I think the risks of aiming a digital camera at the sun are pretty self-explanatory. Sensors can quickly get damaged.

With lots of 360-degree VR-style video cameras available now, you cannot really avoid capturing the sun.

If you set a stationary 360-degree camera up for a lengthy outdoor video, I assume you're not actually going to damage the camera's sensor, but why not?

  • 2
    I would venture a guess that since most 360 cameras use a wider angle lens than usual, there is less light captured per CCD area, and so there is less risk of damaging the camera. Just a guess though, which is why I'm not writing this as an answer.
    – etskinner
    Jul 6, 2017 at 13:00

1 Answer 1


Your initial assumption about damage risk is a little too general.

I have taken thousands of photos, and a lot of video, having the sun within the sensor's image. No damage, and for good reason. There could have been under some conditions, so don't take that as a fully general statement. I'll explain below.

I have also driven thousands of miles with a (smart phone) digital camera sensor aimed directly at the sun (not actively taking a picture yet still aimed there!) No damage. The whole phone got hot and I had to aim car A/C at it, but that's a different issue :)

So what's going on? First, when IS it a problem?

The primary risk is to the human eye. You don't want to keep your eye looking at an optical viewfinder for long, with the sun in place.

The big photography risk is with a long telephoto lens. Use a 500mm to take a stitchable series for 360VR, and you'll be in trouble when it aims at the sun. Even 200mm requires care (I've done this.) But a normal 360VR setup? Nope.

What's the difference? Two:

First, our eyes, especially combined with big optical telephoto lenses, are analog and continuous: the sun's heat, focused to a spot on the retina, definitely causes damage very soon. Magnify that with a telescope or 500mm lens, and you've got tremendous heat. A DSLR only opens its shutter for brief moments under normal conditions. I'll discuss digicams/smartphones next.

Second, consider the light gathered and focused on the sensor.

In the case of a DSLR with a wide angle lens, it's not a big deal. The sun is only a tiny portion of the view. Very little heat gathered.

In the case of a non-SLR digicam, smart phone or 360VR, the lens surface is not that much larger than the sensor, and again the sun isn't the only thing in view. Hence, much less heat.

So, the sun IS a problem when a significant amount of its heat is gathered and focused on a point. True with our eyes, true with telephoto lenses. Not true with wide angle let alone 360VR. Not true with small lenses matched to small sensors (phones.)

Hope that helps!

  • Thank you. I did go ahead and make a 360 video (youtu.be/fsEA_-pykwI), where the sun was visible almost the entire time, and my camera seems fine after.
    – abelenky
    Dec 15, 2017 at 14:30
  • The light can also be a problem during a solar eclipse. Dec 16, 2017 at 21:59
  • Michael, yes of course. Doesn't matter if full sun, a bit cloudy, or an eclipse. If at any time the sun's power is hitting your eye or a camera sensor, then it pays to consider what's going on (ie is my eye aimed at the sun, or is a telephoto lens aimed at the sun...)
    – MrPete
    Dec 20, 2017 at 21:51

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