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When is the next Theta Z1 coming? 5 things Ricoh told me (plus: news on firmware update)

Ricoh Theta Z1 review and sample photos
When will the successor to the Theta Z1 be released?  It will take longer than you think, says Ricoh.   

If you want to know when the successor to the Theta Z1 is coming, here are 5 things Ricoh told me about the next Z1 and the planned firmware update for the Z1.

Ricoh Theta Z1 (reviewed here) was released in 2019 as the first and thus far still the only dual-lens 360 camera to have 1-inch sensors.  It was revolutionary because other consumer 360 cameras used 1/2.3-inch size sensors.  The Theta Z1’s 1-inch sensors were more than 4x larger, which generally means better dynamic range, better low light sensitivity, and better signal to noise ratio.

How to use bluetooth remote with Ricoh Theta V or Theta Z1
Left; Theta Z1; Right: Theta V

Not only did the Theta Z1 feature much larger sensors than any other consumer 360 camera (and larger than the sensor used in some professional 360 cameras) but somehow, the camera retained the iconic and elegant slim Theta design, which was made possible only through its advanced lenses that featured a cutting edge triple-folded optical path.

Theta Z1 triple folded optical path
Theta Z1 triple folded optical path

Although the Theta Z1 amazed 360 shooters with its photo quality, its video resolution was limited to 4k, which was about half the 5.7k video resolution of some consumer 360 cameras.  That is one of the reasons the 360 community have been hoping that there would eventually be a successor to the Z1, which some have nicknamed the “Theta Z2”.

Ricoh Theta X review: NO STITCHING NEEDED for 360 video or photo
Ricoh Theta X featured above average sized 1/2.0-inch sensors, and the first stabilized 360 video with realtime stitching in a consumer 360 camera

Last year, Ricoh released a new version of the Theta Z1, but it only increased the on-board memory to 51GB.  This year, Ricoh did release a completely new camera, the Theta X (reviewed here), which featured higher resolution video and is the first 360 camera to offer 360 video with realtime stitching with stabilization.  It appeared to be Ricoh’s answer to other 360 cameras that were heavily focused on video. This left some users wondering if the Theta X was the rumored successor to the Theta Z1.

I contacted Ricoh to get clarification about the successor to the Theta Z1.  Here are 5 things they told me about the next Theta Z1.

5 things Ricoh said about the Theta Z1 successor

  1. Theta X is NOT the successor to the Theta Z1.  Once again, Ricoh clarified that Theta X is not the successor to the Z1.  Rather, Theta X has a different market — it was designed for ease of use and high resolution video, while Theta Z1 is aimed at professionals and advanced users, especially photographers.
  2. Yes, there WILL be a successor to the Theta Z1.   Ricoh is very much committed to the continued development of the Theta Z1.  The Theta Z1 is not the last model of its kind and they promised that there will be a successor to the Theta Z1.
  3. Sensor size. The successor will have a 1-inch sensor.  Ricoh’s General Manager revealed that the successor to the Theta Z1 will also have a 1-inch sensor, just like the Z1.  “We are planning a future model using a 1-inch sensor as Z1.” he said.  This is interesting because Ricoh has been using Sony sensors, and Sony has not announced any new 1-inch sensor.  I speculate that this might mean that the successor to the Z1 has the same sensor as the current Z1, but will have additional features.
  4. Release date.  Ricoh did not give a specific release date but said that the successor to the Theta Z1 is not going to be released in 2022.  This means we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for the successor to the Z1, which is still a long way from its release.
  5. Analyzing customers’ needs.  One of the key reasons that Ricoh will not be releasing the Z1 in 2022 is because they want to create a product that will fit their users’ needs.  In this regard, they understand that they have many customers using the Theta Z1 in different ways, and they want to plan the best products for the market.

Theta Z1 firmware update

A few months ago, I mentioned that there will be a firmware update for the Z1 to add more advanced automatic exposure bracketing.  That firmware update was originally scheduled for release by end of May.  However, there has been a slight delay for further testing and refinement.  However, rest assured that the firmware update is still coming but only after it has been thoroughly tested.

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Mic Ty

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  • If there is no new 1 inch sensor available from the supplier, a significantly upgraded Z1 is impossible. It will take time to integrate the software etc to the new sensor, so realistically, late 2023 would be going well. In some ways, this is good because it means Sony have a chance to have a seriously upgraded sensor. If the X has 60 MP with small sensors, the resolution if scaled up to 1 inch would be 240 MP. Just how much do you need? The enlargements from such a file could be 2 metres wide. A 2 metre wide small world type image on the wall could be absolutely awesome. My Z1 gives sharp as a razor 600mm wide prints. It could easily do 1 metre wide prints. Such massive files would need serious SD card capacity-500 GB could be regarded as just sufficient. With Moore’s Law , the 500GB card will not be too expensive by late 2023. Perhaps a dual slot – 2 250GB cards would keep one out of trouble and not being caught out with a lack of storage for most trips. The price of a 250GB card will be the same as a 125GB card today-does not break the bank.
    Late 2023 will also mean some other cool features. I can think of a whole stack of features that could make such a Z2 unbeatable for years to come and justify a price considerably higher than the Z1.

    • I disagree. Sony’s latest 1 inch sensors are very solid performers, and have been stacked BSI for a long time.

      In general you will not be seeing significant further improvements in dynamic range and sensitivity from Bayer-on-silicon, we’re pretty close to the theoretical limits of the technology. (You can’t improve area efficiency past 100%)

      The future is now in readout rates and bandwidth, and Sony’s 1″ sensors are not the bottleneck here – it’s the image processing backend connected to them. Just replacing the CPU with a more modern SoC would allow for modern techniques such as burst stacking to be implemented. (Same trick as with any modern mobile phone, also offered by the Qoocam 8K but that was ruined by inferior optics and quality control.)

  • All I want in a Z2 is a 1″ sensor, raw format, same small form factor with an option to replace the battery so I can keep this camera long term. Dont care about a touch screen. The Theta X is just too bulky, hate that it does not shoot in raw and has a tiny sensor.