360 Degree Cameras vs Action Cameras: Which One Should You Buy?

If you’re in the market for a portable camera, chances are you’re torn between two options — a 360 camera and an action camera. Both types of cameras offer a similar usage experience. They’re relatively compact, can record vlogs or action footage, and can be mounted on various surfaces. With so much in common, you might be wondering which one to get. Well, this detailed comparison between 360-degree camera and action camera should help you decide.


Note that both 360-degree cameras and action cameras come in various types. For the scope of this guide, we will be referencing popular versions of both cameras — namely the Insta360 X3 and the GoPro HERO11 Black since we’ve used those cameras personally.

But, most aspects are applicable to pretty much all cameras in their respective categories. With that out of the way, let’s get to the differences between 360-degree cameras and action cameras to help you make a better buying decision.

360-Degree Cameras vs Action Cameras: Form Factor

The first major difference between the two types of cameras is in terms of how they’re built. Action cameras are generally rugged with a rubberized chassis that can absorb some shock. On the other hand, 360-degree cameras are slightly fragile — mainly due to the lens bulging on both ends.

dual lenses of Insta360 X3

With action cameras, the lenses are generally flat and are covered by an outer layer of protection. But thanks to the way 360 cameras work, the lenses protrude out considerably on both sides of the camera so they’re certainly not as rugged. While there are accessories like lens protectors or cases, they can end up deteriorating the video quality.

best GoPro alternatives

If you’re going to be using the cameras in and around water, ensure that the device has some sort of water resistance or IP rating. The latest offering from Insta360 has a large screen to frame yourself when recording non-360 videos. If you pick up the last-gen X2 though, the screen is tiny which can be a problem. The latest GoPro, on the other hand, offers two screens making it easy to frame yourself.

Mounts and Accessories

Both types of cameras can be mounted onto various surfaces using different types of mounts and attachments. So whether you’re riding a bike or hiking your way through a mountain range, you can find several accessories for both cameras.

PellKing Frame Insta360 X3 Protective Cases 1

If you plan on using the cameras for travel or for vlogging, you’ll be happy to know that both 360-degree cameras and action cameras are extremely easy to carry around. You can hold them in your hand or mount them on top of a tripod. While action cameras are generally wider and shorter, 360 cameras are narrower but taller. Both are light enough to be carried in your pockets when traveling.

360-Degree Cameras Vs Action Cameras: Features

Depending on which cameras you pick, the video recording resolutions will differ. While some cameras can record in 4K, others can do 5.7K. Apart from the resolution, there are other factors that contribute to making the overall video quality better. The lens size, stabilization, aperture, and software processing.

Depending on the type of video you’re recording the final output is going to be vastly different. For example, if you compare the 360-degree videos from the Insta360 X3 with a flat 16:9 video from a GoPro, the GoPro will almost always look better. However, if you use the X3 to only record standard, flat videos, the output from both will look similar.


That brings us to the fact that 360-degree cameras offer additional functionality compared to standard action cameras. While action cameras can only record in one format, 360 cameras can record both 360-degree videos as well standard videos using just one lens. This gives you more versatility as a creator.

Insta360 camera viewfinder

Since a 360-degree camera captures an entire sphere, you can use it to record videos without worrying about framing yourself properly. Just hit record, and you can then reframe yourself later when editing the video. This makes it extremely handy if you’re recording yourself or you’re traveling and want to record both yourself and what’s on the other side of the camera.

GoPro on a boat

There’s no such standout feature on action cameras. You only get a single perspective with the ultra-wide lens.

Software and Editing

Unlike standard videos that can be edited on pretty much any video editor, 360-degree videos require additional effort. Thankfully, if you get a camera from Insta360, the brand makes it easy to edit 360-degree footage using its smartphone app.

It still requires some effort as opposed to standard footage so if you’re someone who uploads daily vlogs or want to quickly edit your content, an action camera like a GoPro might make more sense.

Why Insta360 X3 is the most fun gadget I used in 2022

While editing 360-degree videos is harder, it comes with its own advantages. Insta360’s app lets you add cool effects and animations to your video directly within the app. This lets you make your videos look more appealing. With a standard action camera, you’ll have to put in a ton of work to replicate the same edits while on the X3, you can get it with the tap of a button.

Both the GoPro HERO11 and the Insta360 X3 can be used as a webcam or for live streaming. These are some additional features that make the cameras more useful.

Action Cameras vs 360-Degree Cameras – Which Is the Right One for You

Both action cameras and 360-degree cameras are available at various price points. You can pick up a budget 360-degree camera for under $500 and if a GoPro is too expensive, there are cheaper alternatives with 4K recording. If we have to consider two of the best options in each category — the Insta360 X3 and the GoPro HERO11 Black — the X3 is slightly pricier.

Selfie sample 2 from Insta360 X3

For those few extra bucks, you get the ability to record 360-degree videos with an invisible selfie stick and some other cool accessories. With the GoPro, you save some extra money that you can use to purchase mounts, an additional battery, and even an SD Card.

So which one is better for you?

Who Should Buy a 360-Degree Camera?

  • Content creators who want to experiment with their content using different perspectives.
  • Travel vloggers who wish to record both what’s in front, and behind the camera.
  • Users who want a third-person perspective of a certain activity or a pseudo-drone shot using the invisible selfie stick.
  • Real-estate agents who wish to capture a property from different perspectives.
  • Solo travelers who want to click their own pictures from a far-off distance to capture a large landscape.

What We Like

  • Extremely Versatile
  • Good photo/video quality

What We Don’t Like

  • Average battery life
  • Gets hot to the touch with extended usage

Who Should Buy an Action Camera?

  • Sportspersons who want a rugged camera that can take some beating.
  • Users who often participate in adventurous activities like mountain climbing or biking.
  • Content creators who want to record footage that’s easy to export and edit.
  • Those who have a tight budget and cannot splurge on a 360-degree camera.
  • Since the battery life on action cameras is generally better, it’s preferable for those who want to record continuously.

What We Like

  • Excellent video quality
  • Rugged design

What We Don’t Like

  • Not as versatile as a 360-degree camera

There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to cameras. Ensure you pick the right camera for your specific use case so you can get the best use out of it. If you don’t plan on using the camera in risky environments, we would recommend getting a 360-degree camera since it can also be used as an action camera while offering extra functionality when you need it.

Last updated on 23 August, 2023

The above article may contain affiliate links which help support Guiding Tech. However, it does not affect our editorial integrity. The content remains unbiased and authentic.