With virtual reality headsets from the likes of Oculus, Sony and HTC set to launch in the coming months, 360-degree cameras, too, are starting to come in from all directions. At this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Samsung has announced its first foray into the immersive video content creator space with a spherical shooter that shuttles 360-degree video straight to the smartphone.
Samsung seems to be betting big on virtual reality. Its freshly-announced flagships, the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, shun the USB Type C ports appearing in other mobile devices and retain the standard micro-USB. This means its newest phones will still be compatible with the consumer version of its virtual reality headset, the Gear VR, which ships for free with preorders of both the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge (with a US$50 Oculus Store voucher even tacked on the end).
Designed to let people create their own (albeit 2D) content for such devices, the Samsung Gear 360 is a little smaller than a baseball and weighs 153 g (5.4 oz), with two CMOS, 15-megapixel fisheye cameras – one on each side – each capable of capturing 3840 x 1920 MP4 video at 30 fps. With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built-in, users can sync the camera with a dedicated app on certain Samsung smartphones, including the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, where 2D footage can be previewed in real-time.
The paired phone can also be used to control the camera. This includes the ability to stitch together footage from both cameras to create a 360-degree video, which can then be shared directly from the phone via social media. Alternatively, desktop software will be available for more advanced editing.
The Gear 360 is dust-proof and water-resistant, and can also shoot time-lapse and looping video, along with 30-megapixel still images. Alternatively, users can employ one of the device's camera lenses to capture 180-degree video and images. Storage comes by way of a MicroSD card (up to 128 GB) and the device will ship with its own tripod, but Samsung says it will also be compatible with a "wide selection" of accessories and mounts.
Samsung joins other large hardware companies like Kodak, GoPro and Nikon in announcing 360-degree video cameras, along with smaller players such as Sphericam. Like the Gear 360, Nikon's solution also relies on just two ultra-wide-angle lenses to capture action in all directions, while GoPro's and the Sphericam 2 both feature six. It is worth noting that while it hasn't launched yet, the Sphericam 2 is claimed to shoot 4K video at 60 fps, something we haven't seen matched by other cameras in this space.
However, if you want to step up to 360-degree, 3D video capture, you'll need to loosen the purse strings significantly and wait for something like the Nokia Ozo ($60,000) or the GoPro's Odyssey rig ($15,000).
The Gear 360 will be available in the second quarter of 2016 in select countries, with no word yet on pricing.