It's starting to look like Samsung's Gear 360 camera might be one of the best you can buy.
A good photosphere or 360-degree photo is mostly about the stitching. Done right, these photos can take you to another place and time, allowing you to see the whole area as it was captured in that moment, instead of just a planned window into that space. There's more to see, more to explore, and the act of doing so is just plain fun as long as there aren't messy lines or jagged edges to pull you back to reality. When dealing with 360-degree cameras that take pictures with multiple sensors, it's hard to avoid distortion when connecting those two images.
One of the big questions we've had about the Gear 360 is how well Samsung handles the stitch between the two cameras. While we've not yet been able to wander around and take photos with a Gear 360 of our own, some early shots we've found make it look like Samsung may be preparing to release one of the most capable 360-degree cameras under $500.
We've seen the early, early prototype video from Casey Neistat at the Oscars. While it was made abundantly clear that his video wasn't a final version of the software, things didn't look too bad. There's a clear stitching line in a lot of the scenes, but overall the quality was decent. Things have improved a bit since then, and while we don't have new videos from Neistat to compare, we've got some decent photos to look at.
T-Mobile's Des Smith has been rocking a Gear 360 for a little while now, and his Flickr page has a healthy collection of photos from multiple 360-degree cameras to get a general quality compare with. As you can see in the photo above, the stitch line combining the two images is practically nonexistent. The only visual distortion is at the very top and bottom of the image, which is common in all 360-degree photos.
Another issue commonly seen with dual-sensor 360-degree cameras is the massive difference in things like ISO when one side of the camera is facing the sun and another side is not. You wind up with this weird dividing line in the sky when only one sensor has to compensate for all of the extra light or dark. The Gear 360 seems to handle this as well as can be expected, revealing little more than lens flare to let you know these are actually two different pictures.
While there's still quite a bit to be done in the way of testing with this camera, it's starting to look more and more like Samsung and Ricoh are going to be fiercely competitive when it comes to camera quality and overall features when the Gear 360 launches later this year. And we might well here more about that at this week's Samsung DevCon in San Francisco. Stay tuned for more!