Slim, handheld form factor. Dual f/2 lenses. 14.5MP imaging and 4K video capture. External microphone support. Live streaming support. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Works with Android and iOS.
Video locked at 30fps. Waterproof case is an additional purchase. Internal, non-expandable storage. Expensive.
- Bottom Line
The Ricoh Theta V adds 4K recording and improved wireless transfer speed, but is one of the pricier 360 cameras out there.
The Ricoh Theta, released in 2013, was the first successful consumer 360-degree camera. But the Theta and its successors were geared for still capture in a market with competitors focused on video. Ricoh's newest model, the Theta V ($429.95), places an emphasis on video capture, upping the resolution from 1080p to 4K and supporting a high-quality external microphone. Four years after the first model, the 360 market is very competitive, and the Theta V's price is higher than competing models like the $230 Samsung Gear 360. We'll see if its performance merits the cost when we get one to test and review.
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The Theta V maintains the same slim, tall form factor as previous models. It measures 5.1 by 1.8 by 0.9 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.3 ounces. Dual lenses sit at the top, leaving plenty of room for you to hold the Theta in your hand to grab a spherical shot. There's a big shutter button below the lens, in the spot where you thumb rests naturally, and Power, Wi-Fi, and Mode buttons on the side.
You don't have to use the camera in your hand—after all, you don't want to be the focal point of every shot. The Theta can stand up on its own, as long as you set it on a flat surface, and it has a standard tripod socket on its bottom. You can pair it with a GorillaPod and really get creative on where its placed.
The Theta V isn't waterproof, but there is a waterproof case available, rated to 100 feet (30 meters). Two problems: one, it isn't included, and two, it's priced very high, at $199.95. That's a big ask, especially when you can get the Nikon KeyMission 360 for $500, a 360-degree camera that's waterproof to the same depth without the need for an external case.
There are four built-in microphones that capture sound with spatial directionality. But pros will want to consider adding an external mic; a 3.5mm jack on the bottom lets you do so. The V is compatible with Ricoh's 3D Microphone TA-1 ($269.95), an accessory developed in conjunction with Audio Technica. Its form factor matches the Theta and secures via a tripod thread.
You can also add a standard mic via the 3.5mm jack, but four-channel directional audio is an area where the Theta V separates itself from the competition. YouTube currently supports online playback, although it may take a couple of weeks after the camera's launch to support its implementation, and Ricoh expects Facebook to support directional audio in the future.
You don't get removable memory or battery with the Theta. It offers 19GB of storage, which is ample for images—up to 4,800 photos. But if you're recording 4K video you can only save 40 minutes of footage at a time. Dropping to 2K resolution increases recording time to 130 minutes. The internal battery is rated for 300 images or 80 minutes of video recording per charge, but you can recharge it on the go or provide power through a battery pack via the micro USB port.
Remote control via Wi-Fi is a big aspect of the Theta series. This version of the camera has improved wireless performance, supporting transfer speeds of 20Mbps at 2.4GHz and 50Mbps at 5GHz. This is a big upgrade from the Theta S, which tops out at 5Mbps. This will speed file transfers to your phone and improve the stability of wireless remote control. Bluetooth is also included now, so you can control the camera using your phone without having to first connect to its Wi-Fi network.
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The Theta V is supported by the same app system as previous Theta models, so you'll be able to filter and edit images on your phone, and trim and filter video clips as well. Ricoh is launching a redesigned app with a streamlined interface along with the camera, but we'll wait until we've had a chance to review the new app and camera together to go into details there.
In addition to Wi-Fi transfer to a phone, the Theta V works with devices that support Miracast for photo and video streaming over Wi-Fi.
360-Degree Images and Video
Dual lenses capture the entire world around the V, stitching images and video together. The V doesn't have a larger image sensor than its predecessor—it's still a pair of 12MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensors—but it is a new design. The sensors, driven by processing technology developed for Pentax SLRs and powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, support image capture at up to ISO 6400—a two-stop advantage over the Theta S. The ISO range starts at 64, a plus for shooting in bright light, with an electronic shutter that can fire as quickly as 1/25,000-second. Speed improvements also apply to time-lapse capture; the Theta V can shoot an image once every 4 seconds, half the duration of the Theta S.
Video is also improved. The Theta S topped out at 1080p 30fps video at 16Mbps. The Theta V records 56Mbps footage at 4K (3,840 by 1,920). The frame rate is 29.97fps, the actual standard for 30fps video editing, and compression H.264 compression is utilized. There is a development API available, and the hardware supports H.265 as well, even though Ricoh's software doesn't.
Shooting in 4K is a must for 360 degree footage to look even halfway decent. But even the best 4K video I've seen looks soft—stretching those pixels out into a sphere means you won't get results that are clear as even 1080p in a 16:9 frame. You can knock down the V's resolution to 2K (1,920 by 960) at 16Mbps, but chances are you'll be disappointed by the footage.
At launch, video stitching will be performed on demand as files are transferred to your phone. But Ricoh plans to release a firmware update in October to add real-time stitching, which will reduce the time it takes to transfer videos to your phone. There are also other enhancements planned.
Improved but Pricey
On paper, the Theta V is certainly a better camera than the Theta S and SC that came before it. Ricoh promises better image quality, the upgrade to 4K video is a must-have for a 360-degree camera, and there aren't a lot of 360 cameras out there with support for an external pro-grade microphone. But it faces some stiff competition, especially when you you consider its price tag. The 2017 edition of the Samsung Gear 360 is available for about half the price, and also supports 4K video capture. And if you need a waterproof model, you can get the Nikon KeyMission 360 for around $500, versus the $630 the Theta V and its waterproof case cost together. We'll follow up with a review when the Theta V is available for review. It's available to order today and will start shipping around September 15.
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By Jim Fisher Senior Analyst, Digital Cameras
Senior digital camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H Photo, where he wrote thousands upon thousands of product descriptions, blog posts, and reviews. Since then he's shot with hundreds of camera models, ranging from pocket point-and-shoots to medium format… More »
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