The XPhase Pro S is the highest resolution 360 camera as of May 2020. It’s a 360 camera with 25 sensors, each with 8 megapixels, for a total resolution of 200 megapixels. That is almost double the resolution of the previous record holder, which was the Panono (reviewed here), which has 36 sensors, each with 3 megapixels, for a total resolution of 108 megapixels. Moreover, the XPhase Pro S is more affordable at $879 (see below for a special offer). This all looks great on paper, but how is it in real life? Is it the best virtual tour camera? Here is a hands-on XPhase Pro review with samples, detailed analysis and upcoming comparison with Panono (reviewed here), Ricoh Theta Z1 (reviewed here), Aleta S2C (reviewed here), and other 360 cameras, and a tutorial. August 7, 2019 update: Part 2 of my XPhase review posted; August 9, 2019: Street view usage added.
Executive Summary (updated August 7, 2019)
— Comparison: XPhase vs Theta Z1, DSLR, Aleta S2C, Panono (added August 11, 2019)
Specifications and features (updated May 9, 2020)
XPhase Sample photos (updated July 17, 2019)
Workflow and tutorial (updated May 9, 2020)
— Download the manuals in English
— How to straighten photos (added July 20, 2019)
— PTGui stitching template (added August 9, 2019)
— Stitching calibration (added May 18, 2020)
— Street View usage (added August 9, 2019)
Conclusion; Strengths and Weaknesses (updated May 9, 2020)
Price and availability; Discount (updated July 17, 2019)
Accessories (updated July 21, 2019)
FAQ (updated May 9, 2020)
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (updated Aug. 7, 2019)
Here is a video review of the XPhase Pro that includes its specifications, key features, workflow and 5 uses for its high resolution.
Part 2 is here:
Specifications and Features (updated May 9, 2020)
|Lenses||25 lenses, approx. 28mm in 35mm equivalent terms|
|Field of view||Fully Spherical|
|Sensors||25 lenses x 1/3.2 inch 8mp BSI CMOS|
|Photo resolution||16384 x 8192 (134mp) stitched
200 megapixels unstitched
|Shutter speed||1/4000 to 1 sec.|
|Exposure modes||Auto (handheld) or auto (tripod)|
|Self-timer||5, 10, or 20 secs.|
|HDR mode||3 shots (-2, 0, +2)|
|Storage||Removable USB drive (32GB, optional 64GB or 128GB)|
|Battery||3400 mAh Li-Po
|Compatibility||iOS, Android, Windows|
|Dimensions||Camera: 60mm diameter
Handle: 22mm diameter
Please note: the XPhase can only take photos. It cannot take videos.
HDR: XPhase can take a 3-shot or 6-shot HDR photo for wide dynamic range, and uses a special HDR fusion algorithm to avoid ghosting even for moving subjects. For a 3-shot HDR, the exposures are from -2EV to +2EV. For the 6-shot, it is from -3EV to +2EV, or -5EV to 2EV.
Genlocked sensors: all 25 sensors are genlocked and synchronized. You can capture moving subjects without ghosting.
Optical flow stitching: XPhase’s software can stitch photos automatically with optical flow stitching, resulting in smooth stitching for both near and far objects.
Rectilinear lenses: XPhase uses rectilinear lenses instead of fisheye lenses. Each photo that comprises the stitched photo uses all of the sensor (compared to circular fisheyes where a portion of the sensor is not used) and because lenses do not protrude from the camera, they are less likely to be damaged.
16-bit PNG lossless format: XPhase Pro can export panoramas in lossless 16-bit PNG format, which offers similar editing flexibility as a raw file.
Raw DNG Mode: photos can be output as a stitched equirectangular DNG photo. There is also an option to output individual exposures of the stitched photo, or even individual exposures of every lens, all in DNG format.
Interval shooting / time lapse mode: the XPhase can shoot continuously in intervals of 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, 180, or 240 seconds.
Manual exposure: true manual exposure (ISO and shutter speed), not just exposure compensation. Aperture is f/3.2, while the shutter speed is from 1/4,096 up to 8 sec.
