Friday, September 6th, 2013 Posted by Jim Thacker

Ricoh launches $399 spherical panorama camera

Ricoh has launched the Theta, “the world’s first mass-produced imaging device that encapsulates fully spherical scenes with one shot”. The 360-degree camera is now available to pre-order for $399.

Small, fast and lightweight
The Theta uses a twin-lens system, one on either side, to capture an entire environment in a single exposure. The system automatically compensates for orientation of the camera, but can also be mounted on a tripod.

The device is small (just under 13cm tall), lightweight (just under 100g), and has enough on-board memory for around 1,200 spherical panoramas. Ricoh says the battery should last long enough to shoot 200 at a time.

Images can be transmitted to your smartphone via Wi-Fi, and viewed in Ricoh’s free iOS app. An Android version is expected by the end of the year.

Caught between two markets?
Ricoh is marketing the Theta as a consumer product, with the official news announcement promoting the option to share the spherical panoramas it creates on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr.

Whether home users will think 360-degree-images are an enjoyable enough novelty to be worth paying $399 for is a moot point. (Engadget thinks not.)

But for CG artists, the Theta has the advantage of being quicker and easier than manual methods of creating spherical panoramas, and several thousand dollars cheaper than solutions like Spheron VR’s SpheroCam HDR.

The disadvantage, of course, is that the images it shoots are LDRs.

And you don’t get a lot of manual control over the image (exposure compensation is manual, but ISO, shutter speed and white balance are automatic), so it will be interesting to see how good the results are. calls the Theta “undeniably cool – and questionably useful“, which, judging by the specs alone, sounds like a reasonable assessment.

One to keep an eye on, certainly – but perhaps not to order until the reviews come in.

Read the official news announcement

Read the specifications for the Theta on Ricoh’s website