Gear 360 review: A powerful camera but limited beyond Samsung ecosystem

Samsung Gear 360 - a great little 360 camera that's easy to use - is finally available in UAE stores.
The Samsung Gear 360 resembles a slightly large golf ball, or an old-school Logitech webcam for those with long memories. Krisztian Bocsi / Bloomberg
The Samsung Gear 360 resembles a slightly large golf ball, or an old-school Logitech webcam for those with long memories. Krisztian Bocsi / Bloomberg

Six months on from its unveiling in Barcelona, Samsung’s Gear 360 is finally available in UAE stores. It’s a powerful 360 degree camera that’s fun and easy to use, even if it’s not the cheapest option on the market.

The Gear 360 resembles a slightly large golf ball, or an old-school Logitech webcam for those with long memories, perching on top of a removable mini-tripod. It’s a bit more cumbersome than its close rival, the much more svelte and portable LG 360, its large sphere sitting a little awkwardly in the pocket.

Unlike the LG, the Gear 360 has a mini-display on top that gives handy information about recording status and battery levels, as well as Bluetooth and navigation buttons on the side of the unit that offer more camera control. Initial set-up is more straightforward than the LG, just download the Samsung Gear 360 Manager app, follow the instructions and off you go.

In terms of camera specs, the Gear 360 comfortably comes out ahead of the LG. It packs two 15MP lenses that offer a resolution and bit-rate far higher than its Korean rival. If that’s Greek to you, suffice to say images and videos taken on a recent boat ride off Saadiyat look fantastic.

Or at least they look fantastic only if you’re rocking a newish Samsung phone. Unlike the LG 360, the Gear 360 only works with Samsung smartphones, more specifically the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S7 and S7 Edge as well as the Note 5 and Note 7.

Admittedly the Samsung ecosystem isn’t a bad place to be, with the Gear VR among the best affordable VR headsets on the market, but the incompatibility with other Android phones, let alone us iPhone users, is disappointing.

The Gear 360’s superior specs also don’t exactly come cheap either, retailing for Dh1,399, nearly double the price of the albeit more limited LG offering. It’s a great little camera if you’re in the Samsung ecosystem and have a bit of cash to spend, but the LG may be a better option for the more casual user.

q&a don’t take it snorkelling

John Everington expands on Samsung’s Gear 360:

So, plug it in, charge it up and off I go?

Not quite. As with the LG 360, you’ll need an SD card before you get going. A 16GB card will cost you less than Dh30 these days, but it’s probably best to invest in a larger option if you’re going to do a lot of video shooting. On the subject of charging, the battery is replaceable, meaning you can swap it out for a new one if you’re planning on doing lots of shooting in a single session.

You told me all about the video imaging, but does it also record sound?

Of course, it comes with two microphones to offer stereo sound. However, the LG 360 actually has the edge here, offering 5.1 Dolby surround sound, which makes a genuine difference when you’re shooting in 360 degrees.

You took it on a boat. Any funky fish videos?

No, it’s water-resistant but not waterproof, so don’t use it while snorkelling. It’s also dust-resistant though, so good for capturing desert vistas.

Is it just the Samsung Gear 360 and LG 360 in this camera space right now?

In the UAE, yes. After a quick visit to five gadget shops in Al Wahda Mall, DJI’s Osmo was the only other 360 camera I could find, retailing for about Dh1,950. The waterproof 360FLY 4K and the Ricoh Theta S are among the most popular models internationally, but sadly they’re not yet officially available in the UAE.

jeverington@thenational.ae

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Published: September 5, 2016 04:00 AM

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