Going full circle with the Ricoh Theta M15 

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It might look like a colourful ladies’ razor, the kind of thing you’d use as a stocking filler to bulk out your missus’ presents on Christmas Day. You’d be grossly mistaken. This simple-looking device is capable of capturing a spherical panoramic image in an instant at the mere click of a button.

What’s more, you can capture 360-degree stills and videos without having to pan, spin or stitch, like you normally have to when tackling panoramic shots on conventional cameras.

Ricoh Imaging UK will release the Ricoh Theta on November 14, 2014, the perfect date to whip consumers into pre-release frenzy but give them enough time to purchase the sophisticated spherical device for an ultra-cool Christmas present.

Contributing to the pre-release consumer excitement is of course the tech press, who, by all accounts, would love to get their hands on a colourful Theta M15.

Tech Radar reveals the Theta’s instant spherical panoramic imaging secret as being the super wide-angle lenses which lie on either side of the camera’s slim body. By facing opposite directions, each lens captures a 180-degree image. The Theta then stitches the two images together and, hey presto, a 360-degree image of the world is created.

Built-in Wi-Fi

How many times have you opted to take a picture on your smartphone opposed to your camera? You know the quality might not be quite as good but at least you can upload the image directly onto social media whilst ‘the moment’ is still alive and kicking.

With built-in Wi-Fi you have similar freedom with the Theta M15. You can transfer the still or video to your Android or iOS smartphone and display the images on the Ricoh Theta app.

You can even upload your panoramic creations to the Ricoh theta360.com website and zoom and pan at your leisure in the web browser.

Ricoh have obviously cottoned onto the fact that the majority of 21st century camera users are into taking images and then sharing them with the world on social media, instantly. As a Ricoh spokeswoman said:

“We’re targeting users who are into sharing via social media. We developed this camera and its video feature in response to user demand.”

For Tech Radar, what makes the M15 stand out is the fact it is possible to shoot panoramic videos, for up to three minutes.

For Ubergizmo, what makes this camera superior to other action-capturing cameras, is its petite size, small and slim enough that it can easily slip into your pocket.

PC Advisor are quick to point out, if you’re into action sports, then this is the camera for you. In its review of the Theta M15, PC Advisor informs how Ricoh wants to get external developers interested in spherical photography, stating an API and SDK will be released for the device.

Other notable feats of the M15? It has 4GB of internal memory, a lithium-ion battery which you can charge via a USB connector, a shutter speed of 1/8000 of a second and an ISO range of 100 t0 1600 for stills and 100 to 400 for video.

You can even choose which colour you want – Pink, blue, white or yellow?

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For £270, it’s pretty safe to assume, there’ll be a fair share of zealously-captured Theta M15 spherical videos and images getting uploaded onto Facebook on Christmas Day.

Ricoh WG-M1 storms into the action cam market

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If you’re the adventurous type and like to keep a track of your exploits you’ll know that regular digital cameras and smartphones don’t quite cut the mustard. Enter the action cam – an ultra-ruggedized alternative that’s guaranteed to stand up to the hardiest of punishments, and enter Ricoh with the WG-M1, the latest to hit the market.

At first glance this is a fairly chunky device, and a far cry from sleeker models doing the rounds in terms of design. It’s waterproof to 10 meters, shock-resistant against falls from two meters and resistant to temperatures as low as -10°, so should certainly tick most of the boxes. Part of the benefit of the size is an ability to offer an ultra-wide angle lens that can take still shots at 14 effective megapixels or full HD movie clips, and it offers continuous shooting at speeds of approximately 10 images per second. All of this can be previewed on a 1.5” colour LCD or through a wireless connection on a smartphone or tablet, which also allow you to take pictures or view live video from afar, and there’s a whole bunch of optional accessories depending on where you want to mount it.

