Samsung is one of the driving forces behind creating and consuming 360-degree content with the Gear 360 and Gear VR headset. Last year saw the launch of the first generation Samsung Gear 360, but that left some of us wondering what the “everyday” person would use this for.
Regardless of that, Samsung opted to announce a redesigned variant during the Samsung Unpacked event a couple of weeks ago. The new Gear 360 now includes a handle to easily hold onto it while you’re either walking about and recording video or trying to catch an awesome 360-degree photo.
Quick shot of the Inner Harbor with the Gear 360
So, considering that I call Baltimore “home”, I decided to run a little experiment with the 2017 Gear 360 and took it out with me on some of my travels. This was just to get a feel for how ridiculous I would look, while also seeing what this little thing was capable of.
Now, there are a couple things to note before jumping right into how the Gear 360 worked. Since I own an iPhone 7 Plus and a OnePlus 3T, I was unable to download and use the updated Gear 360 software. This likely due to the fact that Samsung is still working on the accompanying application and it’s not ready for primetime. However, the updated Gear 360 application will support the Galaxy lineup of devices, as well as the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.
NOTE: Samsung has since released its updated Gear 360 mobile application for iOS and Samsung devices. Since I own an iPhone 7 Plus, I was able to briefly test the capabilities, but was unable to install the app on my LG G6.
So without being able to use my smartphone as a viewfinder, I was left in the dark a bit, as I needed to wait until I was back at my computer to look at what images were taken. This definitely caught me off guard at first because I took an image or two at the Galaxy S8 Unpacked event with the Gear 360 and found my fat fingers to be in the way of any reasonable shots.
Fat fingers get in the way of everything
But, since then, I’ve learned to readjust my grip a bit and move my hand further down, so that I don’t get in the way of either of the fisheye lenses on either side. Now, there is a clever addition to the bottom of the Gear 360 which allows you to attach it to a tripod of your choice.
This addition will obviously make taking pictures and recording video much easier. Especially if you head over to Amazon and snag something like the Joby Gorillapod or something similar. In fact, once the new Gear 360 is launched, Samsung will be offering a “value kit” which includes a tripod, remote, quick release buckle, and two different mounts (curved and flat).
Above, I mentioned that Samsung has released its updated Gear 360 application onto the Play Store and Apple’s App Store. However, since I don’t own a Samsung device, I was forced to use the iPhone 7 Plus that I own to experiment with the app’s capabilities.
Quick Spec Rundown
Before jumping into seeing what the new Gear 360 can do, let’s take a look at the specs. When taking still images, each camera has an output of 3MP, however, when taking a 360-degree image it jumps to 15MP. These cameras can also record up to 4K video when using both lenses, or up to 1080p at 60fps with a single lens.
As for the battery, Samsung packed a battery that is a bit smaller than that of the original Gear 360. However, the company has tweaked things a bit to give you some longer battery life. This will equate to about 130 hours of recording time if you’re shooting at 2560 x 1280.
It’s likely that this will be plenty of time for you to take the Gear 360 out with you for the day and record anything and everything you want to. Then, once you return to your home base, you will be able to charge it up in preparation for the next day.
Finally, for those wondering about storage, the Gear 360 2017 includes a microSD card slot with support up to 256GB. Provided that you’re recording in 4K, you’ll definitely want to spring for the larger memory card, but you’ll be just fine for everything else if you go for something smaller.
Buggy apps are buggy
The first time you open the app, you will be directed to connect your Gear 360 to, making it possible to use the viewfinder, as well as view your gallery of images. However, thanks to what seems to be unstable software, I was unable to actually open the Gear 360’s Gallery at any point before the app would crash.
That’s something I can live with temporarily as Samsung is likely to release a bug fix update at some point before the Gear 360 is made available to everyone. It’s just another pain point of using unpolished software, but nothing to worry about…yet.
Once connected, you are greeted with the main section which shows you the remaining battery life, while offering options for the Camera, Gallery, and Settings. The Camera section shows you a quick preview of what the Gear 360 is seeing, while also showing an indicator of which lens is active.
You can also easily switch between the various modes within the app, which include the following:
- Time Lapse
- Video Looping
- Landscape HDR
The indicator in the bottom left-hand corner of the viewfinder will also allow you to quickly and easily switch between the various lens modes. The Gear icon in the top right-hand corner opens the camera settings for the Gear 360.
Unfortunately, it seems that you can’t actually adjust the lens settings from here, leaving you to use the Gear 360 to do so. Luckily, you can change the Timer, ISO sensitivity limit, and Sharpness levels.
I’m really hoping that Samsung fixes the gallery crashing within the app, or makes it available on the Play Store for more than just Samsung devices. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a some type of workaround through the community as was the case with the last generation Gear 360 mobile application.
Using the Gear 360 without the app
As I stated previously, I was using the Gear 360 without being able to use anything as a viewfinder, so everything was done on the fly via the Gear 360 itself. This includes hoping (and praying) that my fat hands weren’t in the way while taking images and video, as well as adjusting the settings.
There is a small LCD display on the back of the camera which allows you to navigate through with the help of the menu, power, and record buttons. You can access all the settings you need, even if it feels as though you’re navigating through the settings on an old-school flip phone.
Regardless, as long as you know where to go and what to adjust, you’ll be just fine from here. The LED indicators on the top of the Gear 360 show you which lenses are active, with a Blue LED on the side confirming that the Gear 360 is still turned on. Once everything is set up, you can pick your specific mode, hit the record button, and be on your way.
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 360-degrees
NOTE: The initial images shared were not stitched using Samsung’s software. However, these have been updated and show the correct way that Samsung will stitch its 360-degree images and videos in the future. Sorry for any inconvenience.
All-in-all the Gear 360 definitely seems to improve on the flaws of the original, while offering a built-in handle, longer battery life, and 4K shooting capabilities. If you want to take the Gear 360 on the go I’d still recommend picking up a tripod to use, but you should be fine regardless.
We still don’t know how much the new Gear 360 will be priced at, but it has been rumored to be a bit cheaper than the original. We’ll have to wait for Samsung to make a formal announcement before being point anyone in the direction of purchasing one. But if you’re looking to get into some awesome 360-degree pictures and video, the Gear 360 is an awesome choice.
Let us know what you think about the new Samsung Gear 360 and if you’ll be looking to pick one up for yourself.