I love my Samsung Gear 360 but I feel like the software family surrounding it is not quite there yet to make it an enjoyable experience. If you only ever take one or two photos and then share them raw to facebook, you’ll find it’s great. However, if you’ve been very snap happy and want to sort through your photos and maybe even edit them, it’s a rather frustrating experience.
The prime thing about a 360 photo (and video) from Gear 360 is that it needs to be stitched – the two images from fisheye lenses need to be glued together into the one 360 image. I only know of two methods to do that (other than manually which seems insanely time-consuming!). The first is using a Samsung phone with the Samsung Gear 360 Manager installed. When you try to view or download a picture from your camera on the phone, it will start by stitching. For photos, it’s surprisingly quick but still takes a long time when you’re processing a lot of photos. You also can’t really use your phone during this time either. Given a phone is doing the stitching, the result is actually pretty good. The stitched images are then saved to the phone, which you can then transfer/share as you want.
The other option is Action Director. Action Director is the software provided by Cyberlink, on behalf of Samsung for 360 video editing. Compared to the fully fledged video editing software from Cyberlink, Action Director is a pain to work with (that’s not to say that the full-fledged software is actually good either). It also doesn’t actually allow you to edit photos. It does, however, stitch the photos on import. I’ve not spent a great deal of time comparing the stitched versions between the phone or Action Director on the PC. Given Samsung had a hand in both, I assume there’s a similar algorithm stitching both.
Once it’s been stitched – Action Director becomes useless for photos. You can edit 360 photos on a Samsung device, by installing the Samsung 360 editor from the Samsung App Store – this will add a basic editor into the gallery (the standard Samsung gallery – not the 360 Gear Manager gallery). This allows you to do filtering, minor tweaks and stickers (useful for stickering over tripods/disfigured hands). It’s rather fiddly and slow though and doesn’t give you any indication of which photos you’ve already edited / whichs are edits themselves – I suppose you could make copies and edit those, then deleted the unedited ones. But that sounds like a faff. The phone is definitely not the place to be doing this kind of thing.
With most of my photos I want to only do a few quick things – correct the tilt and align the horizon, slight colour correction and tripod/hand covering. PhotoDirector from Cyberlink claims to be fairly decent for 360 photos having added it in the latest version. So far though, it’s not looking promising. I’ve downloaded my 400 raw 360 photos from my phone. I’ve imported them into Action Director so that it creates a stitched version. Then I’ve imported those stitched versions into my current trial of PhotoDirector. For some reason, about half have flipped upside down! They look fine at first, and seem to be okay. Then they randomly get flipped in the gallery. Something about the photo has made PhotoDirector decide that up is down and down is up.
I have yet to find any software that is free / reasonably priced for just a hobbyist (I’m sure Adobe Photoshop is a pure wizard at this!) and can do a decent job of processing / tweaking the 360 photos in a way that isn’t overly tedious.
I accept that they will always have to be stitched. The importing it into Action Director to get the stitched output is fairly painless and acceptable – you can batch import a folder, and it will just create a stitched version of the ones it hasn’t seen yet. Samsung just hasn’t provided a decent way to handle what comes next.
I hope I find a way I can really process my 360 photos because I have so many memories that I can wait to share (and quite a few I’d like to make sure are deleted forever!)
I’d like to end with one of my favourite 360’s from Barcelona. It shows just how much I love my camera…. and how everyone else felt about it! (Really not a flattering photo but look how happy I am!)
Do you have a decent solution for managing, processing and editing your Samsung Gear 360 Photos? Let me know!