You may get overwhelmed with the sheer number of action camera types and their uses in different scenarios. Among them, the 360 cameras may catch your attention for their unique video recording capabilities, which puts them out of the crowd of other action cameras. Also known as an omnidirectional camera, these cameras can record a total of 360° of a scene thanks to their multiple lens setup. Often they come with two wide-angle lenses. Then the camera will automatically stitch the two images together to bring you one spherical image. The 360 cameras are idle when large visual fields need to be covered, such as shooting panoramas.
The time between 2016 to 2017 was the sweet spot for 360 cameras. With the rise of virtual & augmented reality in video games as well as Youtube & Facebook, 360 cameras were being used more widely than ever before. So, to get a bite of that action, Samsung released their first 360 camera called the “Gear 360” along with the 360 apps on April 29, 2016. The camera was another step in the company’s focus on virtual reality after Gear VR. It was also compatible with their Galaxy S6 and onward smartphones. Besides, it was praised instantly for the ease of use and small form factor, which was game-changing in the 360 camera industry.
The golf ball-shaped camera had dual 15MP sensors, one on each side with a wide-angle fish-eye lens and f2.0 aperture. The 360-degree video was recorded in 3,840 x 1,920 pixels resolution and it could record 180 degrees video at 1,920 x 1,920 pixels. The camera did not have built-in processing power to stitch the image/video together and required them to be transferred to a compatible phone via WiFi Direct. The free smartphone app would import the content and then stitch them for a complete 360-degree image or video. Then finally, you could view the 360-degree content on the phone or the Gear VR headset.
It had a removable 1050mAh battery with a claimed recording time of up to 140 minutes. You would also get a MicroSD slot for storage that supported up to128GB and a MicroUSB port for charging. Gear 360 was IP53 certified against water and dust resistance, which meant it cannot be immersed in water for shooting but could handle mild splashes. For connecting standard camera accessories such as a tripod and mounts, Samsung provided a standard tripod socket. Within its price range, it also included a tiny plastic tripod.
Perhaps, till now, it sounds like a pretty good deal. But it had some significant flaws. The first deal-breaker was, it only worked with Samsung phones, which meant if you had a Lenovo, Xiaomi, Asus, or HTC, you would have been in trouble using it. Next was its app which had a lot of bugs. The app would get disconnected automatically after some time, leaving you nowhere in the middle of shooting, and would often freeze like you just ate a lot of ice cream. And the final nail in the coffin was its design. Even though the camera was compact, it was nowhere near pocketable and was painful to carry around. These were some of the major issues alongside disappointing microphones, inconsistent stitching in processed photos, and many more.
Next year Samsung did their homework effectively and released a refreshed version in 2017 with a cheaper price tag. This time it could record 4k videos at 24fps, offered better battery life, and had a more ergonomic design. Even with so many updates and improvements, they still failed to gain popularity and decided to shut it down. But why? Turns out it was a different technology for that time, and 360 video platforms were just starting to emerge. The only platforms that could fully optimize the 360 videos were Youtube & Facebook. You can also say the 360 videos were also a trend that eventually lost its heat.
Before Gear 360, Samsung was already in the camera market with their SLRs. But with the ever-growing appliance & smartphone market, they provided less attention to their VR and 360-degree camera segment. For this reason, they had to cancel their entire camera lineup completely and do what favors the company most.
All of that said, the Samsung Gear 360 was a revolutionary product at that time, the technology was new, but most people took it as a solution for a problem that they didn’t know about. Other 360 camera brands like the Insta 360 were also struggling at that time but eventually came out of the storm as they had to focus on only one product in their lineup. But for Samsung, it was not possible, as they had to focus on multiple product criteria in their entire product line up.
So what are your thoughts about the Samsung gear 360 camera? Let us know in the comment section below!
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