Review: Ricoh Theta SC2. 360-degree photos and videos for all.
Ricoh Theta SC2
The Theta SC2 sits at the bottom of Ricoh’s Theta line, but the consumer-focused device still offers 360-degree still images and 4K video. The package includes a charging cable and soft case. Supports a standard tripod mount. Fun colors. Would like to see a more integrated app experience (control and editing combined).
The author’s workspace in 360-degrees shot with the Theta SC2.
Ricoh’s elegant Theta line puts 360-degree photography and videography into the hands of the masses. The SC2’s WiFi experience proves cumbersome to manage in practice, but that does not detract from the fun of creating 360-degree visual images.
What we like
Taking a 360-degree photograph or video with the Ricoh Theta is as easy as powering on the camera and clicking the big button in the center. It also allows for timed photos so the person taking the picture can get out of the way–by hiding somewhere. Any 360-degree photo taken while holding the camera, by the situation, becomes a selfie because the lens captures everything in its purview, including the person awkwardly or cloyingly holding the camera away from them. I prefer to connect the camera to my phone, put the Theta on a tripod, and hid behind something as I click. That way the images are about the subject, not about me. In the selfie world, though, 360-degree selfies are now a thing.
The SC2 supports modes for Face, Night View, and Lens-by-Lens Exposure. Night View requires a tripod for stabilization. The Theta SC2 also captures 4K video. Lens-by-Lens adjusts for the often inevitable experience that the stuff on one side of the camera differs significantly from the stuff on the other side of the camera. Think facing snowy mountains at sundown.
I found the camera very responsive. Unlike the meticulousness needed for Apple’s Panorama feature, the Theta requires a single click to capture enough data to stitch together its 360-degree view.
And LED panel clearly displays shooting mode, WiFi status and battery life. The box includes a soft case to protect the device and the lenses.
What could be improved
While the big button to push is a clear design win, the way owners retrieve images from the camera or take pictures remotely, is less well designed. I am not a big fan of devices with onboard Wi-Fi that forces me off my network to connect with them. It isn’t the way the Internet of Things is supposed to work. Fortunately, Ricoh has improved this with wireless LAN mode on the Z1 and V versions of the camera. This is a minor impediment, but it does detract from the free flow use of the camera.
The biggest issue with the Theta, or any 360-degree camera, is the lack of native image support on PC platforms. To view or share the images, in all their 360-degree glory, owners must post the images to Facebook or to Ricoh’s social site.
I would also love to see a 180-degree option, where the camera only uses one lens, with the photographer neatly tucked behind the camera. Although these images might not be immersive, they could be useful in many jobs like home repair, remodeling, and construction.
Videos are restricted to a max of three minutes. I’m not sure why. The 14GB of onboard storage will hold about 3000 videos or about 32 minutes of 4K video, or 115 at 2K. The 14GB capacity seems a bit anemic for onboard storage. Even most low-end devices start at 32GB.
Ricoh ships a remote app/transfer app, as well as an editor app. Combining those and really thinking through the user experience would improve the usability of the camera greatly. Owners should, for instance, be able to take an image, edit-enhance-modify it, and then share it, without switching apps.
Ricoh Theta SC2: The Bottom Line
The Ricoh Theta SC2 makes 360-degree photos affordable. At $300 the Theta delivers good enough images and video for consumer use, and arguably, for at least amateur-level photography and videography (the older Theta SC costs about $200). Their higher-end products, the Z1 and V versions of the Theta combine improved features, along with better lenses and sensors for a richer photography arsenal. The Z, however, runs more than 3-times the cost of the SC2.
Those curious about 360-degree video should look at the Ricoh Theta SC2 as their entry-level device. It will provide all the basics–most importantly, the experience and images to inform buyers if 360-degree video really adds to the vocation or hobby.
Other improvements would be a USB-C charging port. And ideally, that charging port would appear on the side of the camera so it can be charged when mounted on a tripod.
Ricoh provided the product on loan for review.
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Daniel W. Rasmus
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.