RICOH THETA can capture the entire view in 360 degrees. Of course, the appeal of such images varies from person to person.
We interviewed photographer Yoshiki Fujiwara, and asked him what he likes about the flagship model RICOH THETA Z1 that he currently uses for his work.
THETA Z1 and Yoshiki Fujiwara
A photographer and his THETA
You have taken many wonderful photographs in nature around the world, Mr. Fujiwara. Please share with us how you became a photographer.
Originally I was a pro snowboarder but I injured myself and had to retire. After that, I spent two years traveling around the world, as well as all over Japan, and I wanted to take pictures of all the beautiful scenery I encountered. That was my impetus for buying a serious SLR camera for the first time.
The moment I became really absorbed in the camera was in Yakushima. When I took a picture of the flowing river, I noticed that by adjusting the shutter speed the camera can express what we cannot see with our human eyes. Since then, I grew more and more fascinated with photography.
As I kept shooting all kinds of subjects, I met a turning point at Saga Balloon Fiesta 6 years ago. I photographed the balloons reflecting on the still water surface. After I posted the photo on social media, it attracted some moderate attention , and I got my foot in the door for some job offers.
The photo taken at Balloon Fiesta that became a turning point
That one photo at the right time totally changed my life. I can still feel the impact of that single photo.
What was the reason you started using THETA?
I was interested in taking panoramic pictures of nature. It’s possible to shoot and create panoramic photos with a DSLR, but we need to stitch multiple images together. I wanted to create them more easily and had heard about THETA which allows shooting 360-degree images in one shot!
Panoramic image taken with THETA Z1
I mentioned that what appeals to me the most in photography is the ability to express scenes with cameras that the human eye couldn’t see. And that’s also exactly what makes THETA so appealing to me. The human eye can’t see a 360-degree space all at once.
I can capture everything in 360 degrees, which is far beyond our limited field of view, and I can show it all in one photo. For me, that is the beauty of a THETA 360-degree camera.
Looking through social media, your THETA photos were impressive, especially the ‘Little Planet’ ones. But I realized you are quite fascinated by the panoramic image!
I take those Little Planet images* while already having the edit in mind. For example, I can imagine Little Planet shots with THETA on a tripod in a low position in a place surrounded by plants. When I encounter such a scene, I might take a shot with THETA with the intention of creating a ‘little planet’ photo.
*Images taken in 360 degrees and edited in ‘Little Planet’ mode with the editing app THETA+
Taken with THETA Z1 in a field carpeted with autumn leaves
However, I also find it more difficult than I thought to both shoot and edit Little Planet photos. When I actually edit images, it can be somehow different from what I imagined, and on the other hand, sometimes it turns out surprisingly good after editing even if I shoot the images without any careful consideration. In any case, it’s difficult to master the technique.
Panoramic image taken with THETA Z1
After all, the most attractive thing about THETA for me is that I can shoot panoramas with it.
About THETA Z1
You initially used THETA S, but you have been using THETA Z1 for about a year now. Do you feel there are any differences between them?
Absolutely yes, especially in the image quality. The Z1 has a 1 inch sensor and can shoot in RAW, so it’s great to be able to shoot in a way that was not possible with THETA S.
I’ve known about THETA from the very first model, and I’ve always been interested in it. Back then, I wanted a 360-degree camera that supports RAW shooting but there wasn’t anything like that available. So, I gave in and bought a THETA S. So, you know now I’m very glad to use a THETA Z1, because it supports RAW.
Taken with THETA Z1 and edited
What is your best THETA Z1 shot?
It’s the Milky Way. I was very concerned about noise when shooting the starry sky with the S, but noise was greatly reduced with the Z1.
The video on YouTube below is a combination of timelapse images of the starry sky taken with my Z1. I realized I wanted to show how the stars are moving in 360 degrees.
Starry night timelapse shot with THETA Z1
I also had a chance to shoot hotaria parvula, a species of firefly, with THETA Z1. Unlike luciola cruciata, another Japanese species, hotaria parvula has a very dim light, so even a DSLR can’t capture the light unless it is shot with a prime lens and high resolution. That’s why I was impressed that I could take such beautiful photos of them using THETA Z1.
Panorama image of hotaria parvula taken with THETA Z1
How is the usability of THETA Z1?
There is a display on the body, something THETA S doesn’t have, which is convenient for checking the remaining power and the number of possible shots. Also, the Z1 has three aperture settings, which makes it easier to use as well. I usually set it to f/5.6 so that the images are as clear as possible, but I change it to f/2.1 when shooting in low light situations.
I feel that I can’t go back to THETA S anymore in terms of the image quality and usability (laughs).
Taken with THETA Z1
Do you usually shoot in RAW on the Z1?
Yes. I mostly shoot in RAW. For editing, I use RICOH THETA Stitcher, which is a plugin for Lightroom on PC. I like it because I can adjust the center position of the 360 degree image with this plugin.
Adjusting the center position and other settings in RICOH THETA Stitcher
I don’t often look around the 360 degree images in the app. I prefer turning a 360 photo into a panorama. So, I care more about where the center of the image should be when creating a rectilinear 360-degree image.
I mostly shoot brackets in RAW, changing the EV value and taking 3 to 5 shots, then editing them in Lightroom.
The charm of the THETA 360-degree camera
Please tell us what it is about THETA that attracts you as a photographer the most, Mr. Fujiwara.
It’s that I can shoot 360 degrees around myself in an instant. Not only for my work, but also it’s great for creating a record of places I’ve visited. It’s amazing that THETA can capture all 360-degree views in a single image.
Panorama image taken with THETA Z1
To take a panoramic shot with a DSLR, proper equipment is required, but with THETA we can do it so easily.
For those who love photography, it may seem that images like Little Planet by THETA are a bit unorthodox, but I think the fact that THETA can take panoramic images easily is awesome and a huge selling point.
If you are interested in panoramic photography, I truly recommend trying THETA, especially THETA Z1!
Thank you very much Mr. Fujiwara! I’m looking forward to more of your work with THETA Z1!
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