360 cameras are basically time machines. Because they simultaneously shoot in every direction, replaying their footage on a computer, phone, or with a VR headset endows you with a Groundhog Day-like ability to step back into a scene, with a new opportunity to look around and notice things you may have missed the first time. If you want to seriously inspect everybody's expression the second you broke the big news, this is for you.
It’s also a nascent space, with improvements in resolution, form factor, and price coming at an astonishing pace. To test the current batch of 360 cameras, we teamed up with Justin Johnson, founder of 360 Buzz and a veteran 360 filmmaker. All the models we tested have their merits: the Samsung Gear 360 ($183) is great if you have a recent Samsung phone to pair it with, while the Ricoh Theta ($300) rocks at static 360 photos. Still, for most casual users, the clear winner is currently the Insta360 Nano. It doesn’t produce the highest resolution videos, nor does it possess the most features; but its insanely portable design and pick-up-and-play ease-of-use make it a keeper.
BUY: Insta360 Nano, $186; jet.com
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The Insta360 Nano is basically a smartphone case that works by slipping onto an iPhone and transforming a device you already have on you into a powerful production tool. As the old saying goes: “The best camera is the one you have on you.”
See the rest of InStyle's 2017 Best of Tech picks here.