Clearly aimed at stealing some market share from GoPro’s impressive series of rugged snappers it’s nice to see Ricoh coming up with something that certainly looks the business, but looks, as they say, can be deceiving. It’s a bit early for reviews, but a few people have had a look at some early models, so let’s see what they had to say.

1ClickNews does have some issues with the design, but thankfully they’re not too damaging: “Holding it in the hand is an odd experience, thanks to the fact that the 1.5-inch LCD display is embedded in the “top” of the unit, so holding it requires a claw-like grip.” It goes on to state that since it’s not supposed to be used as a handheld camera, this shouldn’t be a problem, and also notes the impressive viewing range given by the wide angle lens “the field-of-view while taking video is an impressive 137 degrees, although that’ll increase to 160 degrees for stills.”

Camcorders Reviewed goes on to explain a little about the shooting modes and formats available:

“Different crop modes will let you treat the camera as if it had different focal lengths built-in—even though it only really has one. There are a few different video formats at the camera’s disposal, with 1080/30p as its highest quality recording mode. You can also get 60fps if you’re willing to go for 720p clips, and there’s a slow-mo 120fps mode at a resolution of 848×480.”

It was also impressed by the range of different mounts available, which include a grip adapter that makes it handle a bit like a gun, adhesive mounts for snowboards and helmets and a handlebar mount for a bike. It concludes by saying that Ricoh has produced a genuine alternative to GoPro’s veritable monopoly with a product that shows a lot of promise.

Popphoto seems to agree, and is impressed by the fact that it has avoided the mistake others have made by imitating the GoPro designs too closely. Digging into the look and feel it is impressed by the deceptively light weight and small size:

“Overall, it’s roughly the same size as a GoPro 3 in its waterproof housing, but a little bigger. The lens also sticks out past the body. From the original pictures, the fact that it has a built-in screen can make it seem bigger than it actually is. It was also actually a little lighter than I expected it to be in my hand.”

The controls are also well situated, making it easy enough to use whether in the hand or mounted, and though the screen feels small, it’s at least a handy option to have, and of course the smartphone option is a genuine alternative in certain environments.

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The WG-M1 is available in black or orange and retails for £199.99, with a release date to be confirmed. Expect to spend a fair bit more accessorising with some of the optional mounts though.

Review Round-Up: Ricoh’s THETA spherical camera

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It may look like a Wii controller, but this sleek and stylish handheld device is actually a significant consumer first. Unveiled late last month by Ricoh at Berlin’s IFA electronics fair, it is the first mass-produced fully spherical camera, simultaneously taking images through two 180-degree lenses and delivering remarkable results.

The system works through a bespoke twin-lens optical system that manages to capture everything around, above and below this slimline 95g device. Each six-megapixel JPEG is stored in the Theta’s 4GB internal memory, while you should be able to take 200 shots from one charge. That might be important, because there is no preview option before taking a picture, so it could require several attempts to capture that killer image. However, its photos do look fairly spectacular, presenting the world in a totally new way and adding real originality to even the most mundane images or ubiquitous locations.

Photos can be taken while controlling the Theta remotely, before they are sent to a smartphone using Wi-Fi and a free app. However, at launch, the only compatible handsets are the iPhone 4S and 5, running iOS 6.0 or above. Android compatibility is due before Christmas, meaning this might be a gadget best saved for a Dear Santa list.

Check out this video of the Theta we filmed during IFA 2013:

Reviews of the Theta have been positive but largely underwhelming, with CNET rather capturing the general mood. The reviewer pointed out that everyone who saw it was impressed by the device and its “mesmerising” views, but when price was mentioned, “the excitement quickly faded”. T3 concurred, summarising the Theta as “a nicely designed little gadget that’s easy to use and gives great results”, and also noting that its low-light performance is disappointing and the lack of a conventional camera makes this very much “a niche product”.

BGR described the Theta as “a next-level selfie machine”, while agreeing with the over-riding sentiment that its 360-degree imagery is too specialised and limited to achieve mass-market success. Taking a slightly different tack, Expert Reviews pointed out that its £329 purchase price could perhaps be better invested on a wide-angle DSLR lens, which would offer greater everyday practicality and long-term usability.

