Samsung Gear 360 camera hands-on: Capture the complete world around you

2016 is the year of the affordable 360 degree camera and one of the highest quality models available comes from Samsung. It's limited to working with a newer Samsung phone, but you will also see good output from the white ball.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

Image: Samsung

Samsung was the last of the consumer-level 360 cameras to hit the streets this year, but it may also be the best. It's priced at $350, compared to LG's $199 for the 360 CAM.

The first thing I thought of when I took the Samsung Gear 360 out of the box was that it's three legs would extend and it would start walking across the table. The Gear 360 looks like it came right out of a sci-fi movie and I wouldn't be surprised to wake up one morning with it recording me sleeping on my nightstand.

A couple months ago I purchased a LG 360 CAM because I wanted to see if 360 videos and photos would be something I wanted to capture and share. The entry price to try it was just $200 and after going on a few hikes, bike rides, and fishing trips I think capturing these types of experiences with a 360 camera offers value to family and friends that aren't inclined or able to get out and about to these areas.

Make sure to check out the CNET tips and tricks for the Gear 360

Below are the key specifications of the Samsung Gear 360 compared to the LG 360 CAM:

Samsung Gear 360 LG 360 CAM
Resolution Dual 15 megapixel Dual 13 megapixel
Video res (dual) 3840 x 1920 2560x 1440
Display 0.5" 72x32 PMOLED None
Weight 152 grams 75 grams
Battery Removable 1350 mAh Integrated 1200 mAh
Price $349.99 $199.99

One major difference in the software between the LG 360 CAM and Samsung Gear 360 is the ability to create timelapse videos. This is one way to capture varying scenes in 360 without creating large video files. I enjoy viewing timelapse videos and every time I create them using my Samsung phones people remark on the fun they had watching them too.

Managing and editing your 360 content

There are a couple of ways that you can manage your content captured with the Gear 360. You can connect the Gear 360 via microUSB to your computer or pop out the microSD card and insert it into your computer. You then use the Samsung Action Director software, free download using the product code in the Gear 360 package, and go to town deleting, trimming, editing, and managing your content.

If you try to edit the software using standard photo or video editing tools, you will lose the 360 degree functionality and may end up with standard photos and videos. Use the desktop or smartphone tools designed for the Gear 360 to edit and share your content to avoid any issues.

The Samsung Action Director software lets you easily import content and then drag and drop it on a timeline at the bottom to create movies from various clips. You can trim them, rotate them, adjust the different elements, mess around with the speed and transitions, add styles, and add titles to your videos. While the camera records decent audio, you can add music to your videos in the desktop software before producing your video.

You can also connect your compatible Samsung smartphone and use the Samsung Gear 360 software to view, edit, and share your content. The Gear 360 connects to your Galaxy phone via WiFi Direct so you first have to get the content downloaded to your phone where you can then make some basic edits. The desktop software is more powerful and allows you to create more professional videos with your captured content.

Sharing and viewing your 360 content

After you make any edits you want on your computer or Galaxy phone, you can then share your content to various services. Gear 360 photos appear in 360 mode on Google Photos and Facebook. Video appears in 360 mode on Facebook and YouTube. Viewers will be able to scroll around to see the full 360 view of what you captured using these services.

Another great way to enjoy your 360 content is with a Gear VR headset. The Gear VR is available for a number of the latest Samsung phones. You can visit Facebook or YouTube with a Gear VR or even Google Cardboard headset to check out your content or with your Samsung phone you can simply select to view the content on a Gear VR and pop your handset into your Gear VR to view local content.

Experiences out on the rivers

The Samsung Gear 360 comes with a short tripod, lanyard, microUSB cable, lens cleaning cloth, and thick padded carrying case. It isn't very convenient to carry around and is rather ungainly with the large round design and dual cameras that protrude out of each side. The draw string bag is essential for keeping it somewhat protected as you hit the trails for adventure.

Check out one of my 360 photos on Google Photos.

The Gear 360 tripod is about two inches high and really just designed for recording content with it on a table. As you can see in one of my photos I set it up on a large rock in the middle of the river and something like that works well. Holding it up with your arm is awkward and a tripod or selfie stick is recommended to capture better experiences.

I used a large tripod to capture some footage while I was fly fishing on the Cedar river and that worked well. The Gear 360 has a water and dust resistant rating of

On one side of the camera you will find a large access door with rubber O-ring used to seal it up. Under the door is the removable battery, microSD card slot, and microUSB charging port.

On the other side are the back and menu buttons. The back button also serves as the power button so pressing and holding it toggles the Gear 360 on and off. The menu button is used to scroll through the menus on the display, including video, photo, timelapse, video looping, and settings.

Samsung Gear 360 camera hands-on: In pictures

On top of the camera you will find another button with a red dot in the center. This is used to manually start/stop video recording and camera capture with a press and hold. This button also serves as the select button that you use in conjuction with the menu and back buttons. There is also a small OLED display below the record button that give you the battery, wireless, and mode status along the top with the recording time below. Overall, the camera is quite functional as a stand-alone device with an easy to use button design and useful small display that is visible inside and outside.

Closing thoughts

While I enjoyed using the Samsung Gear 360, the limitation to using it with just a compatible Samsung Galaxy phone means I always have to have a Galaxy on hand. It is a very high quality camera, but the round form factor makes it impossible to carry in your pocket to capture those unplanned moments. The LG 360 CAM fits easily into my pocket and comes with an integrated protective sleeve too.

You could use the Gear 360 without a Samsung phone if you wanted to use the buttons on the camera itself to capture content to a microSD card. However, that limits you to sharing via a desktop computer and limits the full experience IMHO.

The Samsung Gear 360 is one of the best consumer-level 360 cameras available, but the convenience, multi-device support, and low price of the LG 360 CAM makes it a better choice for my own usage. I would love to see Samsung release a future 360 camera in a LG 360 CAM or Ricoh Theta S form factor.

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