Samsung Gear 360 (Gen1) – Review

I have had the Samsung Gear 360 for more than a month now, and tried it out in a number of different situations, primarally i use the device for 360 photography rather than videography.

The Device

The samsung Gear 360 is Samsungs entry into the VR space, being a device which consists of two ~15mp cameras with fisheye lense capable of around 180 degree horizontal field of view, and 180 vertical field of view. It is around the size of a tennis ball.

One of the limtations of the device, is that in most cases to get the best out of it, it needs to be paired with a compatible Samsung Phone. That is, the device ties you into the Samsung ecosystem. There is external software which can be used, although in my case since my phone is compatable I have not tested the external software.

The Software

The device can be controlled manually, through a number of buttons on the unit which provides basic functionality (that is capture image, capture video etc). More of the advanced functions are carried out on the phone (exposure compensation, HDR), including stitching the two images into one equirectangular image which can be uploaded to facebook or other compatible social media networks.

Whilst the device does support video, that is outside of the scope of this review since I largely focus on photography. The important thing is really that the heart of the device is the software, so without a compatiable phone or device, at this stage I would not recommend this device.

One important thing to note, is that although the software controls the advanced features of the device. It is still limited in the control it can have over the device. Unlike the Ricoh Theta or other devices, the Samsung Gear 360 does not allow for manual control of the device.

Without manual control, the usability of the device is fairly limited. It becomes fairly unusuable in low light situations (e.g. star work) since although ISO can be increased, the ‘shutter speed’ cannot, so there is no way to set an exposure for say 30 seconds.

 The Verdict

The Samsung Gear 360 appears to be designed to tie into the Samsung device Ecosystem, which in my view severly limits the reach that this device may have, and therefore its adoption. Since many of the advanced functions of the device require the softare, without a Samsung Device there is little point in considering this device.

In terms of Ergonomics, the device is a great size to easily put in a travel bag, this is a great benefit of the device as it can somewhat take the role of a point and shoot (and you can actually just use one lense).

Finally, and most importantally; without full manual control of the device your photographic oppertunities are very limited. If conditions are good then the device can take some good photos, however without being able to extend the exposure time (e.g.to 30 seconds), using this device for outdoor (night) photography is largely impossible.