360-degree video cameras can come in remarkably varied forms for such a young technology: there are rugged action camera models like the Nikon KeyMission 360, but also fun little devices like the 2017 Samsung Gear 360, which looks like it fell out of a particularly high-end Christmas cracker.
Then, there’s the new Ricoh Theta V (that’s the letter V, not the Roman numeral), freshly unveiled at IFA 2017. It shares the same thin, upright, matte-finished design of every previous Theta, but there is one very big difference here, though: the Theta V can both shoot and live stream 4K 360-degree video.
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Ricoh Theta V review: UK price, release date and specifications
- Image resolution: 3,840 x 1,920 (video); 5,376 x 2,688 (stills)
- Sensor size: 1/2.3in
- Audio: Quad microphones for spatial audio
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
- Storage: 19GB internal (no microSD slot)
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Price: €449 (£414)
- Release date: September 2017
Ricoh Theta V review: Design, key features and first impressions
The Theta V’s dual 1/2.3in CMOS sensors capture video at 3,840 x 1,920 while stills go higher, to 5,376 x 2,688. Even so, this has necessitated some drastic internal hardware changes. The Theta V is now powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, which also confers the ability to connect to a smartphone via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth simultaneously. Onboard storage has shot up to 19GB, more than double that of the Theta S.
Because it runs on a modified version of Android, Ricoh is making it possible for developers to create apps and plugins for the Theta V, which will be available through an online store. These provide the Theta V with some minor but truly unique abilities, such as remote playback. Simply point the camera at a smart TV, like a remote, press a button and you’ll be able to instantly play your footage on the big screen via Miracast, without any physical connections or fiddling with removable media.
Due to the altogether more conservative decision to, once again, forgo a display, this camera is best used with a smartphone running the Theta app. The stills and video we shot with this combination were both massive improvements over the Theta S. The higher video resolution naturally lent itself to much crisper, cleaner footage, while both videos and stills proved very decent in lower light.
Here’s a test still and a video below, though keep in mind that YouTube pretty much mangles the quality of 360-degree footage:
Video footage also benefits from the Theta V’s four microphones, which capture spatial audio.
The was quite a lot of shaking in footage where I’d been carrying the Theta V around, even when I was walking at a relatively slow pace, but then this isn’t meant to be a hardcore action camera. It seems to excel when it’s placed in one spot, controlled from afar with the Theta app.
Ricoh Theta V: Early verdict
Perhaps the best thing about the Theta V, at least from the perspective of someone who isn’t massively interested in tinkering with ISO values, focal lengths and the like, is just how simple it is to shoot sharp, colour-accurate 360-degree video.
Even if you’re not connected to a smartphone, it genuinely is as easy as holding it up and pressing a button, and the results are of a much higher quality than you might expect from something so beginner friendly.
Knowing this, as well as the wealth of potential that’s promised to arrive along with the plugins and apps, the Theta V already looks like an excellent alternative to the Samsung Gear 360, but it will need to come down a lot from its £414 launch price if it’s to truly compete.