How Do 360 Cameras Work? Are They Worth It?

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how does 360 degree camera work

Cameras are exciting pieces of equipment. It’s like they are almost magical. You can capture a moment still in time and probably cherish it forever. Anyone you love is trapped in those frames forever.

It’s unique, and just like any other technology, they are evolving. And nowadays, there are tons of different cameras, their lenses, sizes, and whatnot.

360 cameras are pretty bizarre in how they work. Utilizing more than 2 lenses, 360 cameras capture the surrounding environment from one point to another point, so it makes a 180-degree capture.

Stitch two 180-degree images, and you get a 360 image that gives you a whole perspective of your surrounding in a 360-degree motion.

You would think that this is some high-tech piece of equipment and it is only practical in big budgeted movies, but you will be surprised how common this is nowadays.

Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook social influencers use this kind of video making very commonly. And as for how do 360 cameras work? Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we

What Is A 360 Camera?

You must be familiar with the camera and its whole functionality, how a camera works, and why do we need cameras? Well, we can leave the latter question for later but for now, let’s focus on what makes the 360 camera a unique piece of technology and how someone can utilize its feature to its maximum potential.

360 cameras feature lenses that are capable of capturing 180-degree angle photography. These lenses are located in the front and rear of the camera.

Image of Insta360 camera on a table
Credits: Maik Kleinert

By capturing a picture from one point to another, the camera combines 180 photographs and creates 3D 360-angle photography, capturing the surrounding environment in a single photo.

You can view the whole photo in applications or browsers that support 360 viewing. In mobile phones, you can use the built-in gyro sensor to view the photo by tilting the phone physically.

Capturing a photograph in a sphere that can be tilted or moved around to provide a field-of-perspective is very exciting and fun. You don’t have to capture multiple pictures to get a perfect scenario of your surrounding.

How Do 360 Cameras Work?

Normal cameras function in a very simple way. You capture what’s in front of you. The whole field of view perspective is linear or just limited to 180 degrees in most cases. Then you have an ultrawide view lens that captures a little more than what your normal camera is capable of.

image of a snowboarder taken with 360 camera

360 Cameras, as the name suggests, capture the whole surrounding area in a sphere fashion. Front and back lenses capture the entire image, with each lens covering a 180-degree angle.

Thus making a single 360-degree photograph that can be viewed as a 3D motion photograph in supported browsers or software.

360 cameras make use of fisheye lenses which are responsible for creating a spherical distorted image. And you can roll the image or tilt your phone physically in your hands to rotate the photo or video.

What’s The Difference Between 360 And Vr?

Virtual Reality and 360, at first glance, seem very similar. But the differences between them are big enough if you look closely. You can say that while 360 Video or Photography is immersive, Virtual Reality is highly interactive.

You can view any object and platform in 360 from any angle you want. But Virtual Reality allows you to exist in that space, and you can interact and move freely. Like you are existing in that virtual world at the moment.

A 360 photo of a room can be viewed from every angle, but you cannot touch or move any object. This is only possible in Virtual Reality mode.

Virtual Reality is highly popular nowadays, especially among Gamers. VR games are highly interactive, and they create an uplifting experience for gamers. Whether it’s a mystery thriller or Battle actioner, you are a part of it.

360 Video is limited in the sense that you can only view the objects of the video and photography. Still, VR keeps you immersed, and especially in games, you are capable of interacting with objects, weaponry, or even driving a car.

360 Camera Uses

With such an interesting piece of equipment in your hands, you can do pretty much anything you want with it. It is a 360 camera that captures your surrounding images and videos in one single take, all that you gotta do is to be creative with it and have fun.

image of a cyclist taken with 360 camera
  • This camera is quite popular among YouTubers, social media influencers, and Vloggers alike. If you are a social media addict, you must have seen videos of people filming themselves doing insane stunts, paragliding, or just cycling through the streets while a camera is attached to their helmets.
  • The 360 camera rotates and provides a whole view of the surroundings while you are sitting in your room. The experience is very immersive and quite thrilling.
  • 360 cameras are not just an entertainment thing. Google maps use 360 cameras in street view mode, where you rotate the image to get a full grasp of the location. Similarly, most real estate applications make use of this technology for the same purpose.

360 Camera Sensors

360 camera sensors are quite compact and small because why wouldn’t they be? They are designed for commercial uses, but by being rather small in size, you can use them to their full potential.

image of a RICOH THETA Z1 Camera
Credits: RICOH
  • Most 360 camera sensors have issues with maintaining good colors and accurate saturation as the other camera, but this is mainly due to the fact that they are restricted by technical limitations
  • Sensors are not really cheap or small enough to be utilized in 360 cameras, but there are some cameras that are exceptions, like the Ricoh Theta Z1, which is considered one of the best cameras for photography in 360 video making.
  • 360 camera sensors work flawlessly as they provide complete manual control over video making and photography, just like any other camera. You can manually adjust the settings by yourself. Zoom, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO can be fine-tuned manually for the best possible results

You Need A Dedicated Viewer Or Application To View 360 Images

360 Images work differently than normal images. They are immersive images that allow you to fully view the surroundings just by toying with the image up and down, left and right, zoom in and out.

