If an all-round view of the world is your kind of thing then Ricoh has got just the device for you. Called the Theta, it's a slim, hand-held, pocket-friendly stick sporting two fish-eye lenses, one at the front and one at the back. There's no need to aim, focus or point the camera, users just hold it at any angle and press the shutter button on the front. The one shot spherical image produced can then be viewed on a synced iPhone, uploaded to social networks or transferred to a computer.
Theta tips the scales at 95 g (3 oz) and measures 1.65 x 5 x 0.69 - 0.9 in (42 x 129 x 17.4 - 22.8 mm), which is a lot less bulky than the hammerhead concept model we spotted at CES back in January. It features something Ricoh is calling an ultra-small twin-lens folded optical system, where a prism at the center directs light to two image sensors. The unit's power button and wireless on/off switch are on the side, and there's a micro-USB port and tripod mount hole to the bottom. The device has a shooting distance of 10 cm from the front of the lens to infinity, benefits from auto exposure control, and has ISO100 - 1600 sensitivity.
The production model syncs with smartphones via Wi-Fi and a dedicated free app. At launch, Theta will be compatible with the iPhone 4S and 5 running iOS 6 or later (and presumably any upcoming version of Apple's smartphone that may or may not be announced shortly), but Ricoh hasn't forgotten the Android community, and has promised compatibility with Goolge's popular mobile platform by the close of 2013.
Using the Theta for iPhone app, users can edit the size and shape of the captured shot before uploading it to the product's website and then pushing it onto social networks. The device makes use of the iPhone's GPS technology to geo-tag images, if desired, and caters for remote shutter release, so you can position the camera in the ideal spot and then use the app on the iPhone to snap the scene.
It's not necessary to sync with a smartphone in order to use the device. Theta comes with 4 GB of built-in storage, enough for about 1,200 images (depending on shooting conditions). Captured scenes can be transferred to an iPhone at the next sync, or to a computer via USB. Theta's Li-ion battery is also charged via USB, and promises to last for up to 200 JPEG format images (with the Wi-Fi is switched on and the device synced with an iPhone) before needing to be topped up.
The only thing we can't tell you at the moment is the actual resolution of the captured images. The company rep at Ricoh's IFA booth told us that Theta is designed for comfortable viewing on a mobile device, and that images are compressed before being transmitted to the phone.
Theta will be available for pre-order at Ricoh's online sales channels this month in France and Germany for €399 (tax included), the UK for £329 (tax also included) and the US for a pre-tax base price of US$399. A strap attachment is available separately.