Samsung Gear 360 2017 Hands on Review
The Samsung Gear 360 2017 edition is the second 360 camera produced by Samsung and is a follow up to the original Gear 360 released last year. Samsung has radically changed the design, boosted the video resolution and added livestream capability; unfortunately the company also chose to sacrifice photo resolution and frame rate, which both received a downgrade. I’ve had my 2017 Gear 360 for a few weeks now and I’ve had a chance to test out pretty much every aspect of the camera thoroughly; it’s a great little device that is probably the best value 360 camera out right now, but there are some features that just aren’t quite there.
A great 360 camera for video, live-stream and casual users. Photo's not as good. The best 360 camera under $300, for now.
The previous Gear 360 camera was only compatible with the top end Samsung Phones, this year sees some liberalization and the Gear 360 2017 is now compatible with mid range Samsung handsets such as its Galaxy A range and, most excitingly, iPhone’s. No joy for other Android devices though.
Gear 360 2017 Full Specifications
|Features||New Gear 360 (2017)|
|Number of Lenses||2|
|Video Resolution||4096 x 2160 at 24 fps|
|Photo Resolution||15 Megapixels|
|Battery||1160 mAh (130 minutes continuous video)|
|Livestream||Yes 2K resolution|
|Where to Buy||Amazon|
Samsung Gear 360 2017 Review
Photo and Video Quality
Lets start with the most important question, does the new Gear 360 take good 360° videos and photos? Answer: Video, certainly, photo’s, not so much.
The new Gear 360 can shoot full 360 video at a resolution of 4096 x 2160 at 24 fps (4K), this is among the highest video resolution of any consumer 360 camera out right now. See the table below for a comparison.
|Camera||Video Resolution||Photo Resolution|
|Samsung Gar 360 2017||4096 x 2160 at 24 fps||15 Megapixels|
|Samsung Gear 360 2016||3840 x 1920 at 30 fps||30 Megapixels|
|Insta360 Nano||3040 x 1520 at 30 fps||4096 x 2048|
|Ricoh Theta S||1920 x 1080 at 30 fps||5376 x 2688 (24 Megapixels)|
|Nikon Keymission 360||3840 x 2160 at 24fps||23.9 megapixels|
|Insta360 Air||3008 x 1504 at 30fps||3008 x 1504|
|LG 360Cam||2560 x 1440||13 Megapixels|
|Giroptic iO||1920 x 960 at 30fps||3840 x 1920|
I’ve shot several videos, both indoor and outdoor, with the Gear 360 2017 and overall I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen. Video is sharp, saturation is about right and colors pop. The boost in video resolution compared to its predecessor is small, but still noticeable. Take a look at this video shot outdoors on an overcast day, remember to set the YouTube quality settings to highest.
In this video I’m using the Gear 360 handheld, at 4K resolution and with 800 ISO. The quality of the video is a step up from most other consumer 360 cameras out right now thanks to the 4K resolution. The stitching is fairly accurate, but you’ll still need to keep yourself or any other objects around a metre away from the camera so avoid stitching glitches. One thing I’ve noticed is that the video is far more stable than other 360 video I’ve shot before. Usually shooting a 360 video handheld is a recipe for wonky, vomit inducing video, but the Gear 360 2017 seems to be able to stabilize video pretty well. 360 video is the standout feature of this camera and this is the best quality 360 video you are going to get without spending at least $1000.
While I’m VERY happy with the video capabilities of the new Gear 360, photo’s are a slight let down. The previous version of this camera could shoot glorious 30 megapixel 360 photos which looked amazing, it was one of the cameras best features. Samsung decided to cut this resolution down to 15 megapixels and change the Aperture from f/2.0 to f/2.4. Take a look at the image below to see what effect this has had.
I took both Samsung cameras out to my local park and shot a 360 image with each in the same location. I’m comparing them as flat images (non 360) so you can visualise the difference more clearly. As you can see the above image, shot with the new gear 360, is significantly smaller than the image shot with the original. This is important because 360 photos need to be as large as possible to avoid looking blurry and pixelated and unfortunately this is what happens when shooting with the new Gear 360.
It’s a shame, because just about every other aspect of the image shot with the new Gear 360 is better! The colors have more depth, the sky isn’t blown out and contrast is more accurate. If Samsung had retained the same resolution in their new 360 camera as their older one, this could have been a near perfect device!
Here are the two images above in 360 degree format. While the photo shot with the 2017 Gear 360 isn’t awful, it should really be better.