Ricoh designed the Theta and are also manufacturing it, with a dedicated website for image uploading (www.theta360.com) that incorporates functionalities like picture rotation, size editing and social network sharing. The proprietary nature of all this may deter loyal followers of certain other technology brands, but the Theta is well worth a look for fans of characterful and unique photography – particularly those with fairly deep pockets.

Price: £329. Available for pre-order from Ricoh’s UK website later this month.

Is the GR Digital IV camera worth the price?

Ricoh has updated its premium compact camera, from the GR Digital III to the – surprise surprise – GR Digital IV.

So what’s new about the latest model? Well, Ricoh has updated its image processors, and introduced an image stabilisation system to help prevent camera shake. Its autofocus speed should also be faster thanks to Ricoh’s Hybrid AF system. Ricoh claims it has cut focusing time to just 0.2 seconds. There has also been a change in the LED screen – which now uses Sony’s WhiteMagic RGBW technology, so should be brighter than your average screen, while using less power.

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There is also an electronic level that is capable of highlighting inclination from the horizontal, and tilting, which is useful if you take a lot of shots of buildings, for instance.

Looks-wise, the Digital IV looks much like its predecessor, which means it’s not exactly beautiful to look at. In fact, some may find its plain boxy black body decidedly unappealing. However, if you’re happy to spend a bit more, you can take advantage of Ricoh’s grip customization service – this means you can choose between a leather, carbon or metal hand grip, which is an unusual feature. Or look out for the limited edition model, which comes in white with a leather camera strap and metal lens cap.

While pundits praised the Digital III a couple of years ago, they were not so keen on its pricetag – at £530 it was pricey for a compact – and the Digital IV is little better – priced at £500. Plus, by the way, an extra cost if you want a camera strap or lens cap.

Image quality was excellent on its predecessor and Ricoh reckons it has got even better thanks to a tweaked optical filter, and new processing engine, even though it sports the same 10 megapixel CCD sensor under the hood.

Get more information at www.ricoh.com/r_dc/gr/gr_digital4/

Is five better than four? Ricoh CX5 review

It was about eight months ago when I reviewed the CX5’s predecessor, the CX4 – and as I pulled the latest release out of the box, I did a double-take as I thought I’d seen this camera already.

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Body wise, there is little to distinguish the two of them. The CX5 is a bit dearer than the CX4 (at a smidge under £300), but boasts the same solid, all-metal body of the earlier model. This makes you feel like you’ve really got a substantial piece of kit in your hands, rather than a flimsy ‘toy’.

Beautiful detail on macro mode

Inside that rather small body lurks a pretty big lens – it can run from 28mm (wide-angle to you and me) up to an impressive 300mm. I have a Sigma lens for my DSLR that can do the same thing, and believe me, that won’t fit in my jacket pocket! (In fact it’s got me stopped at the X-ray machine at the airport on at least two occasions – I’ve still not worked out what it looks like when it goes through the scanner!). But to use that top range of zoom you will need a tripod or you’ll suffer with some major shake!

The big selling point of the CX5, though is its speed – it can shoot 15 full-res frames in 2.8 seconds – now that’s fast, although I started tapping my foot as I waited for the camera to store them – but hey, I’m impatient! And this is a £300 camera, not a far more pricey DSLR.

The CX5 has the same 10 megapixel back-illuminated sensor – and you’ll get noise-free shots from ISO 100-200, while those from 400-800 are fine. Higher than that and you might be disappointed with the results.

The CX5 also has the same High definition 720p video mode, which means the AVI format results in large file sizes, there’s no stereo sound and you can’t zoom or focus once you’re recording.

That long zoom can lead to some serious camera shake!

