If you’re the lucky owner of a recent Samsung flagship device (models like the S6 or S7) then you may have decided that you have all the camera that you need. Certainly it’ll give a dedicated point and shoot snapper such a run for its money, that you might as well leave your cash in your pocket.
Except Samsung don’t want it in your pocket, they want it in their pocket. Happily, it’s their job to think hard how to get you to part with it and they’ve come up with a new camera that does things that your smartphone cannot.
When I first saw the Gear 360, I thought it was going to be an extreme sports camera and that 360 degree video is only worth shooting if you’re hurling yourself down a mountain or out of a plane. Now I’ve had one for a few weeks, I’ve discovered it’s a wonderful new way for mortals to capture and revisit their memories too.
The unit itself is about the size of a snooker ball. It doesn’t create the most flattering look in your pocket, but it’s a neat piece of technology. On each side is a fisheye lense capable of capturing stills and video in 180 degrees. Operating side-by-side, your phone, or a Windows PC can be used to easily stitch them together and now you have a memory that can be experienced and shared on tablets, smartphones and, best of all, the Gear VR headset.
It’s quite good fun to use too. Instead of stopping everyone for a pose - stick it in the middle of the dining table, or on a standard camera-mount in the middle of a room and it’ll capture hours of video or photos of your event (you’ll need a decent size MicroSD card) ready for you to edit into something watchable later on. The camera can be set up directly, by simply selecting a mode (still, video, time-lapse) and then press the large button on top to start - or by controlling it whenever you want from the app.
Whilst you can preview your files directly from the Gear 360, you’ll eventually want to copy them over to your phone. Prepare for this to take an age! Perhaps chop up an evening’s filming into smaller segments to help get around this.
Playing back files and sharing them is pretty easy with the free mobile app. Posting them on Facebook and YouTube works well, with mobile-owning friends able to take a ‘look around’ using their tablet’s accelerometer, or by swiping the screen around OR by jumping into a Gear VR headset and experiencing your memories as if actually there!
The Gear VR is the single best reason to have a Gear 360. Treasured family memories are relived so vividly by climbing back into the video itself and looking around. The video is not super-sharp compared to the 4K 2D video we’re all getting used to, but the novelty of the experience makes that forgivable. Photos remain nice and sharp, even in the Gear VR and they’re a pleasure to experience in 360 too.
The smartphone has taken away the need for a separate camera for many people - your smartphone can’t do this stuff (yet) and the price is about a match for a good bridge-camera so I recommend giving it consideration as an alternative.