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Samsung Gear 360 review: a camera that satisfies?

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The possibility of creating 360-degree photos is, for owners of a virtual reality headset, an exciting thing. With Samsung's Gear 360, this possibility has become a reality. In this Samsung Gear 360 review, we answer the question of whether this camera meets expectations and can capture beautiful holiday memories.

Samsung Gear 360


  • Very good image quality
  • Captures the atmosphere of an environment


  • Parts of images can look awkward
  • Unwieldy to transport
  • Only compatible with a few Samsung smartphones
Samsung Gear 360
Samsung Gear 360
Samsung Gear 360: All deals

Samsung Gear 360 release date and price

The Samsung Gear 360 costs about $350 and will be “available soon” for US customers in Samsung's online store. The camera will also be sold at other stores, but a date as to when is currently unknown.

Samsung Gear 360 design and build quality

The Gear 360 is a small ball that has a diameter of about 6 cm. A foldable mini tripod stand acts as a handle. It doesn’t really fit as a pocket camera, so transportation is somewhat unwieldy.

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Samsung Gear 360. / © NextPit

The Gear 360 is fairly robust. Regarding water spray and dust, this device is only protected with an IP53 rating, so the camera should be able to at least withstand a rainstorm. It’s no action camera with this IP standard. And the 360-degree underwater panorama that you always wanted to shoot will remain wishful thinking with the Gear 360.

Try to avoid scratches on the glass front of the lens as they’ll be clearly visible in pictures. Make use of that protective bag that comes with the Gear 360.

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A gray carry case is supplied. / © NextPit

Using the Gear 360 with a tripod

The included mini tripod is used - as already mentioned - also as a handle. With this, the Gear 360 stands quite low, which is not necessarily ideal for some photos because the ground is overemphasized. Fortunately, there is a solution: the Gear 360 has a tripod socket.

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The Gear 360 has a tripod thread. / © NextPit

You can use other conventional tripods and monopods with the 360. In my testing, the solution proved to be a compact tripod. This brought with it the advantage that I could, on the one hand, hold the camera to a reasonable height (approximately 1.4m) and on the other hand, I could mount the camera as well.

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Use with a tripod or in your hand. / © NextPit

Samsung Gear 360 display

The camera has a small display that shows the current mode. Regarding the Menu button, the camera can also be operated without a connected smartphone. The main modes are directly selectable: photo, video and timelapse. The video loop function shoots videos but only around 30 minutes in length before deleting the oldest footage to extend clip length. So the point of this mode is not so obvious. 

Samsung Gear 360 software

Whether photos or videos are more your thing, the Gear 360 isn’t really a snapshot machine. The reason is that triggering the shutter release starts a two-second countdown. This is necessary because otherwise it is not possible to keep the camera upright or to get at a reasonable distance from it.

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The Gear 360 Manager is on the right. / © NextPit

Camera management software is called Gear 360 Manager and is available from the Play Store. But note that it’s only available for the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7 and their Edge versions.

Once photos are imported, there’s a missing feature. Image files can not be transferred to the memory card using ‘homemade’ apps. Even the Galaxy S7, with 32 GB of memory (only 24 GB of it is available), can quickly hit storage problems. However, the images can be moved with a file manager to the memory card - the Gear 360 Manager will recognize the photos. It's a shame that this process isn't easier. 

Samsung Gear 360 camera

The Gear 360 snaps pictures with two lenses at a resolution of approximately 15 MP, with the originals having a strong fish-eye lens look. When running the camera with a cell phone, images are converted to an equirectangular format. These images have a resolution of 7,200 x 3,600 pixels.

The picture quality is very good, but there are some areas of the image that do not come off quite as good. This applies, for example, to a picture in which deciduous trees can be seen about 50m away: Their leaves are pretty washed out. Given the extremely small focal length of the lens, this is probably just the technical limit of the hardware.

