Like them or not, 360-degree photos and videos — those that allow you to look up, down, left, and right — could be the future of social media, and Samsung is well-positioned to take advantage of this development following the release of the Gear 360 camera.
The Korean phone maker says it wants to make immersive experiences accessible to all, and sees the product as an important step forward in this respect.
Unveiled at MWC 2016 in Barcelona earlier this year, the hardware captures 360-degree photos and videos using two 15-megapixel fisheye cameras mounted on a white plastic sphere the size of a golf ball.
And like a golf ball, the Gear 360 feels pretty substantial, thanks to all the technology packed inside and the 1,350mAh removable battery designed to last an entire recording session. Multiple shoots, in all likelihood, will require a spare battery or two.
The device ships with a tiny black tripod that doubles as a handle for when you shoot handheld. There’s also a pouch for storage and a cloth wipe for cleaning off the Gear 360 between uses.
The lenses have a maximum aperture of f/2.0 and are capable of shooting high-resolution 360-degree footage (up to 3,840 x 1,920) and 30-megapixel stills. The picture quality is good enough for the intended purpose, best under bright daylight. However, as with most smartphone cameras, the Gear 360 doesn’t perform well in low light.
Syncing the Gear 360 with a recently released Samsung flagship — like a Galaxy Note 5, an S6, or an S7 — via the Gear 360 Manager app for Android turns the phone into a viewfinder and a screen for viewing content from the camera.
You can also transfer photos and videos to the phone wirelessly to free up space on the camera’s microSD card. Doing so allows you to experience the content you have created in virtual reality using Samsung’s Gear VR headset, or any other virtual-reality headgear.
The Gear 360 is already available in Korea and Singapore for about $350. Samsung hasn’t revealed pricing or availability for the U.S. and other markets; a global rollout is expected in the coming months.