The Ricoh Theta V is the latest version of the best selling 360 camera, with the biggest improvements and changes compared to previous versions. In this post, I will talk about its top 10 features, and will show a comparison against other popular 360 cameras.
UPDATED on Dec 20, 2017
On December 20, 2017, Ricoh issued a major firmware update (1.20.1) with several improvements to the Theta V:
– First, purple fringing has been reduced. The Theta V has very good image quality, but it was susceptible to purple fringing. This update mitigates the purple fringing, an improvement that has been requested by many Theta V users (including myself).
– Second, there is now an option to correct rotational shake in videos. This seems to suggest improved stabilization. I’ll update this after I experiment with it.
– Third, subject shake has been reduced in videos, but there might be an increase in noise. This seems to imply that the Theta would use a higher shutter speed (to reduce blur), but would increase the ISO to maintain the exposure. I hope this is an option that you can turn on or off.
– Fourth, better spatial audio when using the TA-1 microphone. I will try to test this.
– Finally, auto shutdown has been reduced from 48 hours to 18 hours. Theta V has two power modes when “turned off”: one mode is a standby mode that enables the camera to quickly start shooting again. A second mode, when the Theta V is inactive for a prolonged period of time (or if you hold down the power button for several seconds), is a total shutdown to conserve battery. From this mode, it takes a few seconds to startup. This firmware update will shutdown the Theta after 18 hours instead of 48 hours.
To update the firmware, simply charge your Theta V and when full, connect it to your PC or Mac via Micro USB and launch the Theta app. Under the File menu, there is an option to update firmware. More info and detailed steps here.
Free selfie stick promo: In addition to the firmware updates, Ricoh is offering a discount on the Theta V ($379.95) and will include a free Theta selfie stick, only the holiday season. Just use this link and the promo code SELFIE17.
Here is a video version:
Top 10 Features of the Theta V
Amazing video quality.
When Ricoh upgraded the Theta’s video, they weren’t just content with keeping up with the competition. They were intent on giving the Theta the best video quality in its class. The Theta’s video quality is very impressive, especially with low light video performance. Combined with their best-in-class stitching, Theta V looks like one of the best, if not the best, consumer 360 cameras for video. See the video comparison below.
Ricoh has added stabilization to the Theta V. This allows you to hold the Theta V in any position and the horizon will remain level. Not only is this more convenient, but it also lets you position a slim selfie stick in-line with the Theta V, making the Theta V looks like an invisible flying 360 camera.
The Theta V’s stabilization is not robust enough to stabilize videos while walking – for that I would still strongly recommend a 360 gimbal. However, the stabilization can be used for a floating camera effect. I also like that the Theta’s stabilization gives you control of the camera’s direction (yaw), unlike other stabilized 360 cameras that are locked onto one direction. Another benefit is that it seems there is no drifting.
- Best in class audio capture.
Not only does the Theta V have excellent video but it also has best-in-class audio capture. First, the four in-camera microphones can capture 3D spatial audio, including both the horizontal and vertical direction of the sound.
In addition, it has an external microphone jack, a rare feature among 360 cameras. This is useful for live streaming or other situations where a separate recorder is not feasible. (Tip: use a TRS jack or adapter.)
Finally, Ricoh has an exclusive spatial microphone accessory, the TA-1 that captures professional grade spatial audio. The TA-1 attaches to the base of the Theta V, minimizing its profile in the nadir.
- Exposure Controls
The Theta has always been one of my favorite 360 cameras even after other 360 cameras were able to take photos at higher resolution because of the Theta’s best-in-class exposure controls, with manual exposure, shutter priority, ISO priority, and exposure bracketing.
The Theta V improves exposure controls by expanding the base ISO 2/3 stops to ISO 64 (from ISO 100) and by increasing the maximum shutter speeds two stops to an incredible 1/25,000. Among other things, these improvements enable the Theta to capture the brightest highlights. In this example, you can see that the Theta is able to tame direct sunlight (in Sunny 16 conditions), capturing everything but the solar disc and specular highlights in the waves.
- Expanded third party support.
The Theta is the most popular 360 camera on the market, so it has the most third party accessories and apps out of all 360 cameras. The Theta V builds upon this advantage further by having an Android-based OS, which makes it easier for third party developers to add functions to the Theta through plugins. Here is Jesse Casman with more information about this new feature:
Remote TV mode
One of the unique features of the Theta V is that you can view photos and videos together with your friends and family through the exclusive Remote TV mode. With this mode, you can show 360 photos and videos on the TV and thanks to the Theta V’s gyroscope, you can use the Theta V as a motion controller to control the 360 photo or video.
Seamless underwater stitching
The Theta V is not the first consumer 360 camera with an underwater case, but most other consumer 360 cameras have poor stitching underwater because of refraction. The Theta V has a dedicated waterproof hardcase that has a dome-shaped lens designed to minimize the effects of refraction underwater. Indeed, samples shown by Ricoh show that the case enables the Theta V to capture 360 photos and videos underwater with seamless stitching. The underwater case also has buttons to allow the Theta V to be controlled even underwater.
Google Streetview Mobile Ready
Theta V is the first 360 camera to be Google Streetview Mobile-Ready. Not only can the Theta V be controlled directly with the Google Streetview app, but in addition, the Theta V can automatically take sequential photos based on intervals of distance, not time (therefore the camera will not take additional photos when you are stopped in traffic, for example). Moreover, the photos are ready for upload to Streetview, already linked to each other.
Far better connectivity.
One of the few issues I had with the Theta S and older Thetas is the somewhat unpredictable connectivity. Sometimes, I would be connected via Wi-Fi but the Theta app would not be able to connect to the Theta. It was frustrating and there were times when I needed to use the app to change exposure settings but could not. Strangely, third party apps had no problem connecting.
One of my favorite features of the Theta V is how easy it is to connect to the app. I can connect reliably to the Theta V on either Android or iOS. In fact, on Android, the Theta V connects automatically to my phone whenever I turn on the Theta V’s Wi-Fi, as long as my phone’s Wi-Fi is available (i.e., not connected to another network).
- Fast stitching vs. other 4K cameras
Other 360 cameras can take a while to stitch videos. Fortunately, 4K videos on the Theta V can be stitched quickly with the desktop app (PC or Mac) and supported phones (e.g. Samsung S8). A one-minute video takes just 3 minutes to stitch on my $400 PC.
Here are comparison videos between the Theta V and a few other popular 4K 360 cameras, namely the 2016 Samsung Gear 360, 2017 Samsung Gear 360, and Nikon Keymission 360.
In this group, the Theta V appears to have the best resolution. Both the Theta V and Keymission 360 have the best resolution near the middle of the lens, but the Theta V is noticeably sharper than the Keymission near the stitch line. The Keymission’s sharpness drops quickly as you move outside the stitch line, whereas the Theta V remains sharp over a wider area, although it too becomes noticeably softer near the stitch line.
Theta V and Keymission 360 also have the best shadow detail in this group, although I think Theta V looks sharper.
As for stitching, Theta V’s stitching looks the smoothest compared to the other cameras in this group. Theta V also has less obtrusive warping when the subject crosses the stitch line.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mic Ty is an experienced 360 shooter and is a consultant for 360 camera manufacturers, 360 accessory manufacturers, and 360 software developers. He has written over 1,400 articles on 360 cameras and VR on his blog 360rumors.com, which is known for its in-depth hands-on camera reviews.