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DSLR virtual tour FAQ: which camera and lens + complete guide to get started (plus: Virtual Tour Edge 2.0 launch promo)

Which camera and lens should you get for a DSLR virtual tour?
Which camera and lens should you get for a DSLR virtual tour?

Which camera, lens, panoramic head, and software should you get to create a DSLR virtual tour?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a DSLR instead of a 360 camera to create a virtual tour?  Learn how to take 360 photos with a DSLR and get started with DSLR virtual tours.

Here’s a sample 360 photo shot with the techniques in Virtual Tour Edge 2.0.  For a comparison of before and after, see here.

RESULTS: Before and after sample 360 photos

Here are samples of 360 photos shot with a mirrorless camera with and without the techniques in Virtual Tour Edge 2.0.  (Note that the slider in middle can be moved and the photo can be rotated.)

DSLR Virtual Tour FAQ

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a DSLR instead of a 360 camera for virtual tours?
    A 360 camera has some advantages over a DSLR:
    – generally lower cost than a DSLR
    – easier to learn
    – faster to shoot
    – Can capture moments immediately.
    However, a DSLR has several important advantages over a 360 camera for virtual tours.
    – higher image quality.  A full frame DSLR has a sensor that is 31 times larger than the common 1/2.3 inch sensor.
    – higher resolution.  With a few exceptions, DSLRs will generally have higher resolution
    – fewer stitching errors.  As long as my panoramic head is setup correctly, I seldom, if ever, have stitching errors.
    – client preference.  Some clients require photographers to shoot with a DSLR and will not hire a photographer who shoots with a 360 camera.
    – higher revenue.  Clients understand that DSLRs are costly and require more skill, and are willing to pay more for virtual tours shot with a DSLR.
  2. Should I get a mirrorless camera or DSLR?
    I recommend a mirrorless camera.  The electronic viewfinder is very useful.  Moreover, mirrorless cameras have a wider lens selection because generally, mirrorless cameras have shorter flange distances and can use DSLR lenses, but DSLRs generally cannot use mirrorless camera lenses.
  3. Which is the best affordable camera for virtual tours?
    I recommend the Sony a7R series for full frame and Sony a6000 series for APS-C.
  4. Which affordable panoramic head can I use?
    There are two types of panoramic heads: multirow and single row.  Multirow panoramic heads can use many types of lenses and generally have higher stitched resolution.  Single row panoramic heads are easier to setup and shoot with.  However, some clients will specifically request multirow panoramic heads, therefore if your budget allows for only one panoramic head, it is more practical to get a multirow panoramic head.  The Neewer is a low cost panoramic head that is adequate, though not stellar.  If you have a higher budget, you can get the Nodal Ninja 6 instead.
  5. Which lens should I get for a DSLR virtual tour?
    Here are the most affordable decent quality lenses for various types of panoramic heads and sensor sizes.
    For single row panoramic heads, you’ll need a cropped fisheye, which will have higher resolution than a circular fisheye.  For full frame, the Samyang 8mm f/3.5 with removable hood is a popular, low-cost cropped fisheye with decent quality.  For APS-C, there are not many cropped fisheyes but you can use Sigma 8mm f/3.5.  Another cropped fisheye option for Sony or Fuji mirrorless cameras is the Samyang 7.5 MFT converted to Sony or Fuji mount.  However, it is not as good as the Sigma in my opinion.
    For multirow panoramic heads, you can use any kind of lens but a diagonal fisheye will help you the best resolution.
  6. Which is the best affordable stitching software for virtual tours?
    If you can afford PTGui, it will have more time-saving features but if budget is limited, consider Panorama Studio 3 Pro.
  7. How do I take a 360 photo with a DSLR?  How do I shoot and stitch the photo?
    Please see the tutorial at 16:12 of the video above.
  8. How can my photos stand out?
    Using a DSLR will give you better image quality than 360 cameras but to a non-photographer, the differences are not as significant as they are to us photographers.  The solution is to use a technique that will be dramatically different from a standard virtual tour photo, which I call the Signature Look.

