For the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to test out the new Ricoh Theta 360 camera. The Theta, is the world’s first digital imaging device that encapsulates a fully spherical image with a single shutter release. The highly portable handheld camera allows users to take 360 degree images that can be shared with a smartphone via the Theta app and then uploaded to social sites including: Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

The Theta is sleek and easily fits in your hand while shooting and stores easily enough in a pocket. The camera is lightweight and about as thick as an iPhone. The product is finished in a matte white coating, which while beautiful when brand new, after days of use at the track, riding bikes through New York and constant shoving in and out of my pockets it gets slightly dirty as expected. The bottom of the device has a standard sized tripod mount hole to connect the Theta to a tripod or the attachment strap. Other attachments that can help include the Joby Gorillapod or an extension pole.

The ability to a take a full 360 degree photo with a single shot is made possible by the dual lenses (one on each of side of the device). I found that the lenses are susceptible to damage if the camera were to fall as the lenses are make the device top heavy and along with stick out enough in your pocket to get scratched from other items that may be in there along with keys or even your mobile phone. A thin case or microfiber sleeve / pocket would be a nice addition to the package. I actually ended up using my sunglasses microfiber sleeve to store it to help protect it.

With the use of the Theta app, you are able to take photos remotely using your smart phone (currently only iPhone and Android). The app also allows to review the images captured on the device (4gb of internal storage) and is what is required to share the images on social media. Although, Instagram is not currently one of the social apps that can support these images, you can easily modify the image to your liking in the app before taking a screen grab that can be shared. When shared on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr the images are hosted and also can be displayed on the Theta 360 dedicated display site, which also provides an embed code for the images, such as the one I shot from Formula Drift below.

13 reasons you should attend a @formulad event. #fdnj #umbrellagirls #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

The Instagram cropped version of the image.

Without the app, images can still be taken with the camera and can be brought in for sharing with the built-in wifi. The camera’s design is very simple. One main button is a shutter, while two other buttons located on the side of the device are to turn on the power and to enable wifi.

The image quality in my opinion is something to be desired as images when enlarged are a little grainy and pixelated. I’m not sure how they would turn out when printed, but when used strictly for sharing online it’s fine. Shooting in the dark without enough ambient light further makes the image quality go down. As a first product on the market I am sure the technology and quality will improve with the next generation of the product.

Battery life is pretty good lasting a good day of use off and on. The product easily charges with the included micro USB cable that connects to your computer. The images on the device can also be brought into your computer / laptop with the USB cable.

The Theta retails at about $400, which may be a little higher a price point than expected. Granted it is a completely new and different photography experience.

What I found to be the main benefit of the Theta is that is pushes creativity for photography and innovation. Users can now think outside the box and are not confined to a single horizontal or vertical image, but rather a full sphere in which images can be captured. I’d like to see what other boundaries for photography can be taken with future release of the product or accessories. I would love to see a rugged version that can mount to cars, planes, etc and a waterproof case to shoot surf and well lit underwater adventures.

Empire State of mind. A 360 degree view of the Big Apple. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Here’s my Top 3 Pros and Con based on my experience thus far.

1. Pushes creativity and innovation providing the ability to showcase a 360 degree image
2. Compact, lightweight design makes it easy to carry and for daily use
3. Embraces social sharing of the images, although Instagram functionality at the moment is not yet available

1. Price point is a bit high at just about $400
2. Image quality is a bit low and I imagine printing these photos would come out grainy and pixelated
3. The design while nice and compact, the construction I found a few flaws from use. The white matte finish quickly gets dirty from storing in jeans and the two lenses (one on each side) is susceptible to damage if the camera were to fall or get scratched in your pocket – a case may be needed

Here are a couple of the Theta 360 images I’ve taken over the past couple weeks, more can be found via my Twitter feed.

At the @beautybeyond_b event. Feels like I'm in Japan. #theta360LA #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

At the @beautybeyond_b event. Feels like I'm in Japan. #theta360LA #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Inside the cockpit of @daiyoshihara Subaru BRZ @formulad #fdnj #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA