The beach, a going away bash and a Ricoh Theta V 360 camera. A review.

Any single tool is only as good as the complementary tools it needs to get the maximum out of it. Look at the humble wheel for example. Pretty well useless by itself, albeit a brilliant tool, but add a chassis, barking, snarly V12 engine and a gorgeous scarlet red body and you have something that is not only useful, but a work of art in its own right to boot!

The Ricoh Theta V camera is in the same boat. Sort of.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Over the last weekend, Jacqui and I decided a treat was in order, so decided to take a couple of days off, leave Budweiser and Shnorky on guard dog duty (which they are VERYT good at if anyone has any ideas), and make the 2 ½ hour trek to Bunbury for some wining, dining and beach going.

Coincidentally, this also combined with a farewell party at Mojo’s Bar and Restaurant in Bunbury for one of Jacqui’s co-workers, so we effectively killed two birds with one stone.

We had found a cheap and cheerful motel right on the waterfront in Ocean Drive, and found that 50 metres down the road was a fabulous little tavern called Hollow Beach Bar and Grill that served decent food, so the ground work was complete for a fantastic weekend away.

How nice for you, you might be thinking, but where does all this fit in with the Ricoh Theta V?

I always carry a combination of cameras with me, and in this instance, I wanted to use the Ricoh as the main camera to document the trip, and see how 360° video and photography could be used to do that successfully, compared to say, a compact camera, dedicated videocamera, dSLR or even (gasp!) a smartphone.

The answer is yes, yes, the Ricoh Theta V can do such a thing, with decided advantages too. Major ones.

Technical

Let’s look at the camera first and see just what makes it tick.

The Ricoh Theta V sports a pair of opposed lenses giving a 360° view of the world. These lenses are fixed F2.0 and constructed of 7 elements in 6 groups per lens. Via a smartphone app, ISO (64-6400), shutter priority, full manual or full auto can be selected. The smartphone app connects via Wi-fi not Bluetooth, and from my experience, you need to manually connect the two, but this only takes a few seconds and unlike other similar cameras and devices, works 99% of the time with no glitches.

Still images are 5376 x 2688 pixels, video is 29.97 fps at either 3840 x 1920 or 1920 x 960. Live streaming can also be done at the same rates (bandwidth considering of course).

Minimum shooting distance I found to be around 10cm. There is swathe of white balance settings available which I found very useful considering I was shooting in everything from bright sunlight on a beach to the inside of a tavern and an outdoor twilight location.

Practical

Okay now the technical guff is catered for and the geeks satisfied, let’s look at more practical things regarding the Ricoh Theta V.

One thing I have found over the last few years, for better or worse – is that if you whip out a “proper” camera in a public place, a certain percentage of people get very antsy, and even aggressive towards you. More than once I have been accosted when doing something perfectly legal, and even once accused of being a prevent!

But, and this is the weird part, if you start taking photos or video with a smartphone, no one seems to bat an eyelid!

Well, the Ricoh Theta V looks like a smartphone, and so nobody questioned me, or even looked twice, despite shooting somewhere around 200 photos and video over the course of 24 hours. And the Ricoh is super quick to start up too, especially of you don’t need the smartphone app at the time (previous settings are retained when you turn the camera off such as mode, ISO etc) and so you can quickly and if need be, discreetly, get the image you are after.

So, press the Go button, wait 5 seconds (max) and snap! Job done. To change between still imagery and video means the simple press of the mode button, and small blue lit icon on the front tells you what mode you are in. Even better, unlike EVERY other 360° camera we have tested (and a good many “normal cameras”), in the bright sunlight of a beach with reflected light off sand and ocean, you can still see the LEDS and mode icons.

At 121g it’s nice and light too, whilst dimensionally fitting easily into a top or jeans back pocket.

