Choosing the Right 360 VR Camera


With a virtual reality camera, you can capture the whole world around you in a 360 degree videosphere. VR filmmaking is seeing rapid innovation, meaning that there are more 360-degree cameras on the market now than ever before, geared at everyone from intrigued consumers to high-end professionals. This overview is designed to give you solid starting points across a range of options.

aaronrhodes_headshot_2016_v002Guest Article by Aaron Rhodes

Aaron is Pixvana’s in-house filmmaker and executive producer. A veteran of the post-production world, he has worked as a director, visual effects supervisor, senior colorist, editor, and more, at renowned facilities including Emotion Studios, Evil Eye Pictures, Spy Post, and The Orphanage; he currently serves as a board member of the Visual Effects Society. Aaron is a creative problem solver who has lent his talents to box office hits such as The Avengers, Iron Man, films from the Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean series, and many others.

At Pixvana, we’re constantly testing new cameras, including custom rigs, to help advise on what the best VR system is for a variety of projects. There’s not one ‘best’ 360 VR camera; the best one is the one that suits your needs.


First, when planning to make a piece of VR film content, it’s important to ask yourself: does this experience really need to be immersive? How will the content be delivered and experienced? What are my budgetary and production constraints? All of these factors can help narrow down your camera choices from the get go. Integrated, off-the-shelf VR cameras make the post-production process much simpler, but custom camera rigs can also have some advantages for more discerning filmmakers. I’ll cover a variety of options here.

Entry Level


For entry-level choices, I like the Samsung Gear 360 or Ricoh Theta S, both of which let users easily experiment with VR for under $400. These dual lens 360 cameras are consumer-friendly, with small, portable form factors and accompanying smartphone apps to quickly review footage. The Ricoh Theta S can also livestream which is a nice perk.

Ricoh Announces Theta SC, a Colorful Mid-Range Addition to 360 Camera Lineup

These cameras offer lower resolution than the more high-end options, but if you’re a consumer or even a professional just dabbling in VR for the first time, these are solid yet affordable options to help give you the lay of the land before making a larger investment. Even more experienced professionals shouldn’t overlook these cameras, they’re great to have on hand for proof of concept, scouting, and pre-visualization.

Mid Range

Photo courtesy GoPro

Moving up to the mid-range, the GoPro Omni ($5,000) is a strong off-the-shelf option, offering six synchronized HERO4 Black cameras in a portable spherical rig, all capturing content at 8K resolution. In addition to the hardware, GoPro’s Kolor software suite gives users a straightforward way to import, stitch, view, and publish content.

gopro-omni-kitThe Omni has some drawbacks, notably, no live preview or real time stitching. But combined with a Ricoh Theta S or Samsung Gear 360 you can still get quick on-set previews. The Omni remains my first choice in this price range because it provides a one stop-shop for VR at high resolution. And at the size of a grapefruit, it gives filmmakers a lot more freedom and flexibility on set than they might have with a larger custom rig. If you need something that won’t break the bank but will still produce high-res content, to me this is the most straightforward option on the market.

High End


If you’re looking for a professional camera, the Nokia OZO is a great option. Specifically designed for professional VR production, the Ozo is one spherical camera with eight synchronized sensors, and it comes with a standalone computer with Ozo software for live stitching and preview. It also offers ambisonic sound recording, partial stereo, and can live stream in HD resolution (and can capture footage up to 6K resolution).

Exclusive: Nokia's $60,000 VR Camera Goes on a Drone Test Flight

The Ozo costs about $45,000 to buy or $3,000 per day to rent—nothing to sneeze at—but it does provide significant perks and a well-designed end-to-end workflow. Professionals looking for a robust, self-contained production pipeline, or who need to live stream at high resolution, should give the Ozo a try.

Custom Rigs


Lastly, custom camera rigs are another option for those filmmakers wanting a specific set of benefits not fulfilled by any off-the-shelf solutions. For a recent shoot, I opted to use a custom rig of five RED Weapon cameras in order to capture content at 10K resolution and 60 FPS. The higher your resolution, the better the content will look in a VR headset, something to keep in mind when deciding on a camera system. Using this custom rig also let me fully control the exposure, swap out lenses, and make other modifications to meet the goals of the production.

