Ricoh launched their Theta 360 camera at the 2013 IFA in Berlin. Panoramic Earth went along to have a look at it. The camera is the first in the world to create spherical panoramic images, all around and above and below the camera, without stitching required.
The camera is small and compact (42mm x 129mm x 22.8mm), weighing only 95g. One the camera itself are power and wireless buttons, with associated lights to show when in use, and the shutter button on one of the faces below the lens. On the base is a tripod mount and USB port for downloading images from the camera.
The Theta camera is operated either manually or wirelessly from a smartphone or tablet. The phone has two spherical lenses which each take a 200Âº image. This provides about 10Âº overlap for each image which are then stitched together internally into an equirectangular jpeg (3584 x 1792 pixels, about 2.5Mb) stored within the camera.
A smaller version is then sent to your device and automatically uploaded to Ricohâ€™s picture site; theta360.com. From there they can then be shared quickly to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr as well as Microsoft's Photosynth site. Currently this is limited to Apple devices (iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 running on iOS 6.0 or above) with the relevant operating App from Apple.
And then there is the price, expected at around $400 (Â£320), it is not exactly cheap. How the market takes this up remains to be seen.