Using a Modern 360 Camera as Your Wide Angle Lens

Using a Modern 360 Camera as Your Wide Angle Lens

360 cameras have become jacks of all trades, but there’s a specific reason that photojournalists might want to consider carrying one in the field: to replace a wide angle lens.

That sounds a bit nutty, and you'd be right that in no way would the quality of such a camera approach something high or low end when it comes to lenses. I swear by my trusty Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens and wouldn’t dream of using much else for my landscape or UrbEx work.

But, under the right conditions, I’d be better off using my 360 camera.

Weight and Size

I recently covered a rally for Palestine in New York City, which involved hours of time and miles of walking. I had the photojournalist staple Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM lens on one body and an old 135 f/2 lens for mild telephoto images. Adding my 16-35mm to this package would add nearly two pounds with the additional Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R I'd need to mount on my Canon EOS R6 body.

This also doesn’t take into account the practicality of switching lenses in the middle of the action, unless I wanted to carry a third RF body, and thus more weight.

Instead, I had my Kandao QooCam 3 with me attached to a monopod. The camera fits in the palm of my hand and weighs slightly less than a half-pound. With that setup, I was able to get shots like the one at the top of my post, a decent quality wide angle shot that helps set the scene without the need for a wide angle lens.

Why did this combination work better than what I’ve been doing in the past? Simply put, technology is finally catching up. I’ve been using 360 cameras since the original Samsung Gear 360 in 2016, and two major things have changed: speed and resolution.

Connecting any camera to a phone has always been a chore, and to do so in the heat of the moment was even more difficult. Now, through a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the connection is seamless and quick. I can be connected and shooting in under 30 seconds just by directly launching the QooCam 3 app. It’s even easier to connect the Kandao than my Canon cameras.

Resolution is another key factor. The aforementioned Samsung shot 5 MP images. The Kandao shoots 62 MP images, and some other cameras, such as the Insta360 X3, shoot 72 MP. To pull out a portion of a spherical image to create a traditional wide angle photo, these new cameras offer significantly more to work with than cameras of old. Creating a still image from this much resolution is a huge benefit of modern-day 360 cameras. And keeping the image in 360 format is always still an option, though most audiences don’t have a way to view such images easily (looking at you, Instagram, for holding this back). Here's a look at the same image from above as a full 360:


While in good light, a 360 camera can more or less match a DSLR or mirrorless camera, in anything less than good quality, the image breaks down very fast. Here’s an image shot on the QooCam 3 as the protest moved into Grand Central Station:

The lighting in Grand Central Station is less than ideal, and the smaller sensor of a 360 camera struggles in these conditions. This image required a lot of noise reduction and work to reproduce the colors accurately as a result.
And a comparison with an older mirrorless camera hooked up to a so-so wide angle lens (a Canon EOS M5 with an EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens):

A similar scene from the same rally with an APS-C mirrorless camera shows much better quality.
The noise levels in low light on the 360 are almost unacceptable, by comparison. But then again, I can't turn the above image into a 360 image, or a little planet, or any of the other things one can do with a 360 camera.


While it's certainly not going to approach the quality of a larger sensor DSLR or mirrorless cameras, 360 cameras can definitely make themselves useful for photographers looking to lighten the load. In good light, the difference is minimal, and oftentimes for photojournalists, capturing the moment is more important than ultimate image quality.

Have you thought of other creative uses for 360 cameras? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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Why would you mix politics and your political agenda, in a camera article? I definitely don't come hear to be exposed to more propaganda.

Thought the same thing

Well, this is the same guy that included pro-BLM images in his "articles".

Yep. I also didn't come here to see photos of a bunch of uninformed, antisemitic, pro-terrorist "protesters." The article was really just a poorly advised excuse to promote his cause. Right Wasim?

Is this official fstoppers' position - pro-terror and anti-semitic?

How was this "photography" article allowed here?