The Samsung Gear 360 has launched in the Australian market, aimed at emerging 'prosumers'. It packs a lot of functionality into a small unit, including impressive extras like automatic stabilisation.At $450 AUD the price is right. But how does it stack up in a professional environment? Can it handle a professional workflow?
Speed: First of all, the Gear 360 is perfect for shooting 360 videos quickly. Two lenses and instant, automatic stitching makes it almost as easy to use as your phone camera. Fantastic for blogging, quick video content, or shooting tests and recces. A Samsung phone shows a live feed from the camera in a variety of projection modes. You can preview 360 videos in real time. The camera records internally, and stitched video files can instantly be saved to the paired phone. Especially relevant for backup and transfer.
Software: The Samsung Gear 360 app was surprisingly robust during tests - anyone who has attempted to control a GoPro through an app understands how badly things can go. The Samsung app didn’t crash once during tests, and the responsiveness of the live image was quite incredible - no lags or delays.
Live 360 Preview: The Gear 360 is worth the small investment for live 360 Preview alone. 360 Preview is a problem with every professional rig available. At Start VR, we use the Gear 360, slung under a tripod, holding our primary camera to help with shot composition. This little camera solves the problem of most 360 rigs in that we are usually shooting blind. The cinematography of 360 videos can suffer as a result. It’s also perfect for shooting location recces, allowing clients and the rest of the team to view the shooting environments without adding any time to the recce.
Stabilisation: One extra feature that worked surprisingly well was the automatic stabilisation on the Gear 360. Tests showed that the level of movement was minimal, even when we deliberately shook the camera while walking. While not perfect, this stabilisation is more than adequate for consumer applications, and will massively reduce the time needed in post-production to avoid inducing motion sickness in an audience.
Automatic Stitching: The Gear 360’s automatic stitching was disappointing with lines appearing on the footage. However, it’s easy to have your action avoid crossing stitch lines when each lens covers 180 degrees.
Lack of Kelvin WB adjustment: The lack of Kelvin WB adjustment (only a variety of presets are available) means having to shoot using Auto White Balance, and the colour difference between the two lenses (one facing daylight, the other a slightly warmer light source) was noticeable.
In conclusion, the Gear 360 is the best 360 camera on the market at less than $500 AUD. While it may not yet stand up to all of the professional workflow demands, Live 360 Preview provides a useful add-on to professional rigs. For consumers looking to create cheap, fast 360 footage, the Gear 360 is miles ahead of competitors, and may finally usher in the age of user-generated 360 content.