After posting the Ricoh Theta as an item in our Christmas WANT-list we entered Ricoh’s own competition, writing 360 words about why we thought we needed a Theta. We, unfortunately, didn’t save our submission. It was however, fortunately, sufficient to land us in the good graces of the marketing team, supplying us with a brand new three-hundred-and-sixty-degree-spherical-image shooting camera (!!!).
We consider it our very first corporate sponsorship.
Pressing our luck, as we are wont to do, we began submitting images to the now-complete Spherical Report 360 competition. We unfortunately didn’t take the grand prize, but we we’re proud to at least receive one honorable mention. Now that the contest is over, and we’re resolutely done failing to blog we thought this would be the perfect time to share some of our images and impressions on this unique little camera.
To get started you can read all of the tech specs and market speak on the product site here.
What you need to know, if you don’t already, is that the Theta is a large-USB-drive-shaped camera designed to do one thing. Take 360º pictures. It does this by taking two pictures simultaneously through the two super wide angle lenses on either side of the device. It then stitches these two images together into a single flat jpeg file. The interactive images can then be viewed:
- via iOS or Android app
- on the Windows or Mac SilverLight powered desktop app
- on the theta360.com website under the uploader’s account
*mobile browsers seem to use a much lower quality rendering mechanism than the Flash based desktop browser experience
- embedded into another website (Flash)
- posting can also be done via the mobile and desktop app to facebook as well as twitter, however the implementation does not allow viewers to interact with the content ‘in-line’, which leaves something to be desired
The build is sleek and the quality is exceptional. The device has a good weight to it, which for whatever reason always leaves a good overall impression. The body has that nice slight rubberization which adds to the overall solid feel. Reading some other reviews and forum posts we’ve heard that the plastic tripod mount threads are a point of concern, but with such a small and light weight camera we weren’t worried in the least.
The body, aside from the two lenses, has only 3 buttons; on/off, wifi, and shutter, along with a single LED indicator and USB port.
Operation can be done either manually, with a quick boot-up and press of the shutter button, or via the iOS or Android app. To our surprise and delight the app has experienced several updates enabling new features and modes such as ISO control and interval shooting. WiFi as the only connection option is the most cumbersome part of the experience. The devices are sluggish to pair, at setup and occasionally you will need to access your mobile devices WiFi settings and manually select the device. Range is also limited, making shots without appearing in frame difficult.
Image quality leaves much to be desired as expected. Not only for a first generation consumer device, but from the reality that it’s stitching together two small jpegs to create the result. Don’t even begin fantasizing about any sort of low light or in motion clarity. Since the output is a simple flattened jpeg the saving grace is that images can be touched up in the application of your choice before you display them through one of the various methods above. Most of our sample images below have been manipulated in some way.
Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
Overall it’s a very novel device, but one that we’ve incredibly happy to have. It’s small enough to bring anywhere and very fun to show friends. It’s aways greeted with a ‘that is SO cool’ and ‘I want one’ response, until the ‘how much does it cost?’ is answered. It’s interesting to see products like this actually make it production, and not by the likes of lomo. The continued software and firmware improvements seem to signal that the device hasn’t been consider DOA. As surprised as we might be, we’d be really happy to see a hardware update down the road. We’re also pretty fond of the flattened images as you’ll see below. One feature we’d really like to see would be a way to export specific image views out of the desktop or mobile apps.
Any questions? Let us know! Click on the thumbnails below for full size & interactive image.
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