Ricoh Theta Z1: The DSLR of 360 Cameras?


The Theta Z1 is the latest
360 camera from Ricoh. It’s the only point-and-shoot
360 camera so far to feature two one-inch sensors. It has a variable aperture
of F 2.1 to F 5.6. I compared it side by side
with its four main competitors, we’ll find out shortly which camera won. The price as of launch day is $999 and that’s kinda expensive..
so you’re probably wondering is it worth that much money? Good question, I’ll answer
this by the end of the video. The Z1 shoots 23 megapixels
photos, which is 6720 by 23 3360 and the video is
4K, but the image quality is much better than those numbers suggest. Here it is and the
design is really similar to the previous Theta models
with the two big lenses on top, a long body and the
shutter button right there. It is a bit thicker than usual. This is because it has two
one-inch sensors inside. It’s also kinda heavy. I’d say this is about twice the weight of the previous Theta. And look I get this because the sensors are four times larger than
the average 360 camera. You can’t put that in a tiny little body. What I do like is that it’s USBC. It has a metal tripod adapter and it’s the first Theta to have a screen. This is the best built-in screen I’ve ever seen from a 360 camera. Even in bright sunlight, you can see it just as brightly as shooting in shade. Four buttons here,
on/off, wifi bluetooth, changing modes from photo to video and the bottom one is function
where we can save presets if we like certain exposure. We just press that button and it changes between our presets. Unfortunately, again the battery
and the memory are inbuilt so there is no option to
change either of those things. They haven’t upgraded the
memory since last time, so it’s stuck with 19
gigabytes of storage. It’s not a complete deal breaker but it does make the
camera kind of limiting. Overall, I give the design a thumbs up because there’s more pros than cons but something that has to be addressed is this camera is fragile. It feels like I’m holding
a golden egg in my hands and if I slip and break
it, there goes $1000. I mean, yes, all 360 cameras are like this but look at how big those lenses are. This is something you
really don’t wanna break and can you imagine if
you did scratch the lens, you would cry yourself to
sleep for three years straight. Don’t use the Z1 without
a tripod, a selfie stick or without having it securely
mounted to something. And if you’re clumsy, don’t
even think about buying it. It’s just an accident waiting to happen, but here’s why you should buy it, for the amazing image quality. No question, image quality
is the biggest strength of the Theta Z1. The photos look absolutely incredible. After shooting a whole bunch of samples around the Sydney Opera
House and my neighborhood, I can confidently say these
are the best 360 photos I’ve seen out of a point-and-shoot
camera under $1000. This starts with the
accurate and vibrant colors. The Theta cameras have always been known for their color accuracy and you get more of the same with the Z1. The blues of the sky look just
like they do in real life. This is surprisingly rare
to see from a 360 camera. Usually either the sky
will seem a bit washed out and murky or it will be undersaturated and not looking as vibrant
as the eye would see. The colors are really
accurate with the Z1, not only with the sky but
with basically everything. If you get you exposure
right, you’re going to capture the colors of the scene in front
of you as your eyes see it. Firstly, inbuilt HDR is back
and it’s as good as ever. It exposes the image really nicely with almost no blown out
highlights or crushed shadows. You will need to keep
your camera still for this to avoid camera shake and also you’ll need to be aware of ghosting, which is when there is
movement in the scene and it shows up blurred
because of the slightly slower shutter speed on one of the
three exposures of the HDR, which means you shouldn’t use HDR when there’s people around. Unless you stand really still, cheese, or if it’s super bright out the shutter speed shouldn’t go that slow. I’m saving my favorite feature
of the Theta Z1 is raw mode. This is the best raw I’ve seen from any point-and-shoot 360 camera and it’s starting to give us 360 shooters what we’ve been missing
which is DSLR-like raw. There have been a whole
bunch of other 360 cameras that have offered raw,
but they’ve never been anywhere near the level of a DSLR. The shadow recovery
has been maybe like 10% and the highlights, can maybe
bring them down 10 or 15% but if you’re shooting raw on a DSLR, you can bring up the shadows like 10,000% and the highlights down 10,000%,
okay maybe not that much but you get the point, it’s way more. With the Z1 I found the raw
to be about half as good as the DSLR if not more,
especially in the shadowy areas. I was working watching a
video on YouTube the other day about the Z1 by some
guy, I forget his name, but he showed off this
technique where he underexposed his images and brought them
up five stops in the lightroom to make the perfectly exposed image. So I went out and tried
this myself and it worked. I was able to turn a
completely underexposed image to the point that it looked pure black and I was able to raise
the brightness far enough that it looked like a
properly exposed image with not that much noise. That’s what DSLRs do. I found the highlight
recovery to not quite be as impressive as the shadow recovery, but it’s still decent. You can still bring it
