The new Samsung Gear 360 (2017) is a welcome update: it is smaller, the design is more ergonomic and functional, and it is admittedly, a friendlier-looking piece of tech. It continues to deliver the highest pixel video resolution among the consumer 360 cameras, and yet, is more affordable, very attractive and is resistant to dust and water splashes (IP53). The Gear 360 also supports live streaming to Facebook, YouTube and Samsung VR portal, and unlike its predecessor, supports all Android and iOS devices.
The device is operated with three hardware buttons and a tiny LCD screen, which tells you how many more shots, and battery life, remain. You can navigate menus on the Gear 360, but it’s more convenient to adjust settings on the app when connected to the camera. You can also preview remotely and trigger the shutter via the phone.
The two fish-eye cameras capture every angle, all around, and the two images are stitched via software. Theoretically, there is no need to frame the shot – just fire the shutter – and no need to pan your smartphone and hope for perfectly-stitched panoramic images. The Gear 360 gets it all the time.
Although 360 images will never be as sharp as regular camera images because of how the pixels are spread, the Gear 360 still achieves favourable sharpness, contrast and colour accuracy. The lens are less susceptible to chromatic aberration, although it can be affected by lens flare from direct light sources, which appear on photos like dust specks.
The Gear 360 needs care in handling: the device is top-heavy, so it easily topples; the glass elements of the two lenses are highly exposed and likely to bear the brunt of any impact. Hence, you tend to grip it a little firmer, and as such the large shutter button is prone to accidental presses. However, they have included a strap holder that also functions as a stand, but users who mount the camera on the selfie sticks or monopods will not enjoy such assurance.
The Samsung Gear 360 (2017) offers everything that a social media enthusiast needs: live streaming, water resistance, compatibility with iOS (Android users have no such luck yet). It is the most desirable 360 camera to own, partly because it’s so affordable. If this can’t encourage the masses to adopt to 360 photography, then nothing can.