I bought my first digital camera in 1996. Back then, no one knew what the term “digital camera” meant, so I would have to call it a “computer camera” for people to understand it was some kind of camera you hooked up to a computer.
I originally wanted it so I could take and post photos during visits to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Over the years, I created a massive archive of theme park photos at my site DisneyFans.com and Renaissance festival photos at AtTheFaire.com. Between my various photo archive websites and personal photos, I expect I have easily taken several hundred thousand digital photos.
And I still don’t claim to know a thing about photography. I just point and click.
I also got involved with video editing back in the early 1980s using my dad’s VHS editing equipment. I bought my first digital camcorder in 1999, as well as an iMac DV to do digital video editing.
Over the years, I have experimented with many types of photography and videography.
Around 2004, I purchased a NuView 3-D adapter for my camcorder, and records many hours of 3-D video at Disneyland and a local Renaissance Faire.
I was also interested in Apple’s QuickTime VR, where you could have a photo that enabled you to look all around (and sometimes up and down). Taking such photos was labor intensive (requiring taking dozens of photos in different angles and “stitching” them together with special, and expensive, computer software). But, there were some “one shot” solutions being offered that involved shooting against a circular mirror that would capture a panoramic image 360 degrees around.
Back around 2004-2005, I had a web page listing the various lens systems I had found:
The mirror system I wanted cost almost $1000, so I never bought one, but I did purchase a cheap knockoff called SurroundPhoto. It was a plastic lens with marginal optic quality, but at least I could afford it. I picked one up for around $130, and then picked up a Nikon Coolpix 5400 camera to use with it.
I took the 360 setup with me on a trip to Disneyland during a trip in December 2005. I wanted to take 360 photos of Main Street and create an update to an old 1996 virtual tour I created using normal photos.
I also took the camera to the Kansas City Renaissance Faire, and to the future construction site of the Des Moines Renaissance Faire.
Beyond posting a few sample photos, I never did anything else with the device.
I recently discovered the photos I took, and thought I’d share a look at what 360 photography was like back in 2005.
The camera shot upwards, pointing to a circular curved mirror. The raw photos looked like this:
360 Disneyland in 2005.
Special software for Mac or Windows could then convert this circular image in to a panorama:
Panorama of Disneyland 2005
Special viewing software could then be used to pan around in this image, with a tiny bit of up and down.
Today, this type of image would be taken with a single 180 degree wide angle lens (like the Kodak PIXPRO SP360) or with multiple lenses like the RICOH THETA or Giroptic 360cam.
One of my winter projects is going to be to finally build this Disneyland 2005 panoramic tour. The picture quality is pretty horrible by today’s standards, so I present it mostly as a look back at the humble origins to 360/VR photography that is so common today that even Facebook natively supports it.
More to come…