Stabilization: XPhase has a built-in gyroscope that can apply automatic leveling.
Geotagging: When shooting with your phone, you’ll have the option to add the location to your photo.
Intervalometer: There is an option to shoot continuously at automatic intervals. The shortest interval between photos as of May 2020 is 30 seconds. There is also an option to stitch a group of photos identically for time lapse videos.
Create virtual tours: Xphase Pro includes software for creating virtual tours.
XPhase Image Quality and Sample Photos (updated May 9, 2020)
Here are sample unedited JPG photos the XPhase Pro, straight out of the camera. The exposure compensation for these was -1.3EV for the outdoor jet photo and -2EV for the indoor photos. For the photos at Disney California Adventure, you can see that there is no ghosting, even where there are people moving all around me.
The photos show that the XPhase is more detailed than any other 360 camera, and is even more detailed than a panorama shot with a 24-megapixel mirrorless camera with diagonal fisheye lens (Sony a6000 with Samyang 8mm f/2.8). It also has excellent dynamic range when used in the 6-shot mode.
Minimum Stitching Distance
XPhase claims a minimum stitching distance of 0.3m. I have been able to take some shots that were indeed stitched correctly with objects as close as 0.3m. However, I found that when there are objects within around 3 feet of the camera, there are usually more stitching errors around the panorama. I also found that sometimes, there are minor stitching errors even when there is nothing near the camera. See calibration below.
Workflow and Tutorial (updated July 17, 2019)
The XPhase can be used by itself. It has only one button, and there are two LED lights. The top LED is the battery life indicator, while the bottom LED is the storage indicator. Both LEDs change color depending on the amount of battery life or storage left, according to the colors of the rainbow:
– red (less than 20%),
– yellow (40% left),
– green (60%),
– blue (80%), or
– purple (more than 80%).
Tip: with the camera off, you can check the remaining battery by pressing the power button (but don’t press more than 2 seconds or else it will turn on and startup). Note: according to XPhase, the camera will use up the battery while it is on, whether or not you are shooting. Therefore you should turn off the camera in between shots. XPhase claims a battery life of 250 HDR shots, but in real world conditions, I found I only got slightly more than 50 shots before the battery died. I therefore recommend charging the camera in between shots. For convenience, instead of removing the camera from the monopod, I remove the camera from its cap and leave the cap attached to my monopod while charging the XPhase.
Shooting with XPhase
Pressing the shutter takes a photo. The camera takes about 10 seconds to process the photo. When it is ready for another shot, you’ll hear a double beep. You can also activate the self timer by double clicking (5 second self-timer), triple clicking (10 seconds), or quadruple clicking (20 seconds).
With each shot, the camera takes a 3-shot HDR, with exposures at approximately -2EV, 0EV, and +2EV. The 3 photos are taken in quick succession (75 photos in all) and the software uses a special algorithm to avoid ghosting.
The smartphone app can remotely trigger the camera, and can adjust exposure. It can also view and stitch photos but as of July 2019, the app cannot yet export the photos to the phone gallery. The app is available for both Android and iOS.
To connect with the smartphone app, turn on the camera, and search for the camera’s Wi-Fi signal with your phone’s Wi-Fi. Once connected, launch the XPhase app. The camera and app are now paired and you will see thumbnails of photos from the camera. You can now control the camera.
To change the preferences, tap on the gear icon on the upper right corner. Auto Stitch means the camera app will begin stitching the photo as soon as it is downloaded.
To change the exposure, tap on the bottom right corner. From the app you can only change the following settings:
Handheld vs. Tripod: In handheld mode, it will increase the shutter speed and raise the ISO as needed to reduce blur. In tripod mode, it will use the lowest ISO.
Exposure compensation: +/-3EV, in 1/3 stop increments
Self-timer: 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 20 seconds, or none.
There is no live preview either, so I just have to trust the exposure algorithm. In May 2020 version of the firmware, the exposure is conservative and exposes for the highlights.
When the smartphone app stitches the photo, a JPG version will be stored in your phone’s gallery. The JPG photo has 360 metadata and can be uploaded to social media such as Facebook, and be recognized as a 360 photo.
