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Real-world photo comparison: 2017 Samsung Gear 360 vs. Ricoh Theta S

Photo comparison between 2017 Samsung Gear 360 and Ricoh Theta S
Photo comparison between 2017 Samsung Gear 360 and Ricoh Theta S

Here are comparison photos between the Ricoh Theta S and the 2017 Samsung Gear 360.

The Ricoh Theta S is currently the most popular 360 camera on the market by a very wide margin (even if you only look at recent sales and not historic sales).  The Ricoh Theta S was released in 2015 but remains one of my favorite 360 cameras for 360 photos.  It has the best manual controls, the best stitching among 360 cameras, and it’s easy to hold and use.  However, it has low resolution videos (1920 x 960).

The 2017 Samsung Gear 360 appears to be aiming squarely for the Theta.  It has a shape that’s easy to hold and use and excellent stitching.  It doesn’t have the Theta’s manual controls but that won’t matter to many casual users.  With high resolution video (4096 x 2048), 2017 Gear 360 could effectively become the “4K Theta” that everyone has been waiting for, at $100 less than the Theta’s MSRP.

On paper, the 2017 Gear 360 has a similar photo resolution to the Theta, but can the 2017 Gear 360 match the Theta’s photo quality?  I will still be putting together the ultimate 360 camera comparison test (with 12 cameras so far) but in the meantime, here are real world comparison shots between these two cameras.

Please note the Theta’s aperture is f/2 and the resolution is 5376 x 2688.  The 2017 Gear 360’s aperture is f/2.2 and the resolution is 5472 x 2736.

The exposures were:
1. Kids’ library:
Theta: 1/100 ISO 200.
Gear 360: 1/100 ISO 125
The difference in ISO may account for the significantly lower highlight range of the Theta in this shot.

2. Kids’ computers:
Theta: 1/50 ISO 100.
Gear 360: 1/50, ISO 125.
This is the shot with the most similar exposure between the two cameras.

3. Jellyfish ceiling:
Theta: 1/640, ISO 100.
Gear 360: 1/320, ISO 100

4. Window with shattered glass:
Theta: 1/640, ISO 100
Gear 360: 1/320, ISO 100.

Note that although the photos look like they have the same exposure, the Theta consistently is about 1EV lower in exposure than the Gear 360.  I’ve noticed this in other comparison shots between the Theta and other 360 cameras.  My hypothesis is that the Theta underexposes to avoid blowing highlights then increases the exposure during the processing to normalize the exposure.  But I don’t know this for sure.

In the meantime, what do you think so far?

About the author

Mic Ty


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  • HI Michael,

    I am not sure is this right or wrong, from what I saw most of the 360° cameras in the market, 90 to 95% of them are 2 lenses with 200°+, and most of them have to use either computer or mobile device to do the stitching, we call ” back-end image process”, this means, the device did not have computer power to do the real-time stitching.

    Most of them will put the word “Real-Time view” but after you saw it on the smartphone, it is two fish eyes view, not after stitching. in fact, it is not real-time!

    I think, for now, the current 360° camera product just like the camera product, there have an entry, middle and PRO level, the 2 eyes 360° cameras in the market, most of them are entry level. 3 or 4 lenses 360° cameras, should be between entry to the middle, more than 5 to 6 lens, it should be the middle level, and so on.

    For the stitching, I think we have at least 2 technical teams about it, here it is

    1. On-Chip real time stitching, this is real real-time, it means the device have hardware build in stitching, not base on software.
    2. Back-end real-time stitching, this is most common use for current 2 eyes 360° cameras.

    please let me know if you have any advice about it.

    Thank you
    best regards

    • Hi John. I’m not sure I understand your question. The 2017 Gear 360 does not have in-camera stitching. Photos and videos are stitched on the phone or desktop. But the live view in the phone is fully spherical, and it has wireless live streaming.

      Best regards,

      • hi Michael,

        please see the link in below

        it wrote “The camera still records in H.265 format, which enjoys better support today than it did a year ago, but when you transfer video to your phone it’s automatically stitched and converted to the better-supported H.264 format”

        when most current 2 eyes cameras take video is not stitching, they have to use a software to stitching, not a real-time stitching.


        • Hi John. Thank you for the link to PCMag. The new Gear 360 stitching is like the old one. On the Micro SD card, it is double fisheye. But if you save the video or photo to your phone it becomes stitched at the same time that it saves. The difference is that the new Gear 360 can stitch 4K on a phone like the S6 (the original one required an S7). Does that answer your question?

          Best regards,

  • Hi Mic,

    Very excited to hear that you will do this mega camera comparison test when all the usual suspects are there. As I wrote earlier, I’m not so much into video but rather hoping to make Photosphere still photos (you recommended the Theta and it looks sharp and colorful yet not too saturated).
    I do see some artifacts in the pictures, don’t know if it’s my computer or the 360 degree player that’s acting up or even the camera (the latter probably not).

    Maybe it’s too much work, because there are 12 cameras to be rigged, but I’m still hoping you could do at least one picture on a monopod or selfiestick without you in the frame to see how it copes with the bottom of the photo (how far the legs of the tri/monopod stick out into view).

    I hope I can make a final decision on which camera to buy based on your still photos (assuming I can buy them here in the Netherlands, or 4 months from now when I’m vacationing in Oregon).


    • Hi Marc. When I do my test I will definitely use a monopod with tripod legs. For photos, in my opinion the Gear 360 looks better than the Theta, although the Theta has the advantage of manual controls and a shutter speed as slow as 60 seconds. Have fun on your vacation!

      Best regards,

  • Thank you for the test pictures. I have a Theta S with my iPhone. I am interested Samsung Gear 360 2017 because now supported iPhone too. But seems like I stay with my Theta S, new Gear 360 not really better. I like more Theta S pictures.