Welcome to my Ricoh Theta SC2 review. The SC2 is a mixture of value for money and entry-level 360 photography.
I love to call this camera a cheaper version of the Theta Z1; which has a high price but excellent image performance.
Ricoh has always had something for everyone when it comes to their Theta cameras.
The SC2 is seen as a budget camera to those who may not afford the high-end Z1 or the previous Theta V.
Ricoh Theta SC2 is the successor of the Theta SC camera which has been available October 2016.
Both the regular SC2 and the business model have the same performance when it comes to image and video qualities.
The Ricoh Theta SC2 for business has only the grey color while the regular SC2 comes with 4 different colors to choose from. The colors are; pink, blue, beige, and white.
The SC2 has the same design that Ricoh uses for their Theta cameras, the candy bar shape is good looking to my eyes.
The SC2 can shoot 14MP 360 photos and going by today’s action camera standard, it is just to say that the photo resolution is a little bit less.
In terms of video, the camera can manage 4K at 30 frames per second which is not bad at all considering that even the Z1 has a similar resolution.
Just like the Z1, the Theta SC2 is not waterproof without the need for waterproof housing.
A huge problem I have encountered so far with the SC2 is in stitching the 360 images.
When you look keenly, you will observe that there is a mismatch in where the images from both lenses meet.
This is something you can edit in post-production to reduce it significantly but it is important that I mention it out.
In this review, I will take you through all the features of this camera as well as how it performs in terms of photos, videos, battery, audio, and the general workflow speed.
Let’s Jump to the Review!
Product: Ricoh Theta SC2
Release date: February 2019
Cheapest place to buy: Amazon
Ricoh Theta SC2 Specifications
|Spec||Ricoh Theta SC2|
|Body Dimension||45.2 mm (W) x 130.6 mm (H) x 22.9 mm (17.9 mm) (D)|
|USB Interface||Micro USB|
|Battery||Built-in Lithium-ion battery|
|Mounting Screw Hole||Yes|
|Colors||Regular model: Pink, Blue, Beige, and White.Business model: Grey|
|Maximum video resolution||4K|
|ISO Video||64 to 6400 (Auto)|
|Image Sensor Size||2 x 1/2.3 CMOS sensors|
|Output Photo Resolution||14MP|
|Photo Modes||I. Auto |
II. Shutter Priority
III. ISO Priority
|ISO Photo||64 to 3200 (Manual)|
|Exposure Modes||Auto, Manual (Shutter 1/8000s-120s, ISO 100-3200), Shutter Priority (1/8000s-2s), ISO Priority (100-3200)|
|White Balance||Still images/video: Auto, Outdoor, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent light 1, Incandescent light 2, Daylight color fluorescent light, Natural white fluorescent light, White fluorescent light, Light bulb color fluorescent light, Underwater, Color temperature (2500K to 10000K)|
|External Microphone Port||No|
|Audio Compression||AAC-LC (mono)|
|Special Audio feature||360 Spatial Audio|
|Wi-Fi||Yes, 2.4GHz only|
|Bluetooth||Yes, BLE 4.2|
What’s in the Box
You will get the following items in the retail packaging of the SC2 camera.
· A Ricoh THETA SC2 4K 360 Spherical Camera unit
· 1 x Soft Case
· 1 x Micro-USB Cable
Being a budget camera from Ricoh, we do not expect a breathtaking unboxing experience like what we normally have with budget cameras from other companies like Campark.
Design and Components
Ricoh Theta SC2 follows the design of the previous Ricoh Theta cameras which is normally a candy bar shape which is very ideal for 360 shooting.
Weight and Dimension
In terms of heaviness, the SC2 has a weight of 104 grams which is ideal for a pocket camera.
The Ricoh Theta Z1 has a weight of 182 grams and so we can see that the SC2 is lighter.
Moving on to body measurements, the SC2 has dimensions of 45.2 mm (W) x 130.6 mm (H) x 22.9 mm (17.9 mm) (D). We can see here that the camera has a long height with a smaller width.
