Saturday, April 30, 2016

You may need to rethink your definition of a camera - April 29, 2016

You may need to rethink your definition of a camera 

An iPhone 6s and a Kodak Brownie from 1900 work essentially the same way. You hold it up, compose your shot and push a button to take a photo.

One could argue the 21st century has been a revolution for photography. Most of us have a phone in our pockets. There is no longer a cost-per-shot, where every time we click a picture there is an associated cost of film, developing and printing. We now can take thousands of shots on a vacation, where before we may have limited ourselves to 36 -- both a blessing and a curse.

And how we share our photos has changed. We no longer have photo albums or slideshows we have to convince people to peruse. We share our photos online. But the camera in our phone is still a point and shoot camera, as was that early Brownie.

Until now.

There is now a type of camera where you do not compose your shot, because it takes a photograph of everything, a complete 360 degrees around you. It gets everything, including you, what’s in front of you, behind you, above you and the ground you are standing on. There is no viewfinder, because your photo is not limited to what you see in the viewfinder.

We bought one a while back. I thought it would be a good way for my wife to take discreet street shots on her trip to Israel. You just hold it above your head, or to the side, and click a button. The device itself looks like a TV remote.

Ours is a Ricoh Theta S, at the time the only one on the market. In the last couple of months others have come on the market, such as the LG Cam for $199. Samsung has also announced one that should ship soon, but there is no pricing for it yet.

These are for consumers. There is also a large array of higher-priced models for those doing serious virtual reality. Some of these cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The Eye high end camera rig 

Obviously you cannot print out a 360-degree image, but you can display it on the web. This week’s link post at has several we took with our Theta S.

Sample 360 degree photos taken by Mark Stout

(Drag in an image to move around in image)

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Looking down on the Wailing Wall - Jerusalem

Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Acre, Israel

Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

If you have a virtual reality headset, even Google’s inexpensive Google Cardboard, you can view a 360 degree image in it. As you turn your body while looking through the headset, the image moves too.

Technology is changing how we shoot video too. The cameras mentioned above also shoot video. You can store your 360 videos on YouTube. It is now even possible to livestream 360 shows.

Sample 360 Videos from YouTube

Scene from The Jungle Book

Roller Coaster Ride

High tech is also changing other aspects of video. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, showed the Mevo at its latest developers’ conference.

The Mevo is a small camera you set on a desk or on a tripod. It shoots 150-degree video. What makes it interesting is it’s an iPad app. It shows the complete video and records it. A user taps on a face in the video and the image will become a close-up of that person. The Mevo shoots 4K high-resolution video so even though a small portion of the image is enlarged to make the close-up, the image is still sharp.

The Mevo would be wonderful for shooting a school play, a child’s athletic event, a meeting, or even your own TV show. It would be as if you had your own multiple-camera TV studio like your local TV station has, or networks use to tape shows like The Big Bang Theory, but all for under $500.

About Mevo video :

If you want true multi-camera production ability on a shoestring, there is a $5 app in the Apple app store called RecoLive. It links together iPads or iPhones all using their own camera. The video feeds are sent to one central iPad via wifi. That central iPad is shooting the scene with its own camera too.

The iPad shows all the videos coming from it and the other devices. A user acts as a director and chooses which video shot to record at a given moment. When they want to switch to another shot, they can choose the transition to use. For example, they can choose the wipe transition so it appears the new image pushes the old shot off the screen.

This means that for the cost of three iPads at say $500 each and three copies of the app at $15 total, a user can have a three camera setup with video switching. That same capability used to be only available for TV stations at a cost of over $1 million.

As an experiment, some of the links normally kept on the Links post were integrated into this column.  

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