Ricoh Theta V has the best video quality among 4K 360 cameras to date. But the 360 camera industry moves very fast, with cameras constantly leapfrogging each other in terms of vide quality. But the Theta V has one feature that will likely slip below the radar of its competitors and enable it to provide a unique selling point: its best-in-class audio.
When I posted a sample video of the Ricoh Theta V just a few weeks ago, I found it had amazing video quality. Its videos are very detailed, noticeably more detailed than even the vaunted Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere. The Theta V also has excellent dynamic range and low light performance, and it still has its predecessors’ amazing stitching quality. I would say that despite some flaws such as purple fringing and some softening toward the stitch line, in my opinion it has the best overall video quality among 4K* 360 video cameras to date. (*By that, I’m only comparing it against other 4K cameras and not cameras of higher resolution such as the Yi 360 VR, Garmin Virb 360, or Insta360 Pro.)
But in this incredibly fast-moving industry, with dozens of cameras vying for the same prize, such an advantage cannot be maintained for very long. Fortunately, Ricoh had the foresight to add other unique features, the most important of which, in my opinion, is its spatial audio.
The Theta V’s audio capabilities are head and shoulders above all other 360 cameras I’ve tested, including the Insta360 Pro. It sounds very natural, and seems to have a wide dynamic range, able to record loud sounds without clipping. On top of that it has 3D 360 spatial sound that records not only the 360 horizontal direction but also the vertical direction of the sound.
Using Spatial Audio
By default, the spatial audio can only be heard in the Theta desktop app. To get the spatial audio for YouTube and 3rd party software, you need to download the movie converter app. After installing the app, you need to drag the stitched file over the Movie Converter icon, and it will create a copy of the file in the same location.
Spatial audio samples
Ricoh has been showcasing the spatial audio of the Theta V by recording music videos of Japanese singers and bands. My favorite one, besides the fun Kan & Pai song by Furachina Rhythms, is Kobasolo & MICO’s cover of Mr. Children’s Hikari no Atelier (Atelier of Light):
The song is about optimism – not one that is naive but fully aware of life’s difficulties yet remaining courageously hopeful. I love the way MICO sings with such emotion, and I like the multi-talented Kobasolo’s unplugged rendition. BTW, Kobasolo is a Japanese YouTube singing star with around 375 million views for his videos. I first heard about him two years ago when he made an a capella version of Shiokarabushi, a song from one of my favorite video games, Splatoon (this was back when I still had a life). Besides being a cool version of the catchy original tune, I was impressed that he was able to sing the lyrics which consisted entirely of made-up words.
Back to the topic, besides being perfect for 360 videos of music, concerts, and parties, the Theta V is also ideal for videos where sound is an important part of the experience, as in this classic car parade, where you can hear the throaty growls and rumbling of old engines.
Remarkably, I recorded this video with nothing but the in-camera microphone, yet I was able to record the loud engines without clipping.
Moreover, the Theta V is one of only a handful of 360 cameras that have a jack for external microphones. In addition, Ricoh has created an accessory for the Theta V, the TA-1 spatial microphone, which has professional-quality audio with 3D spatial sound. The TA-1 attaches to the bottom of the Theta where it has a narrow and unobtrusive profile, and there are no cords or cables that would be visible.
In summary, the Theta V has many features but the two most important ones are its amazing video quality — better than any other 4K 360 camera I’ve tried — and its unmatched audio recording quality, which sounds spectacular even with just the built-in microphone and sounds even better with the TA-1 microphone. Theta V is available on Amazon or B&H Photo.