Ricoh Theta S #ExpressReview: A paradigm shift in photo and videography

Ricoh Theta S will be the torch bearer for 360-degree cameras but it is still not ready for consumer use

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Written by Karthekayan Iyer | Updated: March 12, 2016 4:35 pm
Ricoh, Ricoh Theta S, Ricoh Theta S review, Ricoh Theta S specs, Ricoh Theta S price, Ricoh Theta S #ExpressReview, gadgets, 360 degree camera, tech news, technology Ricoh Theta S propels the idea of a handheld 360-degree camera that shoots images and videos in immersive format

At the time of writing this review, I have my Facebook Timeline open in another window. My timeline is dominated by photos and most of them are selfies (no prizes for guessing, seriously). In fact, selfies are so popular that Facebook has learned to classify them, but photos are becoming a thing of the past and one of the best example of that has to be the video profiles on Facebook.

We are consuming more videos than ever before. So if we can consume them, we should be able to produce too. Our smartphones are good enough to capture some stunning videos and even time-lapse. They are the most powerful cameras we carry around.

We are in a phase of transition – from text to photos, photos to videos and next is videos to immersive videos. The videos we are shooting right now are unidirectional, but the world around isn’t. It is to give a more real-world feeling to videos that we need a specialised 360-degree cameras. The year 2016 will be all about such cameras and Ricoh Theta S is the first real example.

Ricoh Theta S

Ricoh Theta will always be considered the torch-bearer of these 360-degree cameras. In fact, Ricoh should be credited with pushing this idea, that too at a time when there was not much exposure for these cameras.

At MWC 2016, the interesting trend was 360-degree cameras and both the Korean consumer electronics giants, Samsung and LG launched their own versions of 360-degree immersive cameras. While there have been 360 degree cameras around for professional videography, Ricoh Theta S is the first device that is aimed for consumer use. So does this one really make for a compelling buy? We find out in our express review

Price: Rs 39,990

What is good?

Ricoh Theta S is unlike any other device in the market and you are getting it for one simple reason -- 360 degree photos and videos (Source: Ricoh Imaging) Ricoh Theta S is unlike any other device in the market and you are getting it for one simple reason — 360 degree photos and videos (Source: Ricoh Imaging)

The most beautiful thing about Ricoh Theta S has to be its design. The 44mm wide and 130mm tall device could well be the most compact yet unique camera ever launched. The design helps it fit in your pocket easily. It is also ready in an instant. The device weighs just 125 grams that makes it highly portable too.

Ricoh Theta S is unlike any other device in the market and you are getting it for one simple reason — 360-degree photos and videos. Trust me it nails the job it is meant to accomplish. I never thought clicking a picture seated in an auto-rickshaw will eventually end up showing me – myself and the world around.

The output results every time stunned me. Just think of it like this – you shoot a picture with point and shoot camera and then shoot the same with a top range professional camera. The difference won’t be just subtle, it will be a paradigm shift in detail. Ricoh Theta brings such dramatic shift to photos and videos.

The Ricoh Theta S features two spherical lenses on either side that combines to reproduce a 14-megapixel still image or rather say moving image. It also does capture full HD videos which can be panned across to see everything happening around.

What is the output video of Ricoh Theta like? It’s exactly like those 360 degree videos we see on Facebook.

I also like the button placement of Ricoh Theta S. It features only record button at the front while camera controls are neatly placed at the side. You get quick access to switching between still image and video, WiFi button and ON/OFF toggle. It’s extremely easy to understand and use.

What is not good?

While the quality of the output is top notch, the output size is really high and it takes a really long time to get transferred to your phone. To be precise, this process is unpleasant.

Ricoh Theta features only record button at the front while camera controls are neatly placed at the side Ricoh Theta features only record button at the front while camera controls are neatly placed at the side (Source: Ricoh Imaging)

While Ricoh Theta S is meant for one-handed use, you actually need a monopod to make good use of it. Using it in hand produces a strange shot of your hand itself which can actually ruin your otherwise great shot.

The problem with Ricoh Theta S and other 360 degree cameras has to be the lack of native playback software. Yes, you can’t shoot a 360 degree content and WhatsApp it right away. That’s not possible yet. The best way yet to view is the Ricoh Theta software paired to a phone or uploading to Facebook.

The inability to playback these great 360 degree footages limits the otherwise great device.

Should you buy?

Ricoh Theta S is a great first generation 360 degree device for shooting images and videos. At this moment, it’s capabilities are extremely limited.

If you want to shoot and share, then probably you need to wait for the software to catch up.

Is it ready for consumers? My opinion is a firm No. It makes great sense for video professionals who want to bring something different to their video creations but for consumers there is really little value.

Overall, I’m absolutely impressed with the idea of this device and with Samsung Gear 360 and LG 360 CAM launching later this year, I am pretty sure that 360 degree cameras will go mainstream, but they are not ready for your pocket yet.