Jefferson Graham takes out the new Richoh Theta S camera for wild 360 spherical views of the Manhattan Beach pier and shows how to use it.
Sean Fujiwara

MANHATTAN BEACH – The world of 360, spherical video is one wild, ultra-fisheye look at the entire world around you.

Capturing it used to be really hard and complicated–but now, there’s a new 360 camera that makes it easier and more affordable than ever–the Ricoh Theta S.

It sells for $349 and is unlike any camera you’ve probably seen before. And you don’t need a virtual reality headset to watch the footage.

The camera has two ultra-wide fisheye lenses–on the front and back of the camera. This is done to give you that full crazy view of the world–up, down, left and right. But this also means that when you hold the Theta S in your hands, your image will include what’s in front of you–and behind. The photographer grasping the camera.

So you don’t want to be holding the camera for your shots–unless you want to be seen! Ricoh recommends using a tripod or selfie stick instead and holding it up high.

The Theta has a 12 megapixel sensor and shoots in full 1920x1080p high definition.

Ultra-wide 360 videos are in their early days, and just starting to find favor online, where both YouTube and Facebook are now accepting spherical video sharing.

Most previous attempts at 360 cameras required complicated multi-camera set-ups, and then hours spent in video editing stitching together the various clips into one spherical image.

The Theta S does all the stitching in-house. But the transfer process is cumbersome, and editing a different experience that you’ve probably encountered, (See sidebar for how to do it.) Once done, the results are a lot of fun. Just take a look at the accompanying video to see what the Manhattan Beach Pier looks like in its 360 glory.

The camera has no viewfinder, and that’s always an odd sensation. How do you photograph something when you can’t see what you’re doing?

To compose your image, you’ll need to download the Theta S app for Apple or Android devices and use the screen of your phone for the viewfinder. It’s a little awkward, but similar to using a GoPro without the viewfinder. You get used to it.

In the app, you download your clips and photos (from internal memory) to the phone, and that can take quite some time. The only way to get the clips over is via Wifi, and Ricoh suggests not shooting any clips longer than 3 minutes, as they will really bog down your transfer process

Once downloaded, the clips and photos show up in your phone Camera Roll, in full spherical wonder. You can share 360 photos directly to Facebook from the app or Camera Roll, but video will only appear 360 on Android phones or Facebook’s desktop app. Facebook hasn’t turned on the 360 switch for IOS clips yet.

However, YouTube’s #360 channel has full 360 functionality for both IOS and Android.

The Theta S will be in stores on October 23.

Follow USA TODAY tech columnist and #TalkingTech host Jefferson Graham on Twitter, where he’s @jeffersongraham, and listen to his daily audio tech reports on iTunes, Stitcher and TuneIn.

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