If the new announcement from Vecnos, a new 360-imaging unit spun out from from Ricoh’s Theta division, is any indication, things could get very interesting for the portable 360 camera market.
Ricoh’s Theta cameras have always been solid, if unexciting, offerings in the 360 camera market. Like most 360 cameras, they’ve always offered more or less the same configurations that other manufacturers have, namely two lenses sandwiched together on a small body with two sensors doing imaging duties. The resulting images usually are then stitched in-camera or through software on a phone or computer, for very limited playback on specific sites or apps.
Vecnos aims to change that. In an article in Wired, Shu Ubukata, who is billed as “he brains behind 360 imaging products like the original Theta series” talks about how one of the aims of the company is to make 360 imaging more accessible for younger content creators producing images and video for sites such as TikTok and Instagram, where the full potential spherical imaging isn’t yet fully explored.
It’s a compelling argument, as you could say the accessibility factor is one of the key reasons 360 cameras haven’t taken off. Even as someone who has been creating 360 content for almost four years, I haven’t found a magic-bullet distribution method for the photos and video I create.
But a compelling argument doesn’t matter if the hardware doesn’t back up the talk, and it’s here that Vecnos’ first offer seems pretty interesting. Instead of the usual formula for a 360 camera that I described earlier, Vecnos’ prototype features four cameras — three around the sides and one up top. If nothing else, this type of design should help avoid some of the extreme purple/green fringing you see at the edges of many 360 cameras’ lenses, and should improve image quality across the board with each sensor and lens having to do less work than counterparts with only two lenses. Vecnos doesn’t do more than say that image quality will be competitive, but in a small package, that’s not a bad thing.
While the current prototype is described as about as thick as a magic marker by Wired, imagine the image quality possibilities if Vecnos took this design and upscaled it to, say, a Micro 4/3 or 1” sensor. The Theta Z1 already offers the 1” size in the conventional design, so perhaps it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
More importantly it will be interesting to see how Vecnos can get social media networks on-board with thinking in 360 degrees.
While there aren’t any details released yet about the specs or price of the camera, it looks to be slated for a summer release, so the wait won’t be long to see what Vecnos brings to the table for consumer 360 cameras.