Are DSLRs obsolete for 360 photos or virtual tours? The best way to answer the question is by showing you some 360 photos from a DSLR (or ILC) panorama compared to some of the best 360 cameras for photography as of June 2018. Note: this comparison only compares image quality, and does not consider workflow or cost.
For my informal comparison, I used the following 360 cameras:
– Ricoh Theta V (5376 x 2688)
– GoPro Fusion (5760 x 2880)
– Insta360 One (6912 x 3456)
– Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere (6912 x 3456)
– Insta360 Pro (7680 x 3840 / 7680 x 7680)
– Panono (16384 x 8192)
For the DSLRs / ILCs, I used the following cameras and lenses. They’re only modest, so you can expect even better quality from higher end cameras.
Sony a6000 – one of the most popular mirrorless cameras with APS-C sensors.
– Meike 6.5 f/2 (circular fisheye, $150 available in several mounts)
– Samyang / Rokinon / Bower 8mm f/2.8 II (full frame fisheye, $299 available in several mounts)
Samsung NX500 – according to DXO, it has the highest quality sensor for mirrorless APS-C cameras.
– Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5 (circular fisheye, $300 for several mounts)
– Samsung NX 10mm fisheye (full frame fisheye, $360 for Samsung NX)
Here are samples from the cameras above. In addition, I’ve updated my 360 comparison tool to enable you to compare these cameras.
Detail comparison – camera front
Here are crops from the ‘front’ view of each camera (and the equivalent view for non-360 cameras). I’ve arranged them according to my assessment of their detail. For ease of comparison, I resized them to approximately the same viewing size, except the cameras with much higher resolution.
Detail comparison – camera side
Here are crops from the “stitch line” of the cameras
Dynamic range comparison
Here are equirectangular views to show the dynamic range across the scene. Blown highlights are in red, while crushed blacks are in blue.
Summary / Conclusion
Here are my personal rankings for each camera / lens combination:
|Resolution (front)||Resolution (edge)||Dynamic range|
|Samsung NX 10mm Fisheye + Samsung NX500||1||2||7|
|Samyang 8mm 2.8 II + Sony a6000||2||1||6|
|Panono HDR mode||3||3||1|
|Meike 6.5mm f/2 + Sony a6000||5||5||8|
|Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5 + Samsung NX500||6||9||9|
|Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere||7||6||10|
|GoPro Fusion (raw mode)||8||10||2|
|Insta360 One (DNG mode)||9||8||5|
|Ricoh Theta V (HDR mode)||10||7||2|
In summary, 360 cameras are much faster and more convenient to use than DSLRs for 360 photos. However, the obvious quality difference between a DSLR pano versus a 360 camera is just one of the many reasons some photographers continue to shoot 360 photos with DSLRs. To learn how to shoot a panorama with a DSLR and to learn the advantages, check out this tutorial.