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Old July 19th, 2016, 06:02 PM   #1
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Review of the Offical US Version of the Samsung Gear 360

I received the US version of the Gear 360 camera yesterday. The price was $349, and I got it from Samsung via a special promotion. I did not get any discount, although I did receive (surprise) a free 32 GB microsd card. There was a promotion that would give me the camera for free, but it seemed to create obligations to post and use social media.

This will be a review that will be updated as I learn more. I have already learned some things that are not evident from almost all reviews on the web, and I have seen a lot of reviews. I used the camera in conjunction with the Samsung Galaxy S7.

Here is what I have learned so far:

Video (3840x1920):

1. The original file produced in the camera is H265, at 32 Mbps. H265 gives approximately the same quality as H264 at double the bitrate, so the clips are approximately equivalent to about 64 Mbps H264 (about what the GoPro shoots in 4K).

2. When you save the file on the camera to the device (Samsung Galaxy S7) you get a stitched 360 file (equirectangular) that is H264, with a bitrate of 61 Mbps. The audio is AAC 192 kbps, at 48Hz.

3. You can also trim the video on the phone *losslessly.* You choose what part of the clip you want and then the phone software creates a new H264 file with no re-compression, almost instantaneously.

4. You can also create a stitched file using the free Action Director software on the PC. Take the unstitched video files from the microsd card and load them on the PC.

But - wait for it - the stitched file the PC software creates is half the bitrate of the one produced on the phone: 32 Mbps H264 (not H265), and the audio is also at a lower bitrate, 128 kbps at 48Hz. So, it produces a lower quality video. And there are no options that I could find to change how it stitches (it is automatic).

Who knows how the videos you see uploaded to the web from the Samsung Gear 360 were produced - from the PC or from the phone? If the former, people are not seeing the best the camera can do.

Video and stills:

The S7 will also stitch the camera stills, producing a 7776x3888 equirectangular jpeg still. This is higher still resolution than the Theta S and the dual Kodak 360 K.

Here is a still, in 360 mode (scrollable)

https://kuula.co/post/7fy6d

Here is a 360 video clip from the same place, trimmed on the phone:


Select 2160p for viewing for the best resolution regardless of the resolution of your viewing device.
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Old July 20th, 2016, 07:10 AM   #2
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Re: Review of the Offical US Version of the Samsung Gear 360

Very interesting. My second shooter got one a couple weeks ago from overseas (ordered on Ebay) and is using it with his older Galaxy phone (s6 I think)... he's traveling all around out west with it this week doing videos, headed to the grand canyon eventually. The stuff he's shot so far looks pretty good.
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Old July 20th, 2016, 09:17 AM   #3
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Re: Review of the Offical US Version of the Samsung Gear 360

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kyle Root View Post
Very interesting. My second shooter got one a couple weeks ago from overseas (ordered on Ebay) and is using it with his older Galaxy phone (s6 I think)... he's traveling all around out west with it this week doing videos, headed to the grand canyon eventually. The stuff he's shot so far looks pretty good.
I believe that the S6 cannot stitch a 4K video (processor). So must use the computer program, and get lower quality.
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Old July 20th, 2016, 05:25 PM   #4
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Action Director Stitch versus S7 Stitch


AD stitch first.
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Old July 29th, 2016, 07:46 AM   #5
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Re: Review of the Offical US Version of the Samsung Gear 360

What is your opinion of the Samsung VR video quality versus your Kodak video? Could you compare ease of use and other details between the Samsung and the Kodak also?

Thanks for sharing Mark!
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Old July 29th, 2016, 09:12 AM   #6
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Comparison with the dual Kodak 360 4K's

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Originally Posted by Dan Brockett View Post
What is your opinion of the Samsung VR video quality versus your Kodak video? Could you compare ease of use and other details between the Samsung and the Kodak also?

Thanks for sharing Mark!
The Samsung is more fun to use - you can take it and its included little tripod anywhere, though given its bulbous shape it is not pocketable. Since you have your phone (S7) anyway, you are always ready to take a video or still.

It is also nice that you can see the complete panorama on the phone, and you can start and stop from pretty far away (being far away is necessary if you do not want to be in the shot).

The in-camera stitching is very good - there are no odd artifacts, but one important one - the color from the two sensors is often different. This makes the stitch line conspicuous, since there is a line at which the color tone changes. Does not happen all the time, but not infrequently either. I am told that this can be corrected in those expensive ($1,000) stitching programs. But that completely removes the fun.

There is one other caveat: the Samsung can overheat, and when it does it loses focus, resulting in one or the other part of the shot being soft. This will happen occasionally. The Kodaks can also overheat, but when they do, they shut down. That turns out to be a better outcome than having shots ruined by the sensor or other parts becoming too hot. The GoPros also degrade the video before shutting down when they get hot.

You do have to move the shots from the phone to your computer if you want to do further edits or merges of clips. You can trim clips losslessly on the phone, as I mentioned.

The Gear 360 stills are great. The 360 video is noticeably lower resolution than the Kodaks, however. And you need all the resolution you can get for 360 video, given one views just a slice of the panorama up close at a time.

For the Kodaks - the package is bulkier and it is not fun loading two sd cards into the computer, but the Kodak software is easy to use, synchs well, and gives you complete control of the stitch (and there is also auto stitch, which is usually fine). You can trim the clips and merge them losslessly.

Using the Kodaks is like using GoPros. You do not have a view of what the camera sees, but it turns out this is irrelevant, since it sees everything - there is no real framing issue. The key point is the 360 video is the best you can get, and maybe better than the kits with multiple GoPros, given the need to work with multiple stitches.

One more point: the biggest hazard for these 360 cameras is scratching the bulbous lenses, from a fall or just from anything. The Kodak kit comes with clear lens protectors, and two spares! If you do experience a fall that ruins the lens protector, you just screw on another. The Samsung lens has a protector also, but it does not appear to be removable and getting a replacement is not obvious. For the Theta S, you scratch the lens, you are out of luck as nothing is replaceable or removeable.
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