All Virtual Tours are not created equal. 360 cameras vs Professional DSLR’s

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The recent advances in 360 cameras has unleashed a wave of 360 images all across the internet.  Facebook supports these images natively.  They’re so easy to do, and can be quickly used to post 360 images online in just minutes.  The 360 cameras have come a long way.  They’re simple enough, and quick enough that almost anybody can hold one up and walk away with a really cool 360 image.  I have several and often use the Ricoh Theta S for quick prospecting of promising locations.  Sometimes I’ll build a a virtual tour for a client, so that they can get a feel for what a Virtual Tour of their business will look like.

Should you use them for your business?  Well, the short answer is no.  If you’ve spent hours on designing and developing your workspace environment, you want to showcase it in the best possible way.  Unfortunately, the little 360 cameras just don’t compare to the real thing.  An image done with a professional camera has much higher resolution, and has the added advantage of having a pro behind the lens.  The lens difference is hugely significant, and yet is still only half the equation.  Processing a 360 image, and then moderating multiple 360 image into a full-blown “Virtual Tour” is hard.  It’s a skill that isn’t learned either quickly, or easily.

By way of example, take a look at the samples found in the image below. (You can click on the square icon at the upper right to bring the image to a full screen)  Both images are taken from approximately the same spot at Madison Optical in Madison’s showroom.  They were taken a few weeks apart, so they’re not identical, but will serve for this purpose. You can flip back and forth between the two images, by clicking on the two thumbnail images at the bottom of the page. Even though I took great care to get as good an image on the 360 camera as possible, it wasn’t possible to bring it up to full quality.  You’ll quickly see the difference in the quality of the two images. And so will the potential shop visitors visiting your website, or looking at your images on Google.

Outdoor Panos seem to fare better. But, there’s no real comparison. Take a look at these two samples, both taken from approximately the same spot at the Water’s Edge, overlooking the grounds toward Long Island Sound.