Ricoh Theta V Review
|Full model name:||Ricoh Theta V|
|Sensor size:||1/2.3 inch
(6.2mm x 4.6mm)
|Viewfinder:||No / No LCD|
|Native ISO:||64 - 3200|
|Shutter:||1/25000 - 60 sec|
1.8 x 5.1 x 0.9 in.
(45 x 131 x 23 mm)
|Full specs:||Ricoh Theta V specifications|
Ricoh Theta V Review -- Hands-on Preview
by Jaron Schneider
Preview posted: 08/31/2017
The Theta V is Ricoh's fifth generation 360 degree still and video camera, the original having launched in 2013. Back then, the Theta was the only 360-degree single shot camera on the market, and positioned Ricoh strongly at the top of the early-adopters to virtual reality. Now, four years later, the latest Theta launches amid a space that is significantly more crowded and with 4K video being a near-standard feature on even consumer-level cameras. The Theta V is Ricoh's first 360 degree camera to feature 4K, and it also packs in several other features that make it appealing to those in the VR space.
Ricoh Theta Key Features
- High-resolution 360-degree spherical still images and video
- 4K-compatible high resolution 360-degree video
- 360-degree spatial audio recording that reproduces overwhelming realism
- Shoots using a shutter of up to 1/25,000 second
- ISO range of 64-6400 in video, and 64-3200 in stills
- Internal, non-removable memory of approximately 19GB
- Offers improved accuracy of top/bottom image correction processing using new gyro sensor
- Minimum interval timelapse shooting of 4 seconds
- High-speed data transfer thanks to a dramatically improved wireless communication module
- Remote Playback capability to many different brands of televisions using the Theta itself as a controller
- Bluetooth and wireless LAN dual communication
- Additional functions can be added using plug-ins, as Theta V is based on Android OS
- 4K 360-degree streaming support (to be added via firmware update at a later date, not available at launch)
- Additional accessories: 3D microphone TA-1 and underwater housing (up to 30 meters)
Ricoh Theta Key Features
The Theta changes nearly nothing about how it looks and operates over what fans of the system may remember from previous versions. The iconic design was maintained to allow for a lightweight, easy to use compact camera that Ricoh says has been a hallmark of their product. The Theta V sees the biggest changes internally, thanks to its new sensor and dramatically more powerful Snapdragon processor.
The Theta V is Ricoh's first 360 degree camera to capture 4K, and in side by side comparisons using a head mounted display, the quality difference was very apparent, based on a demonstration at a press event. Both the image quality of still images and video has been significantly improved, and power consumption has been reduced using a new image sensor that supports high-speed image data readout. The camera can shoot high-definition, smooth 360-degree video at 30 frames per second at a resolution of 3840 x 1920 pixels, which is equivalent to 4K in virtual reality. In addition to supporting the H.264 file format for video recording, the more recent video compression standard of H.265 is also supported in anticipation of future applications based on the API release.
A Qualcomm Snapdragon is the main processor of the Theta V. Ricoh says they have enhanced the exposure accuracy and white balance algorithm by combining image processing technology cultivated through the development of PENTAX cameras. Ricoh has also performed tuning to obtain accurate and natural portrayal of high-definition 360-degree spherical images with an approximately 14 effective megapixel output for still images even when using auto shoot.
The Theta has two modes of "powered off" state. It can be fully powered off, which then requires several seconds to re-power back on. This is a mode that is recommended when you do not plan to shoot for a while, or are done entirely with the device for the day. But for regular use, there is a "sleep" mode that allows for near-instant on and off. This mode saves power, but doesn't turn the device fully off and also allows it to maintain a wireless low-energy Bluetooth connection with your phone.
After capturing images or video with the Theta, you can directly post 360-degree spherical images shot using the camera to Facebook, YouTube and other social and messaging services, upload them to the theta360.com dedicated website and share them on social networks such as Twitter and Tumblr. Unique cropped images can also be shared using Instagram. It is also possible to submit captured spherical videos to Google Maps.
Controlling the Theta V remains consistent with the experience in the Theta S. One method is using the Theta itself. It has set of buttons physically on the device that lets you take photos or videos (and switch between those two options) as well as powering the device and toggling wireless on and off. For more in-depth control, like setting manual exposure, the Theta must be accessed using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth using the smart device app.
The Theta V uses low energy Bluetooth (BLE), which lets it have an "always-on" connection between it and a phone for faster, more immediate device pairing. It also can connect with Wi-Fi. Images can be shot from a smartphone while connected only using BLE, and the power of the camera can be turned on from the basic application when it enters sleep mode. This function provides improvements in usability and lowers power consumption. With a Wi-Fi connection, all functions such as live-view display on a smartphone and image transfer can be used. Users can select either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection as needed depending on the shooting scene.
Control over the Theta is done via the same THETA+ app that owners of the Theta S will already have installed on their phones. Speaking of wireless transfer, the Ricoh Theta V has dramatically improved performance from the Theta S. The communication speed is now approximately 2.5 times faster than with previous Theta models, based on Ricoh testing and backed up by an in-person demonstration to Imaging Resource. In a test, Ricoh demonstrated the speed difference in transferring a just-taken photo to a smartphone on the Theta S and the Theta V. It was markedly faster on the Theta V, as we were already looking at the image on a smartphone that was paired with the Theta V, and the Theta S was still only about halfway finished with the transfer. Ricoh says this enhancement was achieved by improving the wireless communication module and increasing the data processing speed. The upgrades enable the large volume of image data that accompanies higher-resolution images to be efficiently transferred and browsed.
The Theta V is based on an Android operating system, which means that functionality can be easily extended via smartphone applications. This will mean developers can build apps that work with the Theta, and Ricoh has stated that various plug-ins to the V that are under development by them and will lead the way for others to follow.
