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360 Camera Reviews Virtual Tour Cameras & Lenses

360 camera vs. DSLR: which is better for virtual tours? Comparison of 360 photo image quality

360 cameras vs. DSLRs (technically, interchangeable lens cameras)
360 cameras vs. DSLRs (technically, interchangeable lens cameras)

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 NX500127
Samyang 8mm 2.8 II + Sony a6000216
Panono HDR mode331
Insta360 Pro444
Meike 6.5mm f/2 + Sony a6000558
Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5 + Samsung NX500699
Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere7610
GoPro Fusion (raw mode)8102
Insta360 One (DNG mode)985
Ricoh Theta V (HDR mode)1072
Again, please see my updated my 360 comparison tool  so you can see for yourself and arrive at your own conclusions.

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.

About the author

Mic Ty

4 Comments

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  • How does the Panono compare price wise with the DSLR and lens combos Mic? I think people using DSLR to achieve higher quality would more likely be looking to use a higher end 360 camera, maybe the new Aleta S2 will perform better when final firmware and software is in place… It will be interesting to see your comparison of the Panono with the Aleta.

    • Hi Steve. Re price, it is possible to assemble an aps-c dslr and lens combination with panoheads, etc. for under $1000. I will compare that combination against the Panono and Aleta (if it’s ready) as soon as I get it from nodalninja. Will post the comparison asap.

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Hi Mike,

    I started 360 photography with my DSLR (Canon 7DM2) and the quality is by far better than any low-mid end range 360 cameras but I ended up using a 360 camera because it is so much easier to user. With my DSLR I had to setup my tripod, my panoramic head, take 10-15 shots and then only stitch everything together. If I was earning money with 360 pictures, it would be a different story but as it’s not the case I went for a lower quality but a much easier process.

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