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Ricoh unveils Theta, the first mass-production camera for spherical panoramas

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September 5, 2013

Gizmag gets to grips with the Ricoh Theta at IFA 2013

Gizmag gets to grips with the Ricoh Theta at IFA 2013

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If an all-round view of the world is your kind of thing then Ricoh has got just the device for you. Called the Theta, it's a slim, hand-held, pocket-friendly stick sporting two fish-eye lenses, one at the front and one at the back. There's no need to aim, focus or point the camera, users just hold it at any angle and press the shutter button on the front. The one shot spherical image produced can then be viewed on a synced iPhone, uploaded to social networks or transferred to a computer.

Theta tips the scales at 95 g (3 oz) and measures 1.65 x 5 x 0.69 - 0.9 in (42 x 129 x 17.4 - 22.8 mm), which is a lot less bulky than the hammerhead concept model we spotted at CES back in January. It features something Ricoh is calling an ultra-small twin-lens folded optical system, where a prism at the center directs light to two image sensors. The unit's power button and wireless on/off switch are on the side, and there's a micro-USB port and tripod mount hole to the bottom. The device has a shooting distance of 10 cm from the front of the lens to infinity, benefits from auto exposure control, and has ISO100 - 1600 sensitivity.

Lots of interested tech journalists looking in on Theta

The production model syncs with smartphones via Wi-Fi and a dedicated free app. At launch, Theta will be compatible with the iPhone 4S and 5 running iOS 6 or later (and presumably any upcoming version of Apple's smartphone that may or may not be announced shortly), but Ricoh hasn't forgotten the Android community, and has promised compatibility with Goolge's popular mobile platform by the close of 2013.

Using the Theta for iPhone app, users can edit the size and shape of the captured shot before uploading it to the product's website and then pushing it onto social networks. The device makes use of the iPhone's GPS technology to geo-tag images, if desired, and caters for remote shutter release, so you can position the camera in the ideal spot and then use the app on the iPhone to snap the scene.

It's not necessary to sync with a smartphone in order to use the device. Theta comes with 4 GB of built-in storage, enough for about 1,200 images (depending on shooting conditions). Captured scenes can be transferred to an iPhone at the next sync, or to a computer via USB. Theta's Li-ion battery is also charged via USB, and promises to last for up to 200 JPEG format images (with the Wi-Fi is switched on and the device synced with an iPhone) before needing to be topped up.

An example of the kind of spherical panorama you can expect to capture using Ricoh's Theta...

The only thing we can't tell you at the moment is the actual resolution of the captured images. The company rep at Ricoh's IFA booth told us that Theta is designed for comfortable viewing on a mobile device, and that images are compressed before being transmitted to the phone.

Theta will be available for pre-order at Ricoh's online sales channels this month in France and Germany for €399 (tax included), the UK for £329 (tax also included) and the US for a pre-tax base price of US$399. A strap attachment is available separately.

Source: Ricoh

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
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4 Comments

Seems pointless to me, who wants 100 or so circular round-ball 'selfies' ? Just take one 180 degree shot facing forward, turn round to face the other way, take a second and let software 'stitch' them together like panoramic photo cameras. Besides, they always look way too distorted to me anyway.

The Skud
5th September, 2013 @ 09:01 pm PDT

The skud, you are looking at it wrong.

If you input that into the right software (blender 3d of example) then you can view it without the distortion and you can look around in your photo or think about it with a virtual reality headset. I could also see you being able to look around in your photo by looking at your phone and moving around with it to see from a new perspective.

Also super useful for anyone doing 3d artwork that wants to use one of these pictures as a light source and for reflections on objects it the picture. Would be even better with HD equivalent quality in all directions.

Douglas E Knapp
6th September, 2013 @ 03:10 pm PDT

Which ever way I look at those images, they are painful.

Not my cup of tea, though if there was no need or market, Ricoh would not of bothered so who am I to say.

ELM
8th September, 2013 @ 08:58 am PDT

My robot will need 2 of these and will need to stream video. Then triangulate points for 3D reconstruction of environment. Sweet.

Andrew Bartlett
8th September, 2013 @ 10:29 pm PDT
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