Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on December 2, 2016
After doing research on all the 'lower cost' 360 cameras, I constant came to the conclusion that the Gear 360 is the best 360 camera on the market currently. I ended up purchasing the Samsung Gear 360 in October. I took it with me to Las Vegas, the Nellis AFB Airshow, and to Disneyland a few times putting it through a through a few hundred photos and videos. This allowed me to really get a feel for the various aspects of this first effort by Samsung.

Photos - As someone who used to do the manual way of taking 20 shots with my phone to make a photosphere, this instant way of taking a 360 photo was perfect. No weird 'half human' stitches from people walking between shots. The photos are stitched well as long as the nearest subject is at least about a foot away from either lens. Putting the brightest light source (like the sun) pointing at the area between the lenses helps to give really nice consistent stitching. The quality, however, is not as high res as you might imagine. While it's better quality than any of the other 360 cameras out there, it looks like a 'medium' res camera took the photo. If you bump up the ISO limit to anything above ISO 800, the image becomes soft, noisy, and looks terrible in the Samsung VR system. Keeping the ISO at 400 makes for sharper and clearer photos, but still not like what the newer smart phones can get quality wise. I was surprised at how non detailed some of the photos could be, especially at night. They are acceptable for viewing in VR, providing you keep the ISO limit low and don't move the camera. But don't expect the quality to be better than a photosphere.

Video - Video is said to be 4k, but keep in mind that's 4k when stitched together, NOT per lens. The quality is again decent, but if something is moving fast (a USAF Thunderbird fighter jet flying past at near Mach speeds) you won't see smooth high res motion, but a little more jumpy motion. Night video isn't that great, so you have to bump the ISO limit up for there to be enough light (like at Disneyland at night), and that will introduce noise into the video. At the highest ISO, it can look like the dark sky has the old fashioned TV noise when you flip to a channel that isn't broadcasting. Also, the videos are split into multiple smaller files and can take a really long time to transfer to the phone. However previewing the videos on the phone (without downloading them) is really fast.

Phone App - The phone app is pretty simple, and can be slow to respond when trying to connect to the 360. Keep in mind that the 360 DOES NOT stitch the images/videos in camera, your PHONE does all that. I believe only Samsung S6, S7, and S7 Edge phones are compatable (could be more Samsung phones) but there are ways to sideload the app on other phones and get it mostly working. The App is slow to download the images and videos because it has to download them then stitch them. If you have 50 images you want to stitch and a few videos, it could take a few hours to all get done. The app could really use some improvement. That being said, I find it easier to change the limited camera settings (ISO, exposure value, quality/size, white balance, etc) with the app, but it's not something you can do super quickly. I will say that the HDR setting doesn't seem to do anything noticeable for the photos.

Build Quality - The camera seems pretty fragile overall, you will NOT want to drop it. Water, dust, dirt, etc are no issue... but the glass bubble lenses are super easy to scratch/chip with even the slightest fall I've been reading... and it's expensive to replace them (if Samsung even will at all!) I wish there was some sort of screen protector I could put on the lenses to protect them. Make sure you keep a cleaning cloth with the 360 as you will want to make sure the lenses are always clean as that can produce weird lens flares.

Battery - The battery is small, so if you're using it heavily you will run out of battery within a few hours. BUT, there's an issue with the 360 overheating before you even would reach the end of the battery's life. If it's hot out the camera can easily overheat and it will flash a warning and stop any video recording/photo taking and will force you to wait till the battery cools down. You can pop out the battery and fan/blow on it to cool it down, but this is a major issue. The bad/good news is that all the other 360 cameras out there do this too, so it's something you'll have to live with. I find that if you just turn off the camera in between shots, that helps a lot. BUT, if it does start to over heat, you'll run into another problem that only seems to happen to this camera:

'Blurgate' - As reported on a 360 forum (and as I've seen myself), as the camera begins to overheat, the battery slightly bulges in size. This causes what seems like a very slight movement of the lenses making the camera go slightly out of focus. I've seen this happen myself. It's not blurry to the point you can't use it, but you will notice a suddenly lack of sharpness and detail. Once the camera cools down again, all is back to normal. This seems to be because of the fixed focus on the lenses being a bit too precise. This hasn't been addressed by samsung at the time I'm writing this review (12/2/16), so hopefully either there's an update to help this or the next release fixes this major issue. Again, making sure to turn off the camera in between shots/videos helps keep the camera cool, and in turn keeps the blurgate under control.

Accessories - The 360 comes with the battery, a USB cable, a mini tripod (you'll want to invest in a monopod/selfie stick to avoid the 'fat fingers' from holding the tiny tripod), and a nice draw-string carrying pouch. There is an optional accessories pack that includes a remote control, various types of mounts for the 360, and a longer tripod.

Overall - It's a great start to what will hopefully only get better. As the whole VR fad continues to get more and more popular, I think 360 cameras will be seen more and more. Right now, everyone stares at my 360 like it's some alien device and are very interested in what it is... but I think we'll see more people with them in the future. If you want to jump on the start of 360 photos and videos, this is a great one to start with having the best quality and stitching time... just make sure you have a Samsung phone. If you're looking to record a concert, show, etc. you might want to wait a year or so as it's not quite there yet. For the casual person who wants 360 mementos from vacations, trips, etc this is the perfect gadget for that.
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