360 Camera Review – Ricoh Theta S vs Samsung Gear 360 (2016)

Recently, I got a chance to play with the Samsung Gear 360 thanks to a Streetview loan from Google. I’ve had the Ricoh Theta S for a while and love it. The only drawback is that it only shoots 1920×1080 video, which doesn’t look good with 360 videos. The Samsung Gear 360 shoots 4k, so I thought it would be a better camera.

It was not.

In any way, shape or form.

Ok, it shoots 4k, that’s the only way, shape or form.

Form factor is horrible because it’s a ball and hard to hold and use. Luckily, this has been fixed for the 2017 version. The Gear 360 app is horrible. Terrible. Atrocious. It takes forever to stitch photos and video. If you attempt to do it all from the phone, it actually won’t give you a 4k video, meaning you need a desktop solution. If you’re a Mac user, just go cry yourself a river, because most of the desktop (and mobile solutions) are garbage.

The dual independent lenses on the Gear 360 create 2 stitch points, which given its form factor, really make shooting anything within 6 feet of the camera difficult. Also, because they act independently, you get different exposure on each one depending on the lighting.

With the Ricoh Theta S, if you shoot a picture with the app, when it captures, it automatically stitches and saves to your phone. It takes maybe 2-3 seconds, whereas the Gear takes upwards of 10 seconds and doesn’t stitch or save to the phone. The Ricoh app saves what you shot, how you shot it, to your phone and makes mobile uploads easy.

Instead of 2 independent lenses, the dual lenses on the Ricoh Theta S act as one and give you even lighting throughout the image. Also, because it’s slimmer than the Gear 360, its stitching is minimal and allows for things to be closer to the camera and not get lost.

All in all, I was thrilled to send back the Gear 360 because I couldn’t really do anything with it. I have an Android phone, but because I’m a Mac user, I couldn’t really get much out of the camera. The process of getting this 360 review stitched, to a Mac, edited and then to YouTube took about 8 hours of copying, stitching, copying, formatting…you get the picture. The only plus I give the Gear is it shoots 4k, outside of that, the camera isn’t worth it. I’ll stick with my Ricoh.

Both companies have new versions coming out in 2017. The Gear 360 is already out and you can see where they’ve changed the form factor to make it easier to hold and stand up. Many newer 360 cameras have adopted this as well, so at least Samsung learned there. The Gear 360 app that I used before I sent the camera back to Google was the updated one that works with the Gear 360 2017, so that’s not very promising at all.

Ricoh’s 2017 model, I spoke with them at NAB this year, is supposed to have 4k video or better and offer spatial audio. Given the growing amount of contenders prosumer in the 360 camera market( GoPro and YI Technology, specifically), Ricoh may need to do more than that to stay in this race. Give the price point, ease of use, app support, and quality, as of now, the Ricoh Theta S is still my favorite, but we’ll see what the rest of 2017 holds.

Rally For Refugees & Immigrants

This past weekend, the Sisters of Mercy in America held a Rally for Refugees and Immigrants. It was the first rally of it’s kind in the area since the new administration took. Politics aside, we thought it would be a good chance to grab some 360 photos with the Theta S. We also snapped some regular stills so the organizers would have some photos to share from the day.

[vrview img=”http://parkmultimedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/R0010285_20170204133946-1.jpg” ]

While the day was cold a windy, it was a bright blue sky, which was great for the Theta S. It works really well in the low light test we’ve put it through, but had yet to really test it with a bright sun. Usually, you can place the sun in front of your subject for better exposure and not have to worry about the camera underexposing your subject. With a 360 camera, the sun and subject are both going to be captured.

[vrview img=”http://parkmultimedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/R0010282_20170204131104.jpg” ]

The Theta S performed pretty well. If you take a spin around the images, you can see that the sun is blown out, but the Theta S does a good job of evening the image exposure. The rest of the image isn’t too dark and the sun isn’t too blown out.

[vrview img=”http://parkmultimedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/R0010285_20170204133946.jpg” ]

The Theta S is the only 360 photography camera we’ve tested so far, but we’re working on getting a Samsung 360 to shoot with as well. Now that we’ve found a WordPress plugin that allows us to display 360 photos on the site, we’ll publish more test and blogs with images.

Below are some of the still images from the rally as well. Our buddy Richard Baldovin of Trifocal Productions also came out as well and shoot video of the event and speakers. You can see them over on his Facebook Page