With faster lenses, larger image sensors and increased resolution, the new Ricoh Theta S, which was launched today at IFA 2015, is a decidedly more grown-up version of the quirky spherical camera. The new model can shoot more detailed spherical photos, and its 360-degree videos are now recorded in Full HD 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps (frames per second).

When the original Theta was launched, it was billed as the first mass production camera for spherical panoramas, and impressed us when we reviewed it. Since then it has gained the ability to record spherical video, and seen competition crop up in the likes of the 360cam, Panono, and Bublcam – though those devices all use a different approach to shooting 360 video or images than Ricoh’s proprietary ultra-small twin-lens folded-optical system.

The new Theta S may look a lot like its predecessor, but it offers a number of improvements on the inside which promise to make a big difference. The key changes come in the form of new faster F2 aperture lenses which take in a 360-degree view, and larger dual 1/2.3-inch (6.17 x 4.55 mm) 12-megapixel CMOS sensors which output a 14-megapixel equivalent.

These updates allow the Theta S to take in more light than earlier models and produce better quality images and video with less noise, even in lower light situations. Previous versions struggled in all but the best lighting conditions. Video can now be recorded in Full HD 1920 x 1080 pixels at 30 fps for up to 25 minutes. In addition to sharing 360-degree content via Ricoh's theta360.com, videos can be viewed on YouTube, and spherical images can be uploaded to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

The Ricoh Theta S will also be able to work alongside the new Google Street View App which was also introduced today by Google Maps. This brings support for the use of spherical cameras like the Ricoh Theta S, which Charles Armstrong, Google Maps Product Manager, said made it easier for users to create and upload spherical photo content to Street View. To make the point he also used one to create a new entry of the assembled journalists at IFA, and uploaded it to his private Street View account.

An updated design sees the Theta S gain a sure-grip black rubber coating, along with a new user interface with face-mounted LED mode indicators to show whether you are shooting stills or videos. A new Theta S app also allows smartphone or tablet users to configure settings, view a real-time preview of what the Theta S is shooting, or view and share content from the camera's 8 GB internal memory. Ricoh says an improved Wi-Fi module allows transfer of data four times faster than the current model.

The Ricoh Theta S will be available from late October priced at US$350.

You can check out a promo video for the Ricoh Theta S below.

Product page: Ricoh Theta S

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