Google Street view was the first interactive 360 experience that went mainstream, it was the first place I saw my first 360 photo. These days it’s hard to imagine a time where I couldn’t explore a random street in London or even Thailand from the comfort of my own home. Now millions of people do just that, so it’s not surprising many are now keen to contribute to this amazing library of 360 images. Thankfully it has now become easier than ever to add your own images to Google Street View and believe it or not you can get started for less than £100.
Don’t believe me? Here’s my Street View profile that has racked up nearly 7 million views, many of the photos were taken with my first 360 camera that now only costs as little as £70.
The number of 360 cameras around these day has exploded compared to just a year or two, this means there are now loads of options you can choose from. If you want a simple, all in one solution or a 360 camera specifically for uploading to Google street view there are definitely options out there that are better than others. Google has minimum requirements for uploading 360 images onto its street view platform, so you’ll need to make sure you have a camera that meets their standards.
Google have created four categories for the types of cameras it recommends for street view photography:
- Street View mobile ready: 360 cameras that can publish Street View directly from a mobile app without requiring a desktop workflow.
- Street View auto ready: 360 cameras tailored for vehicle based collection with the highest accuracy.
- Street View vr ready: 360 cameras or systems that collect geometry in addition to generating sets of connected 360 photos.
- Street View workflow ready: Publishing tools (sometimes bundled with cameras) that can upload to Street View accounts
If a 360 camera is compatible with Google Street view it will be certified under one of the above categories, as long as its certified under one of them you can be sure it works with Street View. If you just wanted to give it a go first you could apply for a camera loan, more on that here.
As I have done with my list of the best & worst 360 Cameras, I will list the cameras starting with the cheapest first working down to the more professional and more expensive. All these cameras work directly with the Google Street view app, so your final choice will probably depend on the price of the camera and the features it has.
Price wise this is the cheapest option, but it is a good 360 camera perfectly suited to shooting 360 photos that are the right size and quality for Google Street view. It has good detail and dynamic range, but does have limited exposure controls and the official Samsung app that controls the camera will only work with Samsung Phones. You can however still connect to the camera directly through the street view app using any phone iOS or Android and you can then control the camera and upload directly through the street view app.
The camera takes GPS information using your phone and will save it to the photo Exif file, so Street View will know where you took them and upload the photos in the correct position. All you need is the camera, your phone (an internet connection). No PC or other software required.
Other features of the camera include 4K 360 video, time-lapse, splash resistance and dust resistance. This is the best in value for a 360 camera for taking Street View photos, and it does a pretty good job too as it’s the camera I first started out with. There are two gear 360 cameras though, so make sure you get the correct one.
The Ricoh Theta V is one of the most popular 360 cameras ever. It has a built in auto HDR feature which has amazing results on a tripod and you can easily snap great quality without a tripod. It has excellent stitching, excellent exposure controls; chromatic aberration. The Ricoh works perfectly with the Street View app, meaning you can snap your 360 images and upload them using the Street View App without the need for a laptop or PC. The Ricoh is compatible with both iOS and Android so regardless of which phone you use you’ll still be able to get your images on street view.
You can shoot Street View video as well with 4K video resolution and excellent low light performance.
Only a handful of 360 cameras are compatible with Street View 360 video mode and the One is one of them. Street View 360 video mode enables you to capture Street View photos that are automatically connected and mapped.
The Insta360 Pro is a 360 camera for professional filmmakers, so if you are just looking for a cheap solution this isn’t the camera for you. If you are looking for professional quality 360 photos that can also be uploaded to Street View then this could be the best all in one solution. The Insta360 Pro can shoot extremely high quality 360 photos using 6 individual lenses at up to 8K resolution. The Pro can also shoot video as well and is Street View Auto ready, meaning you can put it on the roof of your car so you can shoot and drive.
The above is a selection based on the overall specs of the camera, the price and their value for money. There are also many other cameras that are also compatible, Google have a list and in fact there were more announced on top of that with twenty 360 cameras that are now officially recognized by Google.
Personally I don’t think video mode is all it’s cracked up to be as its framegrabs from a 360 video, so the quality is usually poor compared to 360 photos. Maybe if your camera has an intervalometer mode would be better.
Even then if your camera isn’t on the recognised by Google list you can actually still manually upload them using the street view app import 360 photos option, you just can’t control the camera, so won’t be able to get the Google blue line on maps, just individual photo spheres.
I personally now use the Xiaomi Mi Sphere, yes I realise I can no longer achieve the Google maps blue line as it doesn’t connect directly to the street view app, but the cameras abilities and the photo quality and price I think out way those problems from my perspective.
That’s it, I hope you’ve found this guide useful and I’ll be updating this post when any new and better 360 cameras are released.