The Samsung Gear 360 2016 camera model is currently probably the best budget 360 camera out in the marketplace. There are so many great features and the stitching software is extremely easy to use.
Samsung Gear 360 2016 Review
For this review I will be going over many different things. Unboxing, everything included, design, battery size and tests, photo quality and video quality, mobile application, software included, any errors or issues and my final thoughts about the 360 camera.
Samsung Gear 360 2016 Design
The overall shape and size of the Samsung Gear 360 2016 model, is very interesting. It isn’t like the LG 360 Cam which is more of a handheld fit in your pocket type of 360 camera. The internals and large camera sensors must take up a lot of room which makes the Samsung Gear 360 2016 very round. It is a little difficult to fit in your pocket, but overall it works pretty well.
The Samsung Gear 360 2016 is one of the first consumer 360 cameras to have a higher quality easy to see LCD screen to display all the options, battery life and settings for the 360 camera. It is very easy to use and see compared to older 360 cameras.
To go through all the menu items available you need to click on the menu button which is on the side of the 360 camera. This will enable you to open up traverse the menus and settings options. To either go into further settings or select them you need to click the select button on top of the camera. If you want to go back out of a specific settings or menu item, then click on the back button below the menu button.
Traversing through the menu items can be a little tricky at first, but once you get a hold of what each button does it is pretty easy. The back button below the menu button allows you to back out of the last option selected. So if you dive deep into the settings and want to get out, then just click on the back button a few times until you find where you want to go.
To select the menu items or to change a setting you need to click the top most button. This is the select, start video, start photo button that is on top of the camera next to the LCD screen. If you do not have a compatible mobile device to use the mobile app as a remote control mechanism you will be using this button instead.
The ports available on the Samsung Gear 360 2016 model are the Mini USB, micro SD card and the battery slot. All of these are available on the side of the 360 camera where the side comes off on a hinge like compartment. Here you will be able to replace the battery, plug the 360 camera into the computer and insert and remove the micro SD card.
In this section I will be going over the battery size, charging times and amount of video you can record before draining the battery to 0%
Battery Size and Charging
The Samsung Gear 360 2016 camera comes with one battery included in the package bundle. The Li-ion Battery is rated at a Nominal Voltage of 3.85V 5.20Wh and Charge Voltage of 4.4V 1350 mAh.
Test # 1 : So I did my usual battery test of recording video with a 64GB micro SD card to test whether the battery will run out or fill up the micro SD card first. Sadly, the result is not what I had expected which is the camera overheats and crashes only 29 minutes and 27 seconds (Total 6.6GB) into the recording. The video chunks resulted in 4 videos with times of 8:27, 8:27, 8:27 and 4:06. It seems like there is a pattern with Samsung Gear 360 cameras of that both the 2016 and 2017 models have issues overheating and crashing while recording long length videos. If you plan on recording very long videos then I would suggest a different camera or invest in some way to keep the 360 camera cool with ice.
Test #2 : Overheated once already, let it cool down and awaiting for round two of overheating. I plan on keep doing this until I figure out how much storage space you can get out of 100% of the battery life.
Test #3 : Overheated 4 times before draining the battery to 0%. Total amount of video recorded was 90 minutes.
From 0% to 100% it takes the battery charger 2 hours to completely recharge the battery.
Camera Options and Menu Items
The main options available to be selected are Settings, Video, Photo, Time lapse and Video looping.
Inside of Settings you have the options for Switch Lens, Video size, Photo size, Time lapse video size, Timer, Auto power off after, Format and info about device.
Video Size – This option enables you to select the video resolution and the frames per second for your single or dual lens videos. Both the single and dual lens options have different options which are listed farther below. It is a nice feature in case you want to record in a specific resolution or specific frame rate like for slow motion video footage.
Photo Size – This option enables you to select what photo size you want to be shooting at. A larger megapixel setting means you get a higher resolution image.
Time Lapse Video Size – You have multiple options to record at higher resolutions or lower resolutions. All the options available only shoot @ 10fps.
Time Lapse Video Interval – This is the option to select how often to take a picture during the time lapse, there are only a few intervals for this option. You can see all the values below in both the dual lens and single lens modes.
Video Looping Size – This is the option to select the video resolution of the video looping recording option. There are only two options available one for each lens mode.
Landscape HDR Size – This is the option to select the panoramic image resolution for a HDR landscape photo. There are only two options available one for each lens mode.
Switch Lens Mode
Like most 360 cameras the Samsung Gear 360 2017 has the option to use either dual lenses or use only one at a time. You can select both the front lens only, the back lens only or dual lens. If you select single over the dual, you get unique mode settings. Here are the options available for both dual lens mode and single lens mode.
Dual lens mode
Video Size Options – 3840 x 1920 @ 30fps, 2880 x 1440 @ 30fps, 2560 x 1280 @ 60fps, 2560 x 1280 @ 30fps, 1920 x 960x @ 30fps
Photo Size Options – 30M, 14M
Time Lapse Video Size – 2560 x 1280, 1920 x 960, 3840 x 1920
Time Lapse Video Interval – 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, 60 seconds
Single lens mode
Video Size Options – 1920 x 1080 @ 30fps, 1280 x 720 @ 30fps, 2560 x 1440 @ 30fps, 1920 x 1080 @ 60fps,
Time Lapse Video Size – 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720, 2560 x 1440
The timer feature enables you to set up the shot and run and hide to stay out of the picture. This is helpful if you do not have a Smart Phone that is compatible with the Mobile App. Options are : Off, 2, 5, or 10 seconds.
