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Ricoh’s new 360-degree camera shoots 4K but carries a heavy price tag

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Will people really pay $429 when there’s so much competition?

Photo: Ricoh

Ricoh has been making some of the more approachable, if not the most stunning, 360-degree cameras for a few years now. Today it’s catching that Theta line cameras up to the current competition with a new version that shoots in 4K, announced at the IFA trade show in Berlin, Germany.

The new camera, called the Theta V, comes in the same slim, easily handheld form factor as Thetas past. But this one costs $429 and captures a 360-degree sphere of 4K UHD footage by way of two f2.0 lenses, each tied to a 12-megapixel CMOS sensor. (Those sensors overlap and combine for 14-megapixel 360-degree images as well.) The Theta V’s images (still and moving) are supposed to have better clarity and dynamic range than its predecessors, as well as more onboard storage (19GB) and faster transfer speeds. It can live stream 4K footage in 360 degrees as well.

On top of that, the Theta V can capture audio from four different directions, allowing for more dynamic, omnidirectional sound that better matches the spherical footage. But Ricoh has also announced a new 360-degree microphone at the show, which can be attached to the bottom of the Theta V and used to capture fully 3D audio. The microphone will be sold separately for $269.

It’s great that Ricoh’s continuing to push these easy-to-use solutions, but the space that the company once pioneered has quickly crowded. There are now many 360-degree cameras available, compared to a paltry few when the Theta S — the first of Ricoh’s 360 cameras that was really worth its salt — was released in 2015.

The flooding of this corner of the camera market has driven prices down despite the across-the-board addition of 4K capability, and new features that use 360-degree imagery in interesting ways. Like the Thetas before it, the new Theta V might be a contender in that market. But whether it can stand out at this price point is a much tougher question.