Taking into account the combination of weight and dimension, it is evident that the camera is very portable. Moving it around with you in your 360 virtual tours is not a daunting process at all.
The camera has two CMOS image sensors each behind the ultra-wide lenses.
Each image sensor has a size of 1/2.3 which has been the average used sensor for budget cameras in a while now.
Each image sensor has an effective photo resolution of 12MP but the camera makes an output of 14MP 360 stitched photos.
The Theta SC2 has an OLED screen which is used to display important information such as battery level, shooting mode, and much more.
This is an upgrade from the Theta SC which did not have any display panel on the camera.
The screen is good enough to be used outdoors on a bright sunny day. Every detail displayed on the screen is clear and it will not offer you any problems looking at it.
Of course, the screen is very small but it is good to have it that way rather than miss everything.
360 cameras are made so because they have a dual-lens setup, different from the single-lens we see on the regular cameras.
Ricoh Theta SC2 has two lenses which will make possible the shooting of spherical videos and capturing of such-like stills.
Each lens has an aperture of F2.0
You will remember that we have a variable aperture system on the Theta Z1 and that is one of the many reasons that made the Z1 an expensive camera.
Each lens will capture a photo/video within its view, then the camera will later stitch the two views to create one spherical video/photo.
To keep your lens in good condition for a long time, I recommend you get a lens protector for Theta SC2.
The Theta SC2 has a micro USB port found on the bottom side of the device. This port will be used for charging the camera as well as for media transfers.
I was disappointed to see that Ricoh went for the traditional micro USB interface instead of the newer USB Type C interface.
There is a mount screw hole found on the bottom of the device just beside the USB port. You can attach a monopod, tripod, or selfie stick on the mounting screw hole.
Internal Memory storage
This camera does not have an external storage option similar to what we saw with the Theta Z1.
The internal memory storage has a capacity of 16GB which is 3GB down from what is there in the Theta Z1.
Having this limitation is not a complete deal-breaker for me because as you might already know, I normally use my Theta cameras for photos only and the capacity is not that small for photography.
Microphones & Audio
Ricoh Theta SC2 has a special feature called spatial audio which is meant to give you an immersive experience in spherical audio.
This camera has two microphones which will be used for this purpose.
You will remember that we have 4 microphones in the Z1 but also have in mind that the SC2 is a budget camera.
Comparing the audio experience to the preceding Theta SC, I noticed that there are some small tweaks and improvements that have been made to this camera which have aided in the removal of background wind noise and enhanced clarity.
There is no dedicated external microphone port in this camera.
Is the Ricoh Theta SC2 Waterproof?
This camera is not waterproof without the need for waterproof housing.
If you are a diver, this may come as a disadvantage to you as I couldn’t find a waterproof housing for this camera on Amazon.
Having a waterproof camera is not only good for underwater shooting but also for offering protection against rain and accidental splashes.
Controls and Buttons
The Theta SC2 has several buttons that are used to navigate through the device.
On the front side, there is the Shutter button which is used for filming as well as for snapping photos.
On the side of the device, there are all the other buttons lined up vertically.
There is the power button on the top of the line, you will use this button to power the camera ON/OFF.
Secondly, we have a wireless button that can be used to activate Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Thirdly, we have the Mode button which is used to toggle between the photo and video modes.
Finally, there is a new self-timer button that is used for hands-free shooting in self-timer mode.
Theta SC2 Business Model
Ricoh Theta SC2 for business has a ‘Room Mode’ which is a preset that will allow you to shoot in HDR without tuning the appropriate settings.
Room mode is already activated in default and it is more useful when using the camera indoors or within your car.
There is also the Timeshift mode in the Ricoh for Business camera. This mode will allow you to take a spherical photo while eliminating the photographer from the picture.
RICOH THETA Smartphone APP
The Theta SC2 has Wi-Fi connectivity that will allow you to connect the camera to your smartphone and be able to perform several functions to it.
After successfully downloading and installing the App on your phone, you will then pair the camera to your phone by using a wireless network.
