The previously reviewed Ricoh Theta m15 ($478) is probably the cheapest camera you can find to take 360-degree spherical pictures.
There is now a new Theta. Called Theta S, it uses two 12-megapixel image sensors to produce 14-megapixel 360-degree still images - a marked improvement over its predecessor's 6-megapixel output.
Its internal memory has been bumped up to 8GB (from the m15's 4GB), to store more 360-degree pictures and videos. It has a black rubber coating for better grip.
Otherwise, the Theta S looks just like its predecessor. It has a slim body with a fish-eye lens on both its front and back. The two lenses work together to capture a 360-degree shot when you press the shutter-release button in front (with the Ricoh logo facing you).
IMAGE SENSOR: 2 X 12-megapixel 1/2.3-inch
LENS: 360-degree spherical f/2.0
SENSITIVITY: ISO 100 to 1,600
BATTERY LIFE: 3/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
The Power, Wi-Fi and Photo/Video buttons are on one side of the camera. At its bottom, there is an HDMI port, and a micro-USB port for charging and transferring images to your computer.
Shooting videos with the Theta m15 is a complicated affair with many steps. With Theta S, you just need to press the Photo/Video button to toggle between still image and movie recording, as long as the camera is powered on.
The camera is great for wefies, as you can easily fit everyone into the frame. If you want to capture scenery only, you can shoot remotely using the free Ricoh Theta S app (Android and iOS). To do so, sync your smartphone to the camera via Wi-Fi and launch the app.
The app gives you more control. For instance, you can compensate for exposure. You can also switch from Auto mode to the ISO priority or Shutter priority modes.
The app also allows you to view those 360-degree images and transfer them to your smartphone.
If you look at the 360-degree images in the gallery of your smartphone, they will look truncated. But there is the Theta+ app that allows you to edit and save the 360-degree pictures as JPEG files so that you can post them on social media.
Image quality is terrific - much better and sharper than the m15's. Noise control is brilliant too. Even at the maximum ISO 1,600 setting, images are good enough for Web use. Video quality is still not good enough, as I could see pixelations in the clips.
The battery can last for about 260 still images - average for a digital compact camera.
- Verdict: For welfie lovers and those into 360-degree panoramic images, the Ricoh Theta S is simply a must-have.