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Taking the whole picture with Ricoh Theta

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Did you ever feel like you were missing something when you took your photo. Like maybe your lens wasn’t wide enough? Well, unless you are shooting with a 360-degree camera, you are missing something…actually you’re missing a lot.

Ricoh can fix that with their new Theta360. This is the most elegant way of shooting 360’s that I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. In the past, I’ve shoot multiple frames and tried stitching them together with a varied degrees of success. I’ve also tried the panning and spinning technique which is a problem holding level horizons. With the Ricoh Theta, it’s one press of the shutter and it’s done. Couldn’t be simpler.

For this magic to work, the camera has two semi-spherical lenses – one on either side of its slender case. The shutter fires both lenses simultaneously and instantly stitches the results together into an interactive panorama that you can zoom and spin to your heart’s content.

A free app for your smartphone connects wirelessly to the camera for both remote shutter and for reviewing the photos. The camera is too thin for an LCD, so without the app, you wouldn’t know what you captured.

A few tips

I think the camera works best when placed on a tripod, a table or something central to the scene you want captured. Since each lens captures a full 180 degrees, if you are holding the camera, your fingers and your arm are going to be in the picture. By placing it on the train layout in this photo, I was able to remotely trigger it from my phone and not have any distractions at the table level.

[click here for sample 360 photo]

On extremely bright days, you might notice a difference in exposure from side to side when the two pictures are merged together. The only way to counter this is to try and make sure your focal point of interest is centered on one of the lenses, so the sky or background will be consistent over the most important part of the scene. (A new firmware upgrade improved this on May 24.)

[click here for sample 360 photo]

And yes, you can edit the files in Photoshop and then load them to the Theta server, so you can add text, logos, or whatever else you need.

[click here for sample 360 photo]

Buy a sunroof for your car! This is so much fun, that you’ll want to take pictures everywhere. The scenes can be amazing, so get a Theta360 and have fun.

[click here for sample 360 photo]

Doug Bardwell, based in Cleveland, OH, writes about interesting new photography topics across the country and around the world at DougBardwell.com. Feel free to drop him a line at travel.dougbardwell@gmail.com with suggestions for future stories. To get his stories delivered to your inbox, click the RSS feed or the "Subscribe"

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