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Everything you need to know about 360-degree camera – the latest advance in action cams. By Derek Adams
What is a 360-degree camera?
Essentially, it’s an extension of the ubiquitous ‘action cam’. But where most action cameras provide widescreen 170-degree vistas using one camera lens, 360-degree cameras use two – one on each side of the camera body.
Each lens captures a 180-degree field of view, which is stitched together using built-in software to form a full 360-degree video or still image. These wraparound images can be viewed using a smartphone or, for the ultimate effect, a Virtual Reality (VR) headset.
Watching a 360-degree movie using a VR headset is extremely immersive. Simply put on the headset, move your head in all directions and the scenes change accordingly. If you don’t have VR eyeware, you can scroll around 360-degree films on sites such as YouTube, using your mouse, or by holding your phone up in the air and moving it around.
Capture it all with the 360fly 4K
WHAT TO BUY
1. For beginners
The Ricoh Theta S (£300) is excellent for the casual user. Videos are shot in 1080p but once the stitching software has done its thing, you end up with something more like 720p. The Theta S feels great in the hand, though it is wobbly when placed on a table, so use a mini tripod.
Click here to watch a rollercoaster video filmed with a Ricoh Theta S
2. For tech-heads
For those with a Samsung Galaxy phone, consider the Samsung Gear 360 (£349, pictured). Splash-proof, it shoots in quasi-4K and produces sensational high-resolution results from its two f2.0 lenses. For best results, pair it with Samsung’s Gear VR headset (£60).
Click here to watch a paragliding video filmed with Samsung Gear 360
3. For thrill-seekers
The waterproof 360fly 4K (£599) shoots a 360-degree vista using just one lens. Its 16-megapixel sensor produces exceptional images and videos, but you can select ordinary point-and-shoot mode for standard 180-degree footage and stills. The Fly comes with 64GB of memory capable of storing three hours of 4K footage. For the best effect, use it with the optional selfie stick or a third-party monopod.
Click here to watch a skiing video filmed with a 360 Fly
Hang tough: take a 360-degree camera on your next adventure
WHAT TO SHOOT
360-degree cameras are best suited to action-filled pastimes such as hang gliding, biking and rollercoaster riding, though they’re equally adept at recording cityscapes.
Landscape shots work well, especially at high elevation. A monopod will save you having to hold your hand in the air for protracted periods of time.
Hotels are perfect for 360-degree still images and videos, but bear in mind that few people will be able to see them as they’re meant to without the use of special viewing software.
Avoid dinner-table wraparounds as they make everyone look stretched: it’s not a flattering effect.