Tag Archives: lens

Low-cost 360-degree cameras are here – why do you need one?

2016-02-22

Wide-angle and macro lenses for cameras – even for smartphones and tablets – are useful in many situations when the photographer has to be close to the subject, but must get everything that matters into the frame. 360-degree cameras are a step further from that. The new generation of lenses can capture fairly high-quality images that cover everything around the lens. Now, the prices of 360-degree cameras have dropped to an affordable level. We took a look at a few low-cost models that are available today globally.

First, let’s take a look at a 360-degree camera in action. Here is a promo video by 360fly:

Who needs a 360-degree camera? Some photographers will buy a 360-degree camera just because it is a novelty, and soon forget about it. A 360-degree camera is another device that you have to carry along in addition to your smartphone camera. More likely use cases for 360-degree cameras are sports and action photography. Also, travel photography will benefit from 360-degree cameras, because travel writers/photographers often have to capture or document something in a small space, like in a room. Another common problem in travel photography is to frame a large object, like a building or statue, but it is impossible to move so far from it that it would fit into a frame.

Here are five 360-degree cameras for you to explore: 360fly, Bublcam, Giroptic 360cam, Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K, and Ricoh Theta S.
360fly, 360-degree camera
360fly
360fly wants to become the GoPro of 360-degree cameras. The black, round camera looks cool and comes with several optional accessories for mounting it on sports gear. It is waterproof and shock-resistant. Video resolution is 1504 x 1504 at 30fps. List price $399. New model, 360fly 4K is scheduled to be available in 2q2016 with a price tag of $500. The new camera can record video in 2880 x 2880 resolution.

bublcam, 360-degree camera
Bublcam
Most 360-degree cameras can capture the surroundings around the lens horizontally, but not vertically. It means that when you view the image, you can’t see what is above or below the camera. The Bublcam can capture everything, also the vertical dimension. Photos are captured in 14 megapixel resolution. In multiplex video mode, the Bublcam can record 1440p x 1440p (30 fps) or 1920p x 1920p (15 fps). In equirectangular mode, the camera can capture 1984p x 992p (30 fps) or 2688p x 1344p (15 fps). Price $799.
View images captured by Bublcam users at the Bubl Cloud site.
giroptic 360cam, 360-degree camera
Giroptic 360cam
The Giroptic 360cam is waterproof down to 10 meters for up to 30 minutes. Giroptic has a unique solution for battery: the standard base packs a removable rechargeable battery. The company was financed at Kickstarter, and had a long delay in getting the product out, but it is now available. Price $499.
kodak pixpro sp360 4k, 360 degree camera
Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K
Kodak has positioned the Pixpro SP360 4K as an action camera, and has made available a range of accessories required for mounting the camera on different types of equipment. The camera can capture 2880 x 2880-pixel-resolution video or widescreen video at 4K UHD (3 840 x 2160 pixels). Prices start from $449.
ricoh theta s, 360 degrees camera
Ricoh Theta S
The camera comes with two 12-megapixel lenses. The images captured via the lenses are merged into one 5,376×2,688-pixel-resolution photo that shows 360 degrees of the surroundings. The Rich Theta S can record spherical video in full HD (1080p) at 30 frames per second. Competitively priced at $350, the product is available globally.

Ricoh’s concept video:

Close-up photography on smartphone is fun and easy with an affordable clip-on macro lens

2015-12-13

The image quality on smartphone cameras has developed so high that even professional photographers take pictures with their smartphones, because it is always at hand. Obvious limitations in camera phone photography – lack of manual controls and a fixed lens – simply have to be overcome through creativity. There are, however, some useful accessories that can help anyone take new kind of images on a smartphone, such as clip-on lenses.
clip-on macro lens on LG smartphone
We accidentally discovered a macro lens kit for camera phones at an electronics store. The price was low enough (10 euros) to justify trying it out even if it proved to be a useless piece of plastics. After testing the two lenses included in the kit, our conclusion is that the low-cost clip-on lenses are useful and definitely good value for the money. Image quality suffers a little, but the fun factor is so high that it justifies the slight loss in quality.
macro lens kit with fisheye lens
The lens kit we happened to find includes a macro lens and a fisheye lens. Protective caps for both lenses, a tiny pouch, and the clip comprise the kit.

No instructions whatsoever on how the kit was designed to be used were included in the package. It took awhile to figure out how the lenses were attached to the clip. The macro lens is directly screwed on to the clip. The fish eye lens is attached to a collar, and the collar is screwed on to the clip.

Once the clip-on lens has been placed on top of the camera phone lens, snapping close-up pictures can begin. The clip-on lens must be carefully positioned at the center of the phone lens. The macro lens fits on any camera phone or tablet. The only problem can be if the phone or tablet lens is so close to the edge that the clip may not stay put. On the Apple iPad, the camera lens is at the edge, but the clip-on lens manages to hold its grip.
Appke iPad, macro lens attached
It is as simple as that. A whole new world opens up to a smartphone photographer who can now get really close to subjects. The macro lens in our kit is handy for photographing many types of subjects. The fisheye lens is a fun way to shoot video and take photos of pets and, of course, selfies.

Pets tend to be difficult to photograph: they move when they should be still and they come too close to the camera. The fisheye lens solves the problem of close-up photos for pets and for selfies.

The image quality slightly degrades when an additional lens is added on top of the existing camera phone lens. The image sensor also needs more light: some images taken on a clip-on lens are not as bright as without it. Blurriness around the edges can be quite strong, but since the whole idea of macro photography is to get close to specific subject, it doesn’t matter that much.

All and all, we are happy on our small investment in the macro lens kit. The only thing we worry is how to carry the lenses with us without losing them.

Here are a few side-by-side comparison pictures. The image on the left was taken with the macro or fisheye lens, and the image on the right without additional lens. Photos were taken so that the camera phone was on the same position for both shots.

snow on table, fisheye lens comparison

Fish eye lens on the left.


old trains, macro lens comparison

Macro lens picture on the left.


stonewall, smartphone lens comparison