Are you interested in a 360 degree camera but don’t know how they actually work? Read on as we explain 360 degree camera mechanisms, benefits, and disadvantages, as well as their unique charm, giving you all the knowledge you need to choose the right one for you.

What is a 360 degree camera? What’s the special feature?

Simply put, a 360 degree camera is a camera that can shoot all the scenery and space that surrounds it.

 ▼Try moving the image around in any direction!▼

Feature: It can capture 360 degrees in every direction, in one photo or video.

Mechanism: Equipped with two wide-angle lenses that can shoot 180 degrees or more, each lens shoots at the same time, and the camera stitches the images together automatically to generate complete 360-degree photos and videos.

Since its launch in 2013, RICOH THETA has been called an “omnidirectional camera.” What has made it unique is that it automatically performs image stitching which allows you to shoot 360-degree photos in one shot.

*To create 360-degree images, it’s also possible to take multiple images and stitch them together yourself, which requires special knowledge and skills.

However, with THETA you can create 360 images with literally ‘one shot.’ It is not necessary to move the camera such as in the case of panoramic photos on smartphones.

What makes a 360 degree camera fun to use?

Not only DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, but even smartphones can take surprisingly high-quality photos these days. So, what are the benefits of using a 360 degree camera?

Record realistic images and memories as if you were there

The big difference between DSLRs/smartphones and 360 cameras is that 360 degree cameras capture the entire space in all directions instead of cutting out a part of the space.

It’s fun to look back at the photos with your family and friends, but it’s even more exciting and realistic if the photos are showing the full 360 degree view of the scene, as if you were really there.

Some good points of 360 degree photos:

・ You can relive your memories in detail, such as trips or big events like weddings.

・ You might discover moments that happened behind you that you didn’t notice at the time.

・ You can take a picture of everyone at a lunch or dinner party.

・ Daily life and casual moments like time with your kids at home or just family gatherings will come to life in 360 degree images when you look back at them years later.

*A 360-degree photo after editing

It is difficult to capture the entire space in one shot even with the latest smartphones or a DSLR with a wide-angle lens.

A major advantage of 360 degree cameras is being able to shoot the space all around you and to look back at it in a more immersive way.

No need to worry about composition and camera settings

When taking a picture with a camera such as a DSLR, it’s necessary to think about composition in a square frame, as well settings like zoom, focus, exposure, and so on. Of course, that’s one of the fun parts about cameras, but if you are not used to handling a camera, you might miss once in a lifetime moments.

The 360-degree camera does not have the restriction or the idea of a frame in composition because it records the surroundings all at once, in every direction. So, you don’t have to worry about composition like you would when using a regular camera. In addition, 360 cameras use auto exposure as well as pan focus, which means the entire scene is in focus. So, there is no need for special knowledge or operating the camera with dials or rings. By simply pressing one shutter button, you can automatically take the best picture with the best camera settings.

Whether you’re taking a group photo or a selfie, just turn on the power and press the shutter. The compact design allows one-handed shooting without operating any additional settings. Everything around you can be shot in one click, quickly and conveniently getting everything and everyone in the shot.

For those who have small children or who want to capture memories on a trip or outdoors, it is good to have a 360 degree camera so you can shoot without worrying about composition or settings, and also keep one hand free.

RICOH THETA offers mobility, a compact and easy-to-shoot design, and auto exposure so that you can fully experience the features and charm of the 360-degree camera!  

Fun to edit 360-degree images

After you enjoy taking 360 degree images, you can have more fun editing them.

Of course, it’s possible to trim and crop what you want from the full 360 degree image.

RICOH THETA provides a dedicated editing app called THETA+, which allows you to edit and export 360-degree photos in various styles, such as mirror ball, little planet, twin screen, flat, and straight.

Editing itself is fun and lets you create so many kinds of photos with different impressions from one 360 shot.

