RICOH THETA New Handheld HDR Feature Review - Is it any good?

On October 25, 2019, RICOH released the firmware upgrade for the RICOH THETA Z1 and RICOH THETA V cameras. The update added improvements to HDR when the camera is held in your hand.

HDR Explanation

The RICOH THETA can take High Dynamic Range HDR images that automatically extend the dynamic range of an scene by combining light and color values from multiple images to improve the quality of images.

Although the quality of images is improved, there are downsides:

  • Image shooting takes longer as the camera is automatically taking multiple images and then processing the images to merge them together
  • because there are multiple images, you may get ghosting if there was any movement in the scene. HDR is not usable for sports shots or scenes where objects move
  • you need to mount the THETA in a tripod to take reasonable HDR images as even small movements of your hand will cause the image to blur

Handheld HDR

Handheld HDR is a new camera setting that RICOH released in October that allows the camera to be moved slightly. The camera can compensate for small movements of your hand by comparing pictures and automatically making adjustments.

Required firmware versions:

  • THETA V - 3.10.1
  • THETA Z1 - 1.20.1

Information on upgrading your Z1 to firmware 1.20.1 is available here:
THETA Z1 Firmware Upgrade to 1.20.1 Walkthrough on Windows 10

Using Handheld HDR

In the mobile app. Go to the screen you normally use to take a still image.

Swipe Sideways to See the New Handheld HDR Option

Old HDR Versus New Handheld HDR Comparison

The test.

  • A RICOH THETA Z1 is mounted on a selfie stick.
  • The stick is extended and placed directly over my head to simulate a Google Streetview style of shoot
  • I am using the mobile app to take the picture while I am stationary (not walking)

Holding Selfie-Stick as Still as Possible

Handheld HDR was much clearer when I held the stick as still as possible.

Shaking of Hand - Simulating Moving Subject

If the hand is shaking or the subject is moving, then HDR or Handheld HDR is not usable.

Conclusion

RICOH’s new Handheld HDR works great for taking HDR images with the camera held in your hand. It is a significant improvement over the previous HDR option. To use this new feature effectively, keep the selfie-stick as still as possible. If your subject is moving slightly, do not use either HDR and Handheld HDR.

Handheld HDR is good for Google Streetview if you stand in one place and keep the selfie-stick still. It should also be useful if there is a slight wind that is causing your selfie-stick legs to sway slightly.

As always, remember that the THETA lens can crack if your tripod tips over in the wind. Shoot responsibly. :slight_smile:

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Note that both HDR modes are only available when shooting JPEG-only.
Additional restrictions are auto mode and non-interval mode.
IMHO, this makes them pretty useless for the typical Z1 user.

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@CorLeone Thanks for this great additional information.