back about two stops, which really makes this the perfect camera for mixed lighting
interiors aka virtual tours. Combine this with really
impressive sharpness, which looks much sharper
than 23 megapixels and the ability to shoot bracketed shots and this becomes the best camera for 360 photographers in mid-2019. A 360 camera having a variable aperture is a really rare thing
in 2019 and the Theta Z1 gives you three options to choose from: F 2.1, F 3.5, F 5.6. And if you are shooting this with a DSLR, what would that mean? Well, firstly, you would get more light so the overall shot would be brighter, but also it means your
depth of field changes. The wider your aperture is opened, the shallower the depth of field becomes. So you might be thinking,
does this finally mean we can get shallow depth
of field 360 shots? Well, no, I did a test
of all three side by side and not only was there no
difference in the depth of field but the reason they’re doing
this is because they claim it increases sharpness when
you go down with your aperture. Looking at these three here side by side, I can confirm they look exactly the same. Maybe I’m not doing something right, maybe they’re going to update the firmware to allow for this, but for
now the variable aperture is just now the setting you can change to adjust your exposure,
which is still good. The more settings, the better. The low light shots out of
the Z1 are really incredible. Not only can you shoot in pitch black and get a properly exposed image, but you can shoot in any kind
of mixed lighting situation you like and you will
be able to deal with it. Whether you just want to
shoot in HDR rendering mode, whether you want to set
the exposure manually and do a long exposure or
if you want to combine that with raw and adjust the exposure later, no matter what kind of low
light situation you are in, it will do a good job. This is helped by the one-inch sensors. Not only is the exposure
good, but if you get your settings right, there’ll
be very little noise. Look at that, I see stars. The stitching is pretty good as usual. If you have any issues, you
can adjust them manually in the Ricoh Theta Stitcher
Plugin for Lightroom. Now let’s talk work flows
and if you’re just shooting in JPG, then a phone is fine. You can do everything
you need to do in JPG on your phone, however, if
you’re gonna take things to the next level and shoot in raw, you will need one of these because raw doesn’t
work on this thing yet. With editing your raw
files, you’re going to need some kind of paid software,
either Lightroom, Photoshop or PTGUI, yeah I know that’s a funny name. (laughing) So with Lightroom, there’s a plugin called Ricoh Theta Stitcher
and it’s only compatible with Lightroom classic,
not the newer Lightroom. All you need to do is import
your double fish eyes, edit them and when you’re
ready to export and stitch, right click, go edit in
Ricoh Theta Stitching. You can download this plugin
for free from the Ricoh site, I’ll link it down in the description. This opens up the plugin. You can see the images stitched. You can change the horizon
and one cool thing about this, is you can also change the stitching, so if it’s not perfect,
you can play around with it and get it working the way it should. Hit okay and you have a stitched raw file. If you prefer to editing camera raw inside of Photoshop like
me, you can do that. Simply open your DNG in Photoshop, now make your edits as you normally would. Now you will still need a lightroom subscription to do this. This is a work around that I don’t even think Ricoh know about. I just discovered it
myself, but it does work. So you simply just drag your JPG into the Ricoh Thetas Stitcher app and it will stitch the
double fish eyes instantly just like it did with Lightroom. Final method is with PTGUI and if this is your software of choice, it already has a Theta
Z1 stitching template, so it will do everything
for you pretty quickly. Unfortunately, at this point in time, I haven’t found any
free stitching options. I will update the
description if this changes. I feel like this review
is missing some, ah yeah I haven’t talked about video, and that was kind of intentional because this is not really
a feature of the Z1. I mean, yes, technically
it does shoot 360 video. It’s 4k and it actually
looks pretty decent, but with only 19 gigabytes of memory, this fills up the entire
card in 20 minutes. And its 4k, 5.7 K is the standard in 2019 and so, that’s not good enough. The two or three things
the video has going for it is one, the dynamic range, it’s good, like it’s always been
for photos and videos. It has basic video, it has basic video stabilization, nothing like what we’re used to, but it’s okay and it has spacial audio. Yay, oh well, actually
no because the video is kinda useless so why
do you need spacial audio. I think it goes without saying, this is not a 360 video camera. If you’re into 360 video,
there’s another camera, that’s the obvious choice,
I’ll tell you which one that is in just, ah dammit. Firstly, I wanna show
you this comparison I did between the Theta Z1,
Theta V, Gopro Fusion, Xiaomi MI Sphere and Insta360 ONE X. These are the four most requested
cameras to compare it to. So I chose a difficult mixed
lighting scene to do this. Welcome to my apartment. I have a kinda dark interior
and extremely bright exterior that extends all the way
out to views of Sydney City. Capturing this properly
