I have been using the Ricoh Theta V since its launch and I’ve used it with both the spatial microphone accessory and underwater case. Here is my review of the Ricoh Theta V, together with complete specifications, features, sample photos and videos, accessories, and its key strengths. This review is being constantly updated.2/12/18 update: added underwater test .
2/9/18 update: added FAQ and Tutorial .
1/30/18 update: new 360 spatial audio demo and tutorial for Premiere
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
FAQ and Tutorial.
November 2017 update improvements
December 2017 update improvements
Spatial Audio Tutorial.
Price and availability
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! 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 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):
|Lens type||Two fisheye lenses|
7 elements in 6 groups
|Field of view||Fully spherical|
|Sensors||Two 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensors, 12mp each|
|Photo resolution||5376 x 2688 (14.5mp)|
|Video resolution:||3840 x 1920 @ 29.97fps 56 mbps bitrate (H.264)|
|Live stream resolution||3840 x 1920 @ 29.97fps 120 mbps bitrate|
|ISO (photo)||64 to 3200 (ISO priority mode)|
|ISO (video)||64 to 6400|
|Shutter speed (photo)||1/25,000 to 60 secs|
|Shutter speed (video)||1/25,000 to 1/30 sec.|
- Noise reduction
- DR compensation
- HDR rendering
|Image stabilization||Yes (gyro sensor, accelerometer)|
Spatial mic accessory
|Waterproof?||Dedicated waterproof case|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 20mbps (2.4gh) or 50mbps (5ghz)|
Micro USB 2.0
|Storage||19 GB internal (around 40 mins. of 4K video, or 4800 photos)|
|Battery||nonremovable Li-ion (260 photos or 65 mins. video)|
|Dimensions||45.2mm x 130.6mm x 22.9mm (17.9mm)|
|Price and availability||$399 |
launched 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.
Also check out the sample videos below for demos of the spatial audio (such as the one with the girls eating ice cream). To learn how to use spatial audio, see the spatial audio tutorial below. See also my in-depth article about the Theta V’s sound.
The Theta V also has 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). Alternatively, you can use a conventional microphone (TRS type). Please do not use a line input or else the Theta may be damaged.
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.
FAQ and Tutorial
1. What are the key differences between the Theta V and the Theta S?
The most important difference is the 4K video of the Theta V. There are other improvements such as image stabilization, spatial audio, in-camera video stitching option, expanded ISO and shutter speed range (ISO 64 to 6400, shutter speed up to 1/25,0000), and the ability to add plugins thanks to its Android OS. Wireless speed (for transferring files to your phone) is also much faster, and wireless connectivity is more reliable.
2. Is there a difference in photo quality between the Theta V and the Theta S or Theta SC?
There is a slight improvement in photo quality. The resolution is the same, but the photos are a little sharper toward the stitch line. Theta V also has slightly more detail in the shadows and highlights.
3. What’s spatial audio? How’s it different from surround sound?
Theta V has spatial audio, which means it records an audio sphere. As you move the 360 video around, the sound will change. With surround sound the sound will not change as you look around the 360 video. Theta V records spatial audio even with its built-in microphones. But if you want to record live music with professional quality sound, there is a dedicated spatial microphone accessory, the TA-1.
4. Is the Theta V’s memory removable or expandable?
No, but Ricoh is going to create a thumb drive type accessory that makes it easier to clear up space in the memory of the Theta V.
5. Why do photographers love the Theta V?
Because it has full manual controls with exposure as long as 60 seconds. It also has one-touch true multi-shot HDR, stitched in the camera. Photos are stitched in-camera with very good quality. It’s also easy to carry.
6. How do I connect the Theta V to the app? What is the Wi-Fi password?
Turn on the Wi-Fi of the Theta V by pressing the Wi-fi button on the side. On your phone, look for the Theta wi-fi network. The default password is the last 8 digits of the serial number (which is the name of the Wi-Fi network and is also printed on the Theta). Once connected, launch the Theta S app (the Theta V uses the Theta S app).
7. I prefer to stitch my photos or videos myself. Can I do that?
For photos, all of them are stitched in-camera, unlike Theta S or Theta SC. For videos, yes you can change the setting to turn in-camera stitching on or off. (BTW if you turn it on, you cannot re-stitch it; or rather, if you try to restitch it with the Theta app, the output is identical).
