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Samsung Gear 360 (2017) Review

Introduction

Technology has a funny way of operating in cycles, and while newer devices are always arriving to replace the old, wait long enough and you might just see trends circling back to where they began. Take mobile video recording, for instance. Back in the late 2000s, pocket camcorders like those sold under the Flip brand were convenient ways to easily record relatively high-quality video. It wasn’t long, though, before smartphones matured to the level where they offered the camera quality, storage space, and battery life such that it no longer made sense to carry around a separate pocket camcorder – your phone already did everything that hardware could, and more.

Recently, however, we’ve been seeing a new wave of interest in personal, portable camcorders, with the emphasis now on producing panoramic 360-degree content ready to be shared online on viewed with a virtual reality headset. While the move back to carrying around a second device may feel like a reversal of progress, it’s actually a pretty pragmatic move, and considering the big fish-eye lenses we need to capture insanely wide-field-of-view video, and how you have to pair two of these units front-to-back for full 360-degree coverage, it makes a lot of sense to implement this as a new device, rather than drastically change the look and shape of smartphones.

Last year, we saw companies like LG and Samsung launch their first-gen 360-degree cameras, and while LG seems to be content with what it’s already delivered, Samsung’s already back to the drawing board with a new Gear 360. Is this revised camera a step in the right direction? Has Samsung fixed some of the issues we had with the first-gen Gear 360? And maybe most importantly, is this new hardware something you’re going to want to pick up for yourself? Let’s take a look at what you can expect from the 2017 Samsung Gear 360.

Design

A smaller, more portable Gear 360 shines at hand-held operation

The first-gen Gear 360 looked like few other cameras we’d seen before, a bulky two-sided “eyeball” of a camera, with its own convenient mini tripod. It felt substantial and rugged, and offered enough hardware controls that you could operate the device independently of your smartphone with little difficulty.The new Gear 360, meanwhile, comes across more as a Gear 360 Mini. For starters, the main “ball” part of the camera is much more compact than last year, instantly making the Gear 360 a lot easier to carry around in your pocket – so you have it ready to use on a moment’s notice. Samsung helps accomplish that by moving some of the camera’s guts to a new base cylinder that now extends beneath the main camera hardware.

Right away, that delivers some important usability improvements. For one, it gives the Gear 360 a proper grip, letting you easily manipulate and maneuver the camera to get the shot you’re looking for. And with a flat bottom, it also doubles as a stand, so you can set the Gear 360 in one place and have it shoot…

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