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360° Cameras & Hardware

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If you are planning to get a new camera, at some point you may start wondering which camera you really need. The million dollar question is should you get a crop or full frame? Before making that decision, let’s learn the difference between these two. Both cameras refer to the actual, physical size of the digital sensor inside of the camera. Full-frame is based on 35mm standard film format and crop is literally the image cropped as the name implies, creating a zoomed in effect. This post will cover more details about crop and full-frame cameras leading you to make a wise choice when you purchase your camera later. In addition, it contains specifications of each camera: Canon, Nikon, and Sony.

Before we talk further about the details and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of crop and full-frame cameras, let’s briefly learn about the 35mm standard film format. It is a basic knowledge that will help you understand the fundamentals of all kinds of camera.

A 35mm film format involved capturing light rays, which has been the standard in film gauge since 1909 due to its balance in cost and image quality and has stuck ever since. The light coming through the aperture makes the image round as shown in the image below. The image appears in a rectangular shape when the light falls into the film. The black outline refers to the image in the 35mm standard film format with a 2:3 aspect ratio (24mm:26mm) which is applied to a full-frame camera body while the red outline represents the image on the camera sensor of a crop body.

As the images above show, a photo taken with a crop body has a shorter range to capture an object compared to a full-frame camera with the same lens. Even though the lens takes the same amount of light, the crop body sensor cuts the image beyond its sensor range while retaining the same 2:3 aspect ratio of the full-frame camera.

Image in 35mm standard format(full-frame)

Image on a crop body camera

As the images above show, a photo taken with a crop body has shorter range to capture an object compared to a full-frame camera with the same lens. Even though the lens takes the same amount of light, the crop body sensor cuts the image beyond its sensor range while retaining the same 2:3 aspect ratio of the full-frame camera.

Then how can you obtain the same image like the one taken with a full-frame using a crop body? The answer is simple. You can just step back. The same method is applied when you take photos with a long-focus lens.

If you use a crop body with a 1.5 crop factor, a 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera has a field of view of roughly 75mm (equivalent focal length; 50mm x 1.5 crop factor = 75mm) while a 50mm lens on a full-frame sensor camera will have a field of view of 50mm. Simply put, your 50mm lens will ‘feel and act’ like a 75mm lens on a crop sensor camera. The image doesn’t have distortion that usually appears when you mount a telephoto lens on a full-frame camera, but is only cropped to fit in the range of the sensor.

Full-frame camera Crop camera
Sensor size 36x24mm (35mm standard film form) Bigger sensor sizes have less noise guaranteeing a higher resolution in the high ISO setting Smaller than full-frame cameraSizes vary depending on sensor type
Price More expensive than a crop camera Comparatively cheap
Size of camera Bigger and heavier Comparatively small and light
Depth of field(DoF) Shallower Depth of Field (technically not shallower DoF, but more favorable compared to a crop sensor camera) Needs to increase distance from the subject to obtain a shallow DoF while zooming in with the lens, causing decrease in resolution and increase in image noise
FOV Able to capture a broader scope of scenes Requires a wider lens to cover the same range

Can use a wide lens if needed, but it results in image distortion

Resolution & Noise in high ISO Lets in a higher amount of light when taking photos, resulting in less image noise and better resolution

Has more ISO setting options compared to crop cameras which allows you to have more control on the shutter speed

Opposite effect of full-frame camera in terms of the resolution, so hard to tell the difference if the images is zoomed-in on, enlarged, or in full screen mode
The image was taken with a full frame body with 50mm lens in F2.0, ISO 500 and Distance 42”. You can capture more s objects in the scene.

Full Frame (50mm, F2.0, ISO 500, Distance 42”)

The image was taken with a crop body with 50mm lens in F2.0, ISO 500 and Distance 67.5”. The image looks more zoomed in compared to the image that taken with a full frame body.

