The Ricoh Theta V is a great value, but it’s not without some flaws. Although the image is great, there are a couple of strange issues for video shooters — no removable memory or battery. However, Ricoh has a long history with 360 cameras and that expertise makes for a nice camera with a great workflow. The Theta V is the fifth camera, thus the name, in the Theta line, with the M13, M15, S and SC coming before it.
Let’s start off this review by saying that any 360 camera shooting lower than 4K resolution isn’t worth using. In a world where we see high resolution daily, 4K is the minimum resolution to work in when shooting 360 video. Any lower, and the shot will not be sharp or detailed enough for immersive viewing.
The Theta V shoots 360 degree video in 4K and can capture 12 megapixel (MP) stills. It’s capable of live streaming in 360 and has four built-in mics to capture audio from every direction. With a twin lens system, the Theta V captures up to 19 Gigabytes (GB) of internal memory and works with both iOS and Android devices. The Theta V has two notable additional accessories, the TW-1 Underwater Housing (MSRP $200), which allows for underwater use, and the A-1 3D Mic (MSRP $270) for even better 360 degree spherical audio.
The Theta V is capable of live streaming 360 video, so you can send immersive video to Facebook, YouTube and other platforms in real time. However, the process of streaming isn’t simple. It’s a convoluted process that is different depending whether you use a PC or a Mac. And because you’re streaming, the possibility of getting the best stitch goes out the window. Because you must connect the camera to a computer, it won’t have a battery life limit, but the heat created can affect the video you are shooting, or worse, hurt the camera itself.
Using it out in the field, the Theta V feels great in the hand. Because you don’t grip the camera too closely to the lenses, the chance of capturing images with a disfigured hand in the foreground is minimized. There isn’t much different on the outside of the V from prior models in the Theta line. The most impactful change to the exterior is the finish, going from a rubber exterior on the S to a black metal finish on the V. There is a ¼-inch 20 thread on bottom to attach to a tripod or stand. New to the Theta V is an audio jack on the bottom, most notably for the Ricoh A-1 3D mic. In a pinch, because the bottom is flat, the camera is able to stand on its own. This isn’t the best way, however, as this opens you up to the liability of the camera falling over.
The Good and the Bad
Let’s go over the ups and downs of the Theta V, starting with the good. Overall, the Theta V is as advertised. For its price, it has a good feature-set and functions as you’d want it to. Using the app is easy and the overall workflow of capture to sharing is seamless. We liked the built-in spherical audio capture. Having directional sound makes the viewing experience that much more immersive.
Before we list the bad, our goal with any camera we review is to find out how well it works for video production. Going deeper than just capturing images, we consider the whole experience, all the way to delivery.
The Theta V has full exposure control when shooting stills, but only for stills. When it comes to shooting video, there is only exposure value (EV) control. It gives you up to two stops under or over exposed. However, there are no independent exposure controls for shutter, aperture or ISO when shooting video. With a bit rate in 4K of 56 megabits per second (Mbps), it captures 420 megabytes (MB) per minute, giving you about 45 minutes of record time internally, with a 25 minute clip length limit. Neither the media nor the battery are removable.
When shooting 360 video, the shooter will need to choose if they are going to stay in one place or try moving the camera. The Theta V has no stabilization. That’s not that big of an issue when you consider that movement in 360 video can be nauseating to some viewers anyway.
If you are getting the Theta V for shooting stills, it’s a great choice. However, the stills from the V are still the same resolution as the Theta S, so the benefit from the new model is nominal for stills shooters.
The biggest strong point of the Theta V is its workflow and the usability of its app.
Because the Theta has no way to preview what you are shooting, it must be used with a phone. When researching Amazon reviews, we read lots of reports of issues with Android devices. We tested this with a Samsung Galaxy S8 and an Apple iPhone 7S, and we weren’t able to replicate any issues. The biggest strong point of the Theta V is its workflow and the usability of its app. The one issue we had was that every time we needed to use the app, we had to reconnect the phone to the camera. We found that whenever the camera is off the connection is lost and must be reestablished manually.
The quality of the images from the Theta are good. However, good is subjective to how and where the viewer will be watching it. If you plan on using the Theta V for social posts, to be viewed on a phone or tablet, then the Theta V will work well. If you plan on having them viewed on a headset, computer or TV, you might want to look at another camera with a higher resolution.
The market is blanketed with 360 cameras at the moment. They come in many shapes and sizes. From small clip on cameras to full on multi-camera rigs. To evaluate the value of the Theta V, we’re going to stick with consumer range stand-alone spherical video cameras with a minimum resolution of 4K.
The GoPro Fusion is the most expensive option at 700 dollars. Supporting up to 5.2K 30 frames per second (fps) and up to 60fps in 3K, the Fusion captures 18MP stills and is waterproof down to 16 feet. It has both the battery and the recording media are removable. Capturing to two micro SD cards, all stitching is done either in the app or via a computer. It’s likely if you are considering the Fusion, the Theta V won’t cut it. They have a significantly different recommended users.
Next up is the Insta360 One at 300 dollars. Shooting up to 4K and 24MP stills, it can also live stream. The One has 6-Axis gyroscopic image stabilization and captures to a microSD card. The One has a built in battery and has a ¼-inch 20 threaded mount for attaching to a tripod or stand.
Last up is the Yi 360 VR for 400 dollars. It can shoot up to 5.7K and up to 4K at 30fps with in camera stitching. It also is capable of live streaming. The Yi’s app supports both iOS and Android and the kit includes a tripod.
Final Thoughts and Recommendations
For still shooters the Ricoh Theta V is a great camera. For video shooters, not as much. If you want to dabble in 360 video and don’t care about manual exposure controls and non removable media or battery, its a great value. We loved the workflow, but the overall video feature set is weak.
- Great Form factor
- Easy Workflow
- Non removable battery
- No manual exposure for video shooters
The Ricoh Theta V comes from a long line of 360 cameras from Ricoh. It shoots 4K 360 video and can livestream.
- Home video shooters & Enthusiast filmmakers
- Event Videographers
- YouTubers & Social media enthusiasts
- Journalists & Travel videographers
Sensor: 2 x 1/2.3″ CMOS
Effective Pixels: 12 MP (Photo)
Maximum Aperture: f/2
Lens Elements: 7
Minimum Focusing Distance: 4.0″ / 10.2 cm
Recording Media: Internal Flash Memory
- 3840 x 1920p at 29.97 fps (56 Mb/s MP4 via H.264)
- 1920 x 960p at 29.97 fps (16 Mb/s MP4 via H.264)
Still Image Resolution: JPEG: 12 Megapixel, 5376 x 2688
Audio Format: AAC-LC
Built-In Mic: Yes
Outputs: 1 x USB Micro-B
Microphone Input: Yes
Battery: Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack
Charging Method: USB
Weight: 4.268 oz / 121 g
Chris Monlux has dance moves you wouldn’t believe. No, he wont show them to you. He is also Videomaker’s Multimedia Editor.