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 its key strengths.12/20/17 update: fringing fix and other improvements plus a free selfie stick promo
11/20/17 update: see major improvements
10/24/17 update: new spatial audio demo; review added
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.
Originally published August 31, 2017.
SUMMARY AND OVERVIEW
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
Here is a sample 4K 360 video from the Theta V where I talk about its top 10 features:
Here are more information about its features.
RICOH THETA V SPECIFICATIONS
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: $399.95
– Release date: September 24, 2017
RICOH THETA V FEATURES
As I discussed in my video, the Theta V has several features. Here are more details 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. Here is a demo of the spatial audio:
Here is another spatial audio demo I shot, where you can enjoy the sound of classic cars rumbling by.
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 stitched 360 video onto the movie converter app 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 November 2017, stitching of photos is in-camera, while stitching of videos is either in-camera (see below under November 2017 updates), or via the app, or via the desktop software.
November 2017 updates:
On October 24, 2017 and November 16, 2017, Ricoh posted several major updates to the Theta V: First, with firmware 1.11.1 (November 16, 2017), image stabilization has improved significantly, to the point where it can now be used without a gimbal.
Second, the Theta V now has in-camera stitching for videos, at 4K resolution. To use in-camera stitching, you need to update the firmware to 1.11.1 (November 16, 2017) or later, and you must turn on the in-cam stitching option in the settings while the Theta V is connected to the app. The setting is sticky, i.e., once enabled, the Theta V will use in-cam stitching whether or not connected to the app. The Theta V is now one of the very few 360 cameras that are capable of in-camera stitching at 4K or higher resolution (others include Garmin Virb 360, Nikon Keymission 360, ion360 U).
Third, stitching quality has improved. Most notably, when the Theta V was first released, there were a couple of lines that would appear in the nadir. This issue appears to have been addressed in firmware update 1.10.1 (October 24, 2017).
Fourth, the price of the Theta V has decreased from $429 to $399. Indeed, one seller is offering a bundle that includes the Theta V, the Theta V selfie stick, a mini tripod, and a 3200 mah USB power stick, all for $399.
December 2017 update:
On December 20, 2017, Ricoh issued a major firmware update (1.20.1) with several improvements to the Theta V:
– First, purple fringing has been reduced. The Theta V has very good image quality, but it was susceptible to purple fringing. This update mitigates the purple fringing, an improvement that has been requested by many Theta V users (including myself).
– Second, there is now an option to correct rotational shake in videos. This seems to suggest improved stabilization. I’ll update this after I experiment with it.
– Third, subject shake has been reduced in videos, but there might be an increase in noise. This seems to imply that the Theta would use a higher shutter speed (to reduce blur), but would increase the ISO to maintain the exposure. I hope this is an option that you can turn on or off.
– Fourth, better spatial audio when using the TA-1 microphone. I will try to test this.
– Finally, auto shutdown has been reduced from 48 hours to 18 hours. Theta V has two power modes when “turned off”: one mode is a standby mode that enables the camera to quickly start shooting again. A second mode, when the Theta V is inactive for a prolonged period of time (or if you hold down the power button for several seconds), is a total shutdown to conserve battery. From this mode, it takes a few seconds to startup. This firmware update will shutdown the Theta after 18 hours instead of 48 hours.
To update the firmware, simply charge your Theta V and when full, connect it to your PC or Mac via Micro USB and launch the Theta app. Under the File menu, there is an option to update firmware.
Free selfie stick promo: In addition to the firmware updates, Ricoh is offering a discount on the Theta V ($379.95) and will include a free Theta selfie stick, only the holiday season. Just use this link and the promo code SELFIE17.
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 some purple fringing near the stitch line. Some previous Thetas had a similar fringing issue, which was corrected in the current version of the Theta S, which leaves open the possibility that fringing may also be corrected via a future firmware update for the Theta V.
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. You can see direct comparisons against some popular 360 cameras starting at 08:03 of this video.
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 is available for $269.95.
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 is $199.99.
I’ve been shooting with the Theta V for about a month now, and here is a concise review based on my actual usage in the field. The Theta V is undoubtedly a clear improvement over the Theta S with better photo quality (a little less noise and better shadow detail), and far better video quality. If you love the Theta S, you will be even happier with the Theta V.
The bigger question is how it compares to other 360 cameras in 2017. There are many excellent 360 cameras in 2017, and in that regard, here are what I see as the Theta’s strengths:
+ Excellent video quality, despite some flaws such as purple fringing.
+ excellent stitching (as of October 2017, it has one of the best stitching), marred only by two lines near the nadir.
+ image stabilization (requires firmware update 1.11.1 or later)
+ best audio quality and audio capabilities.
+ best exposure controls (auto, manual, shutter priority, ISO priority, exposure bracketing, interval composite mode)
+ underwater case that works very well – has either the best or second best stitching for underwater videos.
+ there may be future plugins that add significant functions.
Here are its weaknesses:
– memory is not expandable; unlike previous Thetas that could be hacked to upgrade their storage, the Theta V’s storage is embedded in its board and is not upgradeable. This is a real world limitation if you use 4K video. I have run out of space before I have run out of battery.
– purple fringing (might be resolved by firmware in the future). This will be addressed via a future firmware update.
– red dot flare, somewhat susceptible to flare. This will be addressed via a future firmware update.
– battery is also likewise not removable or upgradeable
– costs more than some competitors such as the Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere, Insta360 ONE, and Yi 360 VR.
With the Theta V’s 4K video, Ricoh didn’t just try to keep up with the competition. They were clearly aiming to have the best video in its class. Indeed, it has better video quality than even the Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere (the Theta V is much more detailed while offering similar dynamic range as the Mi Sphere), and I would say it has the best video quality among 4K 360 cameras as of October 2017.
The Theta V’s video quality is almost as good as, but not quite as good as, those of 5.7K 360 cameras such as the Garmin Virb 360, Yi 360 VR, or GoPro Fusion. See this comparison between the Theta V, Yi 360 VR, Virb 360 and other cameras. Nonetheless, many users might prefer the Theta V for other factors such as best-in-class audio quality, excellent exposure controls, and ease of use with its pocketable form factor and fast video stitching. With its in-camera video stitching option, it might therefore be a more practical choice for consumers who don’t have the patience for the longer stitching times required for the Yi 360 VR, for example, or who would prioritize the Theta V’s stitching quality over the Virb 360’s slightly better detail.
Also consider (for other Theta V advantages, see also the Theta V’s features above):
– Yi 360 VR ($499): Yi has better video quality and better optics. Theta V costs less, has better exposure controls (e.g. for night sky photos, etc.), built-in HDR, better stabilization, better audio, is easier to carry around.
– Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere ($250 to $300): Xiaomi has better photo quality, better built-in stabilization, lower price. Theta V has better video quality, better exposure controls (e.g. for night sky photos, etc.), built-in HDR, better audio, easier workflow.
– Insta360 ONE ($299): Insta360 ONE has more features (e.g. free capture), higher photo resolution, better built-in stabilization, lower price. Theta V has better video quality, better audio quality, better dynamic range.
– GoPro Fusion ($699). Fusion has higher video quality and stabilization. Theta V costs less, has better audio, is more portable, better underwater quality (with the TW-1), easier workflow.
Theta V is $399 and is already available from Amazon or B&H Photo (the official release date was September 24, although units began to ship before that date). For more information on the Theta V, bookmark this page for other updates.