Businesses have been known to pay thousands of dollars to have 360-degree spherical pictures taken of their premises, to allow their prospective clients to take virtual tours of business facilities.
It is a long and complicated process, as the cameras need to be rotated 360 degrees to take pictures at every angle. The pictures are then stitched together in post-processing.
Now, there is an easier option with the Ricoh Theta m15. And all you have to do is hit the shutter release.
Just 12.9cm long and 2.3cm thick, the Theta m15 has a slim body with a fish-eye lens on both its front and back.
The two lenses work together to capture a 360-degree shot when you press the shutter-release button on the front (with the Ricoh logo facing you).
The Power and Wi-Fi buttons are on one side of the camera. A micro-USB port at the base lets you charge the device as well as transfer images to your computer via a USB connection. Also here is a tripod-mount slot.
There is no memory-card slot. Instead, you have to rely on the 4GB built-in memory to store the pictures and videos you take.
While it is quite easy to take a still image, it is more complicated to shoot a video. First, before you switch on the camera, hold down the Wi-Fi button. Then press the Power button. You can then press the shutter-release button to start video-recording. Press again to end.
If you are holding the Theta in your hand, you will always be in the picture. While great for selfie lovers, this is not ideal if it is your surroundings that you want to capture.
The better option is to shoot remotely using the Ricoh Theta app (Android and iOS).
Sync your smartphone to the camera via Wi-Fi and start the app. You need to use the app to view and transfer the 360-degree stills which are on your smartphone.
Also use the app to switch from Auto to ISO priority and Shutter priority shooting modes.
To shoot and view 360-degree videos, you will need to download and install the Ricoh Theta software (Windows and Mac).
You can also use the same software to view the stills.
The software lets you post the 360-degree pictures and videos on theta360.com. You have to log in to theta360.com with either your Facebook or Twitter account.
Once your pictures are hosted on theta360.com, your friends can view and interact with these 360-degree pictures without the need to use a special app or software.
While these images and videos are fun, it has to be said that the image quality is not very good.
Purple fringing appears when an image is shot in bright sunlight. Noise artefacts can already be seen at low sensitivity settings, such as ISO 200. Videos are also visibly pixelated.
The battery should be good for about 200 still images, which would be average for a regular compact digital camera.
Then again, you can always use a power bank to charge the Theta.
- The Ricoh Theta m15 may be a one-trick pony, but the ease with which it takes 360-degree spherical pictures and videos is unmatched in the market.
Lens: 360-degree spherical
Sensitivity: ISO 100 - ISO 1,600
Value for money: 4/5
Battery life: 3/5
This article was first published on Feb 11, 2015.
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