A glimpse is enough to see significant differences between Samsung’s new Gear 360, announced alongside the Galaxy S8, and last year’s model. The old one was built to have a processor and battery between the lenses so you could mount the camera just about anywhere, while the new one was built to hold it like most other 360 cameras in the world today. This difference is significant in terms of usability, but what else is different about the two cameras?
Here’s a quick look at how things have improved from generation to generation in the Gear 360 line.
More than specifications
Anyone familiar with the original Gear 360 will look at this new model and be a little suspicious that this is actually an upgrade, and it has a lot to do with the spec sheet. The older version of this camera has twice the megapixels to work with, shoots at a wider aperture, and offers a slightly larger battery for video recording. That’s all the damage.
|category||Gear 360 (2016)||Gear 360 (2017)|
|The size||60.1mm x 66.7mm||100.6mm x 45.1mm|
|Still image resolution||30MP (2x 15MP sensors)||15MP (2x 8.4MP sensors)|
|Video resolution (dual lens)||3840 x 2160 (24 fps)||4096 x 2048 (24 fps)|
|Video resolution (single lens)||2560×1440 (24fps)||1920 x 1080 (60 fps)|
|External storage||MicroSD (up to 200 GB)||MicroSD (up to 256 GB)|
|wireless||802.11 a / b / g / n / ac (2.5 GHz / 5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.1, NFC||802.11 a / b / g / n / ac (2.5 GHz / 5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.1|
|Charger||Micro USB (USB 2.0)||USB-C (USB 2.0)|
So this new camera has a smaller battery, no NFC, and takes photos with less detail and resolution? This is much more than in practice. The biggest «feature» of this new Gear 360 is the loss of more than 20mm between the two sensors. This reduction makes it much easier to stitch images and videos, which means the camera itself can take more realistic 360-degree photos. Even with twice as many pixels to capture, the previous Gear 360 often looked distorted when the two halves of an image were stitched together. This smaller body makes it easier to take better photos, and as we know from smartphones, more megapixels doesn’t mean a better picture.
The lack of NFC on the new model is kind of a bummer if you use the feature a lot on your phone, but the truth is that Samsung has already done a great job of making it easy to connect to the Gear 360 from within the app. It wasn’t worth the extra space it took up inside the body of this camera. Removing this feature probably helped a bit with battery life as well — not that you’ll notice a huge difference in performance between the two products. The only thing you’ll probably notice here is the USB-C port, which will let you plug the cable straight into your phone if your camera needs a little topping up.
It’s not all negatives, either. Despite smaller sensors, this new and significantly lighter Gear 360 is capable of capturing both higher resolution and higher frame rate video. You have the option to shoot higher resolution videos to share with Facebook and YouTube, but higher frame rate videos make this camera ideal for capturing lots of intense motion for VR. Shooting a roller coaster at 120 fps or dash cam style video at 60 fps makes it much easier to watch those videos with your headset on, which is important when you think about who you’re recording for.
New features where it’s at
Not only is the new Gear 360 easier to hold, there are some important new things you can do with it. New camera features that offer more flexibility when it comes to how you use this camera and when you might consider carrying it around
Landscape HDR — As the name suggests, this allows you to shoot multiple still photos from different angles so you can enjoy photos with more dynamic range. It is ideal for capturing sunrise over the ocean or a wide open area at noon with the sun down.
Video looping — Instead of worrying about running out of memory, this mode records itself when the microSD card is full. This will continue until you say no, so in theory you could record all day while plugged into a power source and be able to look back and the last couple of hours when you get back to the camera.
little planet It’s not hard to turn any 360-degree photo into a Little Planet where the perspective is reversed and the horizon line is no longer the focal point, but the new Gear 360 lets you see a preview of this mode before you take the photo, and even lets you fiddle a bit with the dimensions and aspect ratio before taking a photo.
You can’t do any of this on the previous version of the Gear 360 as built-in features, and they go a long way in day-to-day use of this camera if your goal is to wander around and explore 360-degree photography. Most likely, these are not the features you use every day, but they are really good when you experiment.
What should I buy?
What you get between these two cameras is a lot of small differences that really add up depending on how you choose to use your camera. If you want the Gear 360, you can mount it somewhere and take great big photos, but the original Gear 360 is still a great camera. If you’re after something you’re more likely to want to carry around and you’re interested in exploring what’s possible with a 360-degree camera, the new Gear 360 will be what you want to buy when it goes on sale. ,