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Gear 360: Small screen, big pictures. / © NextPit

Photos are only half the battle as the Gear 360 can also record videos. Here, the maximum resolution is 3,840 x 1,920 pixels, with the camera shooting 30 frames per second (fps). Whoever wants to take fast action video can set the mode at 60 fps, with resolution dropping to 2,560 x 1,280 pixels.

The image quality of videos is fine, but the fine detail is not so high. Fast movements of a ball, for example, aren’t so clearly visible with a typical 30 fps recording. The 60 fps mode is better but lower resolution leads to a poorer image.

There are hardly are errors during stitching of panoramic shots. However, the closer to the camera an object is, the more errors can be seen. At a distance of a few meters, hardly any stitching errors can be discerned.

Viewing 360-degree images

Special software needs to be used to view 360-degree images; either with the Gear 360 Manager, but also Facebook, Google Photos and even normal web pages with a Javascript plugin. Without VR goggles you can use a smartphone display to select segments.

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Viewing Gear 360 images with the Gear VR is not so easy. / © ANDROIDPIT

If you want to view images only with Gear VR glasses you might run into problems. That’s simply because it’s not so ergonomic to display this kind of content the Gear VR. The Gear 360 Manager sometimes inexplicably stops displaying the Gear VR button, without which you can’t really make use of Samsung's VR headset.

The Oculus app starts automatically when the phone is inserted into the VR goggles. Now things get a bit crazy: Oculus Photo and Video apps can’t do anything with Gear 360 shots. The photo app does not even display self-made content that the video app could also play. But there’s really a different problem: it detects 360-degree video only if stated with the filename _360 - which the Gear 360 Manager does automatically.

So you have to change the filename manually. Feasible, but cumbersome and not very intuitive. But even then, the video app content doesn’t play, but rather shows only a still picture. Whether a _playback in filenames remedy would have worked here, I wasn’t able to try myself.

Alternatively, in the Oculus Store, there is at least a VR Gallery app from Samsung. This is not exactly convenient, but at least displays images and videos.

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Gear 360 in an all-round view. / © NextPit

Even worse is if you would like to share images with others Gear VR owners. Facebook is the only convenient alternative if you do not want to transfer files via cloud storage. The route via Facebook has the decisive disadvantage that the images are re-compressed - meaning quality suffers significantly. In addition, you have to (more or less) publish the images.

Why not Google photos or YouTube then? Google Photos is actually the best way because you can simply use a link to access to the original images. But other Gear VR owners can not easily see the photo albums because the Photos app is only Cardboard supported. On YouTube, the same problem exists. This service only lets you (currently) use the Samsung Gear VR with a browser.

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A scaled-down 360-degree image. / © ANDROIDPIT

Atmosphere vs. image quality: 360-degree images and the Gear VR

Now, the Gear VR worked a treat as my photos were stored on my Galaxy S7. Regarding the VR glasses, images were impressive because the view is roughly life-size. The Gear 360 captures, in combination with VR glasses, the atmosphere of a place wonderfully. Also, video recordings are impressive, although not quite as detailed as photos. However, there are two things that are not ideal:

  • The actual resolution of the captured images is quite high, but the Gear VR has only the Galaxy S7 as a display medium and its pixel density is not sufficient to display a highly detailed panorama.
  • The focus of a 360-degree recording is not infinite. So there is a problem that only a specific image area is in focus - outside this range, depth of field suffers visibly.

A better VR platform could potentially deliver a better result in terms of image quality because the recordings of the Gear 360 have elements that simply don’t compute with the Gear VR combined with a Galaxy S7.

In our Google Photos album, you can check out some of the 360-degree photos we made:

Samsung Gear 360 battery

Particularly exciting with such a camera is, of course, the question of how long it runs on a single charge. In my tests, I was not completely happy with the battery life. A busy day with lots of 360 photos and videos drained the camera quickly. For longer video sessions, the camera warmed noticeably.

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Charging with a microUSB cable. / © NextPit

However, there are two good things to note: charging can be done with a classic microUSB connector, so a power bank is therefore enough to charge it. The second: the battery is replaceable. You mightn’t be able to buy a second battery right now but, after all, it’s good that the possibility is there.

