I’m Surrounded

I just got the new Ricoh Theta S 360º camera. I’ve been playing with it and I’m super impressed. With a single click the dual fisheye lenses capture a 360º sphere instantly – no panning. The resulting images need to be stitched together with the provided Ricoh software, but the result is a crisp, pannable, fully spherical image that works anywhere.

Flattened version - click for full view
Flattened version – click for full view

That’s the flattened version – but it looks kind of weird. Ricoh has a site, Theta360.com, where you can upload the image via the Ricoh software. I can embed it from the 360 site, as well. Like so:

TWiT Brick House Studios, October 2015 #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


Even the camera is edited out, and there are no visible stitching lines or gaps. Pretty impressive. I plan to use it to take images of our new studio space as we build it out. (More on that later.)

I’m a little less happy with the job the Ricoh software does on video. The S is an HD camera and the unprocessed video is as crisp as the stills, but the stitching software softens it and the resulting video is less than crisp. The software works very quickly, and I’m thinking that it’s optimized for speed not quality. I’m hoping improved software written in in something better than Adobe Air will come out soon so these stitched videos can look as good as the originals. 

Here’s a still from the original video showing what the two cameras see…

And here’s the final stitched video, the first 15 minutes of the Tech Guy show from last Saturday. 

You can scroll around on a 2D screen with the arrow keys, but if you have a Google Cardboard viewer you can put yourself in my studio. On Android the full screen YouTube video follows your phone’s orientation, which means you can hold up your phone (vertically) and look around. That’s cool!

The only thing that irks me is the low quality of the video. The camera is much crisper than that, but even with the softer quality at $350 this camera is a definite buy for anyone who wants to easily create immersive photos and video. 

UPDATE: The camera supports live HDMI out of a mini-HDMI port on the bottom. We’ve tried it and it works. Now all we need is real-time stitching software and we could do TWiT in 360!