How would you like to start using your 360 camera to earn money or to gain an advantage over other real estate agents? I think the best opportunity for that is with 360 photos for virtual tours and real estate. In this post and video, I compare some of the best 360 cameras for virtual tours and real estate, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each one. I also discuss some software and techniques for real estate photos and virtual tours, including how to avoid being seen in a 360 photo, even when there’s nowhere to hide. (Updated with new cameras as of June 2018)
Opportunity in 360 photos for real estate
Manufacturers have been focusing on 360 videos, but I think there are many opportunities for 360 photos. As I mentioned in my video, I submitted just 14 photos to Street View and got 2 million views from them. The reason is simple: while some people are still debating on whether 360 videos will become mainstream, 360 photos are already a part of our lives. People expect to see 360 photos of their hotels, homes, cars, pretty much everything.
This need for 360 photos creates an opportunity for 360 shooters, including for real estate agents who are willing to invest the time and effort to learn 360 photography and buy a suitable camera.
Best 360 cameras for virtual tours and real estate (June 2018)
For the absolute highest quality, use a DSLR and panoramic head. A DSLR will give you the best detail and dynamic range, and if used correctly, can have perfect stitching. It does take more time to take a photo but you save time with editing, because 360 photos from a DSLR are easier to edit. Moreover, shooting with a DSLR is not as difficult as it may seem. See my complete tutorial here, with suggestions for panoramic heads and lenses.
For a 360 camera, the highest quality for consumers is the GoPro Fusion (reviewed here). Despite its lower nominal resolution, it has excellent detail except at the stitch line. The dynamic range is also the best in class, particularly if you use the RAW mode. It also has the best video quality among consumer 360 cameras, giving you the opportunity to shoot a video (360 or otherwise) as a value added service. The downside is that you will need a desktop with a dedicated graphics card.
Another 360 camera for high image quality is the Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere (reviewed here) which is more affordable than the Fusion and is slightly more detailed, but requires more editing. In particular, it has less dynamic range than the Fusion, and so you may need to use bracketing, which will require combining the shots for a manual HDR.
For a 360 camera with the best workflow (easiest to use) for 360 photos, I recommend Ricoh Theta SC, Theta S (reviewed here), or Theta V (reviewed here). The Theta can not only stitch 360 photos in-camera, but it can also take HDR photos in-camera and blend the exposures in-camera, fully stitched. This makes it very easy to use for virtual tours while also having good quality, even if it’s not as detailed as the Fusion or Mi Sphere.
For 3D 360 photos, I recommend Insta360 Pro or Kandao Obsidian Go. Both produce high quality 3D 360 photos. However, you will need to make sure you have enough distance between the camera and the nearest object, or else it will not stitch correctly.
For outdoor 360 photos such as photos of the exterior, or for large interiors such as hotel ballrooms, I recommend Panono for maximum detail and dynamic range. Its detail even exceeds some DSLR panoramas.
360 camera comparison for virtual tours
In October 2017, I compared ten 360 cameras for real estate. The comparison is still valid, although at that time, the Fusion had not yet been released.
01:19 Why 360 photos?
03:24 Comparison of 360 cameras
05:45 Ricoh Theta SC, S, V
07:22 Yi 360 VR
08:44 Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere
10:17 GoPro panoramic heads
11:58 Difference between Panohero H5B and Pano5+1 mk II
12:04 Pano5+1 mk II
12:59 Panohero H5B
18:52 DSLR + panoramic head
20:39 Tom Shot 360
21:10 3D 360 cameras
21:20 Insta360 Pro
22:30 Kandao Obsidian R
24:30 Comparison of 360 cameras
27:12 Technique: how to disappear from a 360 photo even if there’s nowhere to hide
I compared 360 cameras at various price brackets to show the differences and similarities between them. Here are the cameras I chose for this comparison:
– theVRKit ($90 at Amazon – but use the code LTD15OFF to get 15% off)
– Ricoh Theta S ($329) or Ricoh Theta SC ($199) – they’re now functionally the same for 360 photos.
– Ricoh Theta V ($429)
– Yi 360 VR ($399 preorder)
– Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere (around $250)
– Pano5+1 Mk II ($59) plus a GoPro Hero 5 Black ($360 to $399)
– Panohero H5B ($89 by itself or $129 with software) plus a GoPro Hero 5 Black ($360 to $399)
– Panono ($2,200)
– Insta360 Pro ($3,499)
– Kandao Obsidian R ($6,999) and Obsidian Go ($2,499)
Here is the comparison (I haven’t added the Insta360 Pro and Kandao Obsidian R yet).
Also check this updated comparison which includes DSLR panoramas with various lenses.
Virtual Tour Software / Platforms and Stitching Software
There are many software for real estate photos and virtual tours, and I just wanted to point out three of them.
1) Veer Experience lets you create virtual tours for free.
3) Roundme has full-featured virtual tours that are also relatively simple to create. I also like that it has an option to purchase a virtual tour, which means that it will be usable forever, even if you stop your subscription.
4) Cupix. You can create a Matterport-like virtual tour with 3D map, automatically. The disadvantage is that it requires many photos (about one photo every five feet).
5) The most popular stitching software are PTGui and Kolor Autopano Pro or Giga.
6) PanoramaStudio 3 Pro – This is another stitching software. Among the ones I’ve tried, this is the most user friendly.
7) KeepEyeOnBall.com. I mention this software because it can stitch panoramas from DSLRs and from the Panohero H5B, enabling you to stitch Panohero H5B photos for free. I think they’re also working on a stitching template for Pano5+1 though it’s not yet complete.
In the video, I also showed how to make yourself invisible in a 360 photo even though there’s nowhere to hide. Simply said, you use a tripod to take two photos from the camera, keeping the camera in the same position while you move at positions that don’t overlap. You can then mask yourself out using Photoshop or any 360 editor that supports layer masking.
Other software that can help are 1) Vanish360, which is only for Ricoh Theta, or 2) the Yi 360 VR app, or 3) Theta Converter Pro, which should work with any camera. With any of these software, you can remove yourself automatically by taking three shots.
I hope you found this post helpful. I know I couldn’t possibly cover everything about 360 cameras for real estate in one post but please post your questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them! Also, please consider joining the Virtual Tour Network on Facebook.