Friday, July 8, 2016

Lower cost VR-Ready NVidia GTX 1060 graphics card

One of the most expensive components for a VR-ready PC is the graphics card.  NVidia is targeting more budget-conscious users with the GeForce GTX 1060.  At an MSRP of $250, it costs almost 1/3 less than the recently-released GTX 1070 ($380 MSRP).  At the same time, because of its advanced Pascal architecture, it offers better slightly performance than the Maxwell-based GTX 980, at a lower price (the GTX 980 is currently over $400 street).

The GTX 1060 is scheduled for release on July 19.

Samsung US revamps its Gear 360 microsite

Samsung US just revamped its microsite for the Samsung Gear 360 (reviewed here).  The site still doesn't indicate when the Gear 360 will be released in the US.  However, the revamp might be an indication of its impending release (could be July 23 according to one retailer).

If you are one of the first to order the Samsung Gear 360 from, you MIGHT receive a handsome leatherette hardcase, as did early orders in UK and Europe:

You can also register your Samsung Gear 360 here.  However, registration is for US model numbers only.

Reminder: Epson International Pano Awards deadline

Just a friendly reminder: the 2016 Epson International Pano Awards deadline is coming up! 
"Early-bird entries close in three days at midnight on July 10th, 2016 (UTC -11)
Late entries will be accepted until July 24th - multiple entry discounts will be unavailable during this time"

TECHNIQUE: Life in 360 reveals secrets for tiny planet photos and videos

If you just got a 360-degree camera and are not sure how to best use it, you can check out this new eBook from Ben Claremont.  Ben Claremont is a popular Instagram photographer who uses the Ricoh Theta S for tiny planet and rabbit hole photos and videos.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Ricoh Theta adds 3D rain effect!

Do you have a photo from the Ricoh Theta in gloomy, overcast weather?  Don't worry!  You can spice it up with a 3D rain effect :-D  

Just add the hashtag #rain3d in the description when you upload it to theta360.comHere is a sample.

Other effects that Ricoh has enabled include fireflies (#firefly3d) and cherry blossom petals (#sakura3d).

RUMOR: What to Expect from the Next Samsung Gear VR

Sammobile reported that Indian import records show that there's a possible new version of the Samsung Gear VR, with a new product code SM-R323 (whereas the Innovator Edition is SM-R321 and the current Consumer Edition is SM-R322).

What can we expect from the next Samsung Gear VR?  Samsung is one of the partners for Google Daydream, Google's new mobile VR platform.  Daydream is scheduled for release in Fall 2016.  Daydream headsets look a lot like the Gear VR and appear to have similar capabilities.  Therefore I believe the next Gear VR will be modified to be compatible with Daydream.

I don't think Samsung will abandon the Gear VR platform though, because there are already plenty of users and apps for it.  Rather, Gear VR would likely coexist with Daydream.

Thanks to reader David Grass for bringing this to my attention!

DEALS: An incredible price for Samsung Gear 360! Plus: US Release Date (?)

Florida-based retailer Colamco probably has the lowest price for the Samsung Gear 360 anywhere: $282.09 with free shipping!!!

Here is the link.  Yes, they're an authorized Samsung dealer.

It's currently out of stock, but when I called them, they said you could still order.  It would just be a backorder.  They said they would have stock at their Fresno, California warehouse by July 23.  It's possible that may also be the US release date!

Affordable graphics card for 360 4k video editing

So you might recall the old workstation that I got recently, a Dell T3500, which performed very well for rendering 4k video - 12x faster than my ~4-yr old i5 Sandy Bridge laptop (see here).  However, it could not stitch the photos or videos from the Samsung Gear 360 because its graphics card (Radeon X300) was very old and had no Windows 10 driver.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

B&H Photo has a dedicated microsite for VR / 360

B&H Photo, one of the largest online retailers for photo and video equipment, now has a new section on its website, specifically for VR / 360.  The new section covers everything from cameras to rigs to software, and includes VR gaming gear, and makes it very easy to find the right equipment for your VR needs without having to sift through listings for Nikon lenses :-) .  Check it out here.

Ricoh Theta 2017 rumored to have 4k video

Ricoh has released a new version of the Theta each year since 2013.  What we don't know is if it's an incremental upgrade like the m15 (which added video), or an overhaul like the Theta S.

PentaxRumors says the new Theta, to be annonuced later this year (likely at Photokina), will have 4k video.  That would be a very welcome improvement that addresses the single biggest weakness of the Theta S.  One technical challenge could be overheating because of the Theta's densely-packed electronics.

Check out PentaxRumors here.  For other possible features of the new Theta, check here.