Despite the fact that it can cover such a huge range, allowing you to shoot everything from macro shots to landscapes and wildlife, there is not much in the way of manual control for the more experienced photographer, so don’t expect this to necessarily be a good catch-all to replace a DSLR is you want a more portable option for a day out.

However, for keen photographers who like to just set a choice of mode, and point and shoot, you’ll be assured of pretty decent results.

Ricoh CX5: A camera that can cook dinner? No but it’s speedy and has excellent zoom

Okay, this made me look twice. Reading about the latest camera out of the Ricoh stable, my eyes were drawn to the section of the press release that said it featured cooking and golf swing modes. I know we’re always joking that some gadgets can do pretty much everything except the washing up, but I was intrigued.

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Sadly, it’s not about to get up and cook dinner for you (which is a shame, because I’m getting a bit peckish but really need to get this story off to our editor). But it does have settings specifically aimed at capturing these activities, along with fireworks, which is rather handy if you are more interested in taking photos than fiddling about with the right settings.

But what really sets this camera apart is the fact that it offers excellent zooming power and speedier autofocus, thanks to Ricoh’s new hybrid autofocus system. This latest CX5 model features AF focusing times that are as short as 0.2 sec. for both wide-angle 28 mm and telephoto 300 mm, – that’s almost half as long as the CX4, so you shouldn’t ever miss out on that fantastic shot again.

The CX5 also uses super-resolution technology to offer improved resolution of images and to allow you to use a zoom that is equivalent to a 600mm lens without resulting in a degradation of image.

Other features tally up with its predecessor; wide angle 10.7x optical zoom (28-300mm), 3in screen with 920k pixels, 10 megapixel sensor, anti-shake sensor, 5fps shooting, 720p HD video, HDMI out, and a top ISO setting of ISO3200.

This compact camera was designed along the concept that it would become “a tool that you will find yourself wanting to use every day” and if it proves to be as competent as Ricoh has made it sound (and I was really impressed with the picture quality and ease of use of the CX4 when I reviewed it last year) that could certainly be true

The Ricoh CX5 will be available at the end of February in three colours: Black, Silver, and Pink and will cost £259.99

More here

Ricoh CX4 review: Miniaturise your world

At first glance, the Ricoh CX4 looks like your average compact camera. My review sample came in a rather uninspiring black, but search online and you’ll be able to buy it in a rather more fetching pink or silver. However, it is compact and has smooth edges, which make it easy to slip into a pocket. It is missing the textured ‘handgrip’ of its predecessor the CX3, which makes it a little less easy to hold.

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I’ve been having some issues with my own Canon compact, and had recently decided to go back to my trusty DSLR, despite its weighty proportions, as I just wasn’t happy with the standard of shots I was getting.

So when the Ricoh landed in my letterbox, I was interested to see how it would compare.

Screen-wise, it was a big thumbs-up. The screen is large (3in) and has a high resolution of 920K dots offers an excellent view of your shots once taken – better than the standard 230K dot screens. But I found, once I’d loaded the images onto my laptop, that they were rather misleading. A couple of black and white shots I’d taken looked fine on the camera’s screen, but in actual fact was underexposed. And indoor shots taken at night (on a rare night out to dinner) were disappointing.

But outside, I was really impressed with the depth of colours the camera achieved. A trip to an open farm over Halloween presented images with fine depth of colour, and using the auto mode gave me some fantastic blue skies, something that my other compact often fails to achieve.

There’s a decent 28-300 optical zoom, and an image-sensor-shift image stabilisation that cuts down on blur. The ‘subject tracking’ AF autofocus system is designed to ensure photos are in focus and correctly exposed – I’d say the focusing works better than the exposure.

I know I’m sad, but I was also excited by the ‘miniaturisation’ mode. This achieves what is known as tilt-shift images, where a picture of something such as a railway station or Big Ben, takes on the appearance of being in miniature, like a model village or train set. It’s something I’ve been keen to try myself, but had never got round to fiddling around with the settings on my DSLR to achieve it. With the Ricoh, it can be done at the twist of the dial on top.

