Virtual Tour Cameras & Lenses

Best Virtual Tour Camera under $500 (2024): XPhase Scan vs Trisio Lite 2 vs Insta360 X4 (DOWNLOAD samples)

Which is the best virtual tour camera for under $500 in 2024?  Here are comparisons of three cameras: the XPhase Scan ($499), Trisio Lite 2 ($399) and Insta360 X4 ($499) shot in a hotel lobby.  Click on the thumbnails below to see each sample.  You can click on the upper right to maximize the screen.  UPDATE: you can now download the samples (for personal use only – do not upload or post anywhere).

Insta360 X4 ($499; also available at Amazon)

Insta360 X4 can take 8k videos and 72mp photos
Insta360 X4 can take 8k videos and 72mp photos

The Insta360 X4 is a newly released 360 camera that can shoot 8k 360 video (see review and comparison here) but it can also take 72mp 360 photos in Raw or in HDR (i.e., bracketed).

Ease of use

It’s very easy to use the Insta360 X4.  You can choose the options (including self-timer countdown) using the touchscreen which has an intuitive interface, or you can connect wirelessly to your phone via the Insta360 app.

The single shot mode can be shot in auto exposure or manual exposure.  You can also choose to shoot the HDR mode, which takes bracketed exposures automatically and merges them in the camera.  However, unlike the X3, it appears you cannot choose the number of exposures in the bracket, nor the exposure interval (e.g. -3, 0, +3 EV) between the brackets.

If you choose the HDR mode or single shot JPG mode, the photos are stitched in the camera (and the brackets automatically merged in tonemapped HDR).  If you choose Raw DNG, then the DNG can be stitched using either Insta360’s mobile app or its desktop app.  As of May 2024, the HDR mode cannot be shot in Raw nor can it be exported in individual exposures.  Insta360 says that they will restore the Raw option for HDR photos, which could increase its image quality even further.

Image quality

Insta360 X4 has very good stitching and the level of detail is enough for entry-level virtual tours.  The colors are too saturated in my opinion, but in DNG mode, the colors can appear more natural.  The dynamic range in single shot mode is average for a dual lens 360 camera.  In HDR mode, the dynamic range is excellent – in fact, I would say the best in this group – but the colors appear oversaturated with fluorescent blue skies.

Trisio Lite 2 ($399)

Trisio is an 8K 360 camera with excellent stitching
Trisio is an 8K 360 camera with excellent stitching

Trisio Lite 2 is a 360 camera that is designed specifically for taking virtual tour photos, as opposed to photos or videos for social media.  Unlike 360 cameras designed for shooting videos, Trisio has only a single lens.  It takes a 360 photo by taking a shot in one direction, then rotating automatically to the next direction, then stitches the photos together.

This design has advantages and disadvantages.   On one hand, you can’t use it handheld nor use it to capture motion.  On the other hand, because it can use more than two shots to capture a 360 photo, then it doesn’t have to use a circular fisheye.  Indeed, it uses a cropped fisheye (180 degrees vertical but less than 180 degrees horizontal), which enables it to use more of the sensor and translates to more pixels per degree than what it would otherwise get from a circular fisheye for the same sensor.  A second advantage is that if the camera rotates around the no parallax point of the lens, then the stitching will be smoother compared to a dual-lens 360 camera which has lenses that are not shooting from the same nodal point.  A third advantage is that it is less fragile — if it falls on the side without a lens, then it is more likely to remain usable.  Fourth, you don’t need to hide in another room if you don’t want to be seen in the photo.  You can just walk behind the camera as it rotates.  Finally, a camera with a single lens would cost less than an equivalent camera that uses two lenses and two sensors.

Ease of use

Trisio Lite 2 is easy to use.  You simply mount it on a monopod (it can’t be used handheld), turn it on and press the shutter.  It analyzes the exposure in all directions then begins shooting.  Trisio also has a mobile app for remote shooting but you can’t switch to manual exposure or adjust the auto exposure.  Fortunately it uses “AnyExposure” mode which is their name for a bracketed HDR mode and has very good dynamic range, with shots that are merged reasonably well.  Photos can be stitched either in the mobile app or the desktop app. The desktop app also has the option to export unstitched images, which can be stitched in 3rd party software such as PTGui (PTGui 12.15 or above does have a stitching template for Trisio Lite 2).

Image quality

From the specs, the Trisio Lite’s photos are ‘only’ 8k (i.e., 32mp) but they are actually a little more detailed than the X4’s 72mp photos.  The dynamic range is very good and captures all but the brightest highlights.  The HDR merge is fairly good and looks more natural than Insta360 X4’s HDR merge, although white balance can be slightly off.  Unfortunately, Trisio can only shoot in JPG (there’s no Raw option).

XPhase Scan ($499)

The XPhase Scan is all-metal
XPhase Scan with all-metal body

XPhase Scan is the successor to XPhase Pro, a 16k virtual tour camera.  The original XPhase Pro achieved its unparalleled resolution by using twenty-five (25) lenses, each around 28mm equivalent focal length.  By using a much narrower field of view per shot, the XPhase was able to capture far more pixels per degree, resulting in detail similar to a DSLR or mirrorless camera.  However, the difficulty with such a design is that the lenses are significantly farther apart from each other compared to a typical dual-lens 360 camera, leading to more stitching errors.

