The company Ricoh has spent several years developing 360 cameras to capture scenes in both photo and video. Theta S is the third generation that brings improvements in format, image quality and hardware.
The camera Theta S is able to capture photos and videos 360 thanks to two wide – angle cameras mounted on the front and back of it. These contents can be viewed on a computer, mobile and even virtual reality glasses changing the point of view according to the movement of your head. How is its use? How you can share videos, photos? Is it worth the quality? Let’s see.
What is Ricoh Theta S?
The quick answer is the third generation of this type of camera Ricoh Company. We speak of a handheld format candybar with two notable lenses in two sides of the same. These lenses cover 180 each (fisheye) and give each image sensor 12 Mpx riding Theta S. That is, with this gadget can create content 360, suitable for virtual reality devices.
Ricoh Theta S is a very lightweight and compact gadget, despite its height, have a camera with dimensions of 44 mm (width) x 130 mm (height) x 22.9 mm (depth) and weighs around 135g.
It has a rubbery finish, very comfortable to the touch and improves grip and recalls in its control system to the minimalist sports cameras. It has four buttons, three ele side, to turn, enable Wi-Fi connectivity and switch between photo and video mode, and one on the front that serves as a trigger.
Connectivity, apart from the Wi-Fi aforementioned and which can be controlled remotely from a smartphone, complete with microUSB and an output port microHDMI video. Something that strikes when you use the camera is that it has microSD slot, Ricoh has chosen internal memory of 8 GB, which gives, according tothe scene to record about 45 minutes of video at full quality.
The camera records the video stream from each camera, generating an MP4 file that shows two circles with two separate videos on black background accompanied by audio concerned. This file can be viewed correctly from Ricoh applications in both computer and smartphone.
This camera has limited recording time, or 25 minutes or 4 GB file size, whichever occurs first. A recording with a light saturation or scene and a lot of movement, i.e. video with lots of white and changes arrive earlier to 4GB in size than the 25 minutes of footage.
Something we do not like, at first, is the microHDMI connector arrangement. If you put the camera on a tripod is completely covered, therefore unusable to display real-time video.
How does it work?
As we mentioned in the previous section, we have a camera very easy to use, follow the premises of instant use of GoPro and the like. You can use autonomously or controlled from a mobile which gives access to resolution settings and in photography, some manual controls.
If we work independently with the camera, start recording is as easy as switching on, choose the photo or video (we have an illuminated icon on the camera itself to us indicates) and press the button on the front to make the catch mode.
Ricoh uses a recording system of two chambers. Each provided on each side with which you can record a circular (fisheye) 1,080p video. Is the Ricoh Theta S responsible for processing both video and place them next to each other creating a MP4 fullHD file with the two opposite videos in circular format, this format must be transcoded to form spherical video to posteriori via the application computer if you want to share it with third parties, for example, YouTube.
If we talk about photos, the 12 Megapixel from each of the cameras provide information to devise a 360 degree panoramic image of 14 Mpx (5,376 x 2.688px) and need visualization software 360 to display correctly. The quality level of picture obtained is significantly higher than what we have as a video camera.
This is where really sensor 1 / 2.3-inch lens aperture F / 2.0 shows what the camera is capable. high quality images are obtained, with a more than acceptable resolution even once turned the panoramic format-ball.
We understand that the processing capacity needed to achieve this quality video is too high to be integrated in such a compact device, but see a picture with this quality and then watch a video, makes clear that the video quality 360 is the point to improve throughout this batch of 360 cameras mainly a matter of resolution, as discussed in section quality.
When recording video 360 have to take into account the position of the camera, i.e., if before you encuadrabas what you wanted to record / photograph, now is not necessary as you capture everything around the camera.
Now you must pay attention to what you do not want to come out on stage and, importantly, at the height of the camera, or point of view from which catches. Not the same record a scene from the height of your head (natural point of view) that from a table, which gives an appearance very different recording, making all content shown in 360 seen in smartphone PC or glasses VR giant seems.
Using Theta S, very intuitive and simple
Is it easy to use? The answer is yes, both manually and through its mobile application that can be used after connecting to the camera via Wi-Fi. Autonomously, with the side buttons we can turn on the camera, turn the wi-fi and switch between photo and video mode. The latter is reflected by illuminated icons on the front. To start recording, we just have to press the button on these colored icons.
