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Pentax Ricoh Theta V (REVIEW)

Catalogue
Pentax Ricoh Theta V (REVIEW)
Updated

Spherical cameras, also known as 360° cameras, are no longer just a curious novelty. You can find a whole range of them on the market made by many different companies, from rather exotic to traditional camera brands. Nevertheless, the Ricoh Theta V still manages to stand out — quite literally. For starters, it was probably the first camera of this type to enter the mainstream market. Theta was also the first publicly available 360° camera to be officially certified by Google Street View. 360° video support from Youtube came a bit later, further enhancing the camera’s functionality.

RICOH THETA V - Innovative Design, Small, and Easy-to-Use Camera

The Ricoh Theta V is the fifth generation camera (you may remember its last version, the Ricoh Theta SC). However, the design has not changed since the first generation, so all Theta versions look exactly the same — well, except for the colour. This may seem surprising, but the design is so sophisticated and practical that there's no reason to change anything. It's no coincidence that the manufacturer has won numerous prestigious international design awards. The success is well deserved — both the design and the functional aspects are very well thought-out.

The camera is very slim and both lenses are extremely close together, which is necessary for the camera to be able to fuse two pictures into one. The design has an advantage over competing cameras, all of which are much bulkier and create a larger dead angle. This reflects in the poor image composition, particularly noticeable when photographing close objects. Not that the Theta is entirely immune to this — no camera is — but it’s not nearly as noticeable.

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The Theta design has barely changed, even after several generations. The functional design and size have remained the same, which you'll appreciate when taking 360° shots.

The device itself fits perfectly in hand — it’s small, lightweight, easy to operate, and has only a few control elements. The manufacturer claims the camera body is made of a composite material, but it’s a bit hard to tell what exactly that means. It’s definitely not made of metal. There are only four buttons — the shutter button, power button, wireless switch, and a button that lets you switch between the shooting modes. All other settings are operated through a nifty smartphone app. The app is available for smartphones running Android and iOS. For more information about this application and the download links, please visit the manufacturer's website: Ricoh Theta S

i Virtual tours, or 360° photos as they are more commonly known, are now quite advanced and can be created in many different ways. One method is taking many shots with any camera and then combining them in a specialized program. You can also take 360° photos if you have a mobile phone with the right app, but all these options are either too laborious (putting pictures together takes a lot of work — it’s like creating a panorama) and the final quality is less than perfect. Also, you can only do this with still objects — if your subject moves even a little, your 360° composition will be faulty. So if you want to shoot good-looking virtual tours with one press of the shutter button, then a dedicated 360° camera is your best option.

In order to achieve true 360° images, the camera is equipped with two circular convex fisheye lenses. As written above, the Ricoh Theta has an excellent design. One must be really careful with the lenses because there’s practically no safe way to put the camera down. If you place it upright, be very careful not to bump into it by mistake. If you do, expect it to topple over and fall straight onto one of the lenses (the glass lenses give the device a downward pull in terms of gravity).

If you want to place it on the side, you either have to lay it on one of the lenses, or on the thin side edge. Again, please be aware that it can topple over and get scratched. Fortunately, you can easily eliminate the risk by consistently using the bundled soft case and pulling the camera out only when using it. It’s a bit of a hassle, but it’s the best way to handle items that can easily break in general, and you get used to it pretty quickly.

RICOH THETA V Practical Uses 

The Ricoh Theta V camera works based on a rather simple principle — it consists of two completely identical cameras, each with its own lens and imaging chip. Each camera shoots its own side of the picture at the angle of view of a little over 180°. The Theta V then combines the two outputs into a single shot, capturing everything around you in a 360° in view. The focal length of the 1.3mm (4mm equivalent) lens is so short and the depth of field is so high that the camera does not focus. Everything remains perfectly sharp from 10cm to infinity, and that’s despite the high aperture of both lenses.

A candlelit church in Štěchovice. #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

The lens speed and aperture work similarly to the autofocus feature. Both lenses have an f/2 aperture that doesn't change. The CMOS sensors have the same resolution as those in the previous Ricoh Theta S and Ricoh Theta SC models, i.e. 2x 12Mpx, but they a newer version and further improved. The resulting image is composed of a single photograph with a resolution of approximately 14.5Mpx—5376 x 2688px. The photos are stored in the camera’s 19GB internal storage (more than double compared to the 8GB in the older models). The photos are stored only in JPG format. Many users have been requesting RAW format for a while now, but that feature is still missing.

