Ricoh Theta S Review – The best value 360° camera
Ricoh Theta S is a two lens camera that creates stunning 360° photos and videos. It’s designed to be extremely user friendly, accessible and is one of the cheapest 360° cameras available. The image and video format are compatible with social media, meaning you can upload 360° media to YouTube. Even though the Ricoh Theta S is great value for money, the video quality is still not good enough to create fully HD 360 videos, which may put some people off.
The Richo Theta S is a great camera for taking photos in 360 degrees. Video is somewhat lacking and looks poor on YouTube.
Times Square in United States – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
Sensor resolution: 12 megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3in
LCD screen: None
Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): None
35mm-equivalent aperture: 10.4
Dimensions (HxWxD): 130x44x23mm
Ricoh designed this camera to be simple to use with high quality materials. The body is sleek, simple and coated in rubber that’s feels tough when you grip it. The shape of the Theta S is designed so you can grip the bottom half of the camera without interfering with the lens, allowing you to keep the image as stable as possible.
The 3 buttons on the side of the Theta S control power, wifi and camera mode, each has their own corresponding LED light to show you when they are activated. Apart from the large shutter button at the front of the camera, the charging and HDMI ports on the bottom, there isn’t much more to talk about in terms of design. The camera looks and feels high quality and the lack of an LCD screen is mitigated by the fact that you can control the camera from your smartphone.
The largest button on the Theta S is the shutter, you can’t miss it slap bang on the front. You also have the option of connecting your phone to the camera via wifi and controlling it though the official app, here you can tweak the camera settings, set a timer and transfer files.
The Ricoh Theta S has two separate cameras that work in tandem to create the 360° imagery. Each camera has a more than reasonably bright f/2.0 lens with a sensor cable of taking 12 megapixel images. Whilst this is a huge resolution for a normal photo, because the images taken on this camera are stretched over a larger angle of view, the megapixel count is just about enough to keep images sharp.
The camera does not have a flash, so it’s going to be poor in low light conditions, but in daylight or in a city with lots of artificial light, the images are quite stunning. You can check out Ricoh’s official image sharing site for some examples.
The video quality of the Theta S is on par with other consumer 360 cameras, all whilst maintaining a low price. The 360° videos are mostly seamless, bright and engaging. Sounds quality is average, but probably equal to your smartphone. As with all 360 videos, the files sizes do tend to get very large very quickly; 100mb per minute of footage usually. There is 8gb of storage in the camera which should be enough for a days worth of filming.
When viewing your videos on the official app or on Ricoh’s video player, the quality remains high and you can even zoom into specific areas while the video is playing. The bad news arrives when trying to get your 360 videos online.
Color Run Live in United Kingdom – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
While YouTube supports 360 videos, it’s a bit of a hassle to upload them. Instead of uploading straight from your phone, you need to transfer them to a desktop, download an official tool from Ricoh and input meta data onto each file before it can be uploaded. Whilst this doesn’t take too long it isn’t particularly user friendly.
Even when you do manage to get your 360 videos onto YouTube, you’ll notice a significant drop in quality thank’s to YouTube’s compression policy. Unfortunately all 360 videos on YouTube look pretty awful right now, so this isn’t just a flaw of the Theta S.
On the other hand, the novelty of 360 videos is still fresh, which people are more likely to forgive sub par video quality and focus on the 360° aspect.
The Ricoh Theta S retails for $350 (£299), which is a bargain compared to other 360 camera like the Bublcam. Sure, it might not have as many lens’s or produce as high quality still images, but it does almost everything just as well at half the price. The Ricoh Theta S is the camera to get if you want to be the among the first to try out 360° content creation – it’s easy to use, supported by social media, has a growing number of users and decent camera quality. The main issue is for YouTube to solve, hopefully when Virtual Reality kicks off they’ll be more inclined to allow high quality 360 degree videos on their site.