Freitag, 16. Januar 2015

Ricoh Theta m15 First Hands-on and Review II

The Ricoh Theta is a lightweight companion for outings as it can hide in any pocket. A selfie stick and the mobile phone does not add much to it, and the mobile phone we carry around all the time anyway.

A test image, the first straight from the camera, the second after some tinkering with  PANO2VR and image processing. Notice the camera does not correct the roll degree

Ricoh Theta original jpg
Image after postprocessing
And the final image on Google View

Montag, 12. Januar 2015

Ricoh Theta m15 First Hands-on and Review

The second release of Theta's Theta camera is certainly a niche product. Quite astonishing that a big camera company ventures into this with a consumer product and price because the camera cant do anything but create fullspheric panoramas, not even a regular 'normal' snapshot. Lets see if this is a long-term thing or a one off, though I must say the updates from the first release are not really that huge, putting video aside (which is currently limited to 3min snippets). I dont think the market for real estate agents creating their own virtual tours is rather limited when you look at target figures of big companies.
There are a couple of independent crowdfunding projects around with similar devices.

In short: Is fun to use the Theta, though after a few shots by hand without phone you get annoyed making selfies all the time and you move on to the mobile app and with a tripod or a selfie stick, that helps you to 'carry' the camera above your head to minimize your own footprints in the final image (beware of bystanders looking at you!).

Some flaws

  • Fix memory (4GB, ~1200 JPG images)
  • Fix Battery (~200 images)
  • Noise (to be expected for such small sensor)

ISO 100
ISO 800

  • Stitching errors for very near objects
Stitching Error
  • Flare with direct sunlight (to be fair this is hard to handle anyway with fisheye lenses)
  • Problems with 1 lens full facing sun and the other one reverse

Samstag, 10. Januar 2015

Unboxing the new Ricoh Theta M15 Panorama Camera

I was looking at the Ricoh Theta since it was first launched in 2013. Lucky enough I waited a bit longer and order the latest Theta m15 (I guess that stands for MK1.5 because the changes from the first model are not really dramatic except the additional video feature) launched in late October 2014. The new model is available at Amazon for 299 Euro, that is even 50 Euro cheaper than the previous model. I dont really need this camera, but with my more than 15 years affection to panoramic images and a quite a collection of film and digital panorama cameras and accessories I could not add hesitate any further to add this to my collection. Since I sold an old lens, I got some extra budget freed. Thanks to Amazon I hold the camera in my hands in less than 20 hours.
First impression out of the box: You get a very lightweight stylish looking camera with a lens on the front and the back, a little pouch, one USB cable and a very short manual. That's it.
In the next blog I will review a first hands-on session with the new toy.

Sonntag, 4. Januar 2015

Panoramic Bookshelf: Edition Panorama

Maybe the most well-known publisher (not only in Germany) that does not only carries panorama in the their company name but mainly publish panoramic books. This publishing house does not serve mainstream photography or travel books filled with anonymous images from stock agencies, they rather focus on selected photographs from individual photographers. I got about 15 plus books from them and it is always a pleasure to browse this books. The print quality and binding are of high quality, so are the images, though I cannot always appreciate the selected images, but that is in the eye of the reader. All books come with an few pages editorial in up to 5 languages, the images are only accompanied by the image title.
Despite most of the panoramic books are dedicated to a city, country or region, they are in no sense ordinary travel books but a selection of panoramic images of the location. These books are about panorama photography as an art medium. Most prominent photographer is certainly Horst Hamann starting with his various New York books.
The bigger coffee-table books are quite pricey with up to a 100 Euro for one book (value for money), but some books are in available in smaller sizes at more budget friendly price, which range from 14,95 Euro for the small ones (25x17cm) to 32,50 Euro (36x16cm) and 48 Euro (39x28cm).
As an alternative source (most of the books are out of print fast anyway) you find the books on Amazon marketplace at often decent prices, sometimes collectibles books hover above the original price.
Edition Panorama also sells calendars, which are quite pricey and even used ones are hard to get any cheaper, as the images are popular to be 'recycled'  into frames, which they sell as well.

If you are nearby Mannheim, you can drop by their gallery/shop (info).

Some titles from my collection:

Schweiz, Markus Aebischer
Dubai, Michael Nischke
Venezia Panorama, Ernst Steiner
Tokyo Panorama, Micha Pawlitzki

Scotland Panorama, Axel M. Mosler

Ludwigshafen Panorama, Jörg Heieck
New York, Horst Hamann
Panorama Deutsche Bahn, Horst Hamann

Paris Vertical, Horst Hamann

Dienstag, 11. November 2014

Panoramic Bookshelf: Panorama as Medium

This category of books chooses panorama photography in its most genuine meaning, showing a wide vista (wide angle view, see Wikipedia) that would not fit into a regular image aspect ratio. These books transport the views that you have at elevated viewing point into a book and make the reader experience the view from his arm chair.
Here I have 2 books from this category, both covering the Alps and published in the 1980's.

