What should you look for in a camera to create virtual tours?

One of the great things about virtual tours is that you can make at least rudimentary ones with just about any camera. If you’re strapped for resources and/or want to make the most of what you’ve got, even your smartphone will do in theory. That’s how accessible virtual tours really are. The ease with which you can make one doesn’t seem to coincide with the huge effect they have on your business. But who are we to complain?

That means when looking for camera equipment to produce your virtual tours, you need to be looking for quality in order to get the best possible result and stand out from your competitors. But you also want to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible to save both time and money. Here are a few important criteria to consider when choosing your equipment:

Manual stitching vs. automatic

This is the first and biggest decisions you’ll need to make that depends largely on your resources and what you want to achieve. One option is to use a traditional DSLR with a special panorama rig to get high-quality professional shots that then need to be manually stitched together.

This method offers the best-quality photos that will allow viewers to zoom in close to see details without blurring. But this probably isn’t the best option for most people. Why? Because the result, no matter how good it is, generally isn’t worth the investment. Not only do you need an expensive DSLR set up to produce tours this way, you need the special rig, a good fish-eye lens and lots of time to get each shot. What’s more, a skilled professional then needs to take the material and manually stitch the photos together using special software to get a complete 360 view. Nothing could be more labor intensive while small stitching errors are common.

Other products, like the Ricoh Theta and the LG 360 Cam come fully equipped and ready to use at the push of a button. While losing a bit of detailed quality, most users find the difference negligible and worth the lower price and reduced effort involved.

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Tech specs

When you leave the house in the morning, you never forget your keys or your wallet. Here are a couple of finer tech specs for virtual tour cameras that you shouldn’t leave the house without:

HDR – This function tends to give photos a slightly less-realistic look, but virtual tours aren’t just about aesthetics, they are more practical than that. HDR can help you create a better light balance between the darkest and lightest places in a room so that viewers get a better look at all there is to see – both the shadows behind the couch and the rising sun shining through the balcony over an amazing landscape. HDR may not be the best choice for every situation, but having the option is a must in whatever camera you choose. If you’re using a DSLR, HDR is yet another function you’ll have to perform manually.

Video – Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, the ability to insert videos into your tours may open doors for you. DSLRs don’t have it, and whatever other camera you’re looking at should be able to capture video at the same quality as it captures photos. Products like the RicohTheta series can even live stream video online, giving you more options of how to use your equipment for different jobs. Ever thought of live streaming an open house in 4K?

So, what camera is right for you?


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