Samsung Gear 360 2017: Part 1_Getting Started
Luxurious Animals got a hankering to play around with the new Samsung Gear 360° 2017 edition camera currently available for $229 US dollars. We wanted to find out for ourselves if this was a worthy entry level 360° video camera.

Since the Gear 360 2017 camera wasn’t out in the US yet, back in early May, we ordered the international version directly from Korea. Yeah, we just couldn’t wait. As far as we know there are no actual differences between the US and international version. Everything was in English so no language barrier to get everything working. Although we didn’t play with the original Gear 360, we have read that photo quality isn’t as good on the new 2017 edition. When we did compare the 2017 camera to the Ricoh Theta S that we do own, we still felt the Theta gave sharper and better quality stills. But mainly we wanted that 4k video goodness, so lower photo quality was a fine sacrifice.

Pan around this Samsung Gear 360 2017 recording we did inside a car

Getting Started
Samsung Gear 360 2017 edition with microSD card
Samsung Gear 360 2017 edition with microSD card

You’ll want to purchase your a Gear 360 2017 camera with a "sold-separately" microSD card to do basic recording. For more advanced options, download the Gear app on your mobile phone to start recording.The Samsung Gear 360 mobile app is free to download for Samsung approved Android and iPhone devices and can help you manually change your resolution, control exposure, set your white balance as well as act a remote for recording from a distance. Though you can make various mode selections directly with the camera’s physical buttons and see on the tiny screen, a phone is very handy to make changes and review your videos. Once more confident and/or pressed for time, you might keep the phone in your pocket to more quick record sessions.

Download Gear 360 for Samsung devices | Download Gear 360 for iPhones

Design and Functionality
This camera looks like a cute little friend of HAL from the movie 2001. The new lollipop shape and size does really make this the perfectly pocket-sized camera. It's easy to hold and small enough to bring anywhere. The physical power, menu, and back buttons were intuitive as were the instructions to connect the camera to iOS or a Samsung Android phone. One issue we did have was that the location of the power button does make it prone to accidentally being pressed. We had thumb shots recorded in 360° that we wish didn’t happen. Also, frustrating is sometimes the slightly notched microSD slot doesn't want to open with your fingernail. A small dull knife was able to pry it open when this happened.

Be aware that the Gear 360 2017 tips over easily as its center of gravity is higher. The Samsung engineers came up with this strange "O" ring that you attach to bottom of the camera to make it less prone to falling over. Think of it as a life preserver. Though we already lost ours as it usually got in our way. When you decide you have had enough of this tomfoolery, we recommend attaching to a 360 designed tripod. We bought a tripod from a company called Neewer specifically designed for 360° video/photo but there are many other options out there.

Just be sure to carry a shammy cloth with you to keep your lenses clean because every time you rotate the camera to screw it into the tripod, your grubby hands will get oil on the lenses. We wished someone had told us about how difficult it is to keep the lens clean before we started shooting. The lens looked clean enough on a quick inspection but once we reviewed with VR goggles, we could see lots of little smudges on the footage. Now, we hold the camera inside the shammy as we attach to the camera. Attach and clean in one step. Makes our set up time much faster to begin shooting.

Shammy cloth with Gear 360 2017 edition
Shammy cloth we use to keep Gear 360 2017 edition lenses clean

Connecting and Recording
To record, you simply power the device on and select the the "Video" mode to record as a video. Finally, hit the red circular button in the front to start recording. Once you are happy with what has been recording, hit the red button again to stop recording. To review the footage out in the field, you will need a Samsung phone or an newer iPhone.

To connect the camera to your iPhone or Samsung device, hold down the side button until you see on the camera front screen "Connecting to..."

Samsung Gear 360 2017 Connecting Screen
Samsung Gear 360 2017 Connecting Screen

Then go to your wifi settings and select "Gear 2017". It makes a cute little sound when connection is successful.

Wifi connecting to Samsung Gear 360 2017 camera
Wifi connecting to Samsung Gear 360 2017 camera

Now with the camera connected, launch the Gear 360 app on your phone. You should see the "Camera" menu item in your app. If there was a problem, you wouldn't see "Camera" as an option listed. Only Gallery and Settings would be listed.


Pros
Intuitive design and functionality
Produces sharp images with vivid color
Love the small lollipop shape for holding
Connects easily to Samsung and Apple phones

Cons
Accidental record issues
Preview limitations on iPhone
Tips over easily without using "O" ring or tripod
Some compression issues
Occasionally difficult to open stubborn microSD slot

Read Part 2 to learn how to stitch your video into a 360 video along with the pros and cons of various software stitching options.


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