The stitching process can be a one-step process in the desktop app. The XPhase takes photos and saves them unstitched in a proprietary .ORI format. [The .ORI format is similar to a zip file and contains all 75 or 150 individual photos and a thumbnail. As of May 2020, the desktop app now includes the option to export every exposure of every lens in Adobe DNG format.]
The files are stored in a removable USB 3.0 drive in the base of the camera (if you want to upgrade it, see below). Insert the drive in your PC and transfer the ORI files.
You can use the PanoManager app to stitch the ORI files into either:
- 16-bit PNG
- Adobe DNG
- PNO (a proprietary format)
When stitching as PNG, you can adjust the RGB values, and the contrast. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to preview the effects of your choices, so you will need to set these parameters blindly.
HOW TO INSTALL PANOMANAGER AND STITCH XPHASE FILES
1. Download and extract the latest zip file from the Xphase software directory, posted in the XPhase Facebook group. One of the folders will be called XPhasePro. Copy that to your hard drive (there is no installer program per se).
- In that XPhasePro directory, there is a file called PanoManager.exe . That’s the stitcher. Launch it.
When PanoManager launches, click on the Wi-Fi icon on the bottom left, and on the folder icon in the next popup.
Select the folder where the unstitched ORI files are stored.
When the thumbnails are loaded, click on the gear icon for stitching preferences. I recommend Auto Stitch: no, 16-bit PNG or DNG, HDR Merge, quality: High, WB: Auto, Scene: Static (if tripod).
Click on Select menu, then choose Select All, or Manual Select or one of the other self-explanatory options. If you choose manual select, check the checkboxes for files you want to stitch.
Click on Stitch menu and choose one of the options:
a. Stitch Selected Files
b. Remove Noise & Stitch. This is for long exposure noise reduction through dark frame subtraction. To use this feature, you need to take two photos. For the second photo, the XPhase must be covered completely, then shoot the same exposure. Select both the normal photo and the covered photo and choose this option to apply dark frame subtraction to the first photo.
c. Stitch for time lapse. When you use this option, all selected photos will be stitched identically. This is useful for time lapse videos, compositing, HDR, and other uses.
d. To DNGs of every exposure. Panomanager will output the individual exposures as separate DNG files, for fusing in HDR with third party HDR software. The files will be stitched identically.
e. To DNGs of every lens. Panomanager will output every exposure of every lens. This is if you want to stitch using your own stitching software, and fuse using your own HDR software.
- There may be a popup dialogue box for more stitching settings: choose Auto white balance, Color: Auto, and No Expansion (see below). The stitched files will appear in a directory called “Out” in the XPhasePro folder.
What is “PNG Output Expansion?” There is a unique option to render as an expanded panorama that is more than 360 degrees horizontally (see the duplicated palm tree in the panorama below). By editing the expanded panorama and then cropping the image to a standard 2:1 equirectangular format after adjustments, you can reduce the seam between the left and right edges.
If you choose the PNO format, you can view them in the PanoViewer app, or convert them into JPG with the PNO2JPG app.
How to straighten photos
Until stabilization is implemented, you will probably need to straighten photos. I prefer to use the free panoramic software Hugin.
Step 1: Launch Hugin and switch to Simple mode (under the Interface menu).
Step 2: From the Assistant tab, click on the “Load images…” button, and select the 360 photo that you want to straighten.
Step 3: Make sure Lens type is Equirectangular.
Step 4: Click on the Move/Drag tab, and drag the image until all vertical lines are truly vertical.
Step 6: Click on the Stitcher tab. Under the Canvas Size, click on Calculate Optimal Size. Under Panorama outputs, select your preferred output format (TIFF, JPG or PNG). Click on the Stitch! button on the bottom right corner.
How to update the firmware and app.
- Download the latest software distribution (it will be called XPhaseEn_yymmdd.zip), and unzip the file.
- To update the firmware, look for the subdirectory called firmware, which will have a file called xphase (no extension). Copy the file to the root directory of the thumbdrive and insert the thumbdrive in your camera then turn it on.
