The Samsung Gear 360 and the Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere are two of the most popular 360 cameras available right now. Both cameras are in the same price range and have similar specs, so its no wonder that many people wonder which is the better 360 camera. The Gear 360 was released in April 2017 and the Mi Sphere not long after. The Gear 360 can shoot 4K 360 video, whereas the Mi Sphere can only shoot 3.5K. On the other hand the Mi Sphere can take 23 megapixel photos where as the Gear 360 is limited to 15.
It’s impossible to tell which is the better 360 camera by just reading a few figures, we need to be much more thorough! I’m going to take you through the pro’s and con’s of each camera, analyse what the abilities of each camera are as well as show you some example 360 photos and videos. By then end of this post we will get to the bottom of this very popular question: should you buy the Gear 360 or the Xiaomi Mi Sphere?
Xiaomi Mi Sphere vs Samsung Gear 360: Specs Comparison
|Feature||Mi Sphere||Gear 360|
|Number of Lenses||2 x f/2.0||2 x f/2.4|
|Video Resolution||3456 x 1728 @ 30fps 2304 x 1152 @ 60fps||4096 x 2160 @ 24 fps|
|Photo Resolution||23.8 Megapixels 6912 x 3456||15 Megapixels 5472 x 2736|
|360 Live-Stream||No||2k @ 24 fps|
|Stabilization||6 Axis Image Stabilization||None|
|Waterproof||IP67 Water Resistant Up to 1m underwater||No|
|Memory||MicroSD up to 128GB||MicroSD up to 128GB|
|Battery||1600 mAh||1160 mAh (130 minutes continuous video)|
|Audio||x2 Micrsophone||Single Mic|
|Compatibility||Android/Apple||Android/Apple (No livestream on iOS devices)|
|Where to Buy||Gearbest (ships to over 200 countries)||Amazon|
Upon first glance it appears that the two cameras are fairly evenly matched in terms of specifications. In fact I don’t think there are two 360 cameras that are more evenly matched than the Gear 360 and the Mi Sphere.
Video: The Gear 360 can shoot higher resolution 360 video at 4K vs the Mi Sphere’s 3.5K. What I would say (hint hint) is that higher resolution doesn’t necessarily equal higher quality.
Photo: While the Gear 360 appears to have the edge in terms of video, the Mi Sphere has a clear advantage in the photo department. The Mi Sphere can shoot huge 23 megapixel 360 photos, way higher than the Gear 360’s 15mp. Such a large difference is likely to lead to a big difference in quality.
Compatibility: Both cameras are compatible with iOS and Android devices, however the Gear 360’s livestreaming feature is not available on iOS and there has been some connection issues reported when used with iPhone’s.
Stabilization: The Gear 360 has no real stabilization feature, only a small ring that is supposed to keep it from falling over. The Mi Sphere features software stabilization which attempts to smooth out video after its been shot.
Other: As for the other specifications and abilities, it’s a pretty mixed bag between the two. The Gear 360 can livestream in 2.5K while the Mi Sphere can’t livestream at all. The Mi Sphere is waterproof when submerged up to 1m, but the Gear 360 may not survive a long period in heavy rain.
It’s very difficult to pick a winner just by looking at these specs; this is why we have to see both cameras in action and compare their results side by side. To do this I shot 360 video and photos with both cameras in the same location and combined the images so you can see the difference between the two 360 camera clearly.
The Gear 360 and Mi Sphere look completely different. The Gear 360 is elongated with two bulbous lenses where at the Mi Sphere is a thin rectangle.
One advantage of the Gear 360’s design is that is can easily used with just your hands, where as the Mi Sphere requires a small tripod (which is provided with the camera). The Mi Sphere’s thin body means that the two lenses are closer together, in my experience this leads to better quality stitching in the final 360 image.
The below video combined footage from the Gear 360 and the Mi Sphere into a single 360 video. This allows you to compare the quality of the video easily.
In my opinion the video shot with the Mi Sphere is superior to that shot with the Gear 360. Even though the Gear 360 can shoot at a higher resolution, meaning details should be clearer, the final result is often slightly blurred with the colors washed out. The Mi Sphere shoots video at 3.5K but captures details, contrast and colors much more accurately.
You can see the distinct difference in tone and color between the two videos in each clip, and in each case the Mi Sphere is more true to reality. The Mi Sphere also doesn’t suffer from the parallaxing issue that is prevalent in the Gear 360 footage; this is where the image move slightly to correct the stitching accuracy.
So why is the Mi Sphere shooting better 360 video than the Gear 360? The specs suggest the opposite. For a start, the Mi Sphere can shoot at 30fps, while the Gear 360 is limited to 24. Never underestimate how important a higher frame rate is, it makes all movement look smoother and more “real”. Secondly, the Gear 360 uses low end optics in its two lenses, meaning that there is only so much is can do with its 4K resolution. I’m not sure what optics the Mi Sphere is using, but I’m guessing they are better.
Is the Gear 360 a lost cause? Not necessarily. It’s still cheaper and easier to use (more on that later), and it can still shoot great quality 360 video in the right conditions.
Take a look at the flat image below, it shows a photo shot from both cameras. It shows what the images look like before they are made into a 360 photo. You can see the stark difference in the size of the images by looking at them this way.
As you can see, the Mi Sphere shoots much large photos than the Gear 360. Regardless of anything else, this will have a quite large impact on the quality of the images.
Here is a 360 image combining the two shots from each camera. As you can see there is a significant difference in quality between the two images. The Mi Sphere produces much clearer and detailed photos, while the color in the Gear 360 image is usually washed out and the overall image is not particularly sharp.
Both the Gear 360 and Xiaomi Mi Sphere allow for various manual controls to adapt to different conditions. Exposure, ISO and brightness are all adjustable on both cameras, however in nearly all of my tests the Mi Sphere performed better in low light, regardless of which settings I used.
The Mi Sphere can shoot better quality 360 images than the Gear 360, this is in no doubt.
This is where the Gear 360 can claw back some respect after being trounced in the video and photo department. While the Xiaomi Mi Sphere isn’t difficult or frustrating to use, it can’t match up to the reliability and user friendliness of the Gear 360. After you have paired your Gear 360 with your phone, it will automatically connect very time you turn it on. The Mi Sphere requires you to manually turn on the WiFi and connect to a specific network every time you use it.
The Gear 360 app is extremely simple to use and never corrupts any of the content shot with the camera. I’ve noticed that the Mi Sphere app will sometimes freeze and that sometimes a section of video will be rendered without sound.
In the usability and reliability department, the Samsung Gear 360 takes the crown. The Mi Sphere works well most of the time, but there are a few bugs to be ironed out and it’s not as quick and simple to get going.
Final thoughts – Which should you buy?
Let’s answer the question I’m sure you came to this page to get answered: should you get the Gear 360 or the Mi Sphere? For most people I would recommend the Mi Sphere as there is little doubt that it can shoot superior quality 360 video and photos. If I had to choose between the two I’d probably choose the Mi Sphere; but if you are concerned with reliability, and you just want to know your new 360 camera will be easy to use and work well, then maybe the Gear 360 is for you. It can still create good quality 360 content and its reliable to a T.
Let’s summarise my findings in table form:
|Low Light Performance|
|Value for Money|
Where to buy
The Mi Sphere is only available from Gearbest.com, which is a marketplace similar to amazon. It ships to over 200 countries including the US and UK. You can get the Mi Sphere from Gearbest for just $240 if you use the discount code “mijia77”.
The Gear 360 is available from Amazon.com and is currently only $160, making it by far the cheapest 360 camera that can shoot 4K video (I remember spending over $300 when it fist came out, ouch).