360 Photo from the New Gear 360 (2017)
Old Gear 360
Is this a good enough reason to not get the camera? No, I don’t think so. Even with the reduced photo resolution this is still an amazing value 360 camera for the features you get. What I would say that is that if you want to buy a 360 camera specifically to take photos (and you’re not really interested in video), then I’d recommend the old Gear 360 over this one, but otherwise the 2017 version is the superior device.
Gear 360 App
Like most other 360 cameras the Gear 360 2017 is controlled by a dedicated smartphone app. You can use the camera manually without the app, but you won’t be able to preview images or use some of the more advanced features. The Gear 360 App has been relaunched with the release of this new camera and can be downloaded on the app store or Google Play Store. The app is very easy to use and intuitive; the first time you connect your Gear 360 camera you’ll be asked to pair it using a code, after that the camera will automatically connect every time you turn it on.
On the main screen you have a few clear options, the one you are most likely to use it the “Camera” where you can preview your image, shoot video/photo and change settings. The settings available are not extensive, but good enough to adjust your image depending on location; ISO and Light balance options are particularly important.
Once you’ve finished shooting you can stitch the 360 files together and view the 360 image or video, which may take some time depending on the size of the file and how powerful your phones processor is.
The Gear 360 App gives me little to complain about. It’s easy to use, connects quickly and allows you to control every aspect of the camera. The App is also where you can make use of the Live-stream feature, which is great fun but not as easy to set up as a normal 360 video.
Live-streaming is becoming a popular way to share important events and moments on social media and 360 degree live-streaming allows you to do that in a much more immersive way. Lots of 360 cameras coming out this year support live-streaming and the Gear 360 2017 is no different; it can livestream in 2K quality to Facebook, YouTube or Samsung’s VR service.
In theory, the Gear 360 makes live-streaming very easy. You can start a live stream by connecting your camera to the phone app which then gives you the option to start a live stream from the main menu. Once you select this option you’ll get to choose between Facebook, YouTube or Samsung’s VR service. If you select YouTube or Facebook you’ll be asked to give permission for the app to live stream to your profile, which you must accept. You can now start your live stream in 360 degrees and preview the image people will see.
So here are my issues with the live stream function of the Gear 360. Firstly, as far as I can see, you can only livestream to your personal Facebook profile and not from any pages you may also control. Secondly, I’ve not been able to livestream to YouTube at all! I get send to YouTube’s live stream set up page which does not detect the camera. Perhaps this is a software issues that will be resolved, but for now I’ve been unable to make much use of the live stream feature. You should also know that the video quality is limited to 1980 X 1080 while livestreaming, which is pretty low, but good enough for the small size of Facebook videos.
One of the best aspects of the new Gear 360 is the design of the camera, which is vastly superior to its predecessor and most other 360 cameras in fact. The camera is tiny and easily fits in your hand, it has a bulbous head where the two lenses are housed and a thinner body where you grip the camera. The Gear 360 is almost “cute” in its aesthetic and resembles a friendly one eye’d robot. A small LCD screen, a large shutter button and a few buttons on the side (power and connect) make up the controls, which are positioned in a way that is suited to 1 hand.
The design of the new Gear 360 is a clear attempt to appeal to the mass market instead of a niche selection of VR filmmakers. The new camera is pocket-able, easy to use one handed and ergonomically satisfying to look at.
The one flaw with the design of the new camera is that it’s rounded at the base, meaning it is rather unstable when placed on a flat surface. Samsung provides a rather bizarre solution in the form of what it calls a “stabilization ring” which is noting more than a foam ring which you are meant to slot the camera into. It looks very ugly and I won’t be using it.
The Samsung Gear 360 2017 is a great 360 camera, an improvement on its predecessor and probably the best 360 camera under $300 right now. Never the less I think Samsung could have done even better; the lower photo resolution and flimsy stabilization ring are both disappointments.
The again, ever since I got my new Gear 360 I’ve not touched any of the other 360 camera I own. It feels nice to shoot with and the 360 video is particularly impressive. I’m unsure how much I’ll use the livestreaming feature, but I know its there and very easy to do.
- 4K Resolution
- Excellent 360 video quality
- Easy to use
- Great value for money
- Live-stream capable
- App is intuitive
- Photo quality reduced compared to previous version
- Stabilization ring an afterthought
- Some minor software bugs
If you have a Samsung/ iPhone and you’re looking for a 360 camera, this is the best option. Then again, with a whole range of 360 cameras coming out later this year we’ll have to see if Samsung can retain this crown.Available on Amazon