I actually received a review item on a Saturday, which is rare. Since I am so used to receiving review items, I usually don’t get too excited. But today’s item, the first 360 camera I have ever used, excites me.
Samsung’s Gear 360 sells for $349 and comes in the typical Samsung uber-design packaging.
In the box is a battery, a case, a micro-USB cable and a cloth. The spherical camera itself is attached to a mini-tripod. When you set it up, it looks like you are looking at some miniature alien.
The battery didn’t come charged, so I had to juice it up while downloading the Samsung Gear 360 Manager on my Galaxy Note 7. With the manager, you can not only operate the camera through a Bluetooth connection on your phone (you can see the videos and photos you are shooting too), but you can save the pictures wirelessly from the microSD card (the Gear 360 doesn’t come with one) straight to your phone. Best of all, the software stitches the photos and videos up — although, at times, some say you can see the stitches.
I haven’t had time to use the camera much, and I will go in more detail in a future article. So far, I can’t say that I am instantly impressed with the photos or the videos. Perhaps I need to tweek the settings or something, but the images and videos look very VHS-like in my Gear VR. On a computer screen, they look okay. However, if I am going to buy a 360 camera, it’s going to be so I can experience the pictures and videos in virtual reality.
Samsung says the pictures are 30MP and the videos are 4K, and I understand that in the 360 degree world, that’s less pixels-per-inch than usual. However, I have seen 2K 360 degree videos that look better in the Gear VR. And I have seen beautiful 360 degree pictures that I was able to immerse myself into.
I understand that this is only the beginning of the 360 degree camera era and that I should level my expectations. I’m sure Samsung or some other company will come out with a satisfactory 360 degree consumer camera that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It needs to happen soon, at least before the 360 camera craze goes the way of the 3D camera craze from five years ago.