Connect the camera to the app. Switch to video mode. Tap on the Settings on the upper right. Toggle “Stitching during shooting.”
8. In the app, I see an option for CT Settings. What does that mean?
CT means color temperature. Instead of having presets for white balance such as cloudy or daylight, you can specify the color temperature in degrees Kelvin.
9. What are the differences between Noise Reduction, DR compensation and HDR rendering?
Noise reduction mode reduces the noise in the shadows.
DR compensation improves the highlight range.
HDR rendering improves both shadow and highlight detail.
All of these modes are accessible only if you are on Auto. If you switch to ISO Priority, Shutter priority, or Manual, then these exposure modes are not available.
10. Does Theta V have exposure bracketing? How many shots and what is the exposure range?
Yes it does, and it’s unlimited. Here’s how to use it.
Connect the Theta V to the app. From the main shooting screen, tap on the settings on the upper right. Tap on Shooting method. Choose “multi bracket shooting” then go back to the main screen.
You’ll see that there is a new screen. Tap on the + button to set an exposure and white balance. Do that as many times as you need to. AFAIK there is no limit.
11. When I power up the Theta V sometimes it takes a long time. How do you speed it up?
This is one difference from the Theta S and SC. There are two ways to shut down the Theta V. If you tap the power button, it will go to standby. From standby, a short tap of the power button will immediately turn on the Theta V, ready to shoot.
If you hold down the power button, it will shut off completely. It will also shut off completely if it is on standby for more than a day or so. From shut off, you can turn it on by holding down the power button. The blue LED will then glow and pulsate, which means it is on the startup sequence, which takes a few seconds. If you don’t want to wait, then use standby instead of the full shutdown.
12. How do you use the self-timer without the app?
While the camera is off, hold down the Wi-Fi button. While holding down the Wi-Fi button, press the power button. Release both buttons. The Theta V will turn on with a green LED light. The self-timer duration can be set in the app and when you change it once, it will keep the last setting until you change it again.
To change the self-timer duration, connect the Theta V to the app. From the main shooting screen, tap on the settings on the upper right. Tap on shooting method. Select “self-timer shooting” and tap the self-timer option to specify the self-timer duration (2, 5, or 10 seconds).
Note: There’s also a way to switch from normal shooting to self-timer without turning of the Theta V but the timing is a little tricky.
13. How do you update the firmware?
Download the Ricoh Theta software from the theta360.com website. Connect the camera to your PC or Mac via USB 2.0 cable. When connected, the Theta will turn on automatically. On the Theta app, go to File… Firmware Update.
14. Would you recommend the Theta V over other 360 cameras of similar or lower price?
For videos, the Theta V is a very good choice because of its excellent video quality. Its key competitor is the Yi 360 VR. The Yi 360 VR has a little better video quality (a little more detailed, less flare, less chromatic aberration, sharper toward the stitch line) and better image stabilization. However, Yi 360 VR’s in-camera stitching is not very good as of February 9, 2018, and its desktop stitching is very slow. Theta V also has superior audio. The biggest disadvantage of the Theta V is the limited 19GB storage (but see #4).
For photos, Theta V can capture true multi-shot HDR photos stitched in-camera in a few seconds. With HDR, its dynamic range exceeds other 360 consumer cameras. It is also very convenient to use with in-camera stitched photos.
See also my review below, for a list of pros and cons.
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.
How to export spatial audio for YouTube or Facebook
Here is a new video demo and tutorial for Spatial Audio
Hearing the spatial audio effect: If you play the Theta V files in the Ricoh Theta desktop app, you will hear the spatial audio. An easy way to test this is to use headphones and then rotate the video. As you rotate the video, you’ll notice the audio sphere rotating as well. However, if you export this file to YouTube or other sites, the audio will not have a spatial audio.
Working with a single file: To use spatial audio for YouTube or Facebook, the Theta V files must be processed in a different way.
You need to use the movie converter app for Ricoh Theta, available for download here. First, stitch the 360 video, then drag the stitched 360 video (with *.mp4 extension) onto the movie converter app icon. The converted video with *.mov extension will appear in the same directory as the original file. If you upload the converted file to YouTube, you will hear the spatial audio.
Editing Theta V spatial audio videos in Premiere: Here is how to use Adobe Premiere Pro to edit the Theta V’s videos and export the videos with spatial audio for YouTube or Facebook. BTW you’ll need the latest version of Premiere Pro CC.