Samsung Gear 360 technical specifications

Final verdict

For maximum quality of vacation memories, this camera is not so suitable in light of the extremely wide-angle lenses of Gear 360. For many, a smartphone or reflex camera would be better simply because there mightn’t be a suitable 360-degree panorama during your holiday.

But for capturing them, this camera preserves the atmosphere of a place wonderfully, especially since it takes only two seconds to shoot a 360-degree photo and not several minutes as with a smartphone. Your motives to use a Gear 360 will simply be different.

A dramatic point deduction must go to the Gear 360 for the challenges of viewing 360-degree images. But sharing the images is where the real problems begin. Other friends with the Gear VR will hardly enjoy the recordings, except perhaps on Facebook, because image quality is significantly worse. Here Samsung should offer better solutions.

It all depends on your expectations of the Gear 360. But for many of us, the Gear 360 is not yet the perfect all-round photographic solution.

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Go to comment (6)
Hans-Georg Kluge

Hans-Georg Kluge

Hans-Georg writes about apps, hardware and other stuff that happens in the Android universe. He is a happy owner of the Galaxy S7 but enjoys time with an iPad as well.

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  • 1
    Phill Round Aug 2, 2016 Link to comment

    I have attempted to use Gear 360 Action Director (64-bit) supplied for Gear 360 users with vids
    directly off the micro SD card. However the processed stitched video
    always comes out with a black screen and with sound. I have ensured I
    have the latest version of Action Director and the latest video driver
    installed on my Lenovo laptop.
    I visited the Samsung Service Centre with my laptop after a very long
    chat on the net with Samsung. The final conclusion is there is a
    fault/bug with the Gear 360 Action Director software. They have a long
    list of complaints re the same problem. However they still continue to
    sell the cams. Not good Samsung! The word now is to wait for an update. :-( Spread the word!... Still not sorted after many months!

    • Bill Baby 1
      Bill Baby Sep 11, 2016 Link to comment

      Sounds like a video card/driver to software incompatibility to me. But in either case of course samsung gonna keep selling the camera. Why wouldnt they? They didnt make the software you are having problems with. Its made by cyberlink. My 360 works flawless, the hardware and software. I dont even have a phone with it. Dont know why all these reveiwers complaining it only works with samsung phones. It works great with no phone, just pc. I liked it so much after day 2 I bought another one. Best quality 360 out there short of dropping 5k on a gopro omni rig.

    • Bill Baby 1
      Bill Baby Sep 11, 2016 Link to comment

      But the solution to your problem is use different software. There is much to choose from for 360 stitching out there. From 1k high end to free on the low end. I know kodak puts out free stitch software. While action director works for me, I prefer to use my pinnacle studio 20 software.

  • Miguel Zamora 1
    Miguel Zamora Jul 21, 2016 Link to comment

    It is truly disappointing image quality and video of this camera.

    To be a product that wants to enter a market as competitive as it is the action cameras, cameras of mobile phones and cameras 360 degrees, the image quality of this camera reminded me of my webcam that I used ten years ago .

    The software that comes with the camera, is also completely disappointing, in a high-end equipment (intel i7, 32GB RAM, SSD, 2GB video card) does not benefit any of the equipment for processing images of poor quality camera.

    I bought the camera and after 3 days of testing and more than 100 photos in different scenarios, the solution was to return it to the store and ask for my money back.

    I hope samsung improve the product for a second version as camera applications are promising.

    Verdict: Do not buy the camera and if you already bought, return it.

  • Damian Dodd 1
    Damian Dodd Jul 19, 2016 Link to comment

    Especially because one of the lenses doesn't focus well due to a heat issue. Huge huge blunder. Can't get help from US Samsung customer service because it's not out here yet. Samsung had better recall these suckers and right now.

  • Parvind Chahal 21
    Parvind Chahal Jul 11, 2016 Link to comment

    samsung is a mature company.....still they make blunders.....this 360 camera will be big miss hit for samsung.

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