Recently, I got a chance to play with the Samsung Gear 360 thanks to a Streetview loan from Google. I’ve had the Ricoh Theta S for a while and love it. The only drawback is that it only shoots 1920×1080 video, which doesn’t look good with 360 videos. The Samsung Gear 360 shoots 4k, so I thought it would be a better camera.

It was not.

In any way, shape or form.

Ok, it shoots 4k, that’s the only way, shape or form.

Form factor is horrible because it’s a ball and hard to hold and use. Luckily, this has been fixed for the 2017 version. The Gear 360 app is horrible. Terrible. Atrocious. It takes forever to stitch photos and video. If you attempt to do it all from the phone, it actually won’t give you a 4k video, meaning you need a desktop solution. If you’re a Mac user, just go cry yourself a river, because most of the desktop (and mobile solutions) are garbage.

The dual independent lenses on the Gear 360 create 2 stitch points, which given its form factor, really make shooting anything within 6 feet of the camera difficult. Also, because they act independently, you get different exposure on each one depending on the lighting.

With the Ricoh Theta S, if you shoot a picture with the app, when it captures, it automatically stitches and saves to your phone. It takes maybe 2-3 seconds, whereas the Gear takes upwards of 10 seconds and doesn’t stitch or save to the phone. The Ricoh app saves what you shot, how you shot it, to your phone and makes mobile uploads easy.

Instead of 2 independent lenses, the dual lenses on the Ricoh Theta S act as one and give you even lighting throughout the image. Also, because it’s slimmer than the Gear 360, its stitching is minimal and allows for things to be closer to the camera and not get lost.

All in all, I was thrilled to send back the Gear 360 because I couldn’t really do anything with it. I have an Android phone, but because I’m a Mac user, I couldn’t really get much out of the camera. The process of getting this 360 review stitched, to a Mac, edited and then to YouTube took about 8 hours of copying, stitching, copying, formatting…you get the picture. The only plus I give the Gear is it shoots 4k, outside of that, the camera isn’t worth it. I’ll stick with my Ricoh.

Both companies have new versions coming out in 2017. The Gear 360 is already out and you can see where they’ve changed the form factor to make it easier to hold and stand up. Many newer 360 cameras have adopted this as well, so at least Samsung learned there. The Gear 360 app that I used before I sent the camera back to Google was the updated one that works with the Gear 360 2017, so that’s not very promising at all.

Ricoh’s 2017 model, I spoke with them at NAB this year, is supposed to have 4k video or better and offer spatial audio. Given the growing amount of contenders prosumer in the 360 camera market( GoPro and YI Technology, specifically), Ricoh may need to do more than that to stay in this race. Give the price point, ease of use, app support, and quality, as of now, the Ricoh Theta S is still my favorite, but we’ll see what the rest of 2017 holds.

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