Every 360 camera that I test, I make sure to run it through many different photo quality tests. For all of my tests I do not change any settings or configurations, it is all directly out of the box. First I test low light photos with various amounts of lighting (low, medium, high). Then I go to a local park to test a few other specific locations to get as many different lighting, colors and scenery to compare with.
Low Light Photos
The Samsung Gear 360 2016 has many great results for the low light photography test. This is without any pre or post production changes or changes to any of the settings. It is directly out of the box with default settings and looks this good.
Other Test Photos
Test Photo #1
Test Photo #2
Test Photo #3
Test Photo #4
I do similar video tests as the photography tests. These are important so it is easier to compare with all the other 360 camera competition.
Low Light Video
The Samsung Gear 360 2016 videos don’t do as well as the photography low light tests. This is without any pre or post production changes or changes to any of the settings. It is directly out of the box with default settings and looks pretty decent. The first two videos look pretty bad without any pre or post changes, it is pretty hard to see anything. Obviously the last video has a good amount of light so it makes sense that the video looks pretty good.
Below are the two video tests I do with all 360 cameras. Two different videos one inside and one outside to see the differences as well as be able to compare with all other cameras.
Video Test 1
Video Test 2
Overall the Samsung Gear 360 2016 model camera does a great job with 360 video. It has better video quality than a few of its competitors like the LG 360 Cam and the Ricoh Theta S 360 cameras.
I currently do not have a compatible phone to use the Samsung Gear 360 2016 or 2017 camera models.
Gear 360 Stitching Software
If you have the older Samsung Gear 360 2016 camera, then you are used to the Samsung Gear 360 Action Director app, but this year they have new software for the Samsung Gear 360 2017 camera model. It is simply called the Gear 360 App and is available for download on both Windows and Mac. The software must be activated with either a Samsung Gear 360 2016 camera or Samsung Gear 360 2017 camera’s serial number which can be found on the device, manual or original box.
Importing files into the Gear 360 software is very easy to do, you can either drag and drop the files directly into the list view on the left side of the screen or you can use the add button or the menu item file->import.
Through the Geaer 360 software you can share to multiple online platforms. Using the share button found in the top right corner, you can a Upload Settings window which enables a dropdown for your social network choosing. With videos you can share directly to YouTube, Facebook and Samsung VR’s sharing platforms.
But when sharing panoramic images through the software, you only get Facebook as a selection to share on.
Automatic Stitching of Files
If you go to the main menu you will find the ‘preferences’ menu item. Here in the preferences window you will find the location for the automatically stitched photos and videos are stored in the a default saving folder. I would suggest changing this location to where you would want all your automatically stitched photos and video to be stored.
The saving folder is where all the stitched media is located at, you can change the location by clicking on the browse button. Everything that is unstitched that you either drag n drop or import manually into the program will automatically be stitched with the injected file located at the saving folder.
Here is an example of some unstitched images for the Samsung Gear 360 2017 camera.
After importing them into the software and waiting for them to completely load and process, I can easily now just go to my saving folder and view all the injected files to now share online to whatever sharing platform that I want.
Obviously larger videos will take longer to process and complete the stitching process, but you can follow the completion rate on the left side of the main list in the software.
If you still use the older Samsung Gear 360 2016 camera, you can always use the older Action Director app instead. You can find the old Action Director App on Samsung’s Website.
Errors, Issues and Complaints
My main complaint with the Samsung Gear 360 2016 camera model is that it overheats when trying to record long video. It continuously over heats and you have to wait for a few minutes for it to cool down to continue to record. So if you want to record more than 30 minutes at a time the Samsung Gear 360 2016 camera model might not be best for you.
I also don’t like the bulky ness of the Samsung Gear 360 2016 camera model, it is way to huge and circular to comfortably fit in your pants pocket. You have to either carry it around in a bag attached to your wrist or placed in your purse or backpack.
The Samsung Gear 360 Mobile App only works on specific Android phones and only the newer iPhones. This is obviously a intended restraint to convince consumers to purchase Samsung smart phones. I understand why they did it, but it is annoying that you can’t use the Mobile App with newer phones like the Google Nexus 5, 6 or any of Google Pixel phones.
Action director software was originally for Windows computers only, so if you had a Mac OS then you wouldn’t be able to use the software to stitch together the videos and photographs from the Samsung Gear 360 2016 camera model. Luckily, now that the Samsung Gear 360 2017 camera model has been released they have also added new software which can stitch both 2016 and 2017 camera models. It also works on Mac OS too.
Samsung Gear 360 2016 Review – My Thoughts
Overall I think the Samsung Gear 360 2016 camera model is currently probably the best budget 360 camera out in the marketplace. With all the features you get and at a very reasonable price point, it is a great value buy. If you want to get your hands on a 360 camera and learn how they work and operate this is a great choice.
With the latest release of Samsung Gear 360 2017 camera model, the software to stitch the photos and video are extremely easy to do. If you purchased the 2016 camera right when it was released, it probably wasn’t worth the $350, but now that you can find new 2016 models from $50 – 150 it is a great deal.