That can Samsung's 360-degree video camera
Now everything should be quite simple. The spherical camera – not much bigger than an egg-captures 360°videos that any user can easily share from their phone. The Theta 360 ° camera from competitor Ricoh could do the same. But Samsung sets the bar higher.
The Gear 360 offers a video resolution of almost 4K at a price of 349 euros. The competitor only delivers Full HD. Since the resolution of 360°videos is always calculated on the entire all-round image and the viewer always sees only one image section, a high resolution is crucial for such films.
Do you really not see the seam of the pictures?
Two CMOS 15MP extreme wide angle lenses take 195 degrees each. The overlapping of the two images is intended to create a seamless 360°video image.
Our test starts in bright sunshine at the former Berlin-Tempelhof Airport. I would like to assess the image quality – later also in Samsung’s VR glasses Gear VR-and find out if you really do not see the seam of the images.
First of all pleasing: The live image of the camera can be easily controlled on the smartphone, from there I can also trigger and change settings. And: I can upload the material directly to my phone after recording and share it on the go – but a Samsung smartphone (Note 5, Galaxy S6 or S7) is necessary for this, with Apple’s iPhone, for example, the camera is not compatible so far.
Do not walk around the camera for the perfect picture
The result: The camera deals confidently with light and shadow on buildings and the face. I have positioned myself about a meter away from the camera, speak into the camera and can be seen well.
At close range, the image quality is good, the more distant house fronts, on the other hand, seem a bit muddy. As far as the seamless joining of the two pictures is concerned, I am not satisfied, you can see where the shots meet, in light and colors.
Where the so-called stitch lines run, you can also see once around the camera during my walk. However, this unpleasant effect was to be expected at a distance of about one meter. All camera manufacturers struggle with problems at close range at the borders of the individual images, in order to avoid this parallax effect, I would have to plan my motifs differently. Walking around the camera, so that should avoid who wants the perfect picture.
Interior shots with artificial light
In the second camera test, I want to see how the camera deals with less light, with artificial light inside rooms. In the video: Journalist students of the Axel Springer Academy, who are currently working on their final project “Scope Berlin”.
This test convinces, the camera gets along well here. Since the lighting is even, you won’t see the stitch line this time. The room is well depicted. Only when the journalist student rolls forward on the swivel chair can the cut edge of the two pictures be seen on his face. This would also be avoided by careful planning of the recording.
Outside in wind and movement
The first two video images are taken from a light tripod. This is always recommended for 360 ° videos. But now I want to test how the camera handles movement, attach it to a kind of selfie stick and walk a bit while the camera is running.
Since I carry the camera reasonably calmly, the result is acceptable. The orientation of the camera is important for such recordings. One of the fisheye lenses should be aimed at the person, the other directly forward. The sound is fine despite the wind in front of the Axel Springer house. I could not connect a microphone, there is no microphone input.
For people or objects near the camera, the images are good, in the range up to five meters. The further away, the more noticeable the difference from more professional solutions. When using six Gopro cameras that film in all directions, even more distant elements in the image are still very sharp. However, the workflow is then more complex and the price significantly higher.
At the end of my tests I would like to use the camera again. I put the tripod on my Vespa scooter and drive over the Oberbaumbrücke in Berlin.
Extreme work for Samsung’s “autostitching” solution that automatically merges both images. With another good result. However, the horizon is not always perfectly straight.
The lack of compatibility is cumbersome
What I do not like as a user of Apple devices: Even on the Mac computer, I can not easily edit the recordings. For PC users, Samsung offers the “Gear 360 Action Director” software, a cutting program for the 360 ° videos with a simple range of functions. Only an MP4 file edited with this software can I then continue to cut on the Mac with “Final Cut X” for example. That’s awkward.
The lack of compatibility is annoying for users who do not work on PCs and do not have current Samsung smartphones. But this should probably be a selling point for the product family. In the race for the best hardware and software for the virtual reality age, Samsung sets another exclamation point with the Gear 360.
What are your experiences with 360°video cameras? Write in the comment column or contact me on Twitter or Facebook!