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How Do They Work? 360-degree Cameras

What is 360-Degree Camera?

In photography, a 360-degree camera is a camera with a visual field of the entire sphere or simply a camera with the ability to capture a 360-degree field of view in the horizontal plane. Such cameras are a highly appreciated in instances when large visual field coverage is desired, such as in robotics or panoramic photography.

What is a 360 degree photo?

A 360–degree photo is a controllable panoramic image that surrounds the original point from which the shot was taken. 360–degree photos simulate being in the shoes of a photographer and looking around to the left, right, up and down as desired as well as sometimes zooming.

Overview of 360-Degree Cameras:

Most cameras have a field of view that ranges from a few degrees to almost 180 degrees or sometimes slightly larger than this. It implies that such cameras have the ability to capture the light falling onto their focal points through a sphere. On the contrary, a 360-degree camera covers a full sphere and has the ability to capture light falling from all directions onto the focal point.

In actual application, however, most 360 degrees cameras can cover almost a full sphere along the equator, but with the exclusion of the bottom and top of the sphere. Should they cover the full sphere, including the top and the bottom, the rays will not meet at a single focal point.

Primary Uses for 360 Cameras:

Monoscopic Video:

Monoscopic videos and feeds are flat renderings captured by spherical 360 cameras. The viewer or user can move around the space captured but has no depth perception. This is the most common type of 360 media. Mapping is the most popular applications for monoscopic video, such as Google Street View.

As more affordable models of 360 cameras emerge on the market, monoscopic video is also being used in a variety of apps. Real estate, dating, and image filtering apps among others are utilizing 360 camera feeds to both take advantage and have fun with the environmental aspects of the feed.

Stereoscopic Video:

Widely used in VR applications, stereoscopic video builds upon monoscopic images by creating 3D renderings of each shot using a separate input for each eye. Subsequently, stereoscopic video usually needs to be shot using two lenses so there is one for each field of vision in order for the final product to be viewed through a VR headset.

The 3D aspects are what lends depth perception to stereoscopic feeds and makes VR feel so lifelike.

Applications of 360-Degree Cameras:

360 degrees cameras have a wide range of applications and as they continue to get developed and get more advanced, other usages are being invented with every rising of the sun.

Currently, the following are some of the most renowned applications of the 360-degree omnidirectional cameras

Panoramic Art:

Before the advent of 360-degree omnidirectional cameras, panoramic photography involved stitching shots taken at different angles into one shot.

This kind of stitching, however, was computationally intensive and the final quality of the shot was not guaranteed due to various deficiencies which characterized the whole process.

In contrast, a 360-degree camera can be used to create panoramic images or videos in real time, without the need of stitching or further processing and still providing high quality results.

Virtual Attendance of Live Ticketed Events

With the advent of smartphone-based VR headsets, sports and events rights holders are using 360 cameras to bring live games and concerts right to sports and music fans who are unable to attend the event in person.

Multiple cameras are placed around the arena or venue and are capable of showing the viewer closer shots than a Jumbotron is capable of.

Customized VR Experiences:

360 cameras filming both monoscopic and stereoscopic video can be used to create customized VR experiences for any number of applications from recreation to marketing.

Because VR content creators want to provide as much realistic content as possible, some 360 cameras can be used underwater for up to 30-60 minutes for both educational and entertainment purposes.


With 360-degree video and photography getting more engraved in the industry, more powerful and less expensive 360-degree cameras are expected to enter the market.

With all the options available, choosing the perfect one may be overwhelming, and the ones listed above should point you towards the right direction.


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