Monday, October 3, 2016

Consumer 360 Camera Comparison: Ricoh Theta S vs. Ricoh Theta SC vs. Samsung Gear 360 vs. LG 360 Cam vs. Insta360 Nano


There are an ever-increasing number of 360 cameras, but these four stand out as the best ones for $350 and below:
In this post, I will show photo and video samples from each, and give a bullet point summary of their strengths and weaknesses.
Y: Ricoh recently introduced the Ricoh Theta SC, which is almost identical to the Theta but costs only $300.  In return, it loses the HDMI port and livestreaming.  There is also a 5-minute cap on the video.  However, in other respects, it is similar to the Ricoh Theta S, and you can use the information below about the Theta S for the Theta SC as well.

SAMPLE PHOTOS
Here are sample photos in daylight:

Insta360 Nano:


LG 360 Cam:


Ricoh Theta S / SC:


Samsung Gear 360:


Here are sample photos in lower light (in shade, just after sunset).

Insta360 Nano:


LG 360 Cam:


Ricoh Theta S, Ricoh Theta SC:


Samsung Gear 360:





SAMPLE VIDEO:
Here are sample videos from each camera, also in daylight and in low light.  It's a playlist, so you can use the playlist menu to select the video you'd like to see, and you can use "chapter search."  Please note that you need to manually select the highest available resolution by clicking on the "gear" on the lower right of the screen.




SUMMARY OF STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
The best camera of these four will depend on your priorities and in some cases, your current phone.  Here they are in alphabetical order, with their primary strengths (+) and weaknesses (-):



INSTA360 NANO
Insta360 Nano with an iPhone 6
+ works seamlessly with iPhone
+ very affordable
+ best quality video in its price range
+ in-camera stitching for photos and videos
+ best livestreaming capability in class
+ punchy colors and contrast straight out of the camera
+ excellent resistance to flare
+ Insta360 has excellent responsiveness to customers
+ very good low light performance
o photos are sharp but have limited resolution (you won't be able to "zoom in").
- requires iPhone 6 series and above (lower iPhones can work but you'll need an adapter and modify it a bit)
- prone to chromatic aberration (purple fringing)
- limited controls for exposure (exposure compensation only)
- tripod adapter is an extra $30 accessory
Summary: If you have an iPhone, the Nano is the easiest 360 camera to use.  You just plug it into your phone, and you can share directly to social media.  Photo and video quality are both very good, with punchy contrast and colors, making them ready for sharing without the need to edit.   The Nano also has the best livestreaming capability for any 360 consumer camera, allowing you to livestream from anywhere, although even for the Nano, livestreaming is still a little technical (hopefully, YouTube will simplify the process).
Full review here
Available on Amazon here ($199).
For related posts on the Insta360 Nano, click here.



LG 360 CAM

+ very affordable
+ works with Android and iPhone
+ can be turned on remotely
+ very convenient protective cover that doubles as a handle and tabletop stand
+ has manual exposure
+ natural-looking colors and contrast
+ excellent white balance
+ excellent vertical orientation sensor; works for photos and videos
+ excellent resistance to chromatic aberration except at stitch line
o chroma noise (blotches of color) in low light
o video quality not as good as Samsung Gear 360 or Insta360 Nano
o slowest shutter speed is only 1/2 sec.
- no 360 live view (you can only see one lens at a time during the live preview)
- prone to flare
- nadir has a distinctive crescent mark
- difficult to update firmware
Summary: The LG 360 Cam is a balanced camera that works with both Android and iPhone.  It is the only one in this group that can be wirelessly turned on from standby.  In my view, it is the most convenient to use because it is very compact and has a handy protective cover that makes it unnecessary to have a separate case.
Full review here
Available on Amazon here ($199 or less).
For related posts on the LG 360 Cam, click here.



RICOH THETA S; RICOH THETA SC
Ricoh Theta shown with Tiltpod
+ complete manual controls plus shutter priority or ISO priority
+ best stitching among all 360 cameras due to the very short distance between the lenses.
+ photos are detailed except near the stitch line
+ natural looking colors
+ excellent dynamic range
+ true HDR mode (combination of multiple shots)
+ convenient form factor
+ the widest third party support (accessories, software)
+ Ricoh listens to customer feedback
+ compatible with Android and iPhone
o has livestreaming but requires being tethered to a PC
- video resolution (1920 x 960) is too low for VR headsets
- prone to chromatic aberration (purple fringing)
- white balance is not reliable
- memory is not expandable unless you're willing to take the camera apart.
- wireless connectivity is a little spotty.
Summary:  The best 360 still camera for photographers, next to the Panono (EUR 1499) because of its image quality and because it has the most complete set of exposure controls.  Due to its popularity, it has the best support from third parties, and there are many accessories and software available for it.  On the other hand, the video resolution is significantly lower than the competition.
Full review here.
Available on Amazon here ($350).
For related posts on the Ricoh Theta S, click here.



SAMSUNG GEAR 360 

+ the most affordable 4k 360 camera
+ the best video quality among consumer cameras
+ excellent photos with very good edge-to-edge sharpness; the highest resolution photos (30mp) among consumer cameras
+ well integrated with Samsung Gear VR headset
+ excellent dynamic range
+ water-resistant (protected from splashes), dust-resistant
- compatible only with high-end Samsung phones (Samsung S6 and above)
- videos need to be stitched with Samsung S7 or on a recent Windows PC to get 4k quality
- photos become blurry after the sensor warms up (blurgate)
- prone to flare
- limited exposure controls (exposure compensation and auto ISO limit only)
- camera shape is inconvenient for usage and storage.
Summary: If your priority is 360 video, this is the camera with the highest resolution video for this price range if you have a compatible phone and/or a compatible PC.  For photos, it does offer the highest resolution (30 mp) but it is not the best for photos because of the blurgate issue and because it has very limited exposure controls.
Full review here.
Available on Amazon here ($350).
For related posts on the Samsung Gear 360, click here.



Have you tried any of these 360 cameras?  Which one do you like the best?  Let me know in the comments!