The 360 camera, or rather the 360 degree camera, is a curious creature, featuring dome-shaped wide-angle lenses on both sides of the camera, one on the front and a second on the rear. When an image is taken the camera’s brain combines the two images, carrying out all manner of magical tricks in the process, creating a single image recording, well, just about everything. Let me explain further. Imaging standing in a wide open field. Look down at your feet. then look straight up overhead to the sky. Now look to the left and to the right, and behind youself as well. What you can see the camera will record. Amazing, really.
The camera I decided on, and there are many to choose from, was the Ricoh Theta S,* which does a fair impression of being a TV remote control, at least from a few meters away. Only the two bulging lenses give the game away. Bought with taking selfies in mind, the Ricoh Theta S is a great tool for the job. Nice and compact for ease of carrying, plenty of space on the 32 Gb on-board storage and enough battery life for around 250 images before needing a charge. The camera has plenty of the usual stuff you might find on any typical digital camera and I’m not going to go into great detail here but I will mention those that are useful for taking selfies.
There are three main ones. The self timer, the interval timer and the tripod mount on the base.
The self-timer is just as might expect, with intervals of 2, 5 and 10 seconds, set remotely using a smartphone. I mainly use either the 5 or 10 seconds intevals, as 2 seconds is too little time of get into position. You also get a series of beeps to indicate the status of the countdown. The default interval is 5 seconds.
In the field, using the camera is simple. To activate the self-timer function, hold down the wireless button when powering on the camera. Next place the camera in position, press the shutter button and get into position. The timer LED start flashing, the beeps go beep and the shutter fires. Simple, really.
The interval timer essentially takes a set number of images at a pre-determined time interval. This feature is only available via a smartphone app and typical settings might be 20 images at 8 second intervals (the 8 second interval is default and the shortest available). I often use this method when taking selfies while riding my bicycle, mounting the camera on a selfie stick and holding in various positions while I ride.
The final feature, the tripod mount, is essential. The Ricoh Theta S is a tall slender camera and without some form of additional support tends to fall over in the slightest of breezes. (I have found this to my cost and have scratched lenses to prove it.) Unless you are placing it on a flat table top or the like, always use a mini tripod or other method to provide support.
The downside to using additional supports is that the support shows in the final images. Remember this camera records all the way around, all 360 degrees, and a large tripod will be quite obvious. A neat partial resolution to this issue is to mount a spare tripod base plate on the camera. It will provide aditional support but not show as much in the images.
The images produced by this camera need editing software to be of any use. For image editing I use Insta360 Studio, a free to download app from Insta360, who also offer their own range of 360 degree cameras. The app is used to view the 360 degree images, pan through them and take snapshots to create stills. I then do a final crop usinf Paint Shop Pro.
Using a 360 degree camera for selfies takes a bit of practice and experimentationis recommended but the resulting images are often amazing, though sometimes unusually weird and wonderful as well. The great thing is you never know just what you are going to get ,which is all part of the fun.
* Note: the Ricoh Theta S has been superceded by the Ricoh Theta V.
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