Ricoh has updated latest version of its 360-degree camera, the Theta S (B&H Photo Video, Adorama). Thanks to two 12MP 1/2.3″ sensors, the S is capable of 14MP 360-degree still images, an improvement over the previous model’s 6MP images. Brighter F2.0 lenses, 1080/30p video and integration with Google’s new Street View app are all on board.
The Theta S uses a refined folded optics design to complement its boost in sensor resolution and, at 8GB, offers twice the built-in storage of the model before it. Given the large dynamic range often encountered in spherical views, the Theta is capable of analyzing multiple frames and performing high dynamic range processing behind the scenes. Its built-in Wi-Fi has seen a speed boost, though that may not mean quicker file transfer as the S’s images are larger. HDMI output is provided for live streaming, and the companion app now offers a live preview.
Not only will the Theta S connect to Ricoh’s apps via Wi-Fi, Google’s newly revamped Street View app will also recognize the camera. As part of an effort to populate Street View with more user-generated content, 360-degree images can be recorded and uploaded to Street View within the new app. Spherical images captured with cameras like the Theta S will be displayed alongside Google’s Photo Sphere images, which can be captured using the Street View app itself.
We see this as a smart way for Google to democratize spherical imagery content, which will essentially help them map out the world beyond simple street views, including areas inaccessible by vehicles. And the Open Spherical Camera (OSC) API, led by Ricoh and Google, will ensure that any app that’s OSC-compliant will be able to connect to a device like the Theta to capture and upload spherical images.
An aspect of the camera we find particularly exciting is its ability to computationally extract both still and video imagery after-the-fact. Tying in spherical imagery with gyro- and accelerometer measurements the Theta continually records essentially means that you should be able to carry the Theta around with you while recording video, mounted to anything really, and not care about keeping it pointed in any particular direction or stabilizing it. You can then stabilize the video, and pick any field or direction of view, after the fact. Essentially, the gyro data can be used to continually reorient the view, and since it’s a spherical view, you have a large degree of freedom in reorienting (unlike traditional ‘digital’ image stabilization, which crops video significantly). Furthermore, you can ‘extract’ whatever field-of-view you’d like after the fact, since you always have 360º data. Imagine recording a video of a scene like this, extracting videos or photos looking in whichever direction you choose, after the fact. It might even mean enjoying the moment during the moment, a luxury photographers often don’t have!
The Ricoh Theta S will be available in late October for $349. Google’s new Street View app is available today for iOS and Android.