Ricoh360 tours + Theta SC2 360° camera

Ricoh360 tours + Theta SC2 360 camera

I signed up last week for the Ricoh360 Tours service on behalf of my employer, based on my recommendation to them. It seemed like a great deal: a year’s subscription to the 360 Tours service for $468 annually, with a free Ricoh Theta SC2 360° camera. But, the camera is a damp squib, with terrible flaring and ghosting of light sources, making it unusable in my mind, and the mind of my employer.

This is my first exploration into self-made 360° tours, and I am learning on the fly, but as soon as I got home and started piecing together my first tour, it became apparent that the free Theta SC2 camera was not good enough. As an experienced real estate photographer, I understand that flaring can be a problem if the interior is much darker than the exterior, but I have never seen flaring and ghosting this bad before.

I contacted support, and the response came back, basically saying “you’re doing it wrong”, “try a different angle”, “you can try using the Ricoh Theta app” and “some people use lightroom to edit the photos first”.

I’m not doing it wrong, I walked around with the SC2 trying different angles, live viewing from the Tours app, and flaring/ghosting was a problem from every angle. I took a photo using my Canon 6D mk2 and Sigma 12-24mm f/4 setup from the same angle, with zero flaring or ghosting. I understand a $300 camera is not going to be as good as $4,000 worth of DSLR kit, but the ghosting is unbelievably bad from the SC2.

The Ricoh Theta app does allow for manual control, and a number of shooting modes, but it crashes every time I take a photo, and I cannot access the advanced camera settings for the same reason, on my Google Pixel 4 XL. And no amount of Lightroom or Photoshop work will fix the ghosting and flaring issues, well, that’s a lie, if I put several hours into each image, I could fix it, but the point of buying the Ricoh 360 Tours solution was that it was an out of the box solution requiring very little additional editing.

The sample tour they have on their promo page is clearly not taken using the SC2 camera, which I feel should be made clear on the promo page, clearly naming the camera used to create the sample tour, I suspect it was their flagship Theta Z1, which sells for in excess of $1,100, which I suspect was further edited in Lightroom, leaving me feeling they have misrepresented the product you are actually getting.

This is speculation on my part, but it makes me wonder whether the SC2 camera package, which Ricoh values at $378 is given away for free because it’s so terrible and people return it if they paid money for it. I know that I would have immediately returned it as soon as I saw the results of its first outing.

The tour software itself is fine for the most part, however, there is one major issue, the tour path feature is somewhat flawed, setting up the path is intuitive, but the software tries to figure out where the paths are on other photos, and it misses by a mile, it thinks that the guest bathroom is in the lake, which is the opposite direction to where it’s actually located. But as it’s software, hopefully, Ricoh will fix that.

The AI video maker is not good either, I tested it, and the video is all over the place, with weird angles and zooms, and sudden spins. The poor AI video-making capabilities are not important, I make my own videos from the photos I take with my DLSR, using the Ken Burns pan and zoom technique to create movement.

The end result is we have purchased another 360° camera, an Insta360 ONE X2, which is perfectly fine for $480 including tax and a 64GB microSD card. Not exactly the same quality as my DSLR setup, but the exposure is good, and there is no flaring or ghosting. I’d love to have one of those professional grade 360° cameras that costs $4,000+, but as this is something new the company I work for is experimenting with, spending $4k for a camera is probably a little much, but maybe one day my employer will buy one.

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