Ricoh Theta M15£199.99
- - Simple to create photo-spheres in a single click
- - Decent quality pictures in well-lit environments
- - Coupled with a smart phone you can extend the features
- - Struggles with low light
- - The Video mode is very limited
- - It's just too expensive for what you get out of it
Release date: Out now
The Ricoh Theta is a very simple idea, it’s a 360 degree camera which is build to produce full 360 degree panoramas in a single click. The original version, whilst fun, had a number of issues and so Ricoh has released this upgraded version, the Theta M15, hoping to improve their system.
The biggest issue with the original camera was that the image quality was often poor, especially in low light. This was coupled with the fact that there was no display on the camera to preview a shot – meaning you couldn’t adjust and re-take. You could, however, couple the camera to your smart phone to use live preview and to share photos / videos. In addition, you could use your camera as a remote shutter – a nice touch for sure.
So – what’s new in this version? The big addition is the ability to capture 3 minutes of full spherical video footage. This is a feature which many users have been asking for and it will be a reason for some to jump right in and buy this new version. In addition, we get a new lower starting price; which is welcome news.
However, it’s disappointing to see that many of the specs seem to remain the same. You still appear to get photos which are around 6mp in total (a combination of both cameras), the ISO range is the same at 100-1600 (100-400 in video mode), the on-board memory remains 4GB, there’s still no display on the camera itself, instead you are given LEDs which tell you what the camera is doing at any given time – this can be confusing, especially the ‘video recording’ LED which actually turns OFF when the video is being recorded, rather than on!
In addition – the big new feature of video recording is limited. You can only shoot 3 minutes of video at a time, the maximum resolution is 1920×960 at just 15 frames per second. In addition, compression effects are very obvious when viewing (straight lines look like zigzags) and the software is currently very limited – it’s basically just a viewer. In addition, you cannot shoot video with any live preview, even when coupling the phone. This, coupled with issues with focus and in low light means that many videos are almost unusable.
Overall, this is a good bit of fun if you’re going to be taking some snaps outdoors and want 360 degrees of movement. You will not, however, get good use indoors (unless very well lit) or from video. This is a real shame. Once you’ve understood the LEDs and linked it to your smart phone it does become easy to use and you will get some fun snaps out of it that are a bit different, in a very small and portable package. However, for the price I would wait until they release a better model, or something else becomes available – or perhaps you’ll be able to pick it up cheaply soon.