Swiss Panorama - Emil Schulthess
This book was published first time in 1982 (32 years ago!) and offers a wide range of panoramic views across Switzerland. Most of the images were created in the late 1970's with a huge technical effort. The photographer had to deal with panorama film cameras, helicopters and tailor-made rigs. He gives a summary of the project in the book and I have to pay greatest respect to this achievement to start this project from the scratch with a genius and scientific approach, many years before digital photography was available and people armed with a mobile phone stumbling on mountain peaks shooting panoramas and uploading them 10 seconds later into some image website. 
The book comes high resolution images and great level of details and info about the surrounding area and important points of interest in every image.
Of course this book is out of print but you still get used copies on the usual platforms.
Emil Schulthess lived from 1913 to 1996, his work was given to the Fotostiftung Schweiz, all images below (the images in the book are copyrighted by them)  shall only highlight the book and and entice you to buy your own copy.
Swiss Panorama by Emil Schulthess (1982)
Actual Panorama across 3 pages

Montag, 27. Oktober 2014

Panoramic Bookshelf: Non-Panoramic Panorama Books

While hunting for panoramic books I bought books just by the title. As long it was named "... Panorama ... something" and I could not find any further info about it in the web I would buy it (provided the price is reasonable) hoping for luck. Most of these non-panoramic titles are related to travel, like books about certain places or regions. The word panorama is a bit misleading, seems some publisher or authors want to highlight the broad scope of the book, or it is showing a lot of pictures from many places or something similar.
Here a selection of my non-panoramic panorama books. You won't find a single panorama image in all of these books.

Berlin-Panorama (deutsche Ausgabe) Farbbildband durch die Hauptstadt
Dresden Panorama (deutsche Ausgabe) Farbbildband durch das Elbflorenz 
Rather average picture books, the author published books of many cities and areas in Germany.A bit like must-have-seen in Berlin booklet, to me a random collection of tourist highlights with little detail (text).
Berlin and Dresden Panorama

Naturpanorama Norwegen (Panoramic books) 
Another coffeetable book about Norway from the 1990's. Publisher Ziethen-Panorama (they got panorama even in their name). Nice images but no panoramic views though.
Naturpanorama Norwegen

Ägypten Panorama 
Same as the Norway book, same publisher, same style.
Ägypten Panorama

Berliner Panorama 
This is quite an interesting book because it was published in the former GDR (DDR), in east Germany. Without any independent publishing available even this book had to be in line with the east German ideology and policies. You get the book for less than 10 cents but it comes with bw images from a long passed history. You might notice there are no images of the wall (which was still there in pre-1989).

Mittwoch, 1. Oktober 2014

How to publish a photo sphere to Google Maps ?

You won't. It is not an automated process, there someone (or something?) reviewing the submissions and enable to be shown the Google Map. My submission took about 2..3 days to appear.

Worldwide Panorama 2014: Ruins

The site is live, in its 10th years with the topic 'Ruins'.
My contribution after 6 years not joining this, the Hardenburg Castle in Bad Dürkheim.

Sonntag, 28. September 2014

VR Hardenburg - Treppenturm mit Lilienportal

How to embedd a Photo Sphere

Embedding is straight forward, provided your blog provider does allow embedding of HTML into your posts.

Open the photo sphere you like to embed and click on the share icon.

Open the post where you want to add the photo sphere, switch to html view and paste the html code with the iframe tag anywhere.

The result:

How to upload a Photosphere to Google Map View

Since Google is retiring the panoramio service, is worth to look at the new platform Google Maps View. Of course you are required to create a Google account but that is fairly simple process. I did not manage to upload a photo sphere successfully straight away so I summarize the steps here.

It is not enough to create a equirectangular image and upload as photo under the +.
A panoramic image has to deliver specific Photo Sphere XMP Metadata in order to be recognized by Google as a Photo Sphere. You can either do it manually by tinkering the Exif info of the file with a tool like ExifTool or use the easier way by using this Google App. This is a detour which is not straight forward (unlike other Google tools), I guess they will migrate this feature into the upload process sooner or later.

After this step your photo sphere has not yet been put up for Google Maps. The app only adds the basic meta data to your image. Click on the download to get back the image file. You have to download this image and add the image. Now it will be recognized as photo sphere and properly rendered. Note, it takes a while before it actually pops up on Google Maps (not only in your profile).