The Dual Fisheye Raw Remote app for the Theta Z1 is out. At $19.99, it is not a low cost app. Is it worth it?
The Ricoh Theta Z1 is one of the most well regarded 360 cameras for virtual tours. With two 1-inch sensors, it has the largest sensors among all consumer 360 cameras. Indeed, they are larger than sensors in some professional 360 cameras. The Theta Z1 also featured other groundbreaking technology such as a triple-folded optical path and the first adjustable aperture for consumer 360 cameras.
The Theta Z1 became an even more powerful tool with a plugin called the Dual Fisheye and its successor the Dual Fisheye RAW. These plugins enabled the Theta Z1 to automatically capture an HDR bracket series up to 9 shots, 1EV apart.
Dual Fisheye vs Dual Fisheye Raw
Dual Fisheye and Dual Fisheye Raw are almost identical, with a few key differences. The first key difference between them is that Dual Fisheye Raw is much faster at taking the photos. When I take a 9-shot HDR bracket on the Dual Fisheye plugin, it takes about 56 seconds. On Dual Fisheye Raw, it takes just 31 seconds. Even more important is that the shooting portion is much faster. With the Dual Fisheye plugin, the first 36 seconds were used for the capture process, while for the Dual Fisheye Raw, the capture took only 6 seconds.
Faster capture is helpful not only to avoid movement and ghosting, but it is also much more convenient. After the capture portion, you can move the camera to the next location while it is still processing the HDR bracket.
The second key difference is that the HDR bracket for Dual Fisheye Raw enables the user to select the exposure interval. With Dual Fisheye plugin, the exposure interval was locked at 1EV. With Dual Fisheye Raw, you could choose the interval at 1EV, 2EV or 3EV apart. The samples below were shot with the Dual Fisheye Raw plugin with 1EV, 2EV, and 3EV intervals.
With 9 shots at 1EV intervals, the exposures ranged from ISO 80, f/5.6, 1/10,000 to 1/40 (about 9EV).
At 2EV intervals, the exposures ranged from ISO 80, f/5.6, 1/25,000 to 0.4 secs (about 13EV).
At 3EV intervals, the exposures ranged from ISO 80, f/5.6, 1/25,000 to 6 seconds (which is about 16.5 EV if my calculations are correct).
Dual Fisheye Raw Remote App
The Dual Fisheye Raw plugin is free from the Theta store, but the Android app for it is $19.99. Is it worth it? I believe so, for three reasons.
1. Reliable Wi-Fi connection. The Z1 is a very good camera but one of its few weaknesses is the unreliable Wi-Fi connection. Often, I will try to connect to the Z1 with my phone, and the phone is able to connect to the Z1’s Wi-Fi signal, but the app does not recognize the connection and stays disconnected. This has happened even in the middle of assignments for clients.
Strangely, third party apps have no problems connecting with the Z1, and that includes the Dual Fisheye Raw Remote app. I have not encountered any issues at all connecting to the Z1 using the Remote app.
I just launch the plugin on the Z1 by holding down the mode button. Then I launch the Dual Fisheye Raw Remote app on my phone and they connect with no drama.
2. Adjust the aperture. One of the benefits of the app is that it lets you adjust the aperture when using the Dual Fisheye Raw plugin. The Theta Z1 is one of the few 360 cameras that have an adjustable aperture, and stopping down to f/5.6 will increase the sharpness of the image. However, while using the Dual Fisheye Raw plugin, you can’t adjust the aperture with the on-camera buttons. To adjust the aperture while using the DFR plugin, you’ll need the app.
3. Confirming the exposure is complete. The third use for the remote app is to help confirm that the shooting is complete. Taking an HDR bracket with the Dual Fisheye Raw plugin is very fast. But I still don’t want to accidentally ruin a shot by walking back to the camera before the shooting is over. On the app, you can see what the camera is doing and you can ascertain that the shooting is done before you go back to the camera.
4. 17-shot Burst Mode. Dual Fisheye Raw has a burst mode for taking a rapid series of photos in Raw. Not only is this useful for sports, but it can also be used for median stacking and other post-processing techniques. Without the app, the burst mode can be up to 9 shots. With the app, you can take up to 17 shots.
For these reasons, I think the cost of the Dual Fisheye Raw Remote app is worth it, especially if you intend to shoot for paid jobs.