At IFA Berlin 2017, Ricoh launched the Ricoh Theta V (pronounced “Vee” not “Five”), the long-awaited 4K version of the popular Ricoh Theta, along with two new accessories! Here are the specifications, features, sample photos and videos, accessories, and first impressions of its key strengths. 9/29/17 update: I’ve been shooting with the Ricoh Theta V and the video quality is excellent! I’ve added a new hands-on sample 4K 360 video. I’ve also added info about how to get spatial audio.
Ricoh Theta is the most popular 360 camera in the market. It was the first all-in-one 360 camera for consumers yet somehow Ricoh nailed the design perfectly the first time around, giving birth to an entire new industry. Its design has been emulated in one way or another by many other 360 cameras, but the Theta is unique in having a very slim profile that minimizes parallax stitching error, combined with a very effective optical flow stitching algorithm that results in almost perfectly seamless stitching.
Despite its strengths, the Theta has been leapfrogged by other 360 cameras for 360 video. The current Theta S and Theta SC can only shoot 360 video at 1920 x 960, whereas many other cameras shoot at four times higher resolution in 4K (3840 x 1920). This is why Theta fans have been yearning for a 4K version of the Theta since 2015, and now it’s finally here!
Here’s the concept video
RICOH THETA V
Theta V is the fifth version of the Ricoh Theta (following the original Theta, the m15, Theta S, and Theta SC). It looks similar to other Thetas except that its body is gunmetal gray and has a smooth plastic finish instead of the matte surface of previous Thetas. As with previous Thetas, the LED lights in its body are invisible until lit. Here are the key specifications (differences from the Theta S are in bold):
– two 1/2.3-inch sensors, 12mp each.
– two lenses, fully spherical field of view
– aperture: f/2
– video resolution: 3840 x 1920 @ 29.97 fps. H.264. Bitrate: 56 mbps.
– photo resolution: 5376 x 2688
– live stream: 3840 x 1920 @ 29.97 fps. H.264. Bitrate: 120 mbps.
– exposure modes: auto, shutter priority, ISO priority, manual
– ISO (photos): 64 to 3200 (in ISO priority mode)
– ISO (video): 64 to 6400
– shutter speed (photos): 1/25,000 to 60 seconds
– shutter speed (video): 1/25,000 to 1/30
– storage: internal 19GB (around 40 mins. of 4K video, or 4800 photos)
– Wi-Fi: 20mbps (2.4gh) or 50mbps (5ghz)
– Micro USB 2.0
– microphone input jack
– battery: lithium ion (non-removable)
– battery capacity: 260 photos or 65 mins. video
– weight: 121g
– dimensions: 45.2mm x 130.6mm x 22.9mm (17.9mm)
– MSRP: $429.95
– Release date: September 24, 2017
Here is a 4K 360 video (shot on the Theta V) where I talk about its top 10 features:
Here are more information about its features:
3D Spatial Audio
At first glance, the Theta V looks identical to its predecessor, the Theta S. However, there are tiny holes on the Theta V for four microphones for spatial audio – two on top, one in front and one at the back. The Theta records not only the cardinal direction but also the elevation. Check out the sample videos below for demos of the spatial audio (such as the one with the girls eating ice cream). See also my in-depth article about the Theta V’s sound.
Note: to use spatial audio outside of the Theta app, you need to use the movie converter app, available for download here. First, stitch the 360 video, then drag the 360 video onto the movie converter icon. The converted video will appear in the same directory as the original file.
There is also a mic input jack. The microphone input can be used for an optional spatial audio microphone, the TA-1, which can capture professional quality spatial audio (see accessories below).
Theta V uses an Android-based operating system that enables new features using software plugins. One of the plug-ins enables Remote Playback (see below). Other future plugins that are being considered are camera control for raw capability, or a plug-in that will allow the theta to upload its images to a cloud service directly, without using a phone.
The Theta V has a unique feature that enables it to display 360 photos and videos on compatible devices, and you will be able to use the Theta V itself as a motion controller for the display. Regarding compatibility, Ricoh states, “Miracast-compatible devices, including Amazon Fire TV Stick, may be used. Ricoh will make available a list of compatible devices.”
I’ve seen a representative demonstrate this function on a Miracast-equipped TV and it works exactly as they said. The TV connects to the camera quickly and you can use the Theta like a floating mouse to navigate, swipe, or zoom.
I don’t have a Miracast TV but I do have an Amazon Fire Stick, but have not yet been able to establish a connection to the TV (I get an error that says the signal is too weak even though I’m standing in front of my TV). I will update this when I’m able to resolve this issue.
Google Street View Auto Mode
Theta V is certified by Google to be Street View Mobile Ready. Users can shoot in a new Street View Auto Mode which will let users create Street View connected images simply by walking, biking or driving.
As of October 2017, stitching of photos is in-camera, while stitching of videos is via the app or via the desktop software. Ricoh stated, “At launch, video stitching will be performed on demand as files are transferred to your phone. However, Ricoh plans to release a firmware update in October that will add real-time, in-camera stitching, which will reduce the time it takes to transfer videos to your phone.”
RICOH THETA V SAMPLE PHOTOS
Here are official sample photos from the Theta V, provided by Ricoh:
Although the Theta V’s resolution is the same as that of the Theta S, the samples show that the Theta V has better image quality. The images appear sharp throughout the frame except for areas very close to the stitch line.
There is much less chromatic aberration compared to previous Thetas, although there is still some purple fringing near the stitch line.
In terms of flare resistance, there are a few flare artifacts and the Theta V has its predecessors’ distinctive red dot flare.
Here is a screencap from Ricoh’s presentation, comparing the photo quality between Theta S and Theta V. My impression is that the improvement is primarily with the processing of the photo.
My observations are similar to those I’ve made for the sample photos. I look forward to actual head-to-head comparisons against other 360 cameras.
Together with the Theta V, Ricoh also announced two new accessories: the TA-1 3D spatial audio microphone, and TW-1 waterproof case.
When the Theta V photos were leaked showing a microphone jack, some readers wondered about the utility of the microphone which would be visible in the video. Now Ricoh has revealed the TA-1 microphone shows the primary purpose of the microphone jack: the TA-1 attaches to the base of the Theta to record 3D spatial audio. The TA-1 will be $329.99.
TW-1 waterproof case
Ricoh also announced the TW-1 waterproof case, which is specially designed to minimize refraction and to allow the user to have full access to the Theta’s on-camera buttons. You can see from the sample video here that the stitching looks very smooth!
The case can be used up to a depth of 30 meters. It works not just for the Theta V, but also works for the Theta S and SC (when used with the Theta S, you need to use the included silicon frame). The TW-1 will be $229.99.
Based on these samples, the Theta V is undoubtedly a clear improvement over the Theta S. The bigger question is how it compares to other 360 cameras in 2017. In that regard, here are what I see as the Theta’s strengths:
– excellent video quality (in my opinion, the best among 4K 360 cameras as of October 2017), despite some flaws such as purple fringing;
– excellent stitching (as of October 2017, best in class)
– best audio quality and audio capabilities.
– underwater case that works very well
– there may be future plugins that add significant functions.
AVAILABILITY AND OTHER INFO
Theta V is already available for preorder from Amazon for $429 (shipping on the release date, September 24).
For more information on the Theta V, bookmark this page for other updates and check out the Ricoh Theta Facebook page.