For true panoramic images, toss this camera in the air. Seriously

The ball-shaped Panono contains 36 2-megapixel lenses and takes a 360x360-degree image when it is thrown into the air.

A Panono image taken high above Hong Kong. Panono

Making a panoramic image by taking one photo after another is so 2013.

On Tuesday, Panono, a startup based in Berlin, launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to develop its throwable camera, a small, ball-shaped device built with 36 integrated lenses that is designed to capture a high-quality 360x360-degree image all at once.

The idea is simple: A user tosses a Panono in the air, and just at the moment it reaches its peak height, all 36 lenses fire simultaneously. Immediately, a low-res version of the image is viewable on a smartphone app, and within a couple of minutes, the full 72-megapixel image is available.

The Panono camera, which features 36 2-megapixel lenses. Panono

According to Panono co-founder Jonas Pfeil, the camera is ideal for taking shots in dynamic situations. Family outings at the beach are an example, he said. But he also showed that the camera is perfect for capturing the broad vista high above Hong Kong, or the chaos in Tokyo's famous Shibuya crossing.

Panoramas taken with the Panono can be viewed in a number of ways. The best may well be on a tablet, which allows the user to move around the photo simply by tilting the device. But the images can also be embedded into any Web site, where they appear somewhat like a Google Street View scene.

When the Panono goes on sale, likely next September, it will cost $600, Pfeil said. But those who support it through Indiegogo will pay $550. In the coming months, the company will be working hard to produce the cameras, making sure that it is able to make enough of them to meet demand, and that each is made with the durable polycarbonate material that allows users to throw them up to about 9 feet in the air with confidence that they can survive hitting the ground.

To be sure, $600 -- or even $550 -- is a lot to spend on a camera with limited utility. But Pfeil believes that anyone who travels a lot, or who spends time playing in parks, or who, say, has kids, will relish the ability to quickly and easily take full panoramic photographs, and then just as easily share them.

It's too early to tell, of course, if the market will agree. But within the last few days, another company has emerged with a ball-shaped 360-degree camera. Panono thinks its offering is far more sophisticated, however, given that its device shoots much higher-resolution images and can be thrown in the air.

A prototype Panono, in the air near CNET's offices. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Of course, the Panono also can be mounted on a stick or held in a user's hands. But there's little doubt that most people will come to know of the Panono because it is throwable.

Could this be too gimmicky to succeed? Absolutely. But there's little doubt that there is widespread interest in panoramic photography. Apple, for example, built a panorama tool into the iPhone's camera, and there is plenty of software designed to auto-stitch multiple photos into a single panorama. Panono is hoping that photographers will opt for the ease of tossing a small ball in the air once and having all the work done for them.

 

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