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Friday, January 6, 2017, 17:00

Wonderful world of 360-degree photos

By So Sasaki, The Japan News / ANN

Wonderful world of 360-degree photos
This panoramic photo of Tokyo Tower was taken with Nikon’s KeyMission 360. The same road is seen at both ends of the image. (So Sasaki, The Yomiuri Shimbun, The Japan News / ANN)
Photo enthusiasts will have a blast with lightweight digital cameras that can create 360-degree images, whether they are photographs with family members or panoramic scenes. But be warned: a smartphone or similar device is needed as most of the cameras lack a display screen.

The cameras, which can shoot a single 360-degree photo or record motion pictures, are appearing on the market one after another. One of the cheapest items is priced at only 30,000 yen.

I took a photo of Tokyo Tower with a Nikon camera called KeyMission 360, which was released in October. Using a personal computer, the data was processed into a wonderful panorama.

The same road is shown at both ends of the photo, and Tokyo Tower and the pavement around it appear curved. Apparently, this is caused in the same way that the North Pole and South Pole are distorted on world maps because of the Mercator projection.

Anyone can take beautiful photos like this, either hand-held shots or with a tripod.

The 360-degree cameras are almost the same size as those of conventional compact digital cameras. They weigh between 100 grams and 200 grams.

Each camera is equipped with two super-wide-angle lenses, each with an angle of more than 180 degrees mounted back-to-back.

The cameras should be connected to smartphones or tablet computer devices using telecommunication platforms such as wireless local area network (LAN) or Bluetooth, so users can check how the photos turned out, as most cameras do not have liquid-crystal display screens.

The photos can be admired after the data is processed with apps or computer software provided exclusively for this purpose.

By using smartphone apps, users can enjoy 360-degree panoramic images that can be navigated vertically and horizontally with your fingers.

This gives users the impression they are actually inside the graphic images.

These cameras have been around for a while, but older products were cumbersome and pricey.

Technological progress has made it possible to record and process huge volumes of data, so cameras have become affordable for ordinary consumers.

The popularity of 360-degree cameras initially spread among outdoor sports fans. Now, an increasing number of young people are posting 360-degree photos and motion pictures on social networking websites.

Wonderful world of 360-degree photos

Wonderful world of 360-degree photos. (The Japan News / ANN)

Available models

With the entry of Nikon Corp into the market in October, many other camera manufacturers also hopped on the bandwagon.

Ricoh Co in October released its latest model, Theta SC. It is not equipped with some top-of-the-line functions, but maintains the same image quality. The company recommends a retail price of about ¥30,000 before tax.

A Casio model, Outdoor Recorder EX-FR200, has only one 180-degree lens but is capable of taking 360-degree photos by attaching an additional device.

One Samsung model, Galaxy Gear 360, can take motion pictures at 4K image quality. However, people not accustomed to setting up cameras with smartphones might face difficulty in using them initially.

Smartphone apps and PC software for processing graphic data are still far from easy to use, and this hurdle will have to be overcome to increase the popularity of 360-degree cameras.

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