The High definition 720p video mode creates AVI format files that are rather large, and you can’t zoom or focus during recording. There’s also no stereo sound or an HDMI port for viewing movies on your TV.

The Ricoh CX4 retails at £249.99.

Round Up: Ricoh CX4, Olympus FE 5050 and Nikon D3100

‘Tis the season to be snap happy, according to camera giants Nikon, Ricoh and Olympus. They’ve all prepared new cameras for launch this Autumn, giving us all plenty of time to master the new lens’ before the annual family Christmas photo-a-thon.

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The CX4 is a lot more rounded than Ricoh’s previous compacts – in hardware, software and style.

In the physical realm, the new model is sleeker, slimmer and curvier, complete with a high-power 10.7x optical zoom lens which also offers wide-angle 28-300mm photos.

Thankfully, with such a long-zoom, Ricoh have also improved on the image stabilisation sensor too, promising to reduce shutter-speed by 3.7 EV.

The software has also been improved all round. The camera uses subject-tracking auto-focus to keep whoever you’re aiming at in perfect focus, whether they’re running about or waiting for a portrait.

The camera also boasts a “night landscape multi-shot mode” which takes four exposures and combines them into a single photograph to reduce image noise in low-light photos.

To round-off the new software updates, Ricoh have thrown in a bunch of more fun updates. In the “creative shooting mode” budding photographers can add a soft focus, cross process and toy camera effects.

These picture options may be less impressive than those found in an iPhone with a £1.19 app, but “creative shooting” will be sure to keep the family entertained when a chestnut roasting on the open fire sets the Christmas tree alight, melting the presents and scorching the new Puppy (which, by the way, should never have been wrapped and placed under the tree in the first place).

Olympus Gets Funky with Three New FE cameras

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This September, Olympus is extending its extensive range of point-and-shot cameras. There will be three new Olympus FE cameras with almost identical names: 5050, 5040 and the 4050.

They’re almost identical on features, too. The 5050 (RRP: £129) has 14 megapixels, 5x wide optical zoom, advanced face detection (up to 16 faces).

It also comes in a range of colours, including (and this is where Olympus spent its “naming things” budget): Starry Silver, Classic Black, Champagne Gold and Dusty Pink.

The 5040 (£119) drops down to 12 megapxiels and can only track 12 faces. It does comes in a slightly different range of colours, though: Starry Silver, Classic Black, Raspberry Red and Copper Orange.

The 4050 (£99) also only has 12 megapixels, drops the optical zoom to 4x, but strangely gains advanced face detection for up to 16 faces – something the 5040 lacks.

And the 4050’s colours? Starry Silver, Classic Black, Wine Red and Pure White.

All three cameras have auto-focus tracking to keep moving subjects in focus, as well as i-Auto to automatically detect the type of photo and change the photo settings accordingly.

Nikon D3100 – DSLR Pictures, Compact Usability

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While other companies are content with creating compacts, Nikon like to make their DSLR’s so easy to use that they blast their way into the point-and-shoot market. That’s why the D3100‘s older brother, the D3000, is Europe’s best selling DSLR.

With a 14.2 megapixels, Full HD video and Live View, however, the D3100 looks set to become the new king – especially at just £499 (or £579, if you’d like a lens).

Other features include the 11-point autofocus system, which uses Fulltime servo autofocus to keep subjects in focus without the need to press the shutter button. It also recognises and follows 35 faces at a time – which is great if you have a very big family.

The ultimate weapon in Nikon’s war on compacts, however, is the Guide mode. This gives you step-by-step instructions of how to change the camera settings. Not only does it help you take great pictures but also teaches you which settings were used – so you can develop your photography skills as you go.

Other user-friendly settings includes the ability to preview images for each setting before you take the photo, letting you know what you can expect from the exposure or aperture level before you click the button.