    Learn the VTE 2.0 Signature Look
    Learn the VTE 2.0 Signature Look
  9. There are several tutorials that teach how to shoot 360 photos with a DSLR.  What does VTE 2.0 teach that is not otherwise covered by other tutorials?
    My goal with VTE 2.0 was to offer more than just the basics.  Here are a few of the additional topics you can learn in VTE 2.0:
    – Use the Signature Look (see above) to add drama to your photos and let them stand out.
    – How to capture a perfect nadir shot, no matter how complex, with no cloning or content-aware fill.
    – How to get higher resolution (with a fisheye lens, not a rectilinear lens).
    – If you are thinking of upgrading your camera or lens, the Camera and Lens Calculator can help you determine the approximate resolution that you will get with your new camera or lens.  The Camera and Lens Calculator can also help determine the approximate lens and/or camera you will need in order to achieve a target resolution, such as a gigapixel resolution.
    Little-known accessories that can save you from catastrophic failure.
    – Advanced techniques for finding the no parallax point with greater precision to further minimize stitching errors.
    – Pole photography (taking 360 photos with a DSLR on a pole).  To be available by end of February.
    – How to use Nodal Ninja Mecha motorized panoramic head (both Single axis and Dual axis).  To be available by end of February.
    – By end of March: How to self-host virtual tours with or without FTP.
    – By end of March: How to shoot car interiors with DSLR / mirrorless
    There are many other techniques that are covered, which you can see in the table of contents here.
  10. Does VTE 2.0 require expensive equipment?
    You’ll need an interchangeable lens camera (DSLR or mirrorless).  The one I recommend is available for around $500 (used).  There are several lenses I recommend in the course, with some available for $200, yet with still very good quality.  A decent panoramic head is available for $100.  The equipment for the Signature Look and Architectural Lighting style are very reasonably priced at around $350 total, and can be found for less on eBay.
  11. What are other benefits of enrolling in Virtual Tour Edge?
    You can receive exclusive discounts worth hundreds of dollars.  Here is a list:
    + ongoing mentorship in a private Facebook group for VTE members
    + 10% off Nodal Ninja and other products from Panosociety (official distributor for Nodal Ninja in EU). They also ship to other countries.
    + 10% off Nodal Ninja and other products from Freedom360 (official distributor for Nodal Ninja in the U.S.).
    + Approx. 20 to 25% 3DVista discount (400USD instead of 499EUR)
    + 20% discount on Pano2VR or Pano2VR Lite
    + 25% off any Topaz Labs software
    + 50% discount on Teliport.me’s annual plan. Teliport.me is a virtual tour website that supports high resolution 360 photos up to 512 megapixels.
    + 20% off Cupix. Cupix is a 3D virtual tour website that lets you use 360 photos to create 3D models automatically.
    + Special discount on Insta360 cameras, with no expiration (use it repeatedly now or in the future)
    + 15% off my recommended HDR software
    + New! $50 off Drone Launch Academy’s Part 107 commercial drone licensure class – they guarantee you’ll pass or get your money back.
    + 20% off Ben Claremont’s Virtual Tour Pro course
    + 15% off Nick Powell’s 3D Vista Training
    + $100 off Cloudpano’s lifetime hosting plan
    + 10% off Kuula’s annual plan
    +additional techniques to be added at no extra cost to existing members, including the DSLR course (coming soon).
  12. How long is Virtual Tour Edge 2.0?
    Currently there are around 7 hours of video tutorials.  By the end of this month, I will be adding several more videos so that there will be 8 hours of tutorials.  In addition, I will add even more techniques in the coming months.
  13. Are there sample lessons?
    Yes.  Chapters 2 and 3 are free.
  14. Do you offer any guarantee?
    Yes I offer a 60-day Effectiveness Guarantee.  If you follow the instructions and can’t replicate my results, then contact me within 60 days and I’ll help you.  If I can’t help you, I’ll give you a 100% refund.

VIRTUAL TOUR EDGE 2.0 REVIEW

VTE 2.0 is still very new.  However, in a survey, members have rated it 9.85/10.

Yuqing Guo is an award-winning photographer with over a decade of experience shooting 360 photos with a DSLR.  Here’s his review of Virtual Tour Edge 2.0.

Discount code and launch period promo

During the launch of VTE 2.0, get a 20% discount here.  In addition, if you enroll in VTE 2.0, you will get access to HQ Method at no additional cost.

About the author

Mic Ty

4 Comments

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  • Hello Mic
    I have a Fuji APS-C that I use for video and wanted to try taking 360 photos.
    I was thinking of buying a lens that would be useful for both video and tour.
    How about the Laowa 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens for virtual tours or a Samyang 8mm F2.8 UMC Fish-eye II or 8mm F3.5 UMC Fish-Eye CS II?
    Best regards.

    • Hi Johan. For video, it depends on whether you want ultrawide rectilinear or fisheye. If you want both, I recommend fisheye instead because you can de-fish it to make it look like ultrawide rectilinear.

      For a fisheye lens, it depends on whether you want multirow or single row. The Samyang 8mm f/3.5 with removable hood is a little more versatile than the 2.8 because it has a removable hood, so if you ever want to shoot full frame, you can also use it with a single row panohead.

  • Hi Mic,

    I currently own an Insta360 Pro camera and would like to add a DSLR/mirrorless camera for higher quality 360 photos. After viewing your videos I think I will go for the following setup:

    Sony A7R mirrorless camera
    Samyang 12f/2.8 lens

    Do you still recommend this combination or would you prefer a different lens?

    Looking forward to go through VTE 2.0

    Thanks,
    Roland

    • Thanks Roland. Samyang 12 f/2.8 is a good lens but if you are enrolled in VTE2 you will know there are much better options. Ditto with the camera.