- To update the Android app, look for the subdirectory called Android installer, then copy the apk file to your phone and run it.
- To update the iOS app, go to the App Store and click on UPDATE. If you don’t see an UPDATE button, then you have the latest version.
- To update the desktop app, copy the XphasePro or XphasePro_Mac folder into your hard drive. There is no installer per se.
PTGui stitching template
You can use PTGui to stitch the Xphase files, although in my experience there are many stitching errors, ghosting, and unusual colors. The XPhase stitching software works much better. Nonetheless, if you want to use PTGui, here’s how.
Step 1. Unpack the ORI files by dragging the ORI file onto the UnpackORI app. This will unpack all ORI files in the same directory.
Step 2. In PTGui, load all the images from the directory, except the Thumbnail file.
Step 3. In PTGui, go to File… Apply Template… and select this PTGui stitching template for XPhase.
Step 4. Click on Align Images.
Step 5. Click on Create Panorama.
XPhase has a calibration tool that can enable you to calibrate the stitching on your camera. It is also possible to re-stitch previously taken photos using a new calibration profile.
Here are tips for the best calibration results:
- Ideally, at least 10 meters away from everything (other than the ground).
- No movement such as cars or animals.
- Have a place to hide from the camera or stay away when you shoot.
- Have tall buildings around the camera. Those who have nearly perfect stitching with their Xphase report that this is the most important factor.
To calibrate the XPhase, you need a ballhead. You will need to take 14 shots: 6 shots rotated vertically, 4 shots rotated while the camera is horizontal, and another 4 shots rotated while the camera is horizontal and pointed to the opposite direction.
You then add the ORI files to the Calibration Tool software, which will create a calibration profile (the software will also automatically backup the previous calibration as a separate file). The Calibration Tool executable is among the files included in the distribution of XPhase software as of May 2020. Please note that you’ll need to login your XPhase account in order to use the Calibration Tool (to create an account, you’ll need to ask for an invitation code from Danny Wong, worldwide distributor of the XPhase).
Once you have a calibration profile, just copy it to your Xphase thumb drive in the root directory. When you turn on the XPhase, it will load the new calibration automatically.
It is also possible to use the new calibration profile to re-stitch ORI files. Just place the calibration profile in the same directory as the ORI files, along with the Change Calibration executable file and then run the Change Calibration file. The ORI files in the directory will all be revised with the new stitching.
XPhase photos can indeed be used for Street View. Here is a sample I uploaded:
Please note however, that XPhase’s native resolution is too high for Street View, which is limited to 100mp. XPhase photos should therefore be resized to 14,000 x 7,000 (or 14142 x 7071), using any image editor including Windows’ Paint app.
Right now, XPhase does not have geotags yet, so instead, go to maps.google.com and look for the location of the photo (in this case, Polliwog Park). Click on Photos and click on “add a photo”. The photo you upload will then be automatically tagged for the correct location.
Conclusion: XPhase Strengths and Weaknesses (updated: May 9, 2020)
Here are my preliminary impressions of the XPhase’s strengths and weaknesses for the 3 P’s of the 360 Camera Buying Guide:
Performance / Image quality:
- The most detailed 360 camera in the market, with better detail than some DSLR panoramas.
- Very good dynamic range
- HDR without ghosting
- Low chromatic aberration
- Short minimum stitching distance for high resolution 360 camera (around 3 feet)
o Good stitching outdoors. Indoors, it may have stitching errors, depending on whether the environment has sufficient number of details, and distance of the camera to the nearest objects. Please see also the stitching calibration option.
- Very susceptible to flare. The flare artifacts appear as multiple magenta ovals, and can result in magenta casts over portions of the image near light sources.
- Minimum shutter speed for handheld setting is too slow (1/13 sec.)
- On my first review unit, one lens was slightly back focused. I received the final version which had no backfocused lenses.
