Ricoh Theta Z1 is NOW IN STOCK! It’s been backordered everywhere for several months now but is now available (as of the time of this writing). Here’s why it’s the best camera for virtual tours (for all but the most skilled photo editors).
Ricoh Theta Z1 (reviewed here) is a 360 camera with two 1-inch sensors, the largest sensors for 360 cameras up to around $2,000. Because of its large sensors, it has exceptional photo quality — with very good detail and exceptional dynamic range.
Here is a sample from the Theta Z1:
Compare that to a panorama shot with a DSLR (technically, mine is a mirrorless camera):
I used a different white balance for the DSLR shot, and the DSLR shot has more detail, but to most people, the Theta Z1 has somewhat similar quality to the DSLR shot. That’s because with the right processing technique, the Theta Z1 can have the same dynamic range and similar depth as an HDR DSLR photo.
Second, the Theta Z1 has excellent stitching. It has lenses that are close to each other for minimal parallax and in addition, it has Ricoh’s renowned optical flow stitching. Remarkably, I’ve been able to get smooth stitching even with objects in the stitch line as close as 1 foot away.
Stitching is also very convenient, as long as you have Adobe Lightroom Classic. Ricoh created a Lightroom plugin called Theta Stitcher. You simply add it as an external editor to Lightroom, and you can send your photos to Stitcher for automatic stitching.
Even without changing any settings, the Theta Stitcher usually gets a seamless result. For objects along the stitch line that are less than 3 feet away, there’s a simple slider that lets you choose the stitching distance. It’s a very easy process with no drama.
Speaking of processing, that’s another thing about the Theta Z1: its workflow. Producing high quality 360 photos requires the right processing and editing techniques, and some cameras take more effort than others. In that regard, the Theta Z1 has the easiest workflow available for producing high quality 360 photos. You simply use the free Dual Fisheye plugin to shoot the photo (I recommend the 9-shot HDR-DNG mode), make minor changes in Adobe Lightroom Classic and then send the photo to Theta Stitcher plugin. It’s incredibly simple and easy, and you get great results.
It is possible to get better quality with my other top choice, the XPhase Pro S (reviewed here), which has similar dynamic range but far greater detail. But to get great image quality from the XPhase requires far more skill in editing, including fixing glare, strange colors, and stitching errors.
Because the Theta Z1 has incredible photo quality and because of its excellent ease of use and workflow, it is my top recommendation for virtual tour cameras for most people. You can see my virtual tour camera comparison here.
WHERE TO BUY
The Theta Z1 has been out of stock for a while but is now available here on Amazon. I’m guessing that it will be out of stock again in two weeks or less. Thank you for using my affiliate links to support 360 Rumors at no additional cost to you so I can do more tests and reviews.
WHAT IF YOU CAN’T BUY THE THETA Z1?
If the Z1 is out of stock by the time you read this or if it is out of your price range, FYI it is possible to get similar quality to the Z1 with cheaper cameras using the HQ method (I’m creating a class for it, which will be on 360rumors.thinkific.com).