would be hard for any camera, including a DSLR which is why I put these five cameras to the test. With each one, I did the
best I possibly could to make it look good. With some cameras, I used
raw, with some I used HDR. I’m not using bracketing here. I wanted to test what I
could get in one single shot. What I’m looking for here, is the most even exposure inside and out. No blown out highlights,
no shadows too dark and consistent colors. All of which, the MI Sphere does not have in this high contrast scene. The Fusion is an
improvement and the colors are looking much better, however, I still see pure white outside in the sky. Next, is the Theta V using HDR rendering and that looks so much better. This is a properly exposed image and the colors are looking pretty nice. I’d honestly be happy using
this in a virtual tour. Here is the ONE X in raw mode and I was kind of disappointed by this. The highlights are way too
blown out for this to be usable. Put the camera in HDR mode, however, and it’s a different story. This looks great and
overall it passes the test. Next is the Z1’s builtin HDR. This is a great image. The colors look good, the
overall exposure here is good, however, I’m going to be
knocking out this image because the next image
takes place of this. And that is the raw photo
taken with the Theta Z1. This is by far the best image of everything we’ve just seen. The exposure is consistent
across the entire image. The exterior is perfectly
exposed and when I shot this, it was the brightest
part of the 10 minutes I was shooting these photos
and it still did the best job. When you zoom in on the three finalists, the noticeably sharper
city skyline of the Z1 is what crowns it the winner in my eyes. Okay, so the Z1 is best for photos but you might be wondering what about its closest rival, the ONE X? How does it compare all around to the Z1? How do they line up and which one is the better overall camera? Now I know I already declared
the Z1 the best camera for 360 photos, but since the ONE X is the most popular camera
right now, I just wanna be sure. So I took them both out for coffee. Yeah, I think this is my third or fourth coffee of this video. We should just call this
video Ben goes out for coffee with his cameras, hashtag forever alone. But this time I’ll wanna look a little bit closer at the differences. Here are both cameras in HDR mode and when zoomed out there are barely any differences between them. They both look great. Well, I would say the Z1
has slightly better colors and contrast straight out of the camera. I’ve not touched either of these images. You can always color
correct your ONE X shots so it’s not a deal breaker. Now let’s zoom in really
close on this grid and now the difference is night and day. The Z1 is so much clearer. The dots are all perfectly round and dark, whereas they’re pretty inconsistent and blurry with the ONE X. Let’s look at another area just to be sure and yeah, the Z1 is better
in basically every way. And look, I’m being picky
but it’s my job to be picky. Now here’s the raw version. From first glance, the
Theta Z1 looks better because, as we know by now, raw isn’t really the
strength of the ONE X. I would like to use this
opportunity, though, to zoom in on another less
busy part of the image and when you look at the
ceiling side by side, there is much less noise with the Z1, whereas the ONE X is producing
quite a bit of chroma noise. I think this is a perfect
example of what you might be shooting in a virtual
tour and as you can see, the Z1 is a good 20% better than the ONE X at a lot of things, and
those numbers add up if your aim is to shoot super
high quality 360 photos. The ONE X came in honorable second and I still say these photos are usable. When we change the
cameras into video mode, I think you know what
the result’s gonna be. The ONE X absolutely destroys the Z1. It’s not even close, the
ONE X wins at everything. It also wins for price, $400 versus 1000 is a pretty big difference. So here are the main
differences I see between them; they’re both amazing cameras and you won’t be disappointed with either, but you can only buy what you can afford. Oh and by the way, they’ve
both got super fast work flows. Last week I asked you guys
on Facebook and Instagram what you wanted to know about the Z1 and I got hundreds of questions. So now, I’ll answer the best
ones in under 10 seconds each. Does it still have that annoying red dot? Yeah, the red dot of
doom is basically gone. I haven’t seen it in any of my shots yet, fingers crossed, that continues. How long does the battery last? It’s about an hour but if
you’re shooting 360 video, it will drain super fast,
so avoid video if you can. Hey, Mr. Ben. I was wondering does it come with a brand new app? It’s the exact same app as before. Nothing’s changed. Can I plug it into power? Yes. How much space do the photos take up? With 19 gigabytes, you can
shoot roughly 2400 JPGs or 350 raw photos and then you’ll have to download and wipe the card, not ideal. Hey, Bro. Does it still have that nasty chromatic aberration? It’s definitely still there, but it’s much better than before. If you’re familiar with
Lightroom or Photoshop, you’ll know how to remove it in seconds. How close can you get to
the side of the camera without getting stitched
out and looking funny? About a foot. Is it Google Street view compatible? Yes, yes it is. Can you live stream? Yes, in 4K. Can you shoot time lapses? Yes. Yes Mr. Ben, hi, I just wanted to know why the camera is so damn expensive? Because they’re trying to
