So much cool stuff. So little time.

Photospheres are my new hotness

By Steve Withers, in , posted: 17-Dec-2013 17:35

I have a new tech fascination.


Google's Nexus 4, 5 and 7 devices (and some non-Google phones sold through Google Play in the US) come with a camera app that includes the photosphere mode. This mode allows you to stand in the core of a virtual sphere of app-guided photos of the scene around you - 360 by 360 - and capture, in a single image, everything in sight be it up or down, left or right or anywhere in between. 

It's "streetview" for Everyman and you can do it pretty much anywhere.  

Even better, you can submit your freshly-shot photospheres to Google Maps so everyone else can see them, too. This is particularly good when you're able to go places the Google Street View cars can't. (UPDATE: You can also submit photospheres previously uploaded to Google+ Photos or posted on Google+). 

If you don't have a Nexus device, you may be able to install the new camera app anyway, though you must make sure your phone has a gyro sensor (different to an accelerometer)....or it won't work. The details are on the XDA-Developers site. 

Here are links to a few of my recent photospheres. These are already available on Google Maps, too.  

One Tree Hill  

Island Bay Beach (Auckland)

North Head

The best technique is to hold the camera in the same point in space - vertically and horizontally - and change it's orientation. I can imagine a high level of precision might be possible with a tripod, but you also have to take the photos fairly quickly as things in the scene are moving all the time - like clouds, water, people and vehicles. I've found the best method is to hold the phone screen at the tip of my nose for most shots and just change the orientation of my head as required to follow the guide dots. This keeps the parallax / perspective changes to a minimum while also allowing you to take the required 30-ish photos in about 1 minute. You also don't want too many horizontal things (fences / railings, etc) close to you as they will make it difficult to stitch the final image together in a way that is acceptable to Google Maps (if you plan to submit it). They do not accept "lego world" photosphere images where the horizon looks chunky. This is a common problem at the beach as the waves on the shore are dynamic through the course of the capturing process...and the app will stitch the waves together and leave the horizon looking like a set of childrens blocks left lying around.

I'm still an enthusiastic 3D guy, but I'm really loving the photospheres, too.

Anyone else into this?  

(Update: I added a link and it treated the saved post as a fresh blog post  - My apologies. Won't do that again). 

Comment by shk292, on 17-Dec-2013 20:42

They are very cool.  Just installed the new app on my Xperia P and it seems to work OK - thanks for posting this

Comment by regius, on 18-Dec-2013 09:13

Thanks for posting this Steve. The images are great - almost a substitue for being there - is it possible to include sound as well?
I will now try it out on my Nexus 4 phone and send some sunny images to our sons in wintery UK.

Comment by Adam, on 18-Dec-2013 15:10

Steve, I'm really pleased that you're enjoying Views, and I'm impressed with your photo spheres (nice full coverage, and interesting places!)I hope you'll check out our official Google Maps Views (Photo Sphere) community at and share some of your photography and tips there.Oh, and thanks much for the thoughtful post!

Author's note by Linuxluver, on 18-Dec-2013 15:45

Thanks, Adam. Nice to have a comment and a compliment from someone in the Google mothership. I've joined the G+ Photosphere community. There are some awesome 'pheres in there! I'll try not to be intimidated. :-)   

Comment by JamesL, on 18-Dec-2013 22:07

I've been meaning to give photosphere a try ever since I got my Nexus 4, now 5, but always forget about it.

Great photos!

Comment by Damager, on 19-Dec-2013 01:43

Loooooooove your Island Bay pic. Amazing!

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Steve Withers
New Zealand