HypeVR Captures Ultra-High Def 360 Degree, Depth-Mapped Video Using a 14 x 'Red Dragons' and LiDAR

Though the rig delivered, it was large and cumbersome to move around on set, and was more complicated to use than an ordinary VR camera. Even seasonedpros should make sure their shoot is very well planned and really needs to meet certain requirements before experimenting with custom rigs.

Once you’ve decided on a camera, you’re ready to start capturing 360-degree video! With so much innovation in the VR space, I anticipate that higher resolutions and streamlined workflows will become even more standard.

Follow the Pixvana blog for more field tips as we continue to test available camera systems. HTC Vive and Oculus Rift users can also check out our SPIN Technology Preview on Steam to see firsthand how our Field of View Adaptive Streaming (FOVAS) technology delivers crystal clear content wherever you look.

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  • I want to know more about the Nikon 360 KeyMission camera. It’s specs look nice, but so much is unknown.

    • DougP

      Agree about the KeyMission. Also interesting that it’s waterproof to 30m, for those interested in that feature.

    • Yep agree… would love to know more… and is it good enough for a professional (small/medium budget) production or should we only be considering 8k…

    • I would not recommend you to buy this camera. It has a lot of cons according to this review . Huge price but quality as for entry level devices.

  • Ryan Joyner

    I am just curious why no differentiation is made between 360deg and stereoscopic capture in this article? If they were all only 360, I would possibly understand, but with the inclusion of the OZO, it would seem to make sense to mention its stereoscopic capture capabilities.

    • benz145

      It’s mentioned there, albeit subtly. The video above goes into more depth for stereoscopic recommendations.

      • Ryan Joyner

        I see. I should have watched the video before commenting. In the article it mentioned “partial stereo” immediately following the ambisonic recording so I assumed that was in reference to sound capture as well. Thanks for clarifying!

  • DougP

    Re: Stereoscopic
    I believe that the upcoming Vuze will be a lower cost alternative for those interested in stereo.

    Re: Waterproof
    Vuze confirmed that a water-proof housing is forthcoming for that unit. I asked as I’m a scuba enthusiast & interested in both 360-degree & stereoscopic.

    Nikon KeyMission 360 is full 360-degree, as well as waterproof to 30m (supposedly add’l housing for greater depth/durability @ depth), as well for those interested.

    • Yeah we’re considering both of these for a small/medium sized project in Janaury at the moment.. We had the Theta S before, it was fun and easy but with very poor video due to the low resolution.. (Stills for light wraps were great). Even 4k from the Nikon or Vuze still may not quite cut it…

      • DougP

        Agree – I have concerns of the 4K Nikon/Vuze.
        I think it’ll be a few years before we have high(enough)-res & high-frame rate & even player/streaming methods for very high quality VR use / 360-degree viewing.

        I’m very tempted to order a Nikon but suspect that by late next year we’ll see some improved cameras (res & frame-rate) – for underwater undoubtedly requiring a housing.

        Vuze –
        I am intrigued by the stereoscopic with it & look forward to reviews/sample video once it’s in consumer hands.

  • The Driftwood360 MFT 4 cam rig is also worth considering, its slightly cheaper than the Omni but it offers better quality and great stitching. 4K x 4 x 30fps, 10-bit 422 if required with HDMI. Price & details TBA very shortly as we’re still under trial.

  • Great piece. Key takeaway: it’s still about choosing the right tool for the job at hand. I made a detailed video covering the 360 video pipeline – capture through post-production that maybe of interest to folks:

    • Scott Nebeker

      Only curious here. With this:

      “Key takeaway: it’s still about choosing the right tool for the job at hand.”

      Are you stating that you believe the market will settle into a uni-tasker?

      That statement is part of a very short response, which means you’re putting a lot of your weight behind it. Are you saying “it’s still (AND ALWAYS WILL BE)” or are you saying “it’s still (FOR NOW)”? It seems an important thing and should be delineated.

      (Forgive the CAPS, I can’t italicize or bold my text.)

