Testing 360 photos on the new Ricoh Theta V

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Theta S, left, and Theta VWhen we first reviewed the best consumer-level 360 cameras for real estate websites, 4K cameras were only just starting to hit the market. In fact, most of the available cameras didn't have a 4K option, and that meant some pretty big limitations for showing off properties. At the time, I put the two 360 leaders—Samsung Gear 360 (2017) and Ricoh Theta S—to the test, and only felt confident recommending the Gear 360 to our clients.

But we knew the technology was going to evolve quickly, and it definitely has. Today, I'm sharing my review of the next generation Theta, the Ricoh Theta V. It's the latest 360 camera to join the consumer market and at under $500, it's a simple business tool that any Realtor can afford.

But is it worth it?

Things aren't always what they seem

The first thing I noticed when I pulled the new Theta V out of its box is that it looked almost identical to the original Theta. The biggest change was a colour switch from black to very dark grey. The shape, size, weight, camera location, buttons, and indicator lights are all extremely similar.

But that seems to be where the similarities end. Right from the get go, the things that had discouraged me from the Theta S were greatly improved in the Theta V:

Wifi & Bluetooth Connection - While the first Theta required a Wifi connection, which meant you were out of luck if there was no available internet signal, the new Theta V is Bluetooth enabled. Some functionalties are limited while in Bluetooth-only mode but the camera can take 360 photos which, honestly, is the most important capability.

Photo Speed - The second phenomenal improvement is the camera speed. Where the first Theta on the original app took a good 10 seconds to capture imagery, an improved app means Theta V does it almost instantly. This means the photos are less likely to turn out blurry if there's movement and you don't have to hide nearly as long to stay out of the image frame.

But can it take awesome pictures?

The improvements of the Theta V were immediately apparent but at the end of the day, only one thing really matters: photo quality.

To put the Theta to the test in a real world scenario, I took it home and snapped a shot of my living room. Then, I lightened the photo by 20%, resized to 3200 pixels wide, and uploaded it to the same gorgeous Vision site our clients would use. Here's how it turned out:

Click to view live 360 page

Theta preview screenshot

Not bad! It's the full-screen images that really put these types of images to the test but the resolution is as decent as they come in consumer cameras and, most importantly, people can really get a great feel for the room.

One of the best things about 360 photos is they're more honest than traditional photos. You can't find a "perfect angle" that makes the room look bigger, because the cameras actually just capture what's there. People who visit a home after viewing a 360 photo are less likely to have unexpected surprises and this makes for a more efficient buying and selling process for everyone involved.

You will see some small stitching errors, which present as blurry patches, most notable when you look at the bannister from one specific angle. But, overall, the seams are much crisper than before, and appear to be less noticeable than on the comparable cameras I've tested out.

But to really appreciate how far 360 cameras have come in such a short time, you need to see how the same room looks on the old Ricoh Theta S, taken just seconds after the first 360 image in this post:

This is particularly fascinating because it demonstrates how quickly this technology has evolved. Ricoh Theta S released in September 2015 and the Ricoh Theta V just came out in August. In under two years, these cameras have greatly increased resolution, brightness, colour quality, and the overall experience.

If that's how far the cameras came before 360 technology was actually popular, just imagine what's going to happen in the next couple of years... We are at the forefront of technology that's only going to keep getting better and that's exciting!

Good things come in small packages

At the end of the day, I feel confident recommending the Ricoh Theta V for our clients to use for listing photos. The results are decent and the quality is a fierce rival for any of the existing 360 competition.

The Ricoh Theta V still has the same limitations at super high resolutions that all current consumer 360 cameras have, which means you may still want to invest in a professional 360 photographer to shoot your website's cover photo. But for your property listings, the Ricoh Theta V is a top-notch choice that will help immerse your clients and elevate their experience on your site.

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