Ricoh Theta SC2

Ricoh Theta SC2

The Theta SC2 is the follow up to the entry-level Theta SC and brings mainly much improved video, but also some very useful ergonomic features to the stills.

Theta SC2

Theta SC2
Compact 360-degree camera

  • Size
    Dimensions (WxHxD)
    45.2 mm x 130.6 mm x 22.9 mm
    104 g
  • Resolution
    5376 x 2688 (14 Mpix)
    Movie (4K)
    3840 x 1920 / 29.97 fps / 54 Mbps(High), 32 Mbps (Low)
    Movie (2K)
    1920 x 960 / 29.97 fps / 16 Mbps(High), 8 Mbps (Low)
  • Internal Memory
    Still Images
    ~3000 photos
    Video (per recording)
    3 minutes
    Video (total)
    4K: ~32 minutes, 2K: ~115 minutes
  • Optics
    2 x f/2.0 fisheye
    Focus distance
    10 cm - ∞

The Theta SC2 is the follow up to the entry-level Theta SC and brings mainly much improved video, but also some very useful ergonomic features to the stills. (5/5)

1. Overview

The Ricoh Theta series of cameras is "360 for the masses", and the SC models are "360 for the masses without fat wallets".

2. Stills

Quality-wise, the stills look the same as the Theta SC stills. Same size sensor, same resolution. It's not a DSLR sensor, so expect images that look like a not very good cellphone but are 360 degrees and very easy and convenient to capture. 14 megapixels may sound like much, but wrapped around a sphere you're not getting much linear resolution when you view it with a 90 degree field of view in your choice of panorama viewer: It's the equivalent of about 1 megapixel or HD resolution.

The SC2 adds some extra exposure features to stills - face detection and per-lens auto-exposure - but by and large if you've seen the output from the Theta SC you've seen the output from the Theta SC2.

However, Ricoh has added two features to the SC2 that makes it a lot easier to use: first, the SC2 will automatically straighten images for you, so up really is up when you view them. Second, there is a five-second timer mode. This may not sound like much, but a major problem with the SC was that your thumb would take up a sizable portion of the panorama if you used the shutter button on the camera instead of remote shutter via an attached cellphone. With the timer, you can mount the camera on a stick, press the shutter and then hold the camera away from you on the stick. This feature is very useful when you are out hiking, since you can snap away with the camera without having to also get your cellphone out, open the app, and connect to the camera.

3. Video

It's in video that the SC2 pulls ahead of the SC in a big way. The SC2 produces 4K equirectangular video compared to the full-HD dual-hemisphere output of its predecessor. First, this results in a doubling of the linear resolution and makes the video in the same class as the stills. Second, it means that you no longer have to include a hemispherical-to-equirectangular transform in the video processing pipeline. The latter may seem trivial, but due to the hemispherical video already having undergone degradation due to video compression, having the camera do the transform using raw data from the sensor before the video is encoded, you get slightly better quality.

However, you should be aware that it does per-lens white balance. When the camera output consisted of two hemispheres it was easy to isolate each hemisphere and apply white balance correction to it; when the hemispheres are already blended you end up with footage that has a major color shift in the seam, and which practically can't be corrected. A good idea is therefore to capture video with a fixed white balance setting.

The SC2 also produces more sophisticated orientation data, storing the camera orientation as a quaternion instead of the gravity vector produced by the SC. This makes it much easier to perform zenith correction.

For samples, see the Biking 360 video. The segments from Husby (starting at 1:04) were shot with an SC2 (the other segments with an SC).

4. Summary

Everything that can be said about the Theta SC remains true about the SC2: it's a lot of fun in a small package. The image quality isn't spectacular, but the images can be a lot of fun anyway simply due to the creative possibilities of 360 images.

For those thinking about upgrading from SC to SC2, the only question you need to ask yourself is whether you will do 360 video. If the answer is yes, then I can definitely recommend an upgrade - there is a very qualitative difference between full HD and 4K 360 video. If not, then maybe wait for a good sale.