1. Convert the Theta V files into 4-channel video files using the Movie Converter, as above.
2. In Premiere, go to Edit… Preferences… Audio… and under multichannel mono, select “Adaptive” instead of Use File.
3. VERY IMPORTANT STEP: Instead of importing the Theta V videos directly into the sequence, create a new sequence by going to File… New… Sequence. In the sequence presets, click on VR and under monoscopic, select 3840 x 1920 29.97 fps ambisonics.
– Confirm that the sequence is ambisonic by going to Sequence… Sequence settings. Under Audio, it should say that it is multichannel with 4 channels.
– This step is absolutely critical. If you miss this step and go on making your video, you cannot later on create another sequence to your project and simply copy and paste to the new sequence. It will not work (or rather it will work, but you can’t apply the Panner Ambisonics effect in Step 5). You will have to redo the video. (Guess how I discovered that…?)
4. Import the videos into the sequence. You’ll notice that the 4-channel Ricoh Theta V video looks like it has only one channel on one track (Track A1). But if you expand the height of that track, you’ll see that it’s actually made up of four channels. Note: if you import the Theta V video and end up with four separate tracks (A1 to A4) that means you did not do step 3 correctly. You must go back.
5. Next you must ensure that the direction of the sound is synchronized with the video. Unfortunately, by default Premiere puts the wrong direction for the Theta V. You can try the simple approach or the technically correct approach.
a. Simple approach: apply Panner ambisonics effect to the 4-channel audio clip and pan it 90 degrees.
b. Technically correct approach: go to your Audio Track Mixer (not audio clip mixer — if you don’t see Audio Track Mixer, go to the Window menu and check the box for Audio Track Mixer). Apply the Binauralizer ambisonics effect to the master channel (click on the upper left corner of the Mixer to reveal the fx panel, then select Special… Binauralizer).
– This lets you hear the ambisonic effect with headphones. Next use the effect’s Panner dial to determine the correct direction for the sound. In my case, I found that it’s consistently 90 degrees. To fix this, apply Panner ambisonics effect to the audio and pan it 90 degrees. Finally, REMOVE THE BINAURALIZER effect or else your work will not render correctly.
6. When you are done editing, it’s time to export. Go to File… Export… Media. In the export presets, choose VR monoscopic with ambisonics.
– In the Video tab of the export dialog box, confirm that the checkbox for VR is checked.
– In the Audio tab of the export dialog box, confirm that audio is AAC, there are 4.0 channels, and the bitrate is 512, and that there’s a checkbox for Ambisonics.
– You can publish to YouTube or Facebook in the Publish tab. Other platforms don’t support ambisonics yet (as of January 2018).
– Hit export and you’re done!
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.
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.
Together with the Theta V, Ricoh also launched 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).
I’ve used the Ricoh Theta V underwater with the TW-1 case and it does appear as if it corrects for refraction almost completely. I also tested it for a half-underwater shot, which is difficult to do unless you are using a lens that corrects for refraction, and the Theta V with TW1 case can pull it off!
Here are sample photos in full resolution:
Based on its performance, I would say the Theta V is the best underwater 360 camera I’ve tested as of February 2018, taking the crown away from the SP360 4K Dual Pro. The TW-1 case is regularly $199 but is currently on sale for $150. And if you don’t have a Theta V yet, you can save even more with a bundle that includes both for just $497 :O
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 and the red dot flare.
+ excellent stitching (as of October 2017, it has one of the best stitching).
+ Convenience: photos are stitched in-camera, and 4K videos can be optionally stitched in-camera as well (albeit with simpler stitching).
+ 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.
+ convenient form factor that is both pocketable, easy to hold, and serves as a mini handle
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.
– battery is also likewise not removable or upgradeable
– red dot flare, somewhat susceptible to flare. This will be addressed via a future firmware update.
– costs more than some competitors such as the Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere, and Insta360 ONE
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, better optics and better stabilization. Theta V costs less, has better exposure controls (e.g. for night sky photos, etc.), built-in HDR, better audio, is easier to carry around, and is much faster to render.
– 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, built-in HDR.
– GoPro Fusion ($699). Fusion has higher video quality, better dynamic range for video, and better stabilization. Theta V costs less, has better audio, is more portable, better underwater quality (with the TW-1), built-in HDR, and 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.