There are a lot of choices out there these when it comes to 360° cameras, and while many of them are very good, the really good ones capable of shooting super high resolution are extremely expensive. But all is not lost. You can still get very high resolution 360° my simply stitching multiple shots from a regular camera together. Even something like a GoPro action camera.
In this video from My Tech Fun, we see how we can use a 3D printed panoramic mount (also designed by My Tech Fun – and free to download) in order to shoot 12K 360° images with an action camera. While GoPro does have their own 360° camera, this will offer a lot more resolution and detail when zooming through the image on the desktop.
The technique relies on shooting precisely seven images. Five of them cover 360° in the horizontal access, and the other two points straight up at the sky (the Zenith) and down at the ground (the Nadir). But in order to shoot them well, without seeing perspective shifts from a moving camera, the head needs to be designed in such a way that it spins about the lens, not the base of the camera, in two axes. The panoramic head shown in the video offsets the camera in order to do that.
My Tech Fun’s design uses an interesting mechanism of steel BB pellets and the spring from a ballpoint pen to make the head lock into each those five positions when shooting the horizontal axis every 72°. Because the field of view of the GoPro on its side is still greater than 72°, there’s plenty of overlap to be able to stitch them together in post.
The STL files for the project can be downloaded from the My Tech Fun website, and they’ll work with just about all action cameras, thanks to the standard GoPro mounting hardware used. On the base, to attach it to your tripod is a standard Arca Swizz sized mounting plate, although it’s 3D printed plastic, so I probably wouldn’t go too heavy on the tightening.
You’ll want to make sure you’re using an action camera that offers full manual exposure control so that you get a consistent exposure from one shot to the next, but then the final step is to just stitch it all together. There are many apps you can use, but if you’re after a free option, Hugin is a good one.
It’s a very cool design, and I might have to print one of these up to see how it handles the Insta360 ONE R (unboxing & first impressions here). Even though the Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition does come with a 5.7K dual-lens 360° module, I’m curious to see what kind of detail I can pull with a stitched panorama from multiple shots with the regular 4K module.
Stitching images to make a 360° final result is nothing new. CG artists have been doing it for years to create their HDRI environment maps. But is it still common today with as readily available as 360° cameras are now? Do you stitch your own 360° photos or do you just use a 360° camera?