You can use the Theta App for live monitoring of what your camera lens is capturing and well as for later previews.
Using the App to control your camera is also another nice thing that you need to make use of. Video and photo settings, shooting modes, and many other things can be adjusted right from within the App.
When it comes to video, Ricoh normally takes a different category from other action cameras.
The company specializes in making cameras that are better for photos than videos.
Nonetheless, you can use this camera to record videos and it does so with a maximum resolution of 4K.
In this segment, I will take you through the video aspects of this camera including video resolution, codec, bitrate, and many more.
Video Resolution and Stitching
The Ricoh Theta C2 has CMOS image sensors that can shoot videos with a maximum resolution of 4K. The other resolution present in this camera is 2K which is not bad.
Ricoh adopted the image sensor that was used in the previous high-end Theta V which is a high speed and of good performance.
The pixels measurements for the two resolutions are as follows;
· 4K: 3840 x 1920
· 2K: 1920 x 960
From the above information on pixel widths and heights, combined with the image sensor, we can see that the camera shoots native 4K videos.
The Theta SC2 has an additional image processor that allows for the internal stitching of spherical videos in 4K resolution.
All videos are saved in the MP4 format and stored in the camera’s internal storage memory.
How is the video quality?
4K video recorded by the SC2 is from average to good depending on your shooting conditions and settings.
Have in mind that you can only film up to three minutes of 4K video at a time.
I was able to do a quick comparison between this camera and the Insta360 One R 360-degree lens and I was impressed to see that the Theta SC2 performs slightly better than the One R.
The colors are accurate and well balanced and also, the SC2 has a better shadow recovery than One R.
The video quality on this camera will not match what the Z1 is capable of doing but I think that is a good bargain for money because the SC2 does what you pay for.
Here is a video by ‘Naoto Somese’ showing 4K 360 video samples of the Ricoh Theta SC2:
New Video-shooting modes
With the Theta SC2, Ricoh has added three new video recording modes that are targeted towards improving the overall user experience.
1. Face Mode
In this mode, the camera will recognize a human face in the lens view and focus on it.
The face will be brightened up by smoothing the skin which is mainly achieved by adjusting the Exposure compensation and noise reduction.
If the camera does not recognize any face within the frame, then the images will still be smoothened up.
2. Night View
In this mode, the camera will automatically adjust the white balance and automatic exposure to result in a situation where the camera improves its low light performance.
It is advised to use a tripod stand when you are in this mode.
3. Lens-by-Lens Exposure Mode
In this mode, the camera will use each lens to take a shot then place the different results side by side. This mode is intended to be used where some parts of your scenes might be a lot brighter than others.
4. Underwater Mode
This mode is designed to correct the white balance in underwater shooting. The colors are well compensated on how it appears underwater.
Please note that Ricoh Theta SC2 is NOT waterproof, you will need a waterproof case to use it in wet environments/underwater.
Video codec refers to the encoding technology used to save videos in the camera. The Theta SC2 uses only one codec; the H.264 (AVC).
As you already know, the H.264 is an older encoding technology that has been in use for long.
The advantage that this codec has is that you can use older generation computers to edit the video.
The major limiting factor here is that this codec normally saves video files using huge file sizes hence it will have a hit on the internal memory capacity.
This is the amount of data that the Ricoh Theta SC2 will use to record a second-long video. Bitrate is measured in megabytes per second (Mbps).
The highest bitrate supported by the SC2 is 54Mbps. We also have a medium bitrate of 32Mbps and low bitrates of 16 and 8Mbps.
The High and medium bitrates can only be used with 4K resolution. Low bitrates are usable with 2K resolution.
This setting allows you to play with the ISO numbers to see whether you will get an appropriate setting for low-light video shooting.
The Auto ISO has a value range from 64 to 6400.
Moving on to the Photography section of this camera, I was impressed to see how it performs despite being a budget camera with huge cuts made of the specs to lower cost.
The main reason why anyone should buy a Theta camera should lie in the photo quality and features and this camera lives by that culture.
In this segment, I will take you through the photography aspects of this camera including photo resolution, photo format, etc.