scam people, that’s why. I don’t know, it’s obviously not cheap to put two one-inch sensors
inside a small 360 camera, as well as those two really
good high quality lenses, that’s my guess. Ricoh, I’m definitely
due for a new camera. I can’t say when. I have no idea when but I’m pretty certain it
is going to happen soonish. So that was my prediction. Yes, it was right but also wrong. I didn’t really anticipate
a camera quite like this that isn’t in the same
category as the other cameras. This is now a middle of the range camera, whereas before, it was
more for the consumers. That’s really what I was
anticipating in that video and we don’t have that yet. I wouldn’t call this
a camera for consumers because of the price. There’s no getting around it. $1000 is a lot of money and this won’t be an
easy purchase for anyone. I held a poll on Instagram
in stories yesterday asking if you guys would
pay $999 for a 360 camera even if it gave you $999 worth of results and the results were pretty interesting. After 515 votes, 39%
of you said yes, 61 no. So the question isn’t really
is it worth the money, because it is but the question is even if it is worth the money, are
you willing to pay that? At this point, it seems
that most people aren’t. But that’s okay because
it’s not for everyone. This is a camera for up and coming virtual tour photographers. If 360 photography is your focus, this is going to be
the best option for you and if you have clients and
you’re charging for your work, you could charge that little bit extra for the extra capabilities of the Z1. No question, you could
make your money back pretty quickly with this camera. Look, it’s not for high-end
virtual tour photographers who use a DSLR and a Pano head, but it’s for people in
the middle of the range, shooting medium size businesses,
small to medium size, but you want the most
professional result possible from a point-and-shoot 360 camera. It’s not for shooting video. So if you’re someone that
shoots 80% plus photo, then you should consider
it, but if you’re 50/50, you like shooting video as much as photo, get the ONE X because it
does a good enough job and as we saw before, it
has superior video quality. This is a camera for social media content and basic virtual tours. This is not a social media camera but the focus is virtual tour. I know $999 is a lot but
this camera is worth it especially if you’re
using it professionally. It’s worth it and not
a dollar more or less. When I look at a camera like this, the reason I’ve been
talking about this so long is this is a $400 camera and
it is actually worth more than what they’re charging. I feel like the ONE X
legitimately gives $999 worth of value with it’s amazing
360 video capabilities, extremely impressive photo capabilities. So the ONe X is the kind of
camera that over delivers, whereas the Theta Z1 delivers. At 2.5 times the price,
it’s not 2.5 times as good as the ONE X, it’s more 1.5
times as good just for photos. The reason I call this video
The DSLR of 360 Cameras is if you think about
conventional photography, somewhere you might
start, might be a phone and if you say take good
photos with your phone, you like photography, you might
buy something like a GoPro which then helps you get
a slightly better result and you get even more into photography and after you’ve used your
GoPro for a few months or a few years, you’re like
hey, I’m ready to upgrade to a DSLR and then you go
out and buy your first DSLR and even though it’s
not cheap, you’re like wow, oh my God, this thing is so cool. These images are like professional, it’s like I’m a professional photographer, even though you’ve only
used it for a few days and you’re obviously not,
but it gives you the ability to become one with enough practice. The Theta Z1 is the DSLR compared to the other 360 cameras. It’s a lot more expensive and
it’s significantly better. But you’ve kinda gotta be shooting 360 content professionally
to justify the price. This is not a camera for Instagram. I’ve also described the Z1 as the midpoint between a point-and-shoot 360 camera and a high-end DSLR on a Pano head. If you have any questions about the Z1, leave them in the box below. I’ll also put links to the Z1, the ONE X and everything you’ve seen
in this video down there. I have a whole bunch
of samples from the Z1 on my Facebook and
Instagram page so be sure to check them out if you’re curious to see what the 360 photos look like. There’s also a Facebook
page for the camera. You might wanna join it. By the way, I’ve got a
little secret to share, you can’t tell anyone, but
right now, as we speak, I’m working on my very next video course, it’s gonna be called A Beginner’s
Guide To Virtual Tours. It’s probably going to
take me months to create, but my goal is to make the best, most in-depth video course ever made about virtual tours that
will help you get started, from taking your very first
shot, to getting clients and earning money from your virtual tours. It’ll be out before Christmas so hit that subscribe button
so you can be the very first to hear about it when it’s
ready, whenever it’s ready. And yeah, I’d like to make
more virtual tour content in the near future. Now I’ve got an excuse to do
so, got an awesome camera. So you can expect that
from my channel soon. That’s my review, hope
you enjoyed it, bye. (mellow music)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *