Ricoh Theta Z1 will soon have a firmware update that will add improved bracketing. Find out how this can help you get better image quality.
Theta Z1 (reviewed here) is Ricoh’s flagship 360 camera that features 1-inch sensors, which are the largest available for dual lens 360 cameras. It has been a highly regarded camera among 360 photographers because of its excellent image quality, color accuracy, and its ability to shoot Raw DNG photos with exceptional exposure latitude.
In a conference call I had with Ricoh Theta Division General Manager Shinobu Fujiki and other Ricoh employees, as well as Sam Rohn and Clay Morehead, Ricoh informed us that they are working on a firmware update that will have improved auto exposure bracketing (AEB).
What is bracketing?
In photography, bracketing means taking several photos with varying settings. It originated when most photographers shot with film and could not review the photos immediately. To avoid getting the wrong exposure, photographers took several shots with slightly different exposures. They could then review the shots afterward and choose the best exposure.
Bracketing is not just for exposure. For example, macro photographers use focus bracketing where the focus is slightly different for each shot. However, for 360 and virtual tour photographers, exposure bracketing is the most common use for bracketing.
With digital cameras, we can review the photo immediately after shooting, so bracketing is no longer needed for its original purpose of getting the right exposure. Instead, bracketing has become important for HDR photography. Using HDR software, the shots at different exposures can be combined to create a photo that has much more dynamic range than a single photo.
Bracketing with Theta Z1
The Theta Z1 currently has several modes, including a bracketing mode. However, the bracketing mode is completely manual, letting the user specify the number of photos and the manual exposure for each shot. On one hand, this gives the photographer maximum control. On the other hand, no single set of bracketing settings will work for every situation, so the photographer has to change the bracketing settings every time, which can be tedious.
There is a plugin for the Theta Z1 called Dual Fisheye Plugin (and the newer Dual Fisheye Raw) by Yoichi Hirota which can automatically take bracketed exposures of 3, 5, 7, or 9 shots, with no need to specify individual exposure settings. It is far more practical than the Theta Z1’s built-in bracketing mode. Here is a sample photo shot with the Z1 and Dual Fisheye Raw bracketing and edited with HQ Lite:
However, the Dual Fisheye Plugin has some disadvantages. For example, you can’t see a live preview of the shot. And Mr. Hirota hasn’t been able to create a remote app for iOS because of Apple’s arbitrary rejection of his app (supposedly because it was not authorized by Ricoh, even though Mr. Hirota furnished a letter from Ricoh supporting the app).
The new and improved bracketing mode will hopefully be as easy to use as the Dual Fisheye Plugin. I also hope that the bracketed shots will be available in Raw DNG (not just JPG), and that it will be possible to see a live preview of the photo.