I posted the other day about my excitement over the new Ricoh Theta V 4K/360° camera that has recently been released, and then my disappointment on reading about some of the details. This ultimately led to me cancelling my pre-order for the camera.
Within the limitations of HD recording, I’ve always considered my Theta S 360° to be the best available camera in its range with respect to near-invisible stitching. This appears still to be the case with the Theta V. However, the new camera also still has the old camera’s biggest limitations:
- Maximum 25 minutes video length.
- 19Gb internal storage, and no external storage. No Micro-SD slots or anything
As one of my intended use was videoing music performance, either in concert (with views of audience) or in the round, the 25 minute limitation was the more serious issue, although 19Gb would still impose a max of 40-60 minutes.
As my main gripe about the Theta S was the video resolution, the still image resolution being pretty good (and unchanged in the Theta V) I decided that I’ll carry on with what I have, at least for now.
However, there are a couple of other interesting cameras out there that make me think that I may be acquiring a new toy in the next 6 months or so.
The Garmin ViRB 360 has been out for a short while, and appears to be an excellent camera, badly let down by buggy software. This is definitely not a reason to rush to the shops; however it is a problem that Garmin will hopefully fix in the near future. Also there is a good possibility that new adopters will tire of the troubles they have had and there may be some bargains to look out for on eBay. I won’t be laying out £650 on one any time soon, but if I can pick up one cheap at under £500, the price of the Theta V, I may be interested.
The ViRB 360 is 4K, and has a variety of shooting modes, including a “front lens only” 180° mode. Perfect for pictures that are immersive but that I can avoid being in every shot! It is also waterproof to 10m, without the need for a waterproof case – this gives new meaning to the word immersive!
Finally it has the same 360° audio feature that I liked in the Theta V, and good image stabilisation.
The first reviews I read almost cursed at this camera for being so temperamental, but it is clear from later articles that the problems are slowly getting resolved, which hopefully bodes well for the future.
Even more exciting is the GoPro Fusion, GoPro’s first 360° camera. The camera is now out, but not available for general sale yet – GoPro put it in the hands of several key people, to get some content out there.
GoPro are well known for their action cameras, and this appears to be very much an action 360° camera. Unlike the ViRB 360, and the similarly shaped Kodak 360 (which I long ago wrote off), the Fusion is only 1″ thick, which isn’t as thin as a Theta, but is still thin. This is important, as it places the two fish-eye lenses back-to-back, which avoids many stitching problems. From the footage I have seen, this appears to be the case.
GoPro also have a unique feature, which they call OverCapture. The idea is to shoot a 360° video, but then – in software – edit it to a flat HD video that can be easily viewed on screen. This I can already do, after a fashion, but GoPro have made it easy to do within their own software.
Why not simply shoot conventional video? Because OverCapture offers the ability to be a director after the fact, you can identify an object and instruct the software to follow it, or you can start a video with one orientation way, and gradually move through completely different viewpoints. It also has some very attractive transition modes.
Finally, it means that you can shoot once, and use the same footage both in 360° format (for googles or phone/tablets) and edited as flad HD. See this to get an idea of the possibilities.
I really like the look of the Fusion, and hope that I won’t encounter any disappointing “Gotcha” moments like I did with the Theta V. On the other hand, being GoPro, the price isn’t going to be cheap.
Finally, an honorable mention to the Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere. This is a cheaper camera from China, and not 4K. However, I have heard great things about it, both for good resolution video (3456×1728 /30fps) and stills (23.8 megapixel). In that respect, it is better than my Theta S, at a fraction of the price, £177.