Samsung Gear 360 review: A super 360-degree camera that only plays nicely with Galaxy phones

The Samsung Gear 360 is a super bit of kit, but small niggles irk considering the price

Samsung Gear 360: Image quality

If you haven't been able to tell from the images already included, from the price of the device and Samsung's pedigree in this area, picture quality is very nice. The cameras are both 15-megapixel f/2.0 fisheye lenses with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440, and they absorb a huge amount of detail with the right lighting. Here's the top floor of Alphr's building again:

Image removed.And it works quite well in poorly lit environments, too. Here's a street in south London for you to try and recognise.

Image removed.

Despite the handful of basic options available (photograph, video, time-lapse video, looped video), each one has a myriad of sub-options to play with. Taking just the photography settings, you can control the max ISO, add additional sharpening, fiddle with the exposure and white balance, and toggle HDR on and off. You can also set a timer for two, five or ten seconds to give you time to set the Gear 360 on its tripod, and then assume the kind of nonchalant pose that I've failed to demonstrate. These more advanced options are limited to the app, which is why non-Galaxy owners will find the Gear 360 a frustrating experience, even if it is just about usable. The tiny LED screen on top of the camera does allow you to switch between the main settings, which is handy if you want to get a quick shot but doesn't allow for more advanced tweaking. Video is more or less the same. You can turn on stabilisation to make the video less shaky. Samsung's own trailers show the Gear 360 being used GoPro style, strapped to a snowboarder, but my experiments were considerably more mundane. It's all pretty solid, although the microphone is a touch reedy. And although images do stitch together nicely, there are still obvious gaps in the inch and a half between the two lenses, as this time-lapse video of myself and a friend enjoying a pint (and in his case, some cough syrup) demonstrates. Move the video down, and you'll spot that the drinks menu is unevenly stitched together.

 

Image removed.

 

Samsung Gear 360: Verdict

Let's get one thing clear before I sum up: the Samsung Gear 360 isn't aimed at people like me. It's aimed at go-getters, adventure seekers, and other exciting types who actually do things worth documenting. Nonetheless, it's hard not to be pretty impressed with the Gear 360, despite a couple of drawbacks that mean I can't help but grumpily knock off a star.

While the Gear VR's insistence on only working with Galaxy phones kind of makes sense (handsets have to physically fit in it, after all), this is just sheer bloody-mindedness. And yes, you can use it without, but it's a much less enjoyable experience all round.

It's also pretty difficult to keep about your person. You try putting something slightly bigger than a snooker ball in your pocket 24 hours a day and see how practical it is. But despite these minor drawbacks, there's no denying the Samsung Gear 360 is a gadget addict's dream come true. If it's for you, you'll know it. And if it is, you'll love it, despite its sticking points.

This review was written by Alan Martin (@alan_p_martin) and kindly gifted to us by our sister title Alphr

 

Verdict

£350 is fine if it’s something you want, and need. It’s very cool technology, after all.

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