Virtual Tour Techniques

For this 360 photo, you can’t use a 360 camera – thousands couldn’t figure out why

Thousands saw the photo, but no one got it right
Thousands saw the photo, but no one got it right

Yesterday,  I posted a 360 photo on Facebook saying that it couldn’t have been captured with a 360 camera.   A few thousand people saw the photo but no one was able to guess why.  Would you like to take a shot at it?

Here’s the post:

Yes this is a real place.  I shot this photo for a store, so it is not a computer generated image as some guessed.  Here’s the 360 photo on Google Maps (which incidentally looks better than on Facebook):

I used a DSLR (actually a mirrorless camera) to take this photo.  Can you figure out why this 360 photo could not be shot with any 360 camera (as of 2020)?  Yes, I will reveal the answer in a few weeks (it has something to do with what I’m working on).

About the author

Mic Ty


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  • When I think about the many panos I´ve made in similar places, one possible answer is:
    With a one-shot camera you can’t easily fade out moving objects.
    People, animals, traffic and so on… are (more or less) “controllable” with single shots, an additional large overlap between the single images helps with masking 😉

    • That’s a good point. In this case, there were some moving objects that I had to mask out. But with several photos it’s possible to mask out movement with a 360 camera. So there’s a different reason why it couldn’t be shot with a 360 camera.

  • That’s a tough one, Mike. My guess is there were too many people or passing traffic etc and with a DSLR you could cherry-pick your individual shots and timing Vs a 360 camera which would indiscriminately capture everything.

    • Thanks Peter! That’s a good point. With a 360 camera if I wanted to avoid movement, I would rely on masking. So the answer is something else 🙂

  • So, you want us to dig deeper….
    – Near and far objects with remarkable structures, which a oneshot camera cannot stitch without visible stitching errors.
    – Dynamic range should not be a reason here, as the contrast is high, but not extreme (as far as I can see)

    • Good thoughts, Dieter. On a 360 camera, it is not so easy to get detail without visible stitching errors, or at least some blurring, but it is not impossible. So the answer is different. I did something here that I couldn’t do with a 360 camera… :

  • I’m not sure if 360 cams can capture same quality all over, from nearby objects to those outside, far and behind glasses. My guess is, a 360 cam will not have same details of outdoor views given the tricky exposure, especially those trees and its leaves.
    Just my 2 cents opinion. Thanks for sharing the puzzle.

    • Thanks Rich! Yes the image quality is definitely better than what we can get from a 360 camera. But there’s also something I did in this shot that I couldn’t do with a 360 camera… 🙂

  • Maybe because there were several people in the store and with a DSLR – since you shoot the scene in sequence – you could shoot the free areas as people moved about and not get any of them in the picture. With a 360 camera, it records the entire scene in one shot so it sees all the people in the store.

    • Thanks Francois. You’re right that would be harder to shoot with a 360 camera, although it is possible with a 360 camera by using multiple shots and masking them. There is something I did here that was a bit tricky and which I couldn’t do with any 360 camera (as of 2020).

  • Hi Mic,
    maybe because of parallelism. I mean all the lines and perspectives (don’t know if it’s the right term) are straight lines?

    • Thanks Riccardo. That is a good point. With 360 cameras, there can be distortion, and sometimes the result is that not all parallel lines appear parallel. With a DSLR, if it is properly calibrated, there is less distortion, and all parallel lines appear parallel. But in this case, there is another reason this could not be shot with any 360 camera in 2020.

      Best regards,

    • Thanks Fazal! The reflections are definitely a challenge, with so many of them at so many angles. For 360 cameras, it can be possible to erase reflections through careful editing. But for this shot I used a technique that cannot be done on a 360 camera, even if you have photoshop.

      Best regards,

    • I did blend exposures together, although that is something that can be done with a 360 camera too, so the reason is something else 🙂

    • Thanks Dev. A DSLR / mirrorless definitely has far greater dynamic range. OTOH, with HDR, it is possible for a 360 camera to capture a wide dynamic range as well. There’s a different reason why this one couldn’t have been shot with a 360 camera.

  • Bevise blind spot om the nadir? Bit one shot camera with 36 lenses “very short” blind zone. End camera for any 360 camera blind zone can be fixet in diferent direction, no to the mønster om the flor.

    • Hi Robert. That’s an interesting theory! It is possible to patch the nadir with Photoshop, Affinity Photo, or other image editors. Here, I used a technique that I could not do on a 360 camera, even with Photoshop.

  • The lamps on the walls are OFF, but the exposure of the interiors is perfect and is even, in every direction. The shadows are not consistent; in the row of 4 chairs, each one has a different shadow. Some objects have at least 2 shadows. So you used external light sources, moving them in different position for each shot.
    Doing this with a 360 camera is not impossible but useless, because you have to shoot a lot of photos anyway, and then use only a little portion of each photo. And them, shooting with a mirrorles or DSLR and stitching with Ptgui or Hugin you get a much bigger final photo.

    Regarding this approach, I take this opportunity to tell you that I wrote you some months ago (but never get an answer) to expose a method to get an incredible 180 Megapixel 360 photo with just a Mavic Mini. This could be an article in your blog.

  • What about resolution? In fact that’s a key diferentiator between mirrorless/DSLR and one-shot. What about if maybe you want to tell us in a few weeks that yet there’s no camera which has the resolution of several separate pics shot with a mirrorless camera and a fisheye lens, and that you know about one ready to launch? 🙂

    • Thanks Michael. How about this: to the best of my awareness, there is no 360 camera now or in the foreseeable future, at any price point, that will be able to take this photo.

  • Because of the different light and exposure between inside and outside you use a DSLR and use different braketing HDR for because the exposure is jut perfect that 360 cam won’t do that ! that’s my guess

  • Hi Mic. On the stand with glasses (Silhouette) I see the reflection of light. On a sign and in the glasses. Nothing is lit in the store. So using a softbox?