Ricoh Theta Z1: a high-res 360° camera for pros

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In the past few weeks, a lot of technologies that got their starts in the consumer market have made a big play for professional users. We’ve seen it happen with mixed reality, virtual reality, and now even 360° cameras are getting in on the fun with Ricoh’s new Theta Z1.

Ricoh says the Z1 boasts the best image quality the company has ever delivered for 360° photos. This is mostly due to its 20MP back-illuminated 1” CMOS sensors (as in, more than one sensor). These 1″ are the kind of thing you’d expect to find in a high-powered Sony point-and-shoot camera rather than a 360° capture device, which is to say that they are going to return much better results than you’re used to getting.

The system also features an updated image processing algorithm so users can capture 23 MP images and 4K video at 30 FPS, with 3-axis stabilization.

Featuring a bigger sensor means that the Z1 will also gather more useful images in more situations. It can bump up its ISO (sensitivity) while incurring less of a noise penalty than its littler siblings, allowing it to  produce cleaner images, better detail, more dynamic range, HDR, and so on.

Other updates include an OLED display, selectable aperture (with three settings), and a few more tweaks.

The whole package comes in at $999, which seems a little high—if you’re a consumer using 360° cameras to livestream your vacations. But for professionals, the price could be well worth it. It’s improved improved image quality and higher resolution means better data for immersive job site tours, as well as better 3D reconstructions, and even higher quality material for machine-learning approaches to 3D sensing.

Ricoh’s Theta Z1 goes on sale next month.

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About Author

SPAR 3D Editor Sean Higgins produces SPAR 3D's weekly newsletters for 3D-scanning professionals, and spar3d.com. Sean has previously worked as a technical writer, a researcher, a freelance technology writer, and an editor for various arts publications. He has degrees from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts and the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, where he studied the history of sound-recording technologies. Sean is a native of Maine and lives in Portland.

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