Ricoh Theta V
4K Video Quality
For the first time in a Theta model, the Theta V is capable of capturing spherical video in 4K / 30p resolution. Moreover, it is designed for continuous streaming when connected to a PC over USB, and supports a high bit rate of up to 120 Mbps (56 Mbps when recording in standalone mode).
Spherical videos are somewhat of a marvel to behold. They allow you to relive sights like never before as they are fully interactive during playback, similar to how the Theta's stills work. The Theta V also supports spatial audio using the built-in 4-channel microphone or the external TA-1 microphone. This will allow the viewer of the video to sense the direction of different sounds.
TA-1 external spatial microphone
Models prior to the Theta V supported full HD or 720p spherical video recording with monaural audio. Thanks to its quadrupled video resolution, the Theta V takes spherical video from being a novel gimmick to something perfectly usable for both personal and professional applications. While full HD spherical video makes most distant objects look like a blur, 4K video is not far removed from the camera's still image resolution, and may even allow viewers to make out distant text.
The following sample clips show the difference between 4K and full HD spherical video (both shot using the Theta V). Please turn down your sound as there is some wind noise while the vehicle is moving.
Full HD (~9Mbps)
As you can see, apart from not being particularly good at suppressing wind noise, the Theta V's 4K video quality is nothing short of exceptional. Ricoh did a fantastic job of upgrading the video performance of the Theta V, and it might even make certain Pentax DSLR owners jealous!
Are there any downsides to spherical 4K video? Because the camera uses two separate lenses and sensors, there is a risk of different lighting/exposure on each side. This means that at times, the position of image stitching is very evident (as can be seen in the video above). One way to mitigate this, in case of a strong point light source such as the Sun, is to hold the camera perpendicularly to that light source. Apart from this, users will have to deal with the usual inconveniences associated with 4K video files: immense file sizes, limited recording time in standalone mode, and a need for CPU power during rendering. The .MOV video files output by the Theta V must first be rendered by the Theta desktop software before they can be watched interactively or uploaded to Youtube. The rendering is very time-consuming; for the ~900Mb ~2-minute clip above, we measured the following times:
- 10 minutes - Intel HD Graphics 530 + Core i7-6700HQ
- 6.5 minutes - Nvidia GTX 970M + Core i7-6700HQ
A discrete GPU will greatly speed up rendering and is highly recommended.
As of firmware version 2.50.1 (which was not out at the time of our testing), the camera can be configured to shoot at a lower bitrate in 4K mode. This makes shooting casual clips much more convenient.
The Theta V's video mode is fantastic, and really makes it shine given that not many changes have been made to the stills mode compared to prior models. The V makes spherical video more than just a gimmick, and through support for continuous live streaming and external audio, is suitable for a wide range of applications. We only wish that the desktop software for the Theta V had a more user-friendly interface.