Ricoh Theta S
- - Good image quality in well-lit environments
- - Very easy to use
- - Couple with a smart phone to extend features
- - Best option for price right now
- - Struggles in low light
- - No viewer on camera
- - Video quality not good enough for VR headsets
- - Price has increased
Ricoh have come back to the table with a new improved version of their Theta 360 degree camera series. When we looked at their last version, the M15, we noticed a number of issues and limitations. Not least problems in low light, limited video features and overall poor value for money. So – how does the new version do?
What is it?
In case you’re new to the series, the idea of the Ricoh Theta is simple. This is a consumer level compact 360 degree camera, enabling you to create 360 degree photo-spheres and video in a single click. You can then use these easily with a VR headset. The device
- Two 12MP sensors, giving 14MP of effective resolution
- Two lenses with 7 elements in 6 groups
- Maximum aperture of f/2
- Max shutter speed 1/6400
- Longest shutter speed 30-seconds
- Close focus distance is 3.9″
- ISO range 100-1600
- Video captured at 1080p at 30fps for up to 25 minutes
- 8GB on-board memory
The improvements are clear to see. the pixel count is much improved and this really does tell in well-lit environments. In fact, photos can be truly beautiful now. Video quality is also better and you can now record for 25 minutes (up from 3 minutes previously). The lenses are faster and that also makes a noticeable difference to the experience. These are all good things. However, there are some limitations which we will assess below.
Low light problems persist – although they do seem slightly improved, this is a big problem for indoor photographs. It’s also very much designed to be a hand held camera – which is great, but in low light it’s hard to find something suitable to balance it on for a longer exposure.
People complain about always being ‘big’ in the photo on these cameras, this is a problem but it can be overcome by using your smart phone as a remote shutter…but then you have the issue above – how do you balance it on something suitable?
There is still no viewer on the camera itself to preview images. You have to take the image and view it on your phone. This does reduce the ease of use and can be frustrating. In addition, the LED lights which tell you what the camera is doing can be slightly confusing.
The video quality just isn’t great. Once it has been shot, compressed and added to YouTube the 1080p does not look great. An example is included below so you can judge for yourself, but it’s the usual focus issues coupled with just too low resolution for the amount of video you’re capturing:
The Theta M15 reduced the price of the model and currently sells in the UK for around £199.99. However, the Theta S increases the price, up to £299.99. Is it worth it? I think you’d have to really want to take some 360 degree photos for that price. I’d be tempted to stick with my SLR and a bit of manual stitching, but I know I’m not the kind of person who is taking a quick 360 degree photo sphere to share on Facebook – and perhaps that market is willing to pay this price for this camera.
You really do need a compatible phone to make good use of this camera so make sure yours is compatible before buying:
- Android OS4.0 – 6.0 (operation is not guaranteed on all devices.)
- Compatible with iOS8 or later on iPhone 5/iPhone 5C/iPhone 5S/iPhone 6/iPhone 6plus/iPad 4/iPad Air/iPad Air 2/iPad mini 2/iPad mini 3 or 6th generation or later iPod Touch.
I really want to love this – I love the idea, it’s what we really really want to see – more people having access to 360 degree photography, but it’s just not quite there. The video quality needs to improve so that it’s usable in VR headsets and the low light issues persist. That said, if you want an easy way to make decent 360 degree photos in a single click then this is the cheapest viable option out there right now. It’s in no way a bad product, it’s just not quite what I hoped for.