Insta360 Nano app now available on App Store

The Insta360 Nano app is now available on the App Store!  Of course we can't use it until we get the Insta360 Nano, but it's at least comforting to know the Nano won't be delayed due to the app.

The app has a very simple interface:

Blurgate: One More Test for the Skeptics

Yesterday, I posted the update on the inconsistent sharpness of the Samsung Gear 360.  Tamas Pasztor determined that the underlying cause was the sensor or processor heating up, causing one or more parts to expand, and changing the focal distance of the lens from hyperfocal to macro focus.

While the update was generally well received, there were a few who reacted with skepticism.  So I took some more tests to demonstrate the repeatability of the phenomenon.

1. Take a 30mp test photo.
2. Record a 5 minute 4k video.
3. Take a second 30mp test photo.
4. Compare the two test photos.

I followed exactly this procedure, using nothing but the camera (with the self-timer).  I positioned one lens very near a wall, so that we could see if the blur issue affected both near and far objects.  Based on Tamas Pasztor's explanation (which I agree with), the sensor or processor heats up and changes the focal distance from hyperfocal / panfocal to a macro-like distance.

To rule out stitching or any postprocessing problems, I just compared the unstitched photos.

Test shot 1 (ISO 100, f/2, 1/2000)

Test shot 2 (ISO 100, f/2, 1/2000)

The results are the same as before, and confirm Tamas Pasztor's findings.

This is a comparison of 1:1 crops at a farther distance.  The left one is Test shot 1, the right one is Test shot 2.  You can see that despite the identical exposures, Test shot 2 is more detailed.

At the same time, if you look at a close object (the wall), Test 2 is not blurred - in fact, it has slightly better acuity and contrast.

To summarize, these are the observations:

  • When the camera continues to operate for some time, later photos become blurry compared to earlier photos.
  • The farther the object is from the camera, the greater the blur.

These results are perfectly explained by Tamas' findings, i.e. the camera heats up, there's a part inside that expands from the heat, which moves the lens slightly, and changes the focal distance.

Here are copies of the actual test shots so you can pixel peep as much as you want:

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Insta360 releases beta version of Nano app

The Insta360 Nano is a 360-degree camera for the iPhone that is due for release at the end of July (previewed here).  The app is not yet released on Apple's App Store.  However, Insta360 posted a link to the 'inhouse version' of the app HERE.   

It would be nice if Apple would finally approve the app but it's good to know Insta360 has a Plan B in case Apple takes longer than expected.

Kodak SP360 4k software update adds photo stitching for Dual Pro

Kodak Pixpro updated the stitching software for the Kodak SP360 4k Dual Pro.  Previously, the stitching software enabled stitching of videos from a pair of SP360 cameras as a fully spherical 360 video in the standard equirectangular format.  However, the included stitching software could not stitch photos. 

Kodak Pixpro now updated the software and added the ability to stitch fully spherical photos from the a pair of SP360 4k photos!

Kodak Pixpro has been steadily improving the SP360 4k's functionality.  For example, it issues regular firmware updates.  Recently, they also partnered with 3DRobotics to create a dual-camera bracket that allows you to capture aerial 360 videos without the drone in the shot (see here).
Thanks to Markr041 from DPReview for this info!

Direct video comparison between Samsung Gear 360 and Kodak SP360 4k dual pro pack

There are two consumer 360-degree cameras slugging it out for title of having the best 360 video quality: the Samsung Gear 360 (reviewed here) and the Kodak SP360 4k dual pro pack.

Both have 4k video quality but they take different approaches.  The Samsung Gear 360 is a fully spherical all-in-one camera.  The Kodak SP360 4k is a hemispherical camera with a modular design that allows you to combine two of them back-to-back to capture fully spherical video.  That may seem cumbersome (and more expensive), but it does allow the possibility of using it to capture aerial 360 videos without the drone in the shot (see here).

What about the image quality?  I had posted a sample video comparison, but the conditions were not completely identical.  Now, has posted a direct comparison between these two cameras here.

What do you think?  Danke schön to for this awesome test!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Blurgate: an Update on the Samsung Gear 360 Blurring Issue (Part 3)

A few weeks ago, I posted about an apparent inconsistency in sharpness of the Samsung Gear 360 (see here and here).   The good news is that Pasztor Tamas of INSTAR films has figured out what's going on.  But it's not all good news.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Using a 360-degree camera with Yuneec drones

Attaching your own camera to a drone can be harder than it looks, but with Yuneec drones' modular design, it is fairly easy compared to other drones.  Here's how to do it!

UPDATE: Added info re UCEC ballhead