Samsung’s360-degree camera gets a handy redesign as well as some crucial feature upgrades
360° VIDEO CAMERA
AFTER A DECENT first stab at 360-degree video with last year’s Gear 360 (Shopper 345), Samsung is back with this completeremake. The new Gear 360 employs a pair of back-to- back 8.4-megapixel f/2.2fish eye cameras to create 360-degree photos and video, and if you want to dipyour feet into creating VR content for the first time, its quality, ease of useand portability means it’s the 360-degree camera to get right now.
A big part of the reason for that is, quite simply, the price. Whereas the previous model launched, this 2017 version is dramatically cheaper. Not only is that a big saving on Samsung’s own hardware, but it makes the Gear 360 a tempting mainstream alternative to more ruggedised action cams such as the Nikon KeyMission 360 (Shopper 354), although the Gear 360 is at least dust- and splash- proof to the IP53 standard.
Aside from the price, the most obvious change to the Gear 360 in2017 is its substantial facelift, with the old chunky golf ball and tripodsetup replaced by a far simpler, all-in-one shape. The ‘ball’ on the top isconsiderably smaller, while the handle, which makes it perfect for one-handed360-degree live streaming, is connected to it to form a seamless, ergonomicgrip.
This radical redesign makes way more sense thanits predecessor. While last year’s design was hardly atrocious, it was a littletoo bulky to carry around and fit in your pocket. This new and improved mouldedgrip is much more appealing, fitting snugly in your palm with the big, roundrecord button sitting naturally under your thumb.
However, there’s a worrying flaw with thisimpressive new design: it doesn’t stand up particularly well on its own.
The slim handle, which acts as a base when set down, is so small(and the camera so top-heavy) that the slightest breeze sends it toppling.
Samsung partly rectifies this by including arubber ring in the box, which fits around the base for added stability andattaches to the camera via a lanyard. It’s not very elegant, though, and feelsvery much like an afterthought; if you’re thinking of buying a Gear 360, itwill also be worth investing in a compact tripod for your static shots.
Another significant development is compatibilitywith a wider range of phones. Last year’s Gear 360 worked only with a meagreselection of Samsung’s own, high-end Galaxy handsets, but this time, themid-range A5 and A7 are added to the list alongside every flagship from the S6up – as well as iPhones running iOS 10 or later. It’s not universal compatibility,but it’s a big improvement.
Other than that, similarities between this year’sGear 360 and its predecessor can still be spotted. There’s still microSDstorage – found under a flap on the handle – and a tiny monochrome displaytelling you which mode you’ve selected, as well as the battery status. There’sno removable battery, though.
The Gear 360 uses its two 8.4-megapixel sensors to record 4K 360-degree video at a resolution of 4,096×2,048, a slight bump over the preceding model’s 3,840×1,920 at 30fps, while single-sensor recordings max out at a resolution of 1,920×1,080 at 60fps. You can also take 15-megapixel 360 stills.
As before, footage can be viewed live via Bluetooth on any of the supported devices, or recorded manually from the camera itself directly to any UHS-1 speed rated microSD card. All settings can becycled through without the need for a handset, but to get the best experience,and to help frame your shots, the
Gear 360 is best used in tandem with Samsung’s mobile app.
Captured footage is pixel perfect when viewed ona smartphone screen, and although softer edges and ill-defined details can bespotted when viewed on a larger display, quality is impressive nonetheless. Thef/2.2 cameras don’t fare too well in darker conditions, though, with noisyfootage and stills, and clear evidence of compression artefacts.
Audio quality such as speech and backgroundnoise, meanwhile, is clear even on the windiest of days, so long as you havethe wind noise reduction feature enabled.
As for battery life, we took the Gear 360 out foran evening of filming, taking full advantage of the shooting modes on offer,and found the 1,350mAh battery had dropped to 28% upon our return. It’s thusperfectly suited to lengthy VR filming sessions. Expect 130 minutes of footageat 2,560×1,280 at 30fps, but if you want to record for longer, you can attach aUSB battery pack or power the camera from the mains while recording.
The new Gear 360 remake heralds some welcome changes. It’s far moreportable, it’s compatible with more phones, and it adds 360-degree live videofor impromptu streaming. The move to a non-removable battery is disappointing,but Samsung is going in the right direction with the Gear 360 and it rightly earns the title of best VR camera on the market.
What really swings it is the price. The Gear 360 undercuts all the noteworthy competition save for the LG 360 Cam,which doesn’t come close to Samsung’s device in terms of features or battery life.
SENSOR RESOLUTION Dual 8.4 megapixels • SENSOR SIZE Not disclosed • VIEWFINDER None • LCD SCREEN 0.5in 72×32 PMOLED • OPTICALZOOM (35mm-EQUIVALENT FOCAL LENGTHS) None • 35mm-EQUIVALENTAPERTURE Not disclosed • WEIGHT130g • DIMENSIONS 100x46x45mm • WARRANTY One year RTB • DETAILS • PART CODE SM-R210NZWABTU