I will also give you my thoughts on the photo quality and highlight the areas where Ricoh needs to improve in their budget cameras.
The Theta SC2 has lenses and image sensors capable of taking a maximum of 14MP photos.
When you pause to think of it, 14MP is not an entirely bad resolution also having in mind that many cameras are also stuck with 12MP.
The pixels width and height of the photo resolution is 5376×2688 pixels.
How is the Photo Quality?
The Theta SC2 has an improved photo performance from the first-generation SC.
This fast and enhanced performance can be attributed to the image sensor which is similar to what we have in the Theta V.
The colors and brightness are nicely balanced and the photos don’t look overexposed. You will however notice a lack of sharpness owing to the 14MP resolution in this camera.
I also liked how this camera performs in shadow recovery especially when you are shooting indoors.
The quality is not similar to the high-end Theta Z1 but in my opinion, you will get what you paid for the SC2.
Problem encountered in internal stitching
As I mentioned earlier, I have encountered internal stitching problems when taking spherical photos with this camera.
I think this is something that can be fixed by a good software update since it is also workable in post-production.
I recommend that users should use computer stitching software more often than relying on the in-camera to get the job done.
Luckily enough, if the camera notices huge stitching issues, it will notify you on your smartphone in the THETA APP.
The Theta Z1 being a budget camera, it only has one format for saving photo files that is the JPEG.
There is no DNG RAW in this camera and if you are already used to RAW images, then you will not find that here.
RAW photos are good for doing post-production because they are not compressed.
All photos are saved in the camera’s internal memory.
You can adjust ISO in the still image shooting to alter how your images appear in low-light environments. A higher ISO value will result in brighter photos.
Remember the more you increase ISO value the more you compromise the quality of your photo in terms of noise.
We have both Auto (64 – 1600) and manual (64-3200) ISO photo settings.
White Balance (WB) is the setting that allows you to eliminate unrealistic colors from your camera.
The Theta SC2 has many options for this setting and I will give a quick highlight on the same:
Auto, Outdoor, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent light 1, Incandescent light 2, Daylight color fluorescent light, Natural white fluorescent light, White fluorescent light, Light bulb color fluorescent light, Underwater, Color temperature (2500K to 10000K).
This camera has an in-built lithium-ion battery which cannot be casually replaced.
This is particularly limiting for people who use their camera a lot and might need an extra battery to keep them in action for an entire day.
The battery is rechargeable and you will use a micro USB charger to juice it up.
In a single charge, you will manage up to 260 spherical photos or 60 minutes of spherical 4K recording.
To maintain good battery health, avoid exposing the camera to heat or extremely cold environments.
The recommended operating temperature for this camera is 0 to 40°C with a humidity of 90%.
· Good Image quality
· Value for money
· Nice body build
· Fast Workflow in taking and editing shots.
· Stitching issues
· Non-expandable memory
· In-built battery.
Ricoh has come a long way with its Theta cameras and the SC2 is a good upgrade from the first generation SC1.
The introduction of an OLED display, although small, is a nice upgrade from the SC. The display is nice when you want to make glances over the settings and battery level.
I was also impressed to see that Ricoh decided to use the same high performing image sensors that are there with the Theta V.
It is nice to see this budget camera making a solid performance in terms of 4K video and 14MP stills.
There is also an improvement in terms of image data transfer which is now up to four times faster than the first-generation SC.
You can also spend an additional amount of money and get yourself the Ricoh Theta SC2 for business that has a dedicated Room mode and Timeshift shooting mode.
The only big issue that I have found so far with this camera is the worrying in-camera internal stitching that does not have a very solid performance.
Luckily enough, you can bypass this problem by doing all your stitching on your desktop.
Going with my Ricoh Theta SC2 review, I can say that there is a nice value for money in this camera although you will make some serious tradeoffs from the high-end Theta alternatives.
Thanks for reading my Ricoh Theta SC2 review, I hope you liked it.
If you have any questions or concerns about this camera, be sure to leave a comment below and I will get back to you.