Ricoh Theta Z1 ups the game with more megapixels, pro pricing

Some might say that the VR market and even the 360-degree video market has already hit its peak. Things have seemingly slowed down and companies have grown a bit more silent. There are still some, however, who keep the fire burning. Having made the first consumer 360-degree camera way back in 2013, Ricoh continues to believe and invest in this market. Two years after its last flagship, the Theta V, a new torchbearer is long overdue and with the Theta Z1, Ricoh is raising the stakes in more ways than one.

If you compare the two's specs side by side, you might not think the Theta Z1 is much of an upgrade over the Theta V. As they say, however, it's what's inside that counts. In this case, that's a 1.0-inch backside illuminated CMOS sensor with an effective 20 megapixel count and three F-number levels of F2.1, F3.5, and F5.6. Together, the two cameras on each side can produce a 23 megapixel 360-degree image in a single shot.

But 360 cameras aren't used just for still photos. More often than not, they're used for recording video or even live streaming them. Here, the 3-axis rotational stabilization promises smooth recording even when recording at 4K resolution at 30 fps. Plus the 4-channel mic supports 360-degree spatial audio recording to add to the feeling of immersion.

It may come as a surprise, but the Ricoh Theta Z1, like its predecessor, is an Android device at heart, running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor even. More than just geeky bragging rights, this allows for the addition of new functions via plugins. The Ricoh Theta Stitcher, for example, is particularly handy now that the camera also supports Adobe DNG RAW format. Despite the multitude of features, operating the Theta Z1 is simple with a new Fn button to switch between modes and choose what's displayed on the 0.83-inch EL monitor.

With all those upgrades, including a more robust magnesium alloy body, the Ricoh Theta Z1 receives an upgraded price as well. Compared to the Theta V's $420 launch price, the Ricoh Theta Z1 will sell for $999.99. As such, the camera walks the fine line between consumers who just want to conveniently create 360-degree content and the prosumers that may want to have more bells and whistles without going all out.