With the Wi-Fi mode from the mobile app (available for iOS and Android), we can make a good photo or remote start and stop recording. In video mode lets virtually no access any configuration beyond resolutions while picture yes we can change the exposure or program priority mode or trigger, do HDR photography , among others.
The use is very intuitive in general and despite having a manual in PDF in which all features are listed, it is likely that most users are able to extract the full potential of it without reading it.
Integrated LEDs and buttons system makes it possible to use the main features of the camera without connecting to a smartphone, that is, you take the camera with you and take pictures and videos autonomously without any problems.
Photos and videos made, what now?
What happens when we have done a photo or video? The camera has no screen, so we cannot see the content generated. We need a computer or a smartphone with Theta S application to view them in 360 format.
To view the contents on mobile, you need to pass the contents to the mobile via Wi-Fi and is something that takes time. To get an idea, a 3-minute video takes us on the order of 2 to 3 minutes. After that, you can use the phone with VR glasses to view photos with the movement of your head or simply move your finger on the screen to slide the image or even make the typical gesture to zoom.
If we talk about video, once you transferred you can see it, but only you can use touch gestures to move the view in any direction, dropping the possibility of turning the mobile viewing.
The quality we see on the screen smartphone surprised, positively speaking, and it’s a shame when we share it so that others can view it either via theta360.com, YouTube or Facebook will note both the just resolution of the generated material.
Share content and others to view is a bit more complicated for inexperienced user task. If you want to share a video via Facebook not much problem, since from the mobile application itself, once transferred the video to the smartphone, you can share directly in the social network.
If we talk about photos, share from your mobile it is a task that goes through thetheta360.com platform that keeps Ricoh. This is not to say that you cannot get photos via email or upload them to a storage platform in the cloud but the image that you will share will be in spherical shape, deformed to our eye. You will need a ball player content to see it in 360 format.
What if you want to upload a video to YouTube ? In this case you need it or yes a computer, either Mac or PC and Theta S. application This process is quite annoying as you have to drag the videos you want, they are processed one at a time , so that a file is generated in spherical format and is compatible with the platform Google. This format is now supported natively with Facebook. We talk about conversion of video and is a time – consuming task depending on what computer you have.
Once just, convert the original video, a MP4 file is created with the same name and the tagline “_er”. The file in question is not what can upload to YouTube yet.
We need to inject metadata to the video platform understand that it is content 360 and that is done with another application as YouTube comments in his support for uploading videos 360 . Same process, you drag the video above the application window and then the video you can upload to YouTube is generated and you can do with 360 controls.
As you see it is not a polished and refined process requires several steps before you can upload the material it is not very complicated but it does become annoying if we have to do the same for multiple files.
If we want to crop part of a recorded video what we can do on the computer and also from the mobile application that lets you create video with the fragment we want. That piece can be shared directly to Facebook, YouTube but we have to make the process mentioned above.
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Quality, professional image, amateur video
Let’s talk about quality, here we have to be honest, is not a professional camera to generate video content as you can see in the demos of VR glasses, with a resolution of vertigo.
These demos are recorded with numerous cameras and then try to add digital way to get the maximum resolution to each scene.
We get a video that can be seen and offers the same sense of immersion but we will not fool anyone, is far from the quality of videos VR we tested in glasses devices like Gear VR, Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Not by the device itself, but by the material recorded 360.
If the original video, two circles covering a total of 360, is full HD (1,920 x 1.080px), quality shown at the end after the conversion is far from HD. Both videos must overlap and information is lost, but in this case, the information of each sensor is less than half the width of FullHD.
Two options in the camera recording 1920 x 1080px (FullHD) and 1280 x 720 px (720p) are offered. No further adjustments. But here we emphasize that this is not the resolution of each sensor, but the file generated “sticking” two images next to each other.
Audio recording is fine for a quiet environment but if we get in noisy environments where we have more than 90 dB – 100 dB. The levels of audio begin to saturate in these cases: the audio at concerts and the like should burn it with another device separately.
Not everything was going to be bad video, a very positive point is the good processing that is performed scenes captured because it is difficult in most cases where the area stitching, i.e. is, the melting zone of both images or videos 180 of each sensor.
In photographs the camera issue is another world. Yes it is showing great potential, and offers us a very elaborate results. I have to say that if the video had a definition and a similar color to those achieved in photography, we would have a camera round 360.
