After Samsung launched its virtual reality headset (Gear VR) late last year, it seemed only a matter of time before the company would enter the 360-degree camera genre.
True enough, the Samsung Gear 360 was launched this year.
It has two 15-megapixel cameras, each with a 180-degree f/2.0 lens. The two combine to give you 360-degree videos of up to 3,840 x 1,920 pixels in resolution, and 360-degree still images of up to 25.9 megapixels.
Unlike the relatively flat design of the Ricoh Theta S and LG 360 Cam, the Gear 360, with its ping-pong ball size, is not something to be put into the pocket. But it is light and small enough to toss into any bag, unlike the VSN Mobil V.360.
At the top of the unit is a record button with a small display below it. The display shows the current shooting mode, the number of still shots or recordable video time remaining, and battery level.
On one side is a mode button and a power button. On another side is a flap that hides a removable battery, a micro-USB charging port, and a microSD slot.
IMAGE SENSOR: 2 x 15-megapixel
LENS: 2 x 180-degree f/2.0
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Near Field
WEIGHT: 152g (including battery)
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5
The bottom has a standard tripod mount, so you can use standard tripods like the GorillaPod. The Gear 360 is certified IP53 for protection against dust and sprays of water.
There is no internal storage, so you will need a microSD card to record your 360-degree shots.
You need a smartphone app to work as a virtual remote shutter and viewfinder. The app also allows you to upload the 360-degree picture or video directly to Facebook.
But the Gear 360 app can be used only with the latest Samsung Galaxy smartphones - namely, the S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, Note 5, S7 and S7 edge.
But if you don't have any of these, fret not. You can still shoot, just blindly.
Press the mode button to toggle between the Video, Photo, Time-lapse Video and Looping Video modes, and press the record button to shoot. The Looping Video mode records in 5min, 30min or 60min intervals.
The package includes a serial code for Samsung's Gear 360 Action Director (Windows only). So you can download the pictures and videos you captured to your computer and edit them.
Compared with using the smartphone app, using the computer can be a hassle as more steps are needed to share what you capture on social media.
The 360-degree images and videos shot by Gear 360 are the sharpest I have seen so far.
With the latest updates, I can hardly see any stitching lines, which were sometimes evident in my earlier review of the Gear 360 before the update was available.
- Verdict: At just below $500, the Samsung Gear 360 represents great value for money with its sharp 360-degree pictures and videos. Only downer is that it can work only with certain Samsung phones.