Latest Gear 360 costs less despite substantial upgrades

Samsung's latest Gear 360 camera offers users multiple ways to capture images of the world around them.
Samsung's latest Gear 360 camera offers users multiple ways to capture images of the world around them.PHOTO: SAMSUNG

Now that everyone has a camera in the palm of their hand, regular photography is getting boring and passe. Enter 360 cameras, like Samsung's 2017 edition of its Gear 360 camera, which lets shutterbugs take a well-rounded photo of the world.

Samsung's latest Gear 360 camera offers substantial upgrades to last year's iteration, but at a much lower price.

At $348, the Gear 360 is far friendlier on the wallet than its $498 predecessor. Yet it can shoot 4K video and has improved photo- stitching software, so that pictures look even more natural.

The diminutive, periscope-like camera isn't suitable for stuffing into tight jeans due to its bulbous lens, but is small enough to throw into a small bag and fits very snugly in the palm.

For best shooting results, mount it on top of a retractable selfie stick or tripod, so that your hand isn't captured in the 360-degree view.

Pictures taken are sharp and clear, keeping true to the high image quality that the Gear 360 traditionally has. As with its previous incarnation, there are features like 360 view, panorama and globe view, offering users multiple ways to capture images of the world around them.

The lines that appear in 360 photos that highlight where stitching has taken place are now less obvious, and can be mitigated by very careful positioning of the camera.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $348

    IMAGE SENSOR: 2 x 15-megapixel

    LENS: 2 x 180-degree f/2.2

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

    WEIGHT: 130g

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5

    OVERALL: 5/5

It is in shooting video where the biggest difference between this and previous versions can be seen. The 4K video feature is a welcome addition, even though it eats up storage space very quickly. But I enjoyed shooting in high-definition while walking, and feel like I'm back in the thick of things while reviewing the footage.

I can see myself making use of this while travelling, as it's small and light enough to carry around all the time in a bag. Since both image and video quality are excellent, getting expansive landscape panoramas or filming a walking tour in a foreign city won't be a problem.

Even the audio recording is surprisingly decent, as the mic picks up voices and vocals very well despite ambient noise.

Sure, it won't stand up to professional-quality work, but it will do in a pinch for when you want to be travelling light.

It is also very easy to use. Simply choose either picture or video mode, hit the record button, and off you go. There's unfortunately still no internal memory in this year's Gear 360, so you will need a microSD card (up to 256GB) to store footage.

There is also a Gear 360 app on some Samsung and Apple smartphones that lets you preview shots from the phone and gives you the option to transfer footage into the phone via Bluetooth.

However, just like last year's Gear 360, connectivity is only compatible with the latest Samsung devices - the Galaxy S8, S8+, S7, S7 edge, Note5, S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, A5 (2017) and A7 (2017).

But iOS users can now join in the fun as the new Gear 360 is also compatible with iPhone models from the iPhone 6s and above, along with the iPhone SE.

The app gives users even more functionality to the Gear 360, such as the ability to live-stream 360 content onto compatible platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. This works best on a high-speed WI-F network as it is very data-intensive.

•Verdict: Light, versatile, easy to use and relatively affordable, Samsung's 2017 Gear 360 is feature-packed for a camera of its size and price, and makes a great travel companion.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2017, with the headline 'Latest Gear 360 costs less despite substantial upgrades'. Print Edition | Subscribe