So it makes sense that these kinds of images cannot be viewed in normal applications. There are dedicated software and applications designed to preview these images just as they are supposed to.

RICOH THETA Stitcher App
Credits: RICOH

Social Media platforms like Facebook already support and can easily view these images. There is tons of content on Facebook by Vloggers, Influencers that make use of this 360-image technology.

But for external 360-degree images and media, you will require software or an application (if you are using your mobile phone) Flickr VR is one of the easiest websites that you can access for your 360 Photography.

One of the most common applications is Google Photos which is highly compatible with 360 technology, and furthermore, it allows you to store your 360-degree media. Perfect storage facility too

They’re Built For Youtube And Facebook?

360 Cameras were initially used to cover details and area as much as possible in a single image. But considering their ease of use and creative potential, this technology became popular among young social media influencers, Vloggers, and even in the Filmmaking industry.

You can say that 360 Cameras were built for youtube and Facebook but not as a factual statement. If you look at it, This technology is becoming a trend, and people have found more creative ways to utilize it in their videos and social media content.

One of the most famous trends is the 360 camera on GoPro, which is usually attached to a helmet and provides a whole body view of a person and their surroundings.

Do All 360 Cameras Work The Same Way?

Not all 360 cameras are equal to each other. Most 360 cameras are cheap and easier to acquire, but they lack many features or distinctive color palette that is usually found in DSLRs. They are similar in nature and how they work, but there are some exceptions.

Some cameras may advertise 360 degrees, but in reality, they are not. Like 360fly and Pixpro SP 360, they only provide 240 degrees of coverage. Furthermore, the cheaper the camera is, the lower you will find its quality and possibly lack of features too.

Do You Need A 360 Camera?

It all depends on where you are standing right now and what your priorities are. Are you a film student? Do you have this expensive hobby of collecting different types of cameras? Are you looking forward to shooting a stylish commercial for your portfolio?

Many factors come into play, but a 360 camera is an interesting piece of hardware nonetheless. You can have fun with it or even learn something about modern content creation involving these little cameras.

How To Frame The Perfect Shot With 360-Degree Cameras

360 cameras can be complicated to use at first, but if you learn how to create an amazing shot with it, you will be surprised at your own photography talent.

360 cameras are usually used to cover a wide area in a single picture so keeping that in mind, you need to place your camera high. Use something to elevate it higher, like a monopod or a selfie stick. Keep your object of interest in mind and its location.

A 360 image taken by Ricoh Z1A 360 image taken by Ricoh Z1
Credits: RICOH

If it is something like a landscape or field, then it is recommended you cover the whole area by using higher ground or just lifting your camera high enough.

While prepping the shot, make sure you are aligning the camera in at a vertical stance. Like a flag on top of a straight pole, you have to keep it still and in straight alignment for the magic to happen.

Here Are Four Techniques And Tips For Using 360 Cameras

You can be highly versatile with these cameras, but as a beginner, you must take care of some tips and techniques that will help you in honing your photography skills.

  • Keep your camera in a 3rd person’s point of view. Make yourself the object of focus and do something that is impossible for normal cameras to achieve. For example, you can go bungee jumping or paragliding, soaring through the sky while you are capturing a video of yourself. This is something that cant be achieved by a normal camera
  • A stabilized 360 camera will always work without you constantly stabilizing the image. You can just relax and have fun while your camera does all the work
  • Use something like an activator to shoot images or videos. As 360 cameras use a fish eye lens to create a spherical image, sometime, when you capture the image, your hand will get in the way, and it will look cartoonishly huge. Use a self-timer activation or a selfie stick to capture pictures
  • Maintain the best height to create and capture photographs that covers your whole surrounding. Use a selfie stick to create high images and also extend your arm further so that your camera is far away. This helps create spherical images that capture a lot of areas


360 cameras have their own niche and desirability that other cameras can’t quite replicate. It is an interesting piece of hardware, but before you look forward to buying one.

I would suggest your try using one, so you can make clear decisions. Capture the images and see if they are really magical and perfect as you are expecting them to be.

They can certainly make videomaking easier but beware; they might cost a lot more than a normal camera.

Your Author

  • Celebrating childhood in photographs and emotions through photos. My aim is to transfer all my photography experience by sharing useful camera-related guides and individual reviews so you can get an idea about everything before buying.

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