Kaidan 360° One VR
No it's not an Academy Award, it's the 360 One VR system!
Kaidan Incorporated and EyeSee360 Inc. have joined forces to create the 360 One VR, an optical system that captures a complete 360° panoramic image in a single camera shot. Kaidan is the leading manufacturer and supplier of Photographic VR solutions and EyeSee360 is a leading developer of immersive, interactive imaging technology.
The 360 One VR consists of a lightweight and rugged proprietary optical system and the innovative EyeSee360 PhotoWarp software. The unique EyeSee360 optic provides a complete 360° horizontal panorama with a 100° vertical field-of-view (50° above and 50° below the horizon). This vertical field-of-view is substantially greater than competitive offerings and brings single-shot panoramic technology into the mainstream.
The 360 One VR in its protective cover
The 360 One VR requires no special technical expertise and can be hand-held or mounted on a tripod or monopod using a remote shutter release and a bubble level. The 360 One VR optic comes with a standard 67mm thread mount and can be adapted to a number of cameras including the Nikon Coolpix 990, 995, 4500, 5000 using a Kaidan camera specific mounting kit and the Sony DSC-F707 using a 67-58mm step down ring.
Shipping now, the 360 One VR system is priced at $749.95 (new lower price as of 1/2003.) There are no per-image or "click fees" imposed on the user unlike those found with the iPix system. You only pay for it once - not everytime you create a new panorama. The 360 One is available from Kaidan and from all authorized Kaidan resellers and distributors worldwide. Optional accessories including monopods and hardware carrying cases will also be available from Kaidan.
When coupled with a 3 megapixel or greater camera (new Nikon Coolpix 4500 shown above), the 360 One VR offers a level of quality that rivals current solutions requiring 12 or more stitched images. Since the 360 One requires only a single shot to capture the full 360° view, action scenes with moving objects are more easily photographed.
The 360 One VR can capture panoramic images in crowd scenes, at concerts, on city streets, at sporting events, or even from moving vehicles. Photographers avoid the stitching or seaming demanded by competitive multiple-shot systems (such as the two and three-shot iPIX system), eliminating the problems of visible seams or exposure differences across the panorama.
EyeSee360's PhotoWarp software quickly and easily processes a 360 One VR photograph into a viewable panoramic image. The straightforward, simple-to-use interface enhances workflow by automatically generating web pages and thumbnail images along with QuickTime VR panoramic images.
The single image is loaded into PhotoWarp and all you need to do is adjust the circular on-screen pointer to encompass the area inside of the black outline. Then click Unwarp and your panorama is processed and saved. By default it is saved as an Apple QuickTime MOVie but it can also produce images for Java-based viewers.
PhotoWarp was designed for the Apple Mac OS X platform and supports Mac OS 9, Microsoft Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, Windows ME, Windows 2000 and Windows XP operating systems.
Output options include selecting the file format (QuickTime VR, QuickTime Cubic, Cylindrical Image, Spherical Image), Resolution (25% to 200%) and Quality (Least - Medium - Best). PhotoWarp can also create a thumbnail of the finished panorama and a ready to use web page.
QuickTime VR options include the viewable windows size (4:3 ratio - 240x180, 320x240 or 480x360, 3:2 ratio - 300x200, 375x250 or 450x300) the desired tilt limits and the cylinder type (vertical, horizontal).
Sample PanoramasClick on the thumbnail to see the QuickTime VR panorama.
You need the free Apple QuickTime plugin to view these panoramas.
More 360One sample panos at the www.eyesee360.com web site.
Steve's ConclusionI've used a lot of hardware and software to make 360-degree panoramic images but none of them have been as simple and straight forward to use as the 360 One system. I'm sure that many potential buyers will be immediately put off by the $749 price tag, but remember that you won't be paying any additional per-image licensing fees such as those imposed by the iPix folks. If you're doing panoramic imaging as a business then those fees will quickly add up and before long will surpass the cost of this system.
The most common way to make a 360-degree panoramic image involves taking at least 12 or more pictures and then "stitching" them together with some special software. Anyone who has done this will tell you that it isn't easy. You have to have a very good tripod with horizontal and vertical bubble levels, your camera must have an exposure lock option and even then keeping the exposure and white balance the same across 12+ images is no cake walk. Depending on your stitching program the final panoramic image can be great, so-so or mediocre no matter how good your input images are. Then there are the panoramic systems like iPix that take two spherical images shot with a 180-degree fisheye lens and blends these two images into the finished panorama. This is easier because you only need to take two shots but where those two images are blended can often result in less than stellar panoramas.
So now imagine just going out with your camera, the 360 One lens and a tripod or even just a monopod. You capture the entire panorama in ONE shot. This eliminates the overlapping or blending or stitching errors as well as uneven exposure and white balance problems. It also allows you to capture a panorama with the world around you in full motion, no worries about someone walking from one shot into another ever again. You can even get very useable panorama shots by holding the camera and lens up over your head in a crowd but I won't kid you - the key to a great panorama is dependant on it being shot perfectly level. If you're off level then the image creeps up and down as you go around and this is not very professional looking.
As you can see from my sample panorama that I even got a very useable image of the inside of my rather cluttered work room. This is a rather small room measuring about eight by twelve feet and to capture it in just one shot is rather amazing. And the level of detail in the finished panorama is incredible considering it is only a 198KB QuickTime movie file which is easily downloaded, even by those with 56K modems.
The only problem that I have encountered is when you do outdoor panoramas you need to try to shade the sun out of the field of view of the lens. Even the instructions tell you to try to avoid having the sun "in the shot." What happens is that you end up with a reflective flare somewhere in the captured image. I always do a little post processing of my images, color balance or brightness adjustment and then a little sharpening does wonders to make the output image more well defined. I've been able to easily clone these flares out with Photoshop so it isn't a major problem really. For the convenience of being able to generate a web-ready panorama in minimal time is a real plus, especially for those doing this as a business. I can't tell you how nice it is to spend minimal time out in the 90-degree plus temperatures down here in Florida. In the good ole days I would be dripping wet with sweat after standing in the sun long enough to grab 12-14 shots -- never again thanks to the 360 One!
For more sample panos and another 360One review, check out thewww.dakotadigitz.com web site.