type of use case a 360 camera could go through. I will keep you posted, though, when that gets released. I don't know if there's going to be a new Theta camera or not. Ricoh is a bit unpredictable with their releases. I think there's a chance there could be a new Theta, but don't hold your breath.