The photographs taken as well as the opportunity to play with some manual controls: exposure time, ISO, and HDR mode makes the Ricoh Theta S a very interesting start in the emerging world of device pictures 360 .
We like the idea of being able to offer a very original result in gatherings of family or friends and not have to put us all for the photo. Simply you put the camera in the center of the table and you’re throwing photos or recording videos.
We’re talking, yes, a compact camera with a sensor size similar to the size mounted on smartphones and sports cameras and that is why when light is scarce, we find the limitations of such solutions.
With manual shooting mode and increase the exposure time you can compensate for the lack long as photographs taken with static scenes.
Generated 360 photographs have a size of 14 Mpx, similar to that of a current smartphone, and allows us a degree of zoom without losing definition. It seems little if we think we had a source of two images 12 + 12 Mpx.
It is true that information is lost when it comes to gather images (stitching) of both chambers, but perhaps the loss of 10 gross Mpx is too much information, if we compare with the photos that promise competitive cameras, for example Gear 360 Samsung and photos 360 based on two images of 16 Mpx generate a JPG file 360 25.9 Mpx.
But in short, to get an idea, the resolution is quite similar to what Google shows its Street View, quite reasonable for the price that you find this solution.
To conclude the section quality we must re-emphasize that the stiching / sewing / union of images and videos is the best we’ve seen in cameras 360 two lenses.
This is due not only software but so close that the provision of both sensors facilitates the work, creating content really close to each other. It is a rare occasion when that area is remarkable not for aberrations form or by sudden changes in light.
Autonomy and storage, more united than it looks
In this case both sections are pretty tight hand, because while the battery provides a range of just over an hour, cannot continue to use Ricoh Theta S to record content once filled its internal memory. It has a few 8GB and knowing that generated videos and photos are nothing light.
As for autonomy, battery life in recording we have to admit that this is a camera that is able to practically fill its internal memory about twice. We can record video, fill 8GB (about 40-45 minutes of footage), empty the contents and rerecord more than half the available space.
That is, you will not have problem to record experiences with this camera, the problem comes to need mobile to transfer or delete contents of its memory and it is not possible to make such a common task in other cameras, put another memory card .
The internal memory is using the FAT32 file system so that we have a limitation of 4GB file size while the recording time of maximum 25 minutes per file.
Autonomy seems right for a camera of these features and so compact, but we need to note that as memory, the battery is internal and cannot switch to another, when it runs out. Both uploading and file synchronization with the computer is done via the popular Cable microUSB.
Theta S, 360 serious commitment with any lack
Ricoh camera covers an inherent virtual reality technology and 360 videos need, generating their own content to display with this type of device.
It is clear, therefore, that Ricoh Theta S is a serious bet, the third generation of Ricoh offers outstanding performance in photography with still some way to go video.
Keep in mind that it is not as simple as one would like to share videos via YouTube. This necessary conversion of intermediate format and the injection of metadata is a step that takes time. It is not at all easy for an inexperienced user. And to make matters worse, the final result after the process shows that quality suffers. It has a finish reminiscent in part to a VHS video, far from the HD, 2K and 4K to which we are accustomed.
It is clear that Ricoh has experience in this field, the finished video you can see from your mobile application is pretty good, the problem comes when you want to “export” or sharing on third party sites. The VR 360 videos and amateur level is newborn and needs certain standards for all hardware take each content platform to the fullest.
Ricoh offers an additional mode to photo mode and video for live streaming but isnot yet available online streaming mode, ie you can make streaming via microUSB and HDMI, to a PC, TV or monitor. The front image and the back one will be next to each other, ie, streaming video will not be 360 as such.
It seems a high price for the final video quality obtained online platforms like YouTube although that seems a curious gadget to keep memories of experiences and family gatherings, offer unique points of view or to begin creating content 360.
This format videos and pictures immersive, perfect for viewing with virtual reality accessories. For him have bet squarely companies like Google and Facebook and so far, it is difficult to glimpse if we have a fleeting fashion as 3D technology in film and TV or to a market revolution that comes to stay.
Anyway Ricoh Theta S is one of the strongest bets on the market within its range similar to the quality you get LG with its price LG cam 360 and slightly behind Samsung with its Gear 360. The final choice between them will depend expectations you have in this product, the quality you expect and the type of use you intend to give.