The hashtags #wanderlust and #happyfeet are taking people out and about, and our social feeds are full of travel photos and videos. A 360 degree camera, to paraphrase what Samsung claimed last night while launching the Gear 360, would bring the other person in #followmeto pictures and videos in the frame too. After all, why should anyone be chopped off from a frame if they love following you? Architecture and landscapes from a holiday are best seen in a panoramic view.
So the new Gear 360 sounds like a perfect holiday companion, doesn’t it? For some people (in fact, for most of the people), yes. For people like, us, however, it isn’t a simple choice. That’s primarily because our ‘holidays’ are far from calm and peaceful, and include things like jumping out of aircraft (with a parachute of course), diving with relatively harmless sharks or go dirt biking in the outback with dingoes and kangaroos.
So what makes the difference, in cameras that have comparable sensors and equally good image quality?
For the adventure
The biggest challenge any 360 camera, including the Gear 360, isn’t another 360 camera, but the indomitable GoPro. The GoPro is just an action camera, but it’s the action part of the action camera that caught the fancy of many travelers.
In our experience with the GoPro Hero 5, which we have mounted on every imaginable place on a motorcycle only because we know that it can take a fall, and comfortably used it under all weather conditions, without even so much giving a damn. It’s been to the Himalayas, under water in Goa, thrown around in Nagaland and much more.
The Gear 360 lacks the kind of rugged versatility that the GoPro offers. The Gear 360, for instance, offers only dust and splash resistance. The GoPro Hero 5, on the other hand, has water-resistance up to 10 metres, and you can also buy a dive housing if you want to go deeper. One of our older GoPros, a Hero 3, once came undone from the mount, fell on the road and under the wheels of a pickup truck. It was wearing the company supplied housing, and all it suffered from were a few scuffs on the casing. The camera was perfectly intact and fully functioning.
For the versatility
The GoPro’s mounting ecosystem and the form factor has given us a lot of versatility, allowing us to mount the GoPro just about everywhere on a motorcycle (and sometimes a bicycle). The Gear 360, on the other hand, has limited mounts. Sure, you can use third-party mounts which will make use of the tripod mounting socket, but going by experience, we’d always recommend original mounts for a lot of reasons.
So, when it comes to versatility, and the ease of usage in all the adventure-related scenarios, we are unlikely to replace the GoPro with a Gear 360.
For the convenience
So, why would one replace the GoPro with a Gear 360? The obvious answer is because one wants a 360 degree video. We would, however, consider replacing the GoPro with a Gear 360 because of live streaming capabilities. While both cameras, the Samsung Gear 360 and the GoPro Hero 5, can record in 4K resolution, the Samsung Gear 360 can also stream it live on to popular platforms like YouTube and Facebook. The GoPro can also stream live on Periscope and Livestream apps, but let’s face it, the reach on Facebook and YouTube is more personal and for users, it means higher viewing numbers.
The Samsung Gear 360 also offers the handy design philosophy where you can just whip it out of a pocket and start streaming live. We were talking about it with one of our old J-School professors, and he did mention that it would open up a lot of possibilities with journalism. He’s not wrong – for instance, the Gear 360 has the potential to change the way conflict is covered. The viewer will get a complete picture of what’s happening – a complete picture definitely reduces any “behind the camera bias.”
Having said all of that, one simply cannot deny the fact that the GoPro just glaringly lacks the basic advantage that the Gear 360 has over it – a 360 degree vision. Sure, GoPro offers a 360-degree solution, which is called the Omni, but that costs $5000 and contains 6 GoPro Hero cameras, so you can imagine how bulky and expensive that is going to be. At no point can we imagine an apparatus like that mounted on top of our motorcycle helmets while riding on the race track (or for that matter anywhere else).
So what happens when people, who feel very deeply for bicycles and motorcycles and will swear by them for the rest of our lives, want the same kind of versatility and ruggedness of a GoPro but all-around vision from the Gear 360 as well? Unless GoPro releases a 360-degree product (that’s more amateur-consumer-friendly) or Samsung decides to give the Gear 360 a rugged makeover, there’s just one alternative – we can use both of these cameras. When the going gets tough, we can rely on the GoPro Hero 5, and when it comes to shooting picturesque landscapes in 360-degree video, we can quickly take out the Samsung Gear 360 and clip it on. As long as it’s not raining.
Yes, we will have to give up on the live streaming functionality on the GoPro Hero 5 as of now (the company might add it later). That may not be a bad thing after all, because we do have the occasional tumble, which, frankly looks very embarrassing, what with us rolling all awry over the terrain. It’s okay folks, you can watch the edited footage of our amazing rides. They’re better.