The VR camera market, like the VR headset market we updated you on last week, has seen a lot of advancement. In the last five years, just about every camera maker has come out with a dedicated 360-degree camera. While the likes of Sony and Garmin still sell 360 cameras, it’s the primarily 360-degree camera brands that are really pushing the limits in the space. They’re the ones you should be focused on if you’re serious about investing in VR at your company.
Below, we’ll update you on the latest news for VR cameras for the latter part of 2019. Across the board, cameras released this year generally contain better image stabilization, clearer resolution, and better audio capture. Prices have also come more in line with expectations — no more $25K Ozo cameras, for instance. And many of the popular models, like the Insta360 Pro, have come out with newer models that contain significant improvements. If you’re new to VR and on a budget though, it’s actually a great time to scoop up a used or even new older model such as the Insta360 Pro 1 or Go Pro Omni.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on the updates of the camera makers we see most often used by our InstaVR Pro and InstaVR Enterprise users. But if you have any specific questions on brands or models, don’t hesitate to reach out to our sales team who can provide you advice.
We’ve been longtime proponents of the Insta360 line of cameras. You can see from our Client Interviews page that top VR agencies like Galago Vision are using the Insta360 Pro, while companies themselves creating VR like Chili’s Restaurants have embraced the Insta360 Pro too. It’s pretty much the standard for creating professional level VR experiences.
We’re also big fans of the Insta360 One X that came out last year. It’s lightweight, portable, and relatively affordable (one of the best sub $1K cameras). It can capture 18 megapixel images or 5.7K video in 1080. We dubbed it the perfect starter camera for creating a Proof of Concept VR app. While there’s no major recent news on the One X front, it’s still definitely worth a look if you’re new to VR.
The Insta360 Pro, on the other hand, underwent some significant changes with the launch of the new version late last year, the Insta360 Pro 2. We’ve heard from many clients using the camera this year. The price point is a little bit higher than the original ($5K vs $3.5K), but the updates are notable. Specifically, with the newer version, you’ll be getting: 1. “Flowstate”, an image stabilization feature that helps camera movement be smoother 2. Upping of the frame rate per second from 100 to 120 (more lifelike) 3. A tie in with Adobe allowing for lower resolution import & editing, with the final version reverting to original resolution (a potential big time saver depending on the amount of footage you’re capturing)
For new clients, is it worth the extra $1500? And for existing Pro 1 users, should you sell your camera and get the new one? Perhaps. It really depends on your use case. For most employee training VR or sales presentations, the Pro 1 will be fine. If you’re doing cinematic VR and presenting it in a high-quality headset like the Varjo, then the Pro 2 likely makes more sense.
They also recently released the tiny Insta360 Go, a camera we don’t recommend for our professional level clients.
First off, congratulations to Marcelo Lewin of HowtoCreateVR.com who recently sold his company to Humaneyes. Great resource from Marcelo (both the site & podcasts), and we’ve been big fans of Humaneyes since meeting them at SXSW a few years back. Sounds like a promising match!
Onto their cameras… one of the unique things about Vuze is they offer both a 360 camera and a hybrid 360/180 camera. If you’ve been following InstaVR for a while, you know we’ve supported the 180-degree format for quite some time, and our research via Heatmaps shows the user experience with a 180 image or video isn’t too significantly impacted vs. 360.
All three primary Vuze cameras are under $1K and get strong reviews. Your decision on which one to get largely depends on questions like budget and do you need 180-degree filming access?
We also like some of the development we’re seeing from the company. They’ve been, for example, working with giant Japanese mobile phone company NTT DOCOMO to test VR with 5G. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but we’re pretty sure our “What’s New for VR in 2020” preview will talk about 5G. Give Vuze a look if you’re in the market for a sub-$1K or 180-degree camera. We’re looking forward to what Jim Malcolm and his team roll out this coming year.
Clients using the Vuze camera include Zimmer Biomet Dental.
GoPro is obviously a recognizable name in the overall camera market. Their 360/VR cameras are pretty impressive though. The GoPro Fusion (~ $300) and GoPro Omni (~ $5K) are generally part of consideration sets when companies decide to do 360 filming. GoPro cameras are well-regarded for portability and quality of image.
Showing its dedication to the VR market, GoPro just released the GoPro Max. It competes squarely with the Insta360 One X, and has a similar price point – $500.
Early reviews on the GoPro Max have been pretty strong. It’s a step up from the Fusion in quality of image/video (16.6 megapixel photos, 1440p 60 fps mono or 5.6 30 fps spherical), about on par with the One X. User reviews so far laud the portability and durability, as well as its ability to fit with existing GoPro peripherals (ie no need to buy a new monopod). And in a slight rarity for 360-degree cameras, the Max gets high marks for audio capture.
If you’re familiar with GoPros and like them, and want an affordable camera to create a Proof of Concept VR app, this looks to be a good one. You’ll likely graduate to an Insta360 Pro sooner rather than later, but it does what it promises at the right price point.
As you’d expect, camera selection is personal based on your specific needs. There is no “best camera” for everyone. Yes, our most professional clients are still opting for the 1st or 2nd generation Insta360 Pro. It’s what we also suggest during our Enterprise engagements.
But there’s a good selection now of dedicated 360 VR cameras to choose from at reasonable prices. Insta360, HumanEyes, and GoPro aren’t the only companies out there putting in the effort to create 360 cameras, but they are some of our favorites.