How to get the best quality images from your Theta camera

Many of our subscribers are using the Ricoh Theta camera to create their online virtual tours in minutes, and recently we have been asked by our users how they can improve on the image quality from the Theta Camera.

It is important to know we have not edited any of the images in this blog – they are exactly as they have come off the Theta camera.

We had a little play-around with all the settings ourselves to find out how we could improve the quality, and have come up with some very interesting findings!

With out doubt to produce the best images possible from the Theta is to use the HDR Rendering mode (High Dynamic Range Rendering)

The function can be enabled by selecting HDR Rendering when shooting with the smartphone app in auto mode.

The setting of the HDR is found where you normally set the Shutter Speed or ISO settings. Here are some screenshots from the Theta app (iOS) v 1.6.0. to help with this process.

Comparing Auto / Manual Settings to HDR

See below the same image – The first image is shot using  “Auto Shutter – Exposure Value 1.0” the second image was shot using “Manual Shutter” speed control – while the remaining images were all shot using HDR and just adjusting the EV.


1) Auto Shutter – Exposure Value 1.0


How to get the best quality images from your Theta camera


2) Manual Shutter


How to get the best quality images from your Theta camera


3) HDR – Exposure Value -2.0


How to get the best quality images from your Theta camera


4) HDR – Exposure Value -1.0


How to get the best quality images from your Theta camera


5) HDR – Exposure Value 0.0



6) HDR – Exposure Value +1.0



7) HDR – Exposure Value +2.0


How to get the best quality images from your Theta camera

You will see for this test 1) Auto Shutter and 2) Manual Shutter give pretty much the same result but 4) HDR – Exposure Value -1.0, has by far given the best result.

To help show the comparison below are the images in a player for the  2) Manual Shutter and 4) HDR – Exposure Value -1.0

You can now see how important it is to shoot using HDR, the main things to consider when using HDR are:

  1. There is no preview
  2. The image takes slightly longer to capture (be careful of movement)
  3. Images take longer to synthesize
  4. Always shoot from a tripod
  5. Make sure to adjust the EV to suit each situation (a general rule is the EV to be set to “0” or below (negative) anything above “0” (positive) tends to produce an image that is to bright
  6. Make sure you have the latest firmware “SC“, “SC2“, “S“, “V” & “Z1
  7. Make sure you have the latest version off the Theta app



A Hard Test

One of the most difficult shots to take is the inside of a car, so here’s our little test.


Manual Shutter


HDR – Exposure Value 0.0

How to get the best quality images from your Theta camera

To help show the comparison below are the images in a player for the  1) Manual Shutter and 2) HDR – Exposure Value 0.0

So now you know how important it is to use the HDR settings correctly and how to get the best quality images from your Theta camera. We would love for you to give it a try and share your findings with us in the comments below. If you have any questions at all or you would like to subscribe to our virtual tour software, you can of course always contact us so we can help you make the most of your Theta camera, and if you have any other tricks that make the images even better still, please do share wit our community in the comments.

27 Responses

  1. I would like to improve the quality when enlarging the image. I am using Theta V but still is not satisfied after magnification or shooting at night ?

    1. Hi Louis, do the images look the same as in our examples above? Or are they a less quality than that. If so, then it is something to do with your settings as in the above examples we use the highest quality of images. However, you can afterward photoshop the images to make them look better.
      Also, when you make images at night and you have the HDR on, you might need to play a bit with the E.V. to get a better result, when it is too dark simply switching on HDR will not cut it, so I would play with that a little to see what gives you the best results.

  2. Thanks – very, very much – for putting this together! Best resource I’ve found yet that explains exactly how to set my up my V to obtain the best possible HDR results…

  3. I have the Theta SC does this information work for it also. The only app I’ve used with it so far is the Rico Tours app and I don’t see how to do ant of this stuff in it. 360° quality seems OK but I would really LOVE for it to be better. I am just starting out.

    1. Hi Richard, yes it does – only the V has slightly better quality images and shoots quicker. But all the above tips also work in the SC :)

  4. Wanted to say thanks for your info. It’s the best I’ve found for figuring out this little camera. I noticed in your shots you don’t seem to be having any trouble with flare, or wrap around light. I’m going nuts trying to get rid of the flare from windows when shooting interiors. I’ve tried shooting with the Theta V set to it’s HDR mode, but I’m still getting a lot of wrap around light from windows. When I try shooting multiple exposures manually the images never stitch together properly. I’ve been shooting professionally for 45 years and I’m afraid this problem I’m having might be the old story of trying to teach an old dog new tricks. I just can’t seem to figure it out. I wish I could attach an image to this post to show you. Anyway, thanks for the great site. I’ve saved your URL and I’ll be coming back here often.

    1. Hi Frank! Thank you for your feedback!
      Actually, a little trick we have is moving the camera away from the light sometimes. When you connect your camera to your phone, you will see in the preview that, when moving the camera around, the purple tinge disappears (you can actually see this in the preview before taking the image)

      Also, make sure all the lights are on inside the home, to get a warmer image.
      The quality of the image depends also on the camera version you have – the better version, the lower the chance of getting glare on your images.

      I hope this helps!

  5. Hello, just got my SC2. After shot a car’s interior the photos are like 3.65mb size (to low) is spite of the resolution is set to max. App version 1.32.4. Is there a setting I can change? Thanks

    1. Hi Federico, no, there’s not any settings you can change. The Theta images are automatically compresses – the originals are bigger, but Theta compresses them when processing. The quality is still ok.
      If you want a better quality, you need to buy the Z1 so you can shoot in RAW.
      It also depends on the color in your image – you will see if you take a shot outside in the sunlight with lots of color around you, the image size will be bigger. Because it has more data.
      If you are shooting in a dark car, all grey and it is raining outside also grey, there’s not much Data in the image and the MB’s will be lower.

  6. Hi – Ive just purchsed the Theta z1 and done some test shots around the house and outside – Im bracketing (about 3 images) with ISO on 80 (lowest it goes) and just adjusting the shutter to suit. Still with these settings im getting quite alot of noise….any idea why that might be?



    1. Did you try to select “noise reduction”? This may help. And make sure your firmware is up to date to the latest one, this one has improved the noise reduction.

  7. Can I please ask how to set the camera to shoot RAW? My photos always come up as JPEGs. I have the theta z1

    Thank you

    1. Hi Michelle, you have to set it to raw in the settings, but don’t “process” the images afterwards, just take the raw files directly off your camera. So make sure HDR is off, because you can’t shoot HDR in raw. I hope this helps!

  8. Hi, thanks so much for this article. Quick question : does the orginal position of the camera changes anything ? Should the camera face the darker side of a room to getting the better result for example ? Thanks !!

    1. Hi Julien! Excellent question!
      The only tip we give here is to point the lens to the brightest light source to avoid those annoying light orbs you see sometimes in images. Other than that, it does not matter! Oh and try to put the Theta Logo in the direction of the prettiest part of the image, This will be the center of your image and therefore nicer to share when you share the open image or need a featured image.

  9. Hi! I recently filmed a classroomsituation with the Z1 on a tripod (so no movement of the camera during the filming). After taking the files from the camera and editing it in Adobe Premiere, it came out ‘terrible’. Not a single detail could be discerned, you couldn’t even recognise the children’s faces. How can I get the best results regarding seeing details in the video’s? Filming in RAW or in HDR? Or do I need to consider other factors?
    Thank you very much!

    1. Hi Delphine! I imagine you used RAW” to shoot the images? If you are going to have many (restless) children in your image, I would recommend you set your camera to HDR and try to keep the kids really quiet. However, make sure you have the permission from the parents to have the children recognisable in the image, it may actually work in your favor if their faces are a little blurred! Either way, it will be hard to het a smooth image with the Z1 if you have many moving objects in the image…

  10. Does shooting in HDR require using the Theta App, or can it be done using the self timer by pushing the shutter button

    1. Hi Frank! You can use manual shooting as well with HDR, just make sure you set the HDR first in the Theta App and then switch to Manual shooting.
      You can not activate HDR without the Theta App.

  11. Hi there, I shoot real estate virtual tour using theta z1 with HDR (Raw + JPG). My images turn out to have a lot of noise, especially areas with warm lighting.

    How do I get sharp images with theta z1?
    Does shooting in multi bracketing gets sharper images?

    1. Hi Gena, I am surprised to hear you say that you get a lot of noise using your Ricoh theta Z1 with HDR enabled – are you sure you did not put the EV too high? The images should definitely not have too much noise if you leave the EV on 0 (in a normally well lit room) and HDR enabled.
      When you shoot in RAW you have to merge the images together, did you already do that? If you are not sure what that means – perhaps try to shoot without RAW enabled and let the camera do the work for you, the Z1 really does do an amazing job if you leave it on automatic.
      You CAN get better quality using multi bracketing, but you do need to know what you’re doing if you use that option.

    1. For us the ricoh Theta Z1 without the plugin works best, but that’s up to each individual. It depends on the quality of images you want from your camera. The 1 on it’s own without any plugins or extensions makes brilliant photography. Can it be better, for the trained eye it definitely can, but for people that make images for their own business or as a hobby, the result straight from the camera is already mindblowing. Adding more plugins & addons will delay your workflow quite a bit, and that’s not always necessary :)

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