Deal update: Bag a £120 saving on the Samsung Gear 360 at the Argos shop on eBay. Down from £199, you can pick up the 360 camera for just £70 which is the cheapest it’s ever been.
Buy now from eBay
Read on for David’s original hands-on:
Samsung’s been a big supporter of VR, as its Gear VR headset was one of the first virtual reality devices available to the public. You need a recent Samsung Galaxy smartphone in order to use it, but the headset itself costs just £70, making it a neat little accessory for new Galaxy S7 owners.
Until now, though, Samsung hasn’t had a way of letting its VR users produce their own VR content very easily. This all changes with the launch of the Gear 360 VR camera, which lets you shoot full 360 degree video (horizontal and vertical for a full sphere) footage that you can view using a VR headset or as a moveable video in a supporting service, such as Facebook or YouTube. The Gear VR goes up against the Ricoh Theta S, which impressed in our full review.
Price and release date
It’s also got to fend off LG’s 360 Cam, which costs £200 and works with any Android or iOS device – not just LG’s new G5 smartphone. The Gear 360, on the other hand, is only compatible with the latest Samsung devices, which could be a tough sell now that it’s finally been confirmed it will cost £300 to buy in the UK. The news comes courtesy of Mobile Fun, who’s just opened pre-orders for the device.
We still don’t know what day the Gear 360 will launch, but its price puts it on an equal playing field with the Theta S. It is, however, £100 more expensive than the LG 360 Cam, which might prove its undoing. We’ll have to wait and see how it performs once we get one in for review, but provided you have the right Samsung device, it’s probably worth waiting for, as Samsung’s device has plenty of extra features to help tempt would-be video makers away from its rival devices.
Pre-order the Samsung Gear 360 now from Mobile Fun
There’s no doubt in my mind as to which device is the better looking. While the Theta S and LG 360 Cam kind of look like remote controls, the spherical white Gear 360 looks a lot cooler and its shape suits its purpose well. It feels tough and well made, while the neat fold-out tripod means that you can easily hold it for hand-held shots, or place it in a central location for shooting more stable footage. The tripod unscrews to reveal a standard 1/4in screw, so you can use it with a tripod or monopod of your choice.
A small screen shows you the mode that the camera’s in, and you can take a still photo or start recording video directly using the camera’s on-board controls. A better option is to use the app (available for the Galaxy S6 and S7), to control the camera from your phone. The Gear 360 is controlled via Bluetooth, but the preview image, which you can swipe around to take in the full view, is sent via Wi-Fi due to bandwidth limitations of Bluetooth.
The Gear 360 has two 180-degree 15-megapixel cameras facing directly away from each other, capturing a full 360-degree arc. Fisheye lenses with a bright f/2.0 aperture are used to capture the footage.
While you’ll mostly want 360-degree video, you can also select to use only one of the cameras if you just want a 180-degree sweep. Still images are captured at 30-megapixels (or 15-megapixels, if you use just one camera). This is an improvement in resolution over the 12-megapixel Ricoh Theta S, although I need to get the final camera in for review to find out how good the quality really is.
Video is recorded at a resolution of 3,840×1,920; again this is an improvement over the 1080p footage that the Ricoh Theta S shoots. Test footage, viewed through a Gear VR certainly looked impressive and there’s nothing quite like the fully immersive feel that this kind of video gives you. Again, my full verdict will have to wait until I get a review sample in.
The video and still images that the cameras shoot have be stitched together to create the full panorama. This can’t be done by the Gear 360, so your phone has to do the grunt-work, which is why only the S6 and new Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge models are supported. Samsung also has Windows software for people that don’t have the right Galaxy phone, although I’ve been told that the company is also considering writing Mac software.
Battery and storage
A 1,350mAh battery powers the Gear 360. It’s replaceable, so you can carry a spare for prolonged shooting. Samsung was unable to confirm battery life at the time of writing, but I’ll update this article as soon as I have the information. All footage is recorded on a microSD card, which is located under the same flap as the battery and microUSB port (used for charging and data transfer to a computer).
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