Since the introduction of the Oculus virtual reality (VR) glasses, Google Cardboards headset, and the Samsung Gear VR, we’re gradually also seeing the arrival of compatible 360 cameras on the market to fill the VR glasses with content. Samsung introduced its Samsung Gear 360 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and it’s one of the first manufacturers to send the 360-degree camera out into the mass market, alongside the Ricoh Theta and the LG 360 CAM.
For our trip to New York, we took a somewhat closer look at the camera and tried it out on location.
Samsung Gear 360 – Operation
The approximately 6-centimeter camera ball, with its two front and rear 15-megapixel lenses, can take a 360-degree video or picture. The camera has just three buttons for turning it on and off, starting a recording, or cycling through the menu. It comes complete with a small tripod that can easily be replaced with your own, thanks to the standard thread.
The camera starts up quickly, and provided it’s connected, will immediately display a live image via the “Samsung Gear 360 App”. It takes photos, videos, time lapse videos and looping videos, and it then transmits them to your smartphone. At the moment, the app is only available for Android and works with the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge as well as the Galaxy S6 Edge+, Galaxy S6 Edge, and Galaxy S6. More Android manufacturers and also the iPhone will have access to the app later on.
Through the app, you can upload your recorded videos and images directly to Facebook, YouTube, or Google Street View. You can also make adjustments to the settings. Hidden behind a flap is a micro-USB port for storage and a slot for a micro-SD card (up to 128 gigabytes). The camera doesn’t have its own memory, which means that whatever stitching you do – i.e., combining two camera images – won’t happen directly on the Gear 360 but either on your smartphone or your computer.
One small but great feature of the Samsung Gear 360 is the protection against water and dirt (IP53), which makes it an excellent camera for outdoor use. With its low weight of just 153 grams, it’s the perfect travel companion. The connection to your smartphone can be done via NFC as well as Bluetooth and WLAN.
The battery gradually ran out after practically four hours of continuous shooting for our test.
The 360-degree camera films at a UHD resolution of 3840×1920 pixels. You can take photos with up to 7776×3888 pixels. Both cameras have a F2.0 aperture, which means that it can take great shots at any time of day.
Price and Availability
The 360-degree camera will cost about 360$ and will be available for sale globally at the beginning of July.
In New York, we constantly had the Samsung Gear 360 on us and took every opportunity to capture the moment with a photo or video. The camera starts and sets up quickly. After I pressed the shutter button, the timer, which I set at 5 seconds, ran until it took the shot. I practically always used the camera with my arm stretched up, since there weren’t many chances to put it down. Uploading the photos and videos onto the smartphone was easy. Unfortunately, the app crashed on me in 1 out of 10 transfers, which probably has to do with the software not being fully developed yet.
Posting videos on Facebook or YouTube with the Samsung Gear 360 App was no problem, although I’m not yet totally satisfied with the image quality.
Whoever wants to merge videos can download the Samsung Gear 360 Action Director onto their Windows PC, where you can stitch the videos and then post them directly to Facebook or YouTube. The software itself includes no other options like the app, other than merging several videos and adjusting the quality of the videos through stitching. Stitching two 180-degree videos was not supported in my test of Adobe Premiere Pro, which is why you still have to rely on the Action Director. There were some other programs that I didn’t test for cost reasons, but I’m hoping they come out with some more or that they make some huge improvements to Action Director.
I like the camera a lot, and it has a good chance of doing well with its presumed price and performance. If Samsung can fix the growing pain issues (teething troubles) and come up with additional features and better software, this camera will be successful before other manufacturers even have their cameras on the market.
There’s one feature I’d really like to see: with 360-degree videos, there’s always a “black hole,” which Samsung does a relatively good job of covering with an option for their logo. I’d love to be able to upload my own logo there.
Comment: What we found hard, which had nothing to do with the camera, was that there was no answer about how to actually shoot a 360-degree video so that it’s exciting for the viewer. We’ll be dealing with this issue again over the next few months and hope to find an answer soon. Tips are welcome. ; )
The product was supplied by Samsung Switzerland free of charge and will be returned after the test phase