Ricoh Theta Fun
In November 2015 I came into possession of a freshly released Ricoh's Theta S 360 panoramic camera. Best gift ever! I've been tracking the progress of panoramic cameras on my panoramic cameras page and this camera is my favorite... an elegant design and the one I've been watching most closely! It retails for $350, and for such a cheap device it takes great 12 MP photos, a tiny bit grainy but forgivable for the price.
Fun with Ricoh Theta
The great thing about this camera is that it takes interval shots and you can use it to map the world on Google maps. Below are some fun photos of me exploring different methods to capture the world.
Bike Helmet (good for biking)
- About: So turns out you can wedge the theta nicely into those little slots on the top of your bike helmet!
- Pros: No assembly required. Great for capturing biking trail - just put on interval shooting. :)
- Cons: Looks ~30% dorky, but I see other people with weird helmets, so not so bad.
Backpack (good for hikes)
- About: This is using the selfie stick I mentioned... plus a nice backpack and a hard cover file folder to keep it stead. I found this was steady enough - didn't even need fancy adhesives.
- Pros: Great hiking option - hands free... like the trekker but light weight.
- Cons: 15% dorky.
Selfie Stick only (good for around the house and selective photos)
- About: I bought this $15 selfie stick and was pretty happy.
- Pros: Versatility. The end rotates, so you can stick it into interesting places and still have it upright. Also, it retracts to very short, so I could actually keep it in the pocket of my jacket while not using it. Good for taking selective shots - choosing when to take the pics on a hike.
- Cons: 20% dorky. Embarassement of using a selfie stick.
Silly Hats (good for looking silly only)
- About: Enough said.
- Pros: None really.
- Cons: 100% dorky. Also, the had obscured most of the view.... I needed to elevate it higher, but really refused. :)
- About: The best photospheres are often taken from an overlook, so why not just from the sky. "Aerial panos" we call them. I noticed immediately with the theta that it's fairly light - only 125g... and I wondered how many balloons it might take to lift. My calculations suggested only 14... which didn't seem right, but I went to an amazing balloon store in Mountain View (sadly it's not on Google maps yet, but [here's the address) and ordered 2 dozen balloons for < $20. And I had liftoff! I went to the Googleplex to take some aerial panos. I did it on a day when it looked like there was fairly low wind, but I discovered that even a little bit of wind makes the balloons really difficult! I was fine between buildings, but out in the open the wind push my string all the way down to the ground.
Now why balloons you ask? Why not a drone?
Well.. drones are cool, don't get me wrong, but (a) I don't own one and (b) there are massive flight restrictions on drones! Most places it illegal, national parks, silicon valley, and anywhere near an airport. Even in places where drones are legal, there are height restrictions to 300 feet usually. The nature of drones - you can lose control. Balloons however, to the best of my knowledge, are tethered and therefore fine. Basically I'm just like a guy carrying balloons around... except they happen to be on 100 (measured) feet of fishing line and a Theta attached. Real shame about the wind! Still a fun day... and it was just before Valentines day, so I got to reuse the balloons for my date. ;-)
- Pros: Super fun, awesome shots from the sky.
- Cons: At the mercy of the wind.
So what can you do with this camera?
Aside from just taking photos, I highly recommend pairing it to the Google StreetView mobile app (available on both Android and IOS). This allows you to take and upload photos to Google Maps directly! Of course you can also do this by uploading photos to Google Photos, but this mobile map makes it easy.
So now you know about interval mode, and that it uploads to maps... what's from stopping you from making your own Street View path of your favorite hike, bike trail, or a virtual tour of your house. Not much!
Here's some fun I had trying different methods. Hope it inspires you to be creative too.
The selfie stick I bought was a nice little $15 Gorilla Gear selfie stick from Amazon which is great because it just has the screw mount and can rotate to any angle. I'm embarrassed to admit I now own a selfie stick, but at least it was for taking panos, not selfies. :)
So what are the actual specs of the Theta?
For official specs see the theta website, but take look at this sample pano I took and uploaded to maps. Here's a sample video from the theta S from a drone. The videos not great, but still a fun feature.
- Panoramic cameras - info about a bunch of other panoramic cameras.
- Panoramic photography - bit different from my definition.