The Ricoh Theta is an interesting little camera. Just over three ounces it combines two sensors and two fish eye lenses to produce 360 degree stills and video. While the camera is obviously designed and marketed to consumers interested in taking 360 degree selfies it has the potential to produce some fairly interesting reportage as well.
The Theta offers the opportunity to create an immersive and interactive experience for readers. The camera outputs a jpeg that, when viewed using a 360 viewer available for download from https://theta360.com, allows the viewer to change the view and explore the environment. When combined with a mobile phone and a Google Cardboard viewer it can create a virtual reality experience allowing the viewer to change their view by turning their head. Videos offer the same level of interactivity.
The camera is fully controllable through a cell phone application available for Android and iOS. The camera connects to the phone via WiFi allowing the control of all camera functions remotely. This is a key feature for journalism applications where one doesn’t always want to include the photographer in the shot.
The app allows you to change the shooting mode, shutter priority, ISO priority and automatic, adjust the exposure compensation, trigger the camera and review your images. An interval timer is also included enabling you to program the camera to take a certain number of photos with a predetermined interval between them.
MU3D graduate research assistant Adam Vogler took MU3D’s Theta m15 to the 2015 Cattlemen Days Rodeo in Ashland, Mo., the Columbia Farmers Market and around the University of Missouri Campus before MU’s first football game of the season.
Vogler was assigned to shoot a still image of Cattlemen Days Rodeo announcer Chris Pyle to accompany a multimedia piece being produced by the Columbia Missourian’s Timothy Nwachukwu. During the latter events, he simply wandered around testing the camera’s capabilities and experimenting with ways to use it.
“The 360 degree view is great for events allowing the photographer to show a complete view of what is happening,” Vogler reported. “It also allows one to show not only what people are looking at but also their reaction to it. This is a capability that could be very useful while covering speakers, the dreaded man-at-podium assignment.”
The view is not without it’s drawbacks though. The fisheye lens creates massive distortion and requires that that camera be placed very close to the subject and at approximately the same level. It also requires the photographer to think about everything around them rather than just what they are in front of.
The Theta is a one-rick pony, but it’s a very cool trick. It’s small size makes it easy to add to a camera bag and it’s ability to create a unique, interactive experience for the viewer make it a useful addition. A soon to be released new version, the Theta S, adds the ability to record 25 minutes of 30 fps HD video (the m15 version used here is limited to 5 minutes of 15 fps) and live view allowing the photographer to view what the camera sees on their phone in real time.
Sample Theta shots from Adam Vogler
Click to activate 360-degree view. Use the button at the lower left to toggle the Google Cardboard view.
More Theta shots from the MU3D team
Missouri Press Association event in Arrow Rock
Columbia Missourian newsroom
Missouri School of Journalism Arch