Practicality / convenience:
- Self-timer can be used without a phone
- Option for one-step stitching process
- Batch exporting
- Phone app can stitch photos at full resolution
- High speed USB drive can transfer files quickly
- Option to minimize seam line by rendering as expanded panorama
- Access to the unstitched files for patching stitching errors
- date and time recorded in the filename
- No live view
- Poor battery life (around 50 HDR shots in real world conditions)
- 30 sec. startup time
- PNG files take up a lot of space (over 500MB per file). The final version has Raw DNG mode, and each file can be as much as 800MB.
- No video capability
- Very affordable compared to other prosumer 360 cameras.
Price and availability; Discount
XPhase Pro is $879, available from Stabilizer Pro. Stabilizer Pro has a special offer for 360 Rumors readers: you can get a free Sandisk 128GB USB drive (MSRP $39.99) with your XPhase Pro order using this affiliate link. I will keep this page updated with any improvements to the camera. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. The official webpage is here. Join the XPhase Group on Facebook here.
Accessories (updated July 21, 2019)
Camera Case: The XPhase does not include a case, and with its unusual shape, it’s not easy to find a camera case for it. Here are some cases that I found that can work with XPhase:
This semi-hardcase fits the camera perfectly and has space for the USB adapter and cable. However, it doesn’t have a shoulder strap. For carrying the camera around, you may instead prefer one of these bags:
JJC DLP-7 is a lens case that is tall enough to fit the camera. It is very well padded, includes a shoulder strap and a velcro strap for belts and backpacks. However, it has no separate pocket for the USB adapter, although it has a sleeve that can fit the special USB charging cable. It is the most protective of these cases, but is much bulkier.
Orca Carrier is a zippered nylon case with a shoulder strap and four attachment straps. There is a zippered pouch in the bottom (which I filled with padding) and another zippered pouch on the side where I put the USB adapter and cable. It is thinly padded.
Bottlebottle is a canvas bag with a shoulder strap. It has no padding per se.
FAQ (updated May 9, 2020)
- XPhase claims to have 200mp resolution, but its photos are 16384 x 8192 which is only 134 mp. Why?
The XPhase has 25 sensors that each capture 8mp. This is how they claim 200mp resolution. However, the stitched resolution is only 134mp because the photos must overlap each other in order to have smooth stitching. For what it’s worth, when I input the unstitched files in PTGui, the stitched resolution is as much as 152mp (17482 x 8741).
- Can XPhase do video or live view?
No, it cannot do video nor will live view be possible because of the power that would be required from 25 cameras shooting simultaneously, and the processor that would be required.
- Why did the price go up?
Originally, XPhase Pro was $699. However, the quality of the lenses was inconsistent, with some backfocused lenses. They decided to get better lenses and also added new features, such as Raw DNG mode support and an increase of the HDR from 3 shots to 6 shots. With the upgraded hardware, they had to increase the price to $879.
- How is the battery life? Can you charge the camera while using it?
For the 2020 version, there is an extended battery handle that is designed not to appear in the photo. For the original version, battery life is not that great because it uses up the battery while it is on, whether or not you are shooting. It is possible to charge the camera while using it. However, you have to remove the base cover with the 1/4-20 tripod hole, so you’ll need another way to mount the camera to a stand, e.g. using a clamp.
- Does the XPhase have stabilization? Yes.
- Does the XPhase record the date and time? Where does the date and time come from?
It uses the date and time from the smartphone and names each ORI file with the date and time of the shot.
- Does XPhase have GPS or geotagging?
Yes if you shoot with your phone app and turn on the GPS option.
- Does XPhase have EXIF data?
Yes, if you export the photo in JPG, or if you unpack the ORI file and view the unstitched photos. The phone app and desktop app can also overlay the EXIF on the thumbnails.
- Can you use third party stitchers such as PTGui with XPhase?
Yes. You can export the individual exposures of every lens (for a 6-shot HDR, that is 150 photos) in DNG format. However, as I mentioned above, the stitching from the Xphase Panomanager software is far better than what I can get with PTGui. In addition, the Panomanager corrects the XPhase’s colors and vignetting much better than PTGui can.
- XPhase claims to have 200mp resolution, but its photos are 16384 x 8192 which is only 134 mp. Why?