      • Thanks for the great question. That’s correct – I highly doubt we’ll settle into one-size-fits-all type rigs for even stereo or mono 360 capture anytime soon. Since mono/stereo 360 video is a transitional medium on the road to photogrammetric video and eventually full-on light field capture and playback, rigs will continue to transmute and change to account for inevitable upgrades in capture and playback/HMD technologies. So we’ll see categories of cameras just like we see in the stills/video world. Maybe a 4K Theta or Keymission would be great for vlogging. Maybe the Jump or Jaunt is great for controlled stereo shoots. Maybe an Omni or 3xZ-Cam for hi-res mono run and gun. Maybe an Ozo setup for high-end livestreaming. Depending on the needs – the story, scene, tech, delivery format and other factors that vary from production to production, the best tool will continue to vary, maybe even from scene to scene. Let’s even fast forward a few years… Even if super idealized light field capture becomes pervasive, Mark Bolas from USC ICT has a great quote which answers the question “is lightfield capture the be-all-end-all of cinematic capture?” and his response is worth noting:

        “Light fields suck because there’s just too much data. So somehow you have to winnow down the data, compress it and do things. To me the cinematographer and director are a real-time data compression algorithm. They’re saying we don’t need that, we don’t need that, we need this… If I know that’s the shot I want, give me a gorgeous lens [on a traditional camera] and i’ll get that shot. On one hand you have the complete 4D representation of everything [and on the other hand you have traditional capture]… In the end it’s going to come down to content in a piece. — Mark Bolas, MxR Lab, USC ICT”

  • John A. Rupkalvis

    VR can be 360, but it does not have to be. After all, we do not have eyes in the back of our heads, and it is a real imposition to ask people to spin around all of the time. A system that acquires and displays 220 to 230 degrees will insure that it fills the entire field of vision, plus sufficient additional to allow turning the head when desired, just as in real life. Most current so-called 360 systems actually display less than half that (often only about one fourth) unless you turn your head, and then you lose what you had been looking at.

    We do, however, have two eyes. Therefore, to be considered virtual reality, VR must be stereoscopic. Stereoscopic imaging is what makes virtual reality look real. It is the only way to get immersion. And, I have methods that will allow this to fill the entire binocular visual field. That is just like in reality, therefore it is the only true virtual reality.

    • A stereoscopic camera with a 230 degree field of view sounds very useful. I would buy one!

  • Stephen Jones

    Sorry to self promote but mid range 8k starts around £800. Good 4k with live 360 1440p streaming and production from £500. #BrahmaDuet #Brahma360Studio

  • 360 Virtual Reality
  • Bram

    It seems that the big companies don’t really get it yet, but 180 3D stereoscopic movies are ten times more immersive then 360 2D movies, let alone all the benefits that come with shooting 3D 180, instead of 360 2D. Apart from the immersion factor of 3D 180, few people will enjoy looking around 360 degrees for 1.5 hour when they will watch a movie at the end of the day hanging on on their sofa or sitting in the cinema. 3D 180 in the movie industry will have a much bigger future then 2D 360.

  • matnojje

    I like my lg 360 camera. Got it for £180 so its great for the price.

  • 360 Designs VR

    No mention of Mini EYE?!!!

    You are recommending Ozo for high end professional work, yet Mini EYE is universally acknowledged to offer better quality and workflow, and 1/4 of the price.

  • Daniel

    Nokia Ozo for professional? Please… It can’t work with more than 25ºC, and about the stitching… Stop this video at 1:01 and have a look around:

    Or just see the carpet or the round window here:

    But yes, you could show it in your event and gain some attention…

    The best immersive solution right now is a rig with the more goPros you can afford.

  • Fun article, I always love new tech. I’d buy one if I had $400 laying around.

    That said, I’ve never really enjoyed 360 video. I don’t know what I’m suppose to be looking at, I always miss stuff, the content is very gonzo, there is no framing, no direction, just chaos. I can’t imagine these have much of a future.

    I keep thinking these might be great at sports events, but I’ve never enjoyed watching one though it. People who don’t know VR always think it’ll make VR content creation easy. They are trapped in the old mode of content creation. It’s not good for VR and it’s not good as a camera. It’s always a tech toy. It’s value always seems to come down to shear novelty, and nothing else.

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  • Scott Nebeker

    I was in a months long back-and-forth with a Nokia sales rep. He was very into the OZO and was very adamant about me getting one. I was troubled by the fact that he wouldn’t share source imagery with me and admitted to poor stitching quality (which was being addressed by the software team).

    He wanted the sale without me having hands-on with the device. I offered to pay for shipping and disclosed all of my insurance details that showed that the camera was covered while in my possession.

    It wasn’t easy to get approved for it, but I was even part of their Pioneer Program. :)

    To quote The Soup Nazi: “No camera, no “Pioneer” for you!”