Alongside Samsung’s unveiling of the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Korean tech giant devoted a large swathe of its new offerings to virtual reality — and Geektime got one of the first opportunities to test drive the new cam.
Besides the well publicized Gear VR glasses, Samsung showed off a new camera that will let users film and photograph in high definition 3D and to “relive the moment again.” It will also be even cheaper than Google Cardboard.
The Gear 360 comes with two lenses and a pair of 15-megapixel sensors that can be attached to a tool for wider angle shots. The camera itself charges by Micro USB and can be outfitted with a microSD that holds up to 128 GB of data. A lithium ion battery with a capacity of 1,350 mAh that gives two straight hours of use at full charge powers the camera. The Gear 360 has a foldable mini tripod with a camera grip. It can also connect to other tripods by using the standard screw slot at the bottom.
We had the chance to try out Samsung’s new gear on the sidelines in Barcelona. It has a pretty simple setup — once you get the app loaded in your fancy new Galaxy S7 (well, any phone actually, Samsung or not), you can start filming.
The application shows you the video in real time as it’s filming, so we were able to direct it at the angle that we wanted. But we experienced quite a bit of lag between what we wanted to film and what we actually got to see on the screens of our phones. Samsung representatives told Geektime that it was likely more a consequence of the overloaded WiFi networks at the convention (an argument that could use a little more scrutiny).
Users might get a 360-degree video out of it, but it’s still a stitching of two videos together from the front and back lenses. Because of the overlap between the two videos, it’s tough to talk about the resolution of the shots at 360 degrees. According to Samsung, the true resolution comes out to 3840 x 1920; in other words, almost 4K. If you want to use it to take wider stills, you’ll get to enjoy it at 30 megapixels and the pictures will be rendered together on your Samsung phone.
The beginning of a new era in film?! Meh.
The 360 camera isn’t new and Samsung hasn’t exactly reinvented the wheel here. Directors and producers have been using different tools and tricks for years to create 360 degree video. From that perspective, Samsung hasn’t broken any new technological barriers, but they have made progress on two important fronts. For one, the tech is far more accessible. Think about filming your daughter’s first birthday party or having a two-office meeting that frequently switches between speakers. It’s as simple as plopping the camera down in the middle of the table and it will pick up the entire room in the frame.
The second accomplishment is just how replete Samsung’s film ecosystem is with the Gear 360. Samsung’s already brought in VR goggles that are exclusive to its camera technology and it integrates well with the new generation of Galaxies.
What follows this? An opportunity. Samsung has to make sure it can introduce an attractive price tag for the Gear 360 to make its release — and subsequent releases — viable. If the price too high, they may very well lose some of that emerging market to more bargain-friendly Chinese competitors like Xiaomi and Huawei that have already come up with their own versions of the 360 degree camera.
In any event, a fuller review will have to wait until the official release sometime in the spring. Right now, enjoy Samsung’s expanding offensive into the VR camera and headset market.