It's been a few months since I started using the THETA, and I thought it'd be a good idea to put down some of the things I wish I had known at the outset. If you have anything you wish you had known, feel free to add it! This is by no means exhaustive, just what I could think of.
You probably knew the THETA would come to your door with two bulbous fisheye lenses. It's kind of hard to buy one without figuring that much out. But did you know how fragile the lenses are? I've seen countless pictures of broken or scratched lenses. So my first piece of advice is: don't lose the neoprene case!
It might seem superfluous, but the neoprene case is indispensable if you're planning on using your THETA on the go. The form factor of the THETA makes it great to carry around in your pocket, but so is a cell phone, and I'm sure you've all seen hundreds of cell phones with smashed screens. The amount of time it takes to remove the neoprene cover is far outweighed by the protection it offers.
Svendus suggests that you look into chromatic aberration, which concerns how lenses can distort pictures. This can be especially problematic with fisheye lenses, so take a peek at some ways to reduce this! In his example, down in the comments, you can see how the windows take on a purplish tint from the chromatic aberration, and then what it looks like when the aberration has been removed.
How to Shoot in 360
If you're like many of us, your first pictures will be filled with 360 images of...your own face staring at the camera. Not exactly taking advantage of the technology, is it? Make a conscious effort to do something different than what you're used to, or your beautiful 360 images will all be filled with your huge face staring right at the camera. It can make for an uncomfortable viewing experience.
Better yet, just get out! It can be hard to remove yourself from a 360 image, but if you can, it's probably worthwhile. You don't want to be standing there in all your photos like some 360 Slender Man. If there's a tree trunk or a car to hide behind, consider making use of it and the remote shutter on the mobile app.
While you're hiding behind the car, checking the preview on your mobile app, you might be noticing a pretty conspicuous stitch line. That line becomes more apparent in tough lighting conditions, but you can lessen the effect if you make sure to face your camera so the lens is directly facing the sun. Or, if you want to make sure the stitch line isn't interfering with the object you're most interested in, put that lens directly facing that object.
The convenience and portability of the THETA are two of its greatest attributes, but convenience doesn't mean that great shots are easy! You'll still have to put in some work if you want that perfect 360 shot.
Before you realized you should hide behind a car, you might have collected a huge compendium of 360 images with giant thumbs in them. This can be mitigated with the remote shutter, but if you aren't using a monopod or tripod, your hand will remain gigantic and in the shot. If you want quality 360 photos, a monopod or tripod is a basic necessity.
Some photo-editing software can also be used to remove unwanted parts of the photo. Take a look at the List of THETA Apps for a huge list of online, desktop, and mobile photo-editing programs. These will quickly become a few of your best friends while you're using the THETA, so don't be afraid to experiment with various programs to get one that feels good to you and does what you want. The official THETA apps are also surprisingly robust, so don't take them at a surface level. Really dig in and see what they can do - I promise you'll be glad you did.
My expectations are always higher than they should be. When I heard 1080p video, I imagined being able to put my phone into stereoscopic mode and jump fully into a space. While the image quality does fare pretty well in that viewing mode, the video quality doesn't quite hold up. And when you upload it to Youtube or Facebook, the video takes a bigger hit via the compression. You can max out the resolution on Youtube, instead of the default setting. But if quality's what you're going for, your video will look better on the official Ricoh gallery.
That's all I have for now, but if you have some ideas for what to add - comment, add to the topic, or create your own!
Steve Swayne posted this article about NR, DR, and HDR on the THETA. Definitely worth taking a look if you're wondering how the camera settings affect the captures! He also recommends using a hinged eyeglasses case to transport the THETA without worry - a brilliant idea!