THE Samsung Gear 360 is definitely a conversation starter. For a tiny gadget, it sure gets lots of attention, even from strangers.
“What is that? Are you spying on us?” a man asked me at the bustling Jonker Walk in Malacca.
No sir, as much as I would like to know the identity of the person holding up the cendol stall’s line, I just want to get a decent 360° shot of this area.
But, I didn’t tell him that, of course.
“It’s the latest 360° camera from Samsung. It can take photos and videos of your entire surrounding,” was all he got from me.
I could have told him that the device is an update of the spherical Gear 360 that was launched last year and now comes with 4K video recording capability.
Perhaps I could have also told him that it has a dual f/2.2 8.4-megapixel lenses, live streaming capability that connects to one’s Facebook or YouTube accounts – but telling him all that would mean that I was the person holding up the line.
The previous Gear 360 was a bulbous thingamajig that looked like a golf ball and came with a removable tripod that attached to the base of the device.
It was bulky and didn’t make a great fit for pockets. One reviewer even said that you would need to wear a MC Hammer-style pants to carry it around.
The new Gear 360, however, has an updated look. The camera comes with a chubby grip that makes holding it more ergonomic and is definitely much easier to store in pockets.
The downside, however, is that it doesn’t stand too well on its own, but that problem is solved with the rubber ring it comes with and that kind of helps steady the gadget.
To be absolutely safe, however, the device is best attached to a tripod for steadier shots if you’re not planning to hold it in your hands.
The Gear 360 comes with three buttons – menu, back (also the power button) and record.
There is a display that shows your shooting mode, battery life and storage capacity. The microSD slot supports cards of up to 256GB (sold separately) in size and the Gear 360 uses a USB Type-C port for charging.
You can connect to your Samsung phones or iPhones, (yes, you read that right) via Bluetooth. Compatible devices include Galaxy S8, S8+, S7, S7 Edge, Note 5, S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ and A5/A7 (2017) running on Android 5.0 or later and iPhone 7, 7+, 6S, 6S+ and SE running on iOS 10.0 or newer.
Take a shot
The Gear 360 can be used to capture photos, videos, short video loops and even time lapses, but of course, it is the 360° capability that makes it exciting to use.
The two fish-eye lenses combine to produce 15-megapixel photos and 4K 360° video recordings, while the single lens takes up to 3-megapixel photos and 1,080p videos.
Apart from the 360° view, users can also select other modes, namely round, stretched, dual and panoramic.
Samsung has decreased the distance between the two lenses, resulting in better stitching quality for the 360° photos and videos, and this makes a world of difference especially when you’re viewing them on the Gear VR headset.
You can shoot using the buttons on the Gear 360 and hope for the best, or use the Gear 360 app on your phone to see what you’re capturing. This seems like the better bet, though it can be quite draining on battery life.
However, the Live Broadcast feature – which streams video to Facebook and YouTube – only works via the app. That’s good news because you surely wouldn’t want the Gear 360 to broadcast something live without your knowledge.
Also, you can choose the privacy settings to either broadcast to just your friends or to the public.
The Gear 360 meets the IP53 standard for dust and splash resistance. At 130g, the Gear 360 is lighter compared to its predecessor and comes with a non-removable 1,160mAh lithium-ion battery. It lasts 130 minutes when recording videos with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,280 pixels.
I used the Gear 360 to take a one-minute time lapse video (about 12 to 13 minutes of footage in real time), a large number of 360° photos and videos (mostly of my perplexed face as I tried to figure out how to use the features) and two days later, the Gear 360 powers up and shows about 40% of battery left. How ‘bout that?
So, I proceeded to do a live stream on Facebook, and I must say that a strong Internet connection is needed to keep the feed steady. It is also advisable to attach the Gear 360 to a tripod or monopod when you’re taking a 360° video or you will see your stubby fingers holding an invisible stick in the middle of the shot.
A fun, updated addition to the Samsung family that makes taking and viewing 360° videos and photos an easier task.
It is pretty much fuss free and setting a connection between the device and your phone isn’t complicated.
Also, it’s good to note that the Gear 360 is now compatible with more phones than its predecessor.
It is unfortunate though that the camera is not water resistant, but maybe that will change in the future.
PROS: A fun way to jazz up ordinary photos; Captures 4K 360° videos.
CONS: Only compatible with selected Samsung and Apple phones; not water resistant.
CAMERA: Dual 8.4-megapixel fish-eye cameras
CONNECTIVITY: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, USB Type-C
MEMORY: Expandable up to 256GB with microSD
BATTERY: 1,160mAh Li-ion
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 46.3 x 45.1 x 100.6mm
RATING: Four stars
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia Electronics, 1-800-88-9999