Ricoh Theta V

Operation

The Theta V (similar to other Theta models) can be operated in one of three ways— standalone, connected to a smartphone, or connected to a PC.

Standalone Mode

When used in standalone mode, operation is very simple.  The power button on the side of the camera turns the camera on and off, the mode button switches between stills and videos, and the shutter button on the front of the camera initiates capture.

Theta V side controls - power, Wi-Fi, mode

The camera takes just seconds to start up and be ready to shoot, which makes operation in standalone quick and easy.  The Theta's small form factor combined with the ease of use is one of its key selling points alongside competing products.  We'll take this opportunity to point out that the Theta was among the first devices of its kind when the original model was launched in 2013— and in 2016, the Theta S reached #1 on Amazon's best-seller list for compact digital cameras.

Theta V front controls - shutter button

Smartphone Mode

To activate smartphone mode, one must first activate the Theta's Wi-Fi (or Bluetooth) by pressing on the button just below the power button.  A Wi-Fi symbol on the front of the camera will illuminate (and flash while the connection is pending).  You can then connect to the camera wirelessly using the Theta V Android or iOS app.  This app is new and improved for the Theta V.

The app itself enables live view and live interaction (panning) with the image feed.  You can initiate recording of both stills and videos, change exposure settings, change camera settings, and transfer files.  The performance of the app was stable during our testing on Android 6.

Live view in video mode (full screen)

The live view mode also has a full 360 view option, which appears to be well-suited for landscape mode and tablets.  During testing we were not able to force the app into landscape mode, though this may have since been corrected.

Live view in video mode (full 360 view)

In stills mode, additional controls appear that allow the user to change the exposure mode, exposure compensation, and more.

Live view in stills mode

A very welcome addition to the Theta V app is the addition of a timeline view, which makes browsing and sharing photos much easier than on prior versions of the app.  Each thumbnail allows panning and zooming, which saves a good deal of time.  This only works for photos that have been transferred from the Theta to the mobile device, however (transferring on capture can be enabled, but this takes extra time).

Timeline view

Images can also be viewed in a more compact gallery view:

Gallery view

The transfers themselves are easily initiated: simply tap on the images and videos you want to copy over, and the transfer will begin.  The Wi-Fi transfer speed is not lightning fast, but it feels like it has been improved over the Theta S.

File transfer view

Importantly, the mobile app is the only way to change certain camera settings, such as disabling the shutter sound which is otherwise on by default.  Note that since we took these screenshots, a number of additional settings have been added via firmware updates.

Theta V settings

In addition to Wi-Fi, the Theta V also has a Bluetooth connection.  This allows remote control of the camera without compromising the internet connection of the mobile device, which can be handy.

Theta V Bluetooth settings

Separate apps are available for image and video editing on mobile devices.  Non-Theta image editors (e.g. filters) can also safely be used as long as they do not alter the resolution or perspective of the files produced by the camera.

PC Mode

Connecting the Theta to a PC allows for file transfers in USB mass storage mode.  The Theta UVC blender program is used for live streaming, while the Theta V program is used for video rendering, image rotating, panning/zooming, and sharing to Theta360.com (these images can later be embedded on social media).  Although it has matured somewhat over time, the latter software still lacks a cataloging feature and thus feels a little bit ad-hoc.  Documentation is also sparse.  It can be time-consuming to browse and edit Theta photos if you have many, therefore.  All the software is available on the Ricoh Theta website.

Build Quality and Ergonomics

Just like prior models, the Theta V is highly ergonomic.  It is easy to carry, easy to use, and is bound to fit somewhere within your existing camera bag.  We do recommend a wrist strap (attachable via a third-party tripod mount lug) for safer carrying, as the lens of the camera is vulnerable when not stored in the protective pouch.

Theta V ports: mic input, standard tripod mount, USB 2 micro B

The exterior of the Theta is made of smooth plastic panels.  It does not have the rubberized texture of the Theta S, which we really liked as it allowed for a more reassuring grip when out in the field.

Theta V vs Theta SC lights

Compared to the cheaper Theta SC, the indicator lights are clearer and easier to see on the Theta V.

Verdict

The Theta V supports a variety of operation modes, each of which is suitable for different types of applications.  If traveling or taking group photos, the quick standalone mode will usually suffice.  For more controlled exposures or compositions, or to share photos on social media, the smartphone mode shines.  Finally, the PC mode is designed for live streaming and more serious photo editing.  Although the software has matured over time, documentation is lackluster, so first-time users may experience a bit of a learning curve.  Our only other gripe is that the Theta V no longer has the rubberized external texture of the Theta S, which feels like a step backwards.


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