The Xphase Scan takes the XPhase Pro’s concept of using narrower field of view but instead only has three lenses that rotate automatically just like the Trisio Lite 2.  This enables the lenses to capture shots that are much closer to the no parallax point (compared to the XPhase Pro) and therefore has much better stitching.  It also has several of the Trisio Lite 2’s advantages, such as allowing the user to take a photo without being in the shot.  Compared to XPhase Pro, Scan also has less flare artifacts and much better colors than its predecessor.   Because it uses fewer lenses and sensors, it is also much more affordable than XPhase Pro.

Ease of use

As with Trisio Lite 2, XPhase Scan cannot be used handheld.  Moreover, it has to be used vertically (either upright or upside down) and can’t be used horizontally.  XPhase can take shots with or without the app.  Without the app, you press the shutter and it uses the settings that were last saved in the app.  The app has a bizarre interface that looks like an amateur’s coding project.  It’s cluttered and has options in places where you don’t expect.  But after you get the hang of it, it’s actually not hard to use.

XPhase has three bracketing modes:

  • HDR3: 3 shots at -2, 0, +2 EV
  • HDR6: 6 shots at -3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 EV
  • HDR6+: 6 shots from -5 to +2EV.

You can also shoot in manual exposure mode, and you can specify shooting one exposure at a time.  It offers much more control compared to Trisio Lite 2 or Insta360 X4.

After you take a photo, the photo can be stitched either in the mobile app or the desktop app.  Amazingly, the mobile app is able to stitch at full 16k resolution with optical flow stitching.  However, if you’re going to take more than a few photos, then it’s best to use the desktop app.

The desktop app is even more strange than the mobile app because it uses the exact same interface as the mobile app with shutter button all the other shooting options, even though you’re only using it to stitch and not shoot a photo.  Again, though, after you get the hang of it, it’s not hard to use.

What XPhase Scan lacks in simplicity, it makes up with its export options.  You can export as a stitched JPG or 16-bit PNG photo, or DNG photos of not only the stitched photo but each individual exposure.  You can also export as DNG photos of every single exposure of every lens, and stitch them all yourself using 3rd party software.

Image quality:

XPhase Scan has excellent detail that is far beyond the quality of any other 360 camera in this price range.  Moreover, it addresses many of the issues with the XPhase Pro by adding better stitching, less glare, and better colors.  However, straight out of the camera, the photos can look dark so you’ll have to do at least some basic photo editing.  Moreover, in scenes with very high dynamic range, areas of deep shadow can have no color (see my jeans, which have patches that have missing color), so you may have to bring back some of the missing colors in editing (see here to learn photo editing).  UPDATE: XPhase sent me a new firmware to fix the images being too dark. I’ll try it out and upload new samples.


Top row: Insta360 X4. Middle: Trisio Lite 2. Bottom row: XPhase Scan
Top row: Insta360 X4. Middle: Trisio Lite 2. Bottom row: XPhase Scan (face pixelated for privacy)

You can download the samples here but only for personal use.  Do not post them anywhere or upload anywhere.

In comparing these three cameras, my number three pick would be Insta360 X4.  The detail is almost as good as that of the Trisio Lite 2.  I would get the X4 if I need a camera to shoot not just 360 photos but also 360 videos, or if I need a camera that is more versatile and can be used handheld or in scenes with a lot of movement.

My number two choice would be Trisio Lite 2.  It has excellent stitching and pretty good image quality that is a bit better than Insta360 X4 (for now).  At the same time, it is also easier to use than the Xphase Scan.  It is also the most affordable camera in this group.

My top choice in this group for power users is XPhase Scan.  I love the amazing level of detail, which is similar to a DSLR or mirrorless camera.   If you want the best overall image quality under $500, and can do at least basic editing, and are willing to get used to the strange user interface of its software (both the mobile app and desktop app), then I recommend XPhase Scan.

In a few days, I will be testing one more option under $500: the Realsee G1 gimbal for smartphones ($299).  However, I’ve been told by Realsee that it is not intended for individual sale, which is why I didn’t wait for it in this comparison.  I’ll still test it and find out more about how individual users can purchase it.  Meanwhile, if you want DSLR-like image quality with unparalleled ease of use, check out the Realsee Galois M2.

About the author

Mic Ty


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  • Uhm, some questions….
    I think that X4 unedited and DNG are swapped, because the outside is much more washed out in “DNG” version. DNG is supposed to give you much more control in the exposure, in post.
    Trisio show ghosting with the guys that move. If you can not adjust exposure in any way, that’s not a good thing.
    It would be interesting to see if the same problem happens with xphase in auto mode, but you have no guys in your shot.
    Last question: xphase in auto mode is really so dark ???

    • Hey there Sergio. I’ve now posted a link to the files for download that will be ready in about 30 minutes (personal use only):
      Re ghosting, to me it is not a big issue for virtual tours (there is usually no movement). XPhase has anti-ghosting algorithm although you can still some ghosting sometimes.
      Re XPhase Scan, yes the auto mode looked a bit dark but they sent me a new firmware that should fix this issue. I’ll test it and post new samples.

  • Wish Insta360 would take still images seriously. With all their software abilities, the images could be outstanding. HDR is an oversaturated mess unfortunately, not even usable for casual pictures in my opinion. LOG video is cleaner.

    • Hi Jh. It would be interesting to see if Insta360 will be more serious about photography, but I think right now they are more focused on video. For what it’s worth, if we get the Raw HDR 9-shot like the X3, then we should get better image quality.

  • That’s awesome, great comparison! I’m thinking of getting the Xphase scan, and since there’s not a lot of information out there, it’s always great to see such reviews!