5 out of 5 stars
I bought the Ricoh Theta after having extensively used the Kodak SP360 models. The Kodak was the first virtual reality, 360-photography and videography experience I’d ever had, and I jumped on the Theta when it was released to see if Ricoh had improved on the technology.
Short answer: they sure did.
I am a hardcore adventurer and I put any camera through its paces. I drive a team of Huskies on streets and trails from Baltimore to California, riding on a cart and recording all our journeys. Mushing without a sled is called urban mushing, since the dogs can pull my cart down any street in any weather, and some of the environments we’ve explored have been really exciting. A good camera will capture my dogs’ enthusiasm, my passion for dog driving, and the beautiful earth we race over. If you’re reading this here, you’ll already know I’m called the WooFDriver, and my website contains a lot of my detailed opinions on other cameras (specifically, the Kodak SP360 and the Nikon KeyMission, if you’re shopping for 360-degree cameras). Even better, you can see TONS of examples of video and photo footage that I’ve taken from the field ([LINK]), and you can compare the quality of each camera to help you decide what to buy for yourself.
The Theta was the first all-in-one VR camera that I knew of – it stitched the images together for me, rather than the Kodak which required me to do it myself. At first I was worried that I had no control over the stitching when using the Theta but I quickly stopped worrying. The Theta doesn’t need my control. Its stitching ability is amazing. Here’s an example: [LINK]
Right out of the box, the Theta was felt comfortable in my hands and was user-friendly to figure out. I struggled with its connectivity for a little while – the directions were not super clear regarding a Wi-Fi password, but I figured it out. The Theta connects to a tablet or a smart phone for several reasons: 1) to control the scene capture, and 2) to upload footage to your connected device, which you can either simply save or post online.
I started right away. The Theta, my Huskies, and I all took to the trail and I recorded everything we did. I was bummed that the Theta only has 8 GB of storage, which equals an hour and a half of video footage (I actually found it to be a little bit less) with no ability to pop in a new memory card. My only option to keep filming past 90 minutes was to upload my footage to my smart phone, clear the Theta’s memory, then keep on rolling. Not the end of the world, but, I do wish the camera had removable storage. My dogs will go go go, and running out of storage at a breathtaking moment is a bummer.
I am also glad I thought to bring along some battery packs. The Theta’s battery is limited to its 90-minute life (and as with the 90-minute video storage, I found it to actually come in at a little less than that). The battery isn’t removable, but the camera does take a USB to a portable battery pack the way a smart phone will. Those battery packs come in all sizes – I have a pretty big one (and “big” means, still only the size of a smart phone) which will power the Theta all day if I need it to. So, with that workaround, the Theta’s built-in and limited battery became a non-issue. And I encourage you to use the same workaround, because the quality you’ll get with the Theta’s photos and vidoes is just gorgeous ([LINK]). The Nikon, more recently, came out with the KeyMission 360 which boasts a higher resolution photo than the Theta, but I have never seen any difference in quality. The Theta images and videos look beautiful and no worse than what I could capture on the KeyMission. (You can see comparison videos with these cameras, plus the Kodak SP360, here [LINK])
A huge plus is the Theta’s ability to perform quick edits from the field, including adding your own background music! I am all about the music – this website has a whole section dedicated to WooFDriver music called WooFTunes, and I was wowed by how easy it was to post videos to Facebook, with music, right from the field. The Theta uploaded to a smart phone, the Theta’s software allowed me to trim the clips and add the music, and boom, all my Facebook fans were watching my adventure online minutes after it had happened. You can’t beat that with a stick. I have a ton of examples of these videos (see examples here [LINK]).
360-degree videos can find their home on YouTube and they also have some functionality on Facebook, but it’s the 360-degree photos that sorely need online support. There are not a lot of websites that will host an album with spherical photos that a user can rotate to see all aspects of. Flickr has some functionality, but it’s not as good as I would like. The best solution I’ve found is a plugin on WordPress, and you can see examples of that on my WooFDriver website here [LINK].
Ricoh recently came out with a new Theta model that has a price-point of $50 less than I spent on my original. It doesn’t seem to contain any more features, and I’m curious to hear the thoughts of anyone who buys it. My model is the Theta S, and the new one is called the SC.
Thanks for reading! Good luck with your decision, and have a wonderful journey! If you’re still comparing the Nikon to the Ricoh to the Kodak, please look here ([LINK]) at all my different images and videos taken in the past two years on all three cameras, ever since I entered the world of virtual reality. If you want to know more about me, I am the WooFDriver and you can read my bio and contact me here ([LINK])!