Ricoh has announced a new flagship 360 camera called the Ricoh Theta Z1, which will feature the first 1-inch sensors for consumer 360 cameras, along with other groundbreaking features. In this post, I discuss its specifications, features, image quality compared to other 360 cameras, as well as price and availability. I will be testing the Theta Z1 in a few weeks and will be updating this page with a hands-on review.
Here is an analysis of the Theta Z1’s specifications and features, and who this camera is for:
Here are photos shot by Naoto Somese. With the Theta Z1 side by side with the Theta V, we can see just how incredibly compact the Theta Z1 is for a camera with not one but two 1-inch sensors.
Ricoh Theta Z1 Specifications and Comparison with Ricoh Theta V
Here are the specifications of the Z1, in comparison to the Theta V. I highlighted improvements in the Z1.
|Ricoh Theta Z1||Ricoh Theta V|
|Lens type||Two fisheye lenses|
14 elements in 10 groups
2.57mm focal length
|Two fisheye lenses|
7 elements in 6 groups
|Field of view||Fully spherical||Fully spherical|
|Aperture||f/2.1, f/3.5, f/5.6||f/2.0|
|Minimum distance||40cm to infinity||10cm to infinity|
|Sensors||Two 1-inch BSI-CMOS sensors, 20mp each||Two 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensors, 12mp each|
|Photo resolution||7296 x 3648 (26.6 mp in DNG Raw)|
6720 x 3360 (22.6 mp in JPG)
|5376 x 2688 (14.5mp)|
|Video resolution:||3840 x 1920 @ 29.97fps 56 mbps bitrate (H.264)||3840 x 1920 @ 29.97fps 56 mbps bitrate (H.264)|
|Live stream resolution||TBA||3840 x 1920 @ 29.97fps 120 mbps bitrate|
|ISO (photo)||80 to 6400 (ISO priority mode)||64 to 3200 (ISO priority mode)|
|ISO (video)||80 to 6400 (ISO priority mode)||64 to 6400|
|Shutter speed (photo)||1/25,000 to 60 secs||1/25,000 to 60 secs|
|Shutter speed (video)||1/25,000 to 1/30 sec.||1/25,000 to 1/30 sec.|
|Exposure modes||Aperture priority|
- Noise reduction
- DR compensation
- HDR rendering
- Noise reduction
- DR compensation
- HDR rendering
|Image stabilization||Yes (gyro sensor, accelerometer)||Yes (gyro sensor, accelerometer)|
|Microphone||Spatial audio||Spatial audio|
Spatial mic accessory
|Waterproof?||No as of Feb. 2019||Dedicated waterproof case|
|Connectivity||20mbps (2.4gh) or 50mbps (5ghz)|
USB Type C 3.0
|Wi-Fi 20mbps (2.4gh) or 50mbps (5ghz)|
Micro USB 2.0
|Storage||19 GB internal (around 40 mins. of 4K video, or 2400 photos)||19 GB internal (around 40 mins. of 4K video, or 4800 photos)|
|Battery||nonremovable Li-ion||nonremovable Li-ion (260 photos or 65 mins. video)|
|Weight||182 grams||121 grams|
|Dimensions||48.2mm x 132.5mm x 29.7mm (24mm)||45.2mm x 130.6mm x 22.9mm (17.9mm)|
|Price and availability||$999.95 expected April 11, 2019||$399 |
launched September 24, 2017
1. 1-inch BSI-CMOS sensor (New! First among consumer 360 cameras)
The Theta Z1’s key feature is its large 1-inch sensors, which are around 4.3x larger than the 1/2.3 inch sensors typically used in consumer 360 cameras. The Z1’s sensor is actually more than half the size of a Micro Four Thirds sensor, and as much as 1/3 the size of an APS-C size sensor.
All other factors being equal, larger sensors have higher image quality than smaller sensors: greater bit depth, wider dynamic range, and better low light performance. See below.
2. Compact size; low parallax stitching error
The Theta Z1 is remarkable not only for its large sensors but also for its incredibly compact design, which is barely larger than the Theta V, and indeed thinner than most 360 cameras that have smaller sensors. The relatively small distance between lenses means that it has less parallax stitching error, and with its optical flow stitching, should have smooth stitching.
Ricoh was able to achieve this through a folded optical path. In conventional designs, the sensors are directly behind the lens, which would have made the camera thicker. Instead, the Theta Z1 uses prisms to redirect light. As light enters through its lenses, light is reflected 90 degrees to either side of the camera, where the sensors are. By placing the sensors on the sides of the camera, Ricoh was able to move the lenses closer to each other.
3. Variable aperture (New! First among consumer 360 cameras)
The Z1 has a variable aperture, the first consumer 360 camera to have such a feature. It appears to be a true physically variable aperture, not just a digital ND filter because Ricoh states that the image will be sharper with the smaller apertures. The smaller apertures should also enable longer exposures, up to 3 stops longer than the Theta V.
4. Raw DNG mode with Adobe Lightroom stitching (New! First consumer 360 camera with Lightroom stitching)
The Theta Z1 can not only shoot in DNG Raw mode but Ricoh has created a special plug-in for Adobe Lightroom Classic called Ricoh Theta Stitcher, which for the first time will enable users to edit photos in Lightroom and then stitch them on export, with adjustments for zenith, horizon, and stitching distance. See workflow below.
5. Improved lens design (New!)
Ricoh stated that the Theta Z1 has a new lens design to reduce ghosts, flares, and purple fringing. See sample photos and image quality analysis below.
