First Impressions: PanoCatcher Loop 360 Photography Rig

Editor’s note: we’ve made a number of corrections here to the post.

With everyone seemingly trying to get into the world of 360 photography and video, there is no doubt a whole lot of disruption in the photography world right now. But if there is anything out there that really seems incredibly cool, then it’s probably the PanoCatcher Loop used to create what’s being called a PanoMoment. Being launched on Kickstarter today, the project is one that delivers a 360 panoramic experience that sort of combines a timelapse, 360 photography and the interactivity that caters so much to the viewers out there with the attention span of a cocaine addict seeing s fluffy squirrel run across a field. A PanoMoment captures a still moment in time and essentially lets you scrub back and forth the way you normally would in a 360 image. But as you do this, the moment in time changes. It’s not a movie file, but instead a bit more like a stop motion 360 image.

Ergonomics

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Please note that when I saw the Panocatcher, it was in its prototype form. In fact, these images are still of the prototype and Dustin (one of the creators) tells me that it’s mostly going to look like this with some extra refinements in order to keep it low cost and easy for everyone to be able to make the Panomoments. Essentially, it’s a system with a motor that turns the camera around and a peripheral that hooks up to your phone and your camera.

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As you can see, there are also a fair amount of wires involved. One connects the brain of the operation to the rotating motor and also gives you a bit of information on the HUD LCD screen. It also connects to your camera via the PC Sync port or via a USB cord.

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To get this all to work, Dustin recommends using a camera with a fisheye lens. This way you get a super wide field of view with a lot of overlap and you can create a pretty much full 360 field of view overall. But we also tried it with longer focal lengths and I truly like what we were able to produce with a shallow depth of field, etc. The viewer doesn’t fully support that yet though; but Dustin and his developer know that it’s something that could be used in conjunction with a little bit of creative freedom to create something really incredible.

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When it’s all connected and setup, it’s the opposite of what Apple wants right now with their iPhone: lots of cords.

Build Quality

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The overall build quality of the Panocatcher is okay, but I truthfully and personally think that it should be better built in terms of durability. If I want to take this out in a rainstorm or on a mountain top in the middle of a snow storm (or heck even in NYC because the apocalypse is bound to happen here) I’m not confident that it could survive. Granted, I’d also need a weather sealed camera and lens plus you’ve got to worry about the ports. However, you can set the camera into a timelapse mode and have it shoot by itself while the Panocatcher Loop spins around.

Either way, I think that the best option to go is to have options available with varying build quality.

Ease of Use

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The company recommend that in order to get the best results, what you do is use a sturdy and very stable tripod. You simply can’t do these handheld and a monopod really won’t cut it here. Think like a timelapse! Also, you’re best off using a wider angle lens like a fisheye. However, in my period playing with it, I wanted to use a narrower field of view to create something much more cinematic and less interactive. Like all storytellers, I want to tell you where to look; I’m not interested in feeding your attention deficiency when I want your attention on a specific area.

However, that isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. According to Dustin:

“The narrower FOV (35mm and 24mm) shots that you captured aren’t fully supported in the current viewers (the desktop viewer is much better for those types of shots compared to the mobile viewer). We aren’t going to prevent folks from uploading those types of photos, but I just wanted you to have full disclosure – the platform will be much more focused on wide FOV shots with the intention of VR support. Depending on user feedback though, we may end up wanting to really focus on narrow FOV support, but that’s a bit up in the air.”

So in other words, let’s get creative here!

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To control the Panocatcher Loop, what you do is use an app. I didn’t get to honestly play with it a whole lot, but there are also recommendations on how to get the best and most from the product.

First Impressions

The Panocatcher Loop seems pretty cool so far. I hope that it will be used very creatively in ways that people haven’t thought of and I hope that the format and the content that it can deliver will also progress the photo community overall. Think of it as stitched photographs. What the 360 community desperately needs to fix is a way to incorporate flash and artificial lighting into all this. It’s a huge problem and any experienced storyteller will assure you that lighting is key to a scene.

Either way, I’m excited to give this a more thorough test and hope that the product matures well.