The camera has a 4-channel microphone that supports 360-degree spatial audio recording built into its body. Omnidirectional audio is recorded not just in the horizontal direction but also in the vertical direction, making it possible to reproduce sound and video as it was in the environment where the video was shot by linking 360-degree video and audio together. Furthermore, using the dedicated accessory "3D Microphone TA-1" (which is detailed below) will allow you to pick up natural sound with a large volume of information at low to high frequency.
During a hands-on with this technology, the concept was very interesting though poorly executed in our demonstration due to a computer that was running very slowly; we weren't able to get a good grasp of how the spatial audio actually would work. In theory, turning your head while wearing a head-mounted display would give you a different sound than when you faced in another direction. Their demonstration showed four musicians on four sides of the Theta V recording, and in the demo we could hear each instrument more directly based on which way we faced.
This is cool, but pretty unrealistic if this is indicative of the final product. If you were in the same room as those four instruments, you may be able to hear one more strongly over the others if you leaned in very closely, but you would also still very clearly hear the other instruments. The way the Theta was producing sound made very clear distinctions among sound sources, and played those back much stronger than in reality. Though as stated, this was a bit of a flawed demo due to technical glitches, so we'll reserve judgment until we see a final product.
The top shutter speed of the Theta V has been dramatically increased over its predecessor, the Theta S. Formerly, the shutter speed ranged from 1/6400 second down to 1/8 second, but the Theta V can now achieve 1/25,000 second to 1/8 second. Both models allow exposures as long as 60 seconds in manual mode.
The Theta V also increases the on-board storage from 9 GB to now approximately 19 GB. This allows for about 40 minutes of 4K footage, 130 minutes of HD footage and approximately 4800 still images.
Ricoh decreased the minimum interval time down to 4 seconds, which will result in a better timelapsing experience.
You can expect the battery in the Theta V to last for between 160 and 300 images, or 80 minutes of video (Ricoh did not specify if higher resolution video would result in a change in battery drain, so we can assume it's the same for both resolutions).
At launch, the Theta V will support live streaming, too, but it requires a tethered connection with a computer with high performance image processing and a high speed communication environment in order to transmit. However, Ricoh says that they will support mobile live streaming via an impending firmware update expected in October of 2017.
Ricoh says that the Theta V is the world's first commercially-marketed fully spherical camera that allows for "Remote Playback" (claim based on Ricoh research). This feature allows users to wirelessly playback 360-degree images and videos on a large-screen display, like a television. Many television brands support the feature already, and using a compatible wireless display adapter, it is possible to mirror playback of 360-degree still images and video data stored on the camera. Connecting the Theta is relatively simple, and once done, the Theta itself works as a remote (think the Nintendo Wii). You can select and open photos and video onto a television, and navigate within the 360 degree space using the Theta as a remote -- move the Theta V around and the video will interact, pan around and move according to how you move the camera itself.
Ricoh Theta V with its optional accessories: TW-1 Underwater case (left) and TA-1 Microphone (right)
The Theta V can be paired with two different optional accessories: the 3D TA-1 Microphone and the TW-1 Underwater case.
The 3D Microphone will be available at launch and is a Theta V-dedicated microphone. Equipped with a microphone unit developed by Audio-Technica Corporation, the microphone can pick up deep sounds at middle to low frequency due to the directional microphone with a large aperture at approximately 10mm, compared to the built-in microphones. This makes it well suited to shooting musical performances. Also, attaching the included wind screen to the microphone allows video to be shot with reduced wind noise when outdoors.
Available in October 2017, the TW-1 underwater housing is waterproof up to a depth of 30 meters (equivalent to JIS Class 8 waterproof standard) to achieve 360-degree underwater shooting. A mechanism on the case enables a user to trigger the camera through the case. It is compatible with the Theta S and SC as well as the Theta V. The case's surface has a scratch-resistant, anti-reflective coating, and the case is equipped with a tripod socket to allow its use with monopods and other camera accessories.
In very limited time with the Theta V, the shooting experience was pretty much identical to that of the predecessor Theta S. Though image quality is dramatically better, the actual user experience remains the same. This is a testament to Ricoh's insistence on keeping the exact same form factor and build as the previous Theta products and assures that users will not be held back by having to learn anything new about their camera before they can simply get out there and start shooting.
Of most interest on the camera, and what could be the best positive additions aside from increased 4K resolution, is the spatial audio and the "remote playback" functionality. Spacial audio is a really cool concept that has a lot of potential. We really want to see how something like a walk in the park is enhanced when audio is more specific to what you are looking at in the VR space. The remote playback brings Nintendo Wii-like features to the Theta V, and it certainly will be popular with regular consumers who are looking for more ways to interact with VR footage, especially without a headset for every person you want to share that footage with.
On the downside of this camera, Theta decided to stick with internal memory that is non-removable, and the maximum recording time was kept at 25 minutes. Ricoh did this so as to not exceed a 4 gigabyte file, and said that the reason they decided to not allow the Theta to automatically just start a new 4 gigabyte file was their fear of data corruption. Given that the most popular way to remove photo and video content from the device will be via Wi-Fi download to a phone, this makes sense. However, if Ricoh simply thought to allow users to install their own microSD memory, perhaps this entire problem could be avoided. As it stands, the 25 minute recording time does greatly limit the places that the Theta can go, and makes it less of an action/documentary camera and more of a consumer gadget.
Ricoh Theta V Pricing and Availability
The Ricoh Theta V will be available for $429.95. The 3D Microphone TA-1 will be launched along with the Theta V on 8/31/17 at $269.99, and the Underwater Case TW-1 is set to be available in October for $199.95.