6. OLED display and Fn button (New!)
The Theta Z1 has an OLED display and a new Fn button, which enables the user to switch between normal shooting and self-timer shooting without having to use a smartphone. You’ll also be able to switch between three plug-ins, or turn off the OLED display or mute the Z1. You can also access custom settings (one for still images and one for videos). These controls enable faster shooting with the Z1 compared to previous Thetas.
7. Android plugins; remote playback
Like the Theta V, the Theta Z1 can use Android plugins. It includes the remote playback plug-in to enable photos and videos to be played wirelessly on compatible devices.
8. More durable (New!)
The Theta Z1 has a tougher build quality with a magnesium body and a metal tripod hole, unlike the plastic body and plastic tripod hole of the Theta V.
9. Exposure modes
The Theta Z1 features a new aperture priority mode, and has a multi-bracket shooting with up to 19 photos, with user-customizable exposure settings for each of the bracketed photos. The Z1 also has the same exposure features as the Theta V, including DR compensation, HDR rendering, interval composite for star trails.
10. 4-channel Spatial audio
The Theta Z1 has 4-channel spatial audio. It is able to record both horizontal and vertical direction of sounds. In a 360 video, the sound will change accordingly, depending on which direction the user is viewing, thus increasing the immersiveness of the video. However, unlike the Theta V, the Z1 does not have a microphone input and cannot use the optional TA-1 microphone of the Theta V.
The Theta Z1 can geotag 360 photos if you take a photo with a GPS-enabled smartphone. Its predecessor Theta V was also able to upload 360 videos to Google Street View, and it is likely that the Z1 will have the same capability.
Why is sensor size important?
All other factors being equal, a camera with a larger sensor will have better image quality. Indeed, sensor size is one of the most important factors for imaqe quality. Sensor size will affect bit depth, dynamic range, signal to noise ratio (low light performance), and other factors.
It is true that the Theta Z1’s resolution is modest at around 23mp. However, a 23mp photo from a large-sensor camera will look much better than a 23mp photo from a small-sensor camera. In fact, a 23mp photo from the Theta Z1 may have higher image quality than a higher resolution photo from a camera with a smaller sensor.
What kind of image quality can we expect from the Theta Z1? First, let’s look at the origin of the sensor. Ricoh Pentax has used Sony sensors on many of its DSLRs, and Sony is one of the few companies that produces a 1-inch 20mp BSI-CMOS sensor, therefore I think it is very likely that Ricoh is using a Sony sensor. I then looked at DXOMark’s ratings for Sony sensors (including Sony sensors in non-Sony cameras) and compared them against leading 1/2.3-inch sensors. It appears that a 1-inch sensor could have as much as a 2-stop advantage for low light, and a little more than 1-stop advantage for dynamic range.
One issue with a larger sensor for virtual tours is ensuring an adequate depth of field. In that regard, the Theta Z1 is able to keep in focus everything from 40cm to infinity (by comparison the Theta V is able to capture everything from 10cm to infinity). I am not certain if the 40cm is based on a wide open aperture, and if so, I am assuming that using a smaller aperture can decrease the minimum focal distance.
Theta Z1 Sample photos; image quality
Here are official samples, with EXIF information (click on the circle with “i” on the bottom right corner).
You can download the samples here. Check back for more samples.
Flare resistance of the Z1 appears excellent. Many 360 cameras have difficulty dealing with flare, with the side of the camera facing the key light often seemingly “brighter” than the other side (in fact, what viewers are seeing is flare). The Theta Z1 however, seems to have very strong flare resistance. Many of the samples show a bright light source against a dark background, but no flare is visible in any of the photos. Moreover, I saw no evidence of the “red dot flare” that plagued the Z1’s predecessors. Based on these samples, this may be the best flare resistance I’ve seen from any 360 camera.
Stitching on these samples looks very smooth, and although there is a drop sharpness very close to the stitch line, it has far better consistency of sharpness compared to the Theta V or previous Thetas which had a noticeable decrease toward the stitch line. In this crop from the beach shot, we can see that the stitching is not only smooth, but that you can see fine details such as the threads on the beach towel, even at the stitch line.
Chromatic aberration: one of the previous Thetas’ weaknesses is chromatic aberration (although it is mitigated to some extent by software). The Z1 still shows some chromatic aberration, but it seems much more controlled than on previous Thetas.
Theta Z1 Lightroom Workflow
Here is a video by my friend Naoto Somese showing the Lightroom workflow. The video shows an unstitched Raw DNG file edited in Lightroom. After the file is edited, the user can export the edited DNG file, which will be stitched into an equirectangular photo on export. The user can adjust the pitch, yaw and roll of the equirectangular photo before finalizing the export. This workflow gives users the maximum flexibility in making adjustments to the image and avoids seams during the stitching.
Its only drawback is that Lightroom does not have a feature for patching 360 photos (such as to remove objects or to add text). However, Lightroom can do roundtrip editing to Photoshop, where a photo can be patched if necessary.
Price and availability
The Theta Z1 is available for $999.95 from Amazon or B&H Photo. It will be available late March 2019. I believe the Theta Z1 is a very good value at $999.95, assuming the photos are as good as the specs suggest. It appears ideal for virtual tour photographers. However, the price probably puts it out of reach for many consumers, which is why I don’t think this is a replacement for the Ricoh Theta V. I am expecting that there will be a Theta V2 in the future with 5.6K video.
If you’d like to get the Theta Z1, I recommend ordering from Amazon, because you can get a 4-year accident protection plan for just $66.77 with “no deductible or hidden fees,” shipping included on all repairs, fully transferable. However, please note I have no experience dealing with claims with Asurion, LLC. Thanks for using these links to support 360Rumors at no additional cost to you so I can do more tests and reviews.