The camera is mostly operated wirelessly using a mobile phone app, which has a remote control option. The manufacturer can update and improve this app on a regular basis — the mobile app is updated much more often than firmware updates on classic cameras. In addition, the camera uses your smartphone to gather the location information which is then stored in the Exif data. Communication takes place via Bluetooth (remote control, settings, sharing) or WiFi, which also enables live view and photo transfer.

The Žďárec church. #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Due to the absence of focus and aperture settings, the Theta controls are quite simple and there are four modes to choose from — automatic mode, shutter priority mode, ISO priority mode, and manual mode. These modes are further enhanced by the features also found in conventional cameras, such as white balance, exposure compensation, timer, etc. ISO sensitivity can be set from ISO 64 - 6400, and the total shutter speed ranges from 1/25,000 to 60 seconds. There is also a 360° video recording option with 4K resolution (H264/H265), surround sound with the built-in microphone and a time-lapse option.

RICOH THETA V Technical Specifications

ParametersRICOH THETA V
Sensor type2x CMOS 1/2.3" (6.17 × 4.55mm)
Final Image Resolution14.5Mpx, 5376 × 2688px
Lenses2 × 4mm f/2 (2 × 190°)
StabilisationNo
Image ProcessorSnapdragon 625
ISO Sensitivity RangeISO 64 - 6400
Shutter Speed Range1/25,000 - 60s
AutofocusNo (can handle object distance from 10cm - ∞)
Continuous Shooting SpeedTime-lapse capture
LCD MonitorNo (via smart device, yes)
Live ViewNo (via smart device, yes)
Video4K (3840 × 2160/30fps) / H264 + H265
Wireless InterfaceWiFi, Bluetooth
Memory CardsNo, 19GB internal storage
Body MaterialComposite
Dimensions45 × 131 × 23mm
Weight121g

RICOH THETA V - Made for Creatives in Mind

In my experience, the camera works best when connected to WiFi, and Bluetooth drains the battery quickly. The live view and instant photo transfers to your phone are well worth it. Control functions and image transferring are seamless and fast, though the range to staying connected to WiFi could be improved — in the best conditions you can get several dozens of meters. As soon as there is anything in the way between your phone and the camera, the connection can drop.

From the available modes, I favoured the ISO priority mode, especially when shooting still objects. Just set the sensitivity to low for maximum photo quality and let the camera calculate the right shutter speed. The high aperture of the lenses means that the exposure times remain reasonable in most situations, even with low ISO sensitivity. Nevertheless, sometimes you just have too much light. The manufacturer has equipped the latest Richo Theta V model with the extra low sensitivity of ISO 64 and shortened the fastest shutter speed to just 1/25,000 seconds, which will certainly come in handy on bright summer days.

RICOH THETA V - recenze test RICOH THETA V - recenze test RICOH THETA V - recenze test RICOH THETA V - recenze test RICOH THETA V - recenze test RICOH THETA V - recenze test
With the RICOH THETA V, your creativity has no limits. You can even edit your photos on your mobile phone.

Practical photography with the Ricoh Theta V is different from what you are used to with ordinary compact cameras. It takes a while before you really grasp all the details, but it’s not rocket science and the sheer number of novelties the camera offers will delight creative types. Just one example to illustrate: if you're shooting anything by hand, you'll always be in the shot. If you don’t want the camera to show your charming self in every photo, you need to put down the camera, or use a tripod + smartphone, or the remote control timer. However, the tripod usually remains visible too. 

You can also get creative and solve your camera placement issue very differently — for example, you can attach it to a string or cord and hang it somewhere. Personally, I recommend using a fishing line, which is often invisible, or it can be easily edited out. Additionally, you can easily hang the camera upside down, which won’t even matter because it’s equipped with a gyroscopic sensor. You can also get good shots with a selfie stick. Position your Theta in a good spot, or get it further away from your body. The resulting shots will look like they were taken with the camera just hanging in thin air.