Ex. Two versions of the same photo with Little Planet

Weaknesses and disadvantages of a 360 camera

Although a 360 camera can be useful in any scene, it does come with some disadvantages in its mechanism that should be considered before purchasing.

The photographer appears in images

In some cases it’s prefered to take a 360 photo for the purpose of recording places in high-quality or archival images. These photos should not include the photographer, so it may be considered a weak point that the photographer will appear in the image when shooting with a 360 degree camera unless special measures are taken.

Time Shift Shooting

However, there is a solution!

RICOH THETA has the following methods to keep the photographer out of frame.

・ Remote shutter in the smartphone app

・ Use the self-timer function and hide yourself

・ Time difference shooting with the plug-in function (THETA V and Z1)

Shooting with Time Shift Shooting

360 images without the photographer are often used for business purposes such as property shots on real estate websites and reference images for construction work.

Shooting in the self-timer mode

Our top 3 recommended plug-ins for RICOH THETA「Time Shift Shooting」

Cannot zoom

THETA does not have the zoom function.

A 360 camera is suitable for capturing the entire space. You can of course crop images later, but it’s not meant for capturing distant objects in high definition. For this purpose optical zoom lenses are optimal.

You won’t regret it! Tips for choosing a 360 camera

In addition to RICOH THETA, other 360-degree cameras are available on the market.

Here, we’ll give you some points to keep in mind when choosing a 360 camera for the first time.

Clarify the desired function for your purpose

First, think carefully about what kind of camera you need based on your shooting purpose and environment. By clarifying the purpose and the picture you want to take, you’ll know which camera you need. In some cases, a wearable camera with a wide-angle lens may be better than a 360 camera.

・ Field of view: do you want to capture the full 360 degrees or is a wide angle or ultra-wide angle lens sufficient?

・ Location: waterproof and dustproof features are also required when using the camera outdoors, as well as in or near water.

・ Usability: do you prefer to hold a camera by hand, or do you want to shoot while doing sports or other activities that require you to keep your hands free. Also, consider what kinds of accessories, such as selfie sticks, are available.

・ Camera performance: what kind of camera performance do you require for your purpose? For example, if you want to save memories with family and friends, or you want to create and publish works of art, or you want to shoot the starry night sky, and so on. All of these applications will require varying levels of image quality and camera performance.

・ Editing: how do you want to edit? Do you need special applications or RAW editing support?

And so on.

With RICOH THETA, we have multiple models allowing you to choose the right one depending on your usage case and needs.

Our standard model, called THETA SC2, comes in 4 colors and is recommended for those who want to enjoy 360 degree shooting with ease. Our flagship model is called THETA Z1 and is recommended for production work with its large image sensor and lens, as well as RAW shooting capability.

We also have a wide range of accessories such as selfie sticks and cases for your everyday shooting, accessories for activities outdoors, and also an underwater housing, TW-1 for THETA V and SC that can be used for diving.

Fun to connect to your smartphone

Many 360 cameras allow connecting to a smartphone which allows shooting, viewing, and editing 360 degree images.

The functionality of the app is another point to consider when choosing a 360 degree camera.

RICOH THETA has the following apps and software available:

・ Basic app (for smartphones): shoot, view, and share spherical images

・ Editing app (for smartphones): edit captured spherical images

・ App for PC: convert, view, and share captured spherical images

If you use the app, the RICOH THETA world will become even more exciting

Good portability and operability

Since you will have one more item to carry around, it is important to think carefully about the usability and portability of a 360 camera.

・ Quick to activate; is it easy to use immediately when you want to shoot?

・ Compact and lightweight; is it small and light enough to keep it in your bag or pocket?

・ Design, texture, color variation; does the camera make you want to use it?

Try it out before you buy!

360 degree cameras have a unique charm that other cameras cannot provide. If you are interested in a 360 degree camera, please try one out and experience the exciting moment of actually pressing the shutter and seeing it really capture 360 degrees in all directions!

For more details, please visit the product page.

Credit: Shawna Rodgers, @minatymom103, Yohei Sawamura