There is inbuilt storage of around 19GB, enough for around 4500 images – sorry no MicroSD card storage, but this is also, I find, a bonus! Hands up all those who have lost a MicroSD card. I know I have, whether dropped onto sand at the beach, down a crack in a swimming pool surround (along with a camera’s waterproof cover in this instance), or even without knowing with it only to end up (probably) in the maw of the Hoover at some future date.

It’s hard to do this with a camera.

Connectivity is via USB 2.0, and this is also used to recharge the battery. These days, I carry a 2mA charging “brick” with me, and this seems to fully recharge the Ricoh in about an hour and leaves enough to spare so I can fill up the smartphone with electricities too. Battery life is good for 300 still images or about 80 minutes of video (I forgot to mention there is an inbuilt mic)

There is one drawback in that the Ricoh is not waterproof, but if you need this functionality, you can get a housing for it. You can also get a remote release, but really, the smartphone app is probably better as it is more versatile.

But!

Image and Video Viewing

Yes, the Ricoh Theta V takes absolutely brilliant 360° stills and video images – there are none better we have found – but without the necessary tools to display those images and video, it is exactly that, a very capable device to capture and store pretty still and moving pictures.

So how do you best show off the results of your handiwork?

Well I have found two solutions, both having different raison d^etre.

The first is the far more useful for the casual snapper / video shooter, and is a website called Memento360. As the name suggests, it allows you to upload your images direct from the camera or a device that is ‘net connected, and display them in all their 360° goodness.

In the free version, you can create and add to ‘Collections”, generate embed codes for adding images in 360° to websites (as I have here), post directly to Facebook or Twitter or share links via email. There is of course, also the ubiquitous “Like” and “Favourites” options.

Images and videos can be shared publicly or privately.

For most people, the freebie section of Momento30 is probably enough if you can live with 2GB storage, but if you decide to take advantage of the Pro option, you can get more storage space, custom branding and more.

For more details go to www.momento360.com.

There is also an option to get an app ting you view your work on a VR headset such as the Samsung Gear VR. This needs to be applied for but at this time, does seem to be a freebie.

VR Studio

The second option for viewing your work – stills and video – is to use the software package VR Studio from German vendor MAGIX, which also now develops the Vegas line of software previously owned by Sony Creative Software.

VR Studio lets you create “spaces” in which VR stills and footage co-exists with text, audio and 2D imagery and media. Spaces can be linked together forming VR worlds such as Real Estate walk-throughs and the like and these can be viewed on websites or via VR headsets.

We are currently working on one we have shot mostly on the Ricoh Theta V of a local wine bar, where you can see the main lounge and bar area, wine racks, craft beer taps etc, view wine and beer bottle labels and click them to get more detail. In a future version of what we are developing in VR Studio, , you will even be able to link from here to a 360° view of the actual vineyard, view videos of winemakers discussing how they made the wine and have aerial drone shots of locations and places of interest, local tourist attractions etc.

VR Studio costs around A$250 (or $10.99 / month) and is Windows only. You can get a trial version for free of course at https://www.vegascreativesoftware.com/us/vr-studio-365/.

Who would have thought 5 years ago a little $599 camera could do all this!

Conclusion

VR / 360° is seen by many as a passing fad, just like apparently 3D movies were (although we still flock to theatres to watch the latest blockbuster in 3D!)

I disagree. The proof was in the pudding last Friday at the going away party for Jacqui’s co-worker. When the people around the table at Mojo’s saw the footage I had taken, they were delighted with it and all asked for copies and wanted to know how they too could take such photos and video.

I know there are other 360° cameras out there; I have a few here myself. But in quality they vary from absolute crap to very good, with more being in the crap area than not.  The Ricoh Theta V is definitely in the brilliant area of the scale.

The biggest advantages  of the Ricoh Theta V are firstly the heritage of the company shows; Ricoh knows all about optics and cameras having been around a hell of a long time Secondly the ergonomics of the Theta, make it easy, indeed a delight to use, and get the best of.

To get more details of the Ricoh Theta V, go to https://pentax.com.au/products/910725

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