As newsrooms adjust to the modern age, many are investing in a 360 cameras. While you can splurge on an entire GoPro rig that can cost thousands, there are cheaper options available, like the Giroptic iO and the Ricoh Theta S. Both land around the $250-$300 price point. As I found out, however, each have their own advantages and disadvantages.
- Both cameras are small and lightweight (and easily blown over by the wind unless you have a steady tripod.) I will say that the Theta fits more naturally into the palm of your hand, while the Giroptic seems a bit more delicate since you want to make sure your hands don’t touch the lenses or lightning port plug. It’s also important to note here that the Theta can shoot independently of its original app, while the Giroptic must be connected to a smartphone to turn on. That’s right–your phone will be upside down when using the Giroptic, so turn that portrait orientation off so your screen can flip upside down.
- Since the Theta doesn’t necessarily need to be plugged into your phone it doesn’t seem to drain battery as quickly as the Giroptic, which had a battery percentage that seemed to leak by the minute, even when I wasn’t shooting or using the app.
- The Theta has about 8GBs (about 25 minutes) of storage within the device, and additional storage if you shoot through your phone. But since the Giroptic only shoots through the app, storage is based solely on how much room you have on your phone.
- If you’re using 360, you’re most likely also live-streaming. While both cameras have livestream capabilities, the Giroptic reigns supreme here. The video quality may not be as great, but at least the app gives you multiple options for broadcasting (Facebook, Youtube, Periscope, or custom) while the Theta only offers streaming through a custom link or through its separate live-streaming app (I personally think it should at least be offered with everything else in the THETA S app you use for shooting.) You can livestream with the Theta on Youtube, as this reviewer found, but it seemed like such a chore I didn’t even attempt it.
- I did also find that live-streaming on the Giroptic was tricky to initially set up. Despite being connected to a strong Wifi network, the app refused to work unless I was using data. (I also found that all of my text message conversations were deleted later that day, although I’m unsure if it was because of the app or because my phone’s getting old.) Here’s the footage.
- As I said, both cameras are small so it’s expected that they won’t have great audio quality. With the Theta, we’d use an external audio recorder or a phone to sync in later. But when live-streaming with the Giroptic on a windy sidewalk, I realized that I should have thought about getting an external mic. Future Giroptic iO users should consider budgeting for an external mic that plugs into the headphone jack (sorry, iPhone 7 users.)
- Both cameras will save photos and videos in their own albums automatically on your phone after you download them from the app. You can edit Theta footage on your phone in the Theta+ Video app for light touches, but I’m partial to meticulously editing in Premiere.
- What’s annoying is that if you download Theta footage straight from the device onto your desktop (which you must do if you didn’t use your phone to record,) you have to convert the footage from stereoscopic to monoscopic view through–you guessed it–the exclusive Ricoh footage desktop app before you can even start editing.
- Do you get what you pay for? When it comes to the $250 Giroptic vs. the $300 Theta, you do. Although they’re about the same price; the Theta still wins. The Giroptic seems to have a higher exposure that makes images a bit blurrier. See for yourself:
I found the Theta to have clearer picture when I shot inside under standard fluorescent lighting, so I tried it again outside.
Images seem to be sharper outside with the Giroptic, but that doesn’t make them necessarily clearer than the Theta’s footage.
- Handy to have a 360 camera on your cell phone
- One of the cheapest 360 cameras on the market
- Decent quality of videos for the price point
- Easy to start shooting (just a press of a button)
- Need more equipment to record audio
- Weak battery life
- May need to shoot on data instead of Wifi, a surefire battery drain
- Too many apps! Give us a simplified process for shooting, livestreaming and downloading footage
If your newsroom plans on doing a lot of live-streaming and want that 360 effect, the Giroptic is a decent investment. But if you want to shoot 360-specific stories to edit later, the Theta isn’t a bad starter camera.