High-quality 360-degree footage is the future, and Ricoh is jumping right in with a brand-new flagship—the THETA Z1. This is the best THETA ever released, with a huge leap in image quality being made possible using two 20MP 1" back-illuminated CMOS sensors. This arrangement supports 23MP 360-degree stills (6720 x 3360) and record 4K (3840 x 1920) video at 30 fps with 3-axis stabilization. Larger sensors also mean better image quality in more situations, because the sensitivity can be boosted to ISO 6400 and there is a multi-level aperture mechanism with three levels of control.
Beyond the sensors, the Z1 has a redesigned image processing algorithm that will help create the sharpest and cleanest images possible in any given situation. Dynamic Range compensation is automatically applied to limit loss of detail from blown-out highlights and deep shadows. There are many other modes to choose from, as well, including HDR Rendering, Interval Composite, and Multi-bracket shooting.
Image quality is important and, for professionals, there are numerous options for manual control. This includes aperture-, shutter-, and ISO-priority modes, in addition to full manual operation (manual mode requires a smartphone). The previously mentioned multi-level aperture now provides the choice of f/2.1, f/3.5, and f/5.6 for handling bright situations. Still images can be saved as DNG raw files for maximum flexibility, while RICOH THETA Stitcher for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC makes editing easier. Backing up this image quality is a four-channel microphone array for 360-degree spatial audio recording. With 360-degree audio and video being recorded, the Z1 will provide a completely immersive virtual reality viewing experience.
Massive changes to the imaging pipeline, fortunately, did not mean a change in overall design, with the THETA Z1 using tri-fold structure technology to have a thickness of just 24mm. A 0.93" OLED display provides rapid access to essential shooting settings and information. A new function button can then help you switch between display modes and select modes. The body is also tough, with magnesium-alloy construction and a luxurious texture. Tripod screw holes are metal for durability, and it uses the now-standard USB 3.0 Type-C connection for fast transfer.
Connectivity and upgradeability are an important part of the THETA system, and the Z1 features Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in. The THETA+ app makes it simple to share and edit photos, and an internal capacity of 19GB can hold up to 2400 JPEGs without issue. Coming soon is a new feature called Time-shift Shooting that will make it possible to capture images without the photographer being in the frame.
The THETA Z1 is most certainly Ricoh's best 360-degree offering yet and likely will become one of the best currently available. Are you a fan of 360-degree shooting? Have questions about how to get into it? We would love to hear your thoughts on both the THETA Z1 and on the future of 360-degree imaging in the Comments section, below.
I don't even know what 360 degree shooting is. Is this a still camera or a video camera? What do the pictures look like? Is it better than your basic pocket camera for taking vacation photos? I'm a luddite when it comes to this kind of stuff..
You raise a good point, perhaps an introduction to 360 article should be created to help those who don't deal with these types of products as regularly as we do here at B&H. In short, 360 refers to both stills and video that capture the entire scene—both front and back. The THETA you see here can capture both stills and video in high quality. The pictures are generally viewed in a number of ways. You can create a standard square image out of the data by cropping into the picture or presenting a distorted frame (think ultra fisheye), you can use dedicated viewing software that allows people to click and drag to view different areas of the scene (if you have used Google Maps and the Street View function that is a perfect example), or you can use apps, smartphones, and virtual reality headsets to actually look around the image as if you were there. Same thing applies to video.
Thanks for asking! Sometimes we forget that by the nature of our jobs that we are more involved with tech than our readers. I will pitch a 360 Introduction soon. In the meantime, if you want to see some 360 footage check out the following reviews: