Monochrome HDR photography with the Ricoh GR III

By MESAGI, the


Our beloved little Ricoh GR III has many modes for black-and-white photography. Did you know that you could even shoot in monochrome using the HDR mode? I took a few shots to try this out myself. Results? Interesting!

Jump to the comparison.

What is HDR photography?

HDR means high dynamic range. The high dynamic range permits more variation in light levels within an image. This is touted to be closer to what the human eye sees in real life. In the GR III’s manual, Ricoh describes the HDR Tone mode as follows “Takes images finished like a painting with enhanced fine contrast.”

Setting up the HDR Tone mode on the Ricoh GR III

Go to the Image Control menu. If you don’t have a shortcut set: Menu button > Still Image Settings tab > Image Control. Scroll to HDR and click the Fn button to access the mode’s setting. Change the Toning setting to BW. Set the HDR Tone Level to your liking (1, 2 or 3). See below for a comparison.

Settings used

All the test photographs you’ll see below were taken using the manual mode, with manual focus and manual ISO. Automatic white balance was used. These shots were taken to test and get a feeling about the HDR Tone mode (HTM). No more, no less.

  • BW mode, used settings: all to 0 except grain effect (1).
  • HTM, used settings: Saturation (0), Hue (0), Toning (BW), Tone Level (all used).

Three Tone Levels

There’re three HDR Tone Levels in the mode’s own setting menu. I used all of them in a comparison with the standard black-and-white (BW) mode to satisfy my own curiosity and yours of course. The higher the level, the more pronounced the effect. You can see the results below.

The HDR mode is crisper than the standard BW. It highlights micro-details, making the tree’s bark textures sharper, and more tactile compared to the smoother BW. The tree ends up having a more dramatic look.

Depending on the subjects, shooting with the HDR Tone Level at 1 could give interesting results. But beware, it will not work for everything and can ruin some nice shots with overly outlined micro-details.

Settings the Tone level to 2 or 3 denatures too much for my liking. I took the following shots with the Tone Level set to 1.

GR III BW vs HDR mode

In the second comparison below, we can see how the HDR mode highlights the concrete bench’s texture. Giving again a more tactile feel to the photograph. I didn’t expect it, but I prefer the second shot. I can imagine how this could be a plus with close-up shots inside an urban environment.

A carousel in High Dynamic Range

In this shot, the metal of the seats and above them are really well captured. They’re richer than what they would’ve been with the standard BW mode. Notably their fine details and reflections. We can even see the scratches on them.

Beautiful background blur with HDR + macro modes

What pleasantly surprised me while experimenting with the HDR mode was this beautiful background blur. I got it shooting in macro mode with the aperture open quite wide (F4.0).

It’s the first time I’m getting such an interesting abstract, bokeh-like background blur with my little GR III. I can picture this leading to some creative experiments during day and night conditions.

Now do your own tests

The best comparison will be the one you’ll make. Set up your camera to HDR mode and go out! See by yourself if this mode can excite your creativity, can suit your style and give you some photographic pleasure!

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