Samsung just announced a new version of its Gear 360 camera, which as the name suggests shoots video and photos in 360 degrees, and has a new design that’s supposed to make it easier for non-video-nerds to use. It is admittedly cute, and has a nifty stabilization ring. The big question is whether its new handheld design is a step forward in capturing 360 imagery, or whether we’re about to see a lot of really shaky 360 video in our feeds.
The new Gear 360 camera is mushroom-shaped, with the spherical part of it extending into a built-in grip. Basically, it has an eye-like aesthetic that’s similar to the original camera, but now has a stalk below it. At first look it appears to be much easier for people to hold themselves — and presumably, take more selfies.
That's a good thing for photos, and it makes the device more approachable for regular consumers. But the new design runs the risk of encouraging hand held videos, too. 360 videos can already feel like a chore to watch, whether you’re clicking and dragging or wearing a headset. The problem gets worse if you’re always trying to catch up with a moving camera.
The new camera doesn't necessarily discourage stability, though. It has a standard tripod mount, and Samsung has also thrown in a little rubber ring that you can wrap around the bottom of the camera to keep it stable on a flat surface. The rubber ring is simple but also one of the more ingenious aspects of the new device.
The new Gear 360 camera will also capture video in true 4K, at a resolution of 4096 x 2160, and is capable of live-streaming 2K video. The live stream capture is sent wirelessly to a smartphone first and is then uploaded as a “Live Broadcast” to either YouTube or Facebook. Last year’s camera also captured video that was just less than the resolution of true 4K, and didn’t have live-streaming capabilities.
The first Gear 360 camera, released in 2016, looked like a giant eyeball and, like the new camera, had two fisheye lenses on either side of the camera. It shipped with a small tripod, and the camera itself had a standard quarter-inch tripod mount. But as The Verge’s Sean O’Kane pointed out in his review of the first camera, you pretty much had to use a larger tripod or stabilizer and position the camera at least five feet off the ground or a flat surface if you wanted to capture decent, non-nauseating video.
Beyond that, 360 video can sometimes be problematic when it comes to transferring or editing the footage, since so much data is being captured. So it’s not so much shooting the video that can be a barrier to mainstream usage, but rather, what to do with it after the fact. We’ll have to wait until we get our hands on this new model to see how well this works, and whether the live-streaming aspect of it changes the experience as well.
Samsung hasn’t yet announced pricing for the new camera or exactly when it will ship beyond “the spring,” but has said it should be more accessible than last year’s camera, which cost $349.
Another notable change? The new Gear 360 camera pairs with many more smartphones: most recent Samsung phones, other Android-based phones (so long as you have Android 5.0 Lollipop or newer), and recent versions of the iPhone. Last year’s model only worked with newer Samsung phones, like the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. While last year’s camera felt like an experiment, Samsung now seems determined to make 360 video and photos more accessible to the masses.