Ricoh has announced a new Theta that’s the highest-end model yet in the company’s line of 360-degree cameras. The Theta Z1 should mark a big step up in image quality with dual backside-illuminated 1-inch sensors, RAW shooting capability, and lenses with variable apertures. It produces 23-megapixel images that can be shot at f/2.1, f/3.5, and f/5.6, which together with the much larger sensors are likely to make for a more versatile camera in a variety of situations.
Design-wise, not much has changed from the previous flagship model, 2017’s Theta V. The Z1 has bigger lenses inside a slightly thicker frame, as you’d expect, and there’s now a monochrome OLED screen that provides basic information, but otherwise it’s very much in the vein of the pocketable stick-like Thetas that Ricoh pioneered.
I briefly used the Z1 earlier today at the CP+ trade show in Yokohama, and while I wasn’t able to shoot pictures anywhere outside Ricoh’s booth or view them anywhere other than a small tablet hooked up to the camera, I did think the image quality was better than the grainy results I’ve seen from other Theta models.
That said, at $999 it’s hard to know who this camera is for. 360-degree imaging is still a nascent field, and I’m not sure there’s a market for a product at this kind of “prosumer” price point — the Theta V was already considered expensive when it launched at $429, while 2016’s Theta SC now sells for just $199.
The counterargument is that this could be a sort of Sony RX100 for 360-degree cameras, giving people the best performance possible in a mainstream form factor. Either way, Ricoh will find out when the Z1 goes on sale next month.