An interesting feature apart from the Theta having built-in memory is that its battery powered through a classic micro USB connector. This makes recharging it much easier. You can use the conventional charger from your smartphone or any power bank you have with you. The manufacturer claims the battery life of the camera allows you to take about 300 pictures, or 80 minutes of video, but these numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt — battery life in electronics can fluctuate heavily depending on how the device is used. Still, the Ricoh Theta is not a camera you would use to take hundreds of random photos over the weekend, so you don’t have to worry about the battery life too much. The only battery-intensive function is the time-lapse capture. The camera smartphone app shows the current battery status as well, just like other apps designed for other cameras.

On your computer, you can edit your photos in any graphic editor application, though unfortunately you only get the images in JPG format. You can view your edited photos as a virtual tour in a special program. The program also lets you update the camera's firmware and share photos in a web gallery with autorotation and other neat features. With the gallery, you can then generate a HTML code that you can use to put  360° photos on your own site.

Visit the following site if you want to download the software and gallery: Ricoh Theta

Create 360° Shots Underwater

Any good camera needs equally good accessories, which is particularly true with the Theta V. I have already mentioned the smartphone app you need to control the camera. But that's not all. There are other apps available for mobile devices, such as THETA+ and THETA+ Video, where you can process, edit, or use pre-set tools to create the so-called tiny planet effect.

It's very easy - open the photo in THETA+, and you can easily create the planet effect using a special feature. Then, open it in your photo editor, complete regular edits, and print it out on paper. I have to emphasize here that the THETA+ application is really good, but you can find a variety of alternative applications on Google Play that further extend the features and possibilities of using the Ricoh Theta V camera. Another interesting feature is the ability to transfer images wirelessly from the camera directly to a TV, and you can live-stream videos on the internet. 

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With a special case, you can take 360​​° shots even underwater.

In terms of standard accessories, I appreciate the very simple yet practical case that comes with the camera. It's thick and soft, so the camera stays safe in your pocket or backpack. If you want to play it safe when doing vigorous outdoor activities, then I  recommend buying a hard case for glasses - they're quite cheap and the camera fits perfectly inside with a soft cloth.

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For high-quality surround sound recording, you can buy an additional microphone.

Another interesting accessory is the new Ricoh TW-1 underwater housing that can go underwater up to 30m. The next add-on is the high-quality surround sound microphone, which is designed to fit the Theta from the bottom without being seen in the shot. Another offer of original and alternative accessories can be found in the Alza site, or on the manufacture's websites.

RICOH THETA V Final Review

The fifth generation of Theta, the 360° Ricoh Theta V, shifts the overall quality forward. Compared to the previous models, the new chip and image processor offer overall improved photo quality for printing, faster transfer and communication through mobile, significantly larger internal memory, 4K video, remote playback on TV, streaming and online 4K video, four-channel surround sound and new accessories.

Unfortunately, there is still a lack of the RAW photo format. On the other hand, despite this restriction, this camera is still the top of the line in its class - it is not just the camera itself, but also its infrastructure in the form of applications, web galleries, accessories, etc. Last but not least, the clever design minimizes the dead angle to the absolute minimum. True, the price is high for the Ricoh Theta V, but it's well worth the quality.

i Check out the Ricoh Theta SC. It's about half the price and offers similar photo quality. It doesn't have the 4K video and has less memory.

If you're serious about taking 360° photos, then the Ricoh Theta is the clear winner. I personally think this type of photography won't stay only for experimental and creative attempts. Maybe it'll be used more professionally in the future.

Sample Images in Full Resolution

RICOH THETA V Advantages and Disadvantages

Rating 92% Alza.cz
Parameters: Design
97%
Image Quality
95%
Price Performance Ratio
85%

Pros

  • Perfect design (also in terms of photo quality)
  • Excellent photo and video quality
  • Remote control via smartphone
  • Great support and infrastructure
  • Google Street View support
  • Small, light and sturdy
  • Nifty accessories

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • No RAW format option
  • Take caution when handling to avoid damage
Michal Kupsa

Michal Kupsa was born in Brno in 1970. He started taking photos at a young age of 15 and started writing three years later. He has collaborated with a number of prestigious Czech and foreign media groups, including Czech Television, Czech Radio, National Geographic, the US National Library, iDNES, People in Need, and most of the Czech magazines on photography. He mainly focuses on travel articles, photography reviews, and photography courses.

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