Crop Body (50mm, F2.0, ISO 500, Distance 67.5”)

# Camera Comparison

Canon

PRO CONS
Most popular:

  • Easy to use for newbies while Nikon doesn’t have AF(ie. Auto Focus) motor for the entry level camera
  • Various kinds of lenses with affordable price
  • Big range of other Canon product (printer/copier/camcorder etc)
  • Can get more information from other users
  • High demand in the secondhand market

Various options in camera lens

  • Broad range of camera lens (price range as well)

Tone of color

  • Has more vivid color compared to Nikon
CMOS sensor

  • CCD is better, less noise particularly
  • Difficult to brighten dark underexposed part in Photoshop

Focus error in lens

  • Reported errors in adjusting focus

Mirrorless camera

  • Recently jumped in the mirrorless camera market, but not enough compatible lenses

Nikon

PRO CONS
Auto focus lens

  • Fast process time, accurate focus

Durability

  • Shutter box durability

Various options in camera lens

  • Various lens, but a bit more expensive than canon lenses

Low pass filter (aka. Anti aliasing or blur filter)

  • Eliminates the problem of moiré by blurring what actually reaches the sensor while extreme details are lost in the process
  • Some products don’t have the filter
Customer service

  • Lack of customer service

Tone of color

  • Less vivid than canon camera, the tone makes the image greyish but you can adjust the color in Photoshop if needed

Mirrorless camera

  • Recently jumped in the mirrorless camera market, but not enough compatible lenses

Sony

PRO CONS
Able to mount the ZEISS lens and use them with auto focus mode

  • Partners for more than 20 years ZEISS lenses autofocus mode is only available in Sony

Various mirrorless camera

  • Wide choice in mirrorless cameras

Electronic Viewfinder

  • A camera viewfinder where the image is captured by the lens is projected electronically onto a miniature display
  • The image on this display is used to assist in aiming the camera at the scene to be photographed
  • The captured image is identical to the image on the display
Customer service

  • Lack of customer service

Lack of camera lens

  • Fewer lens models available

Firmware update

  • Rarely updates software. May need to purchase better camera body to upgrade quality

With the growing popularity of 360º cameras over the last couple of years, we have seen the use of 360º photos across a plethora of industries. From tourism to construction, the advent of 360º photos has given viewers a different immersive experience.

Creating a 3D tour begins with a 360º photograph. This image is produced by instantly stitching photos together using software to create a spherical view. With the help of specialized 360º cameras such as Ricoh Theta V and mobile phone camera attachment from Insta360, we are now presented with affordable alternatives capable of producing such imagery. The quality of these cameras has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, but it still falls short of traditional DSLR cameras. Most professionals still choose to use DSLR cameras, and for a good reason.

Businesses are recognizing how powerful high-quality photos can be, using them as leverage to attract potential buyers. In real estate, the use of 360º photos in creating 3D tours became a staple to keep the competitive edge. Home sellers once relied on personally taken photos but in today’s cutthroat, dog-eat-dog society, low-quality photos just don’t cut it anymore. In light of this trend, buyers now expect to see more than flat 2D photos of the properties hence the importance of adopting this new technology today.

To produce high-quality 360º photos using a DSLR camera, the following 6 types of equipment, if properly used and executed will guarantee results fit for professional use.

High-quality 360º photo using a DSLR to create a 3D virtual tour for your real estate listing

360° Photo Sample

1) DSLR Camera

Any camera you buy can take good photos but to achieve optimal results, we recommend the use of a DSLR camera. By doing so, you avoid the hassle of taking many photos to cover all grounds which is inevitable when using digital compact cameras because you can’t switch lenses. DSLR increases your workflow because less photos are needed.

High resolution DSLR cameras for 360-degree photos
Camera recommendation:
DSLR

Nikon: D810, D750, D800
Canon: EOS 5d Mark III, EOS 5d Mark IV

Mirrorless

Sony: Alpha A7R2

2) Lens

Camera lens greatly contributes to image quality. The higher the quality of the lens, the higher quality of the image created. The higher the resolution, the clearer the image, but the larger the number of dots per inch, the larger the amount of memory required, resulting in a slower computer speed when processing photos. Do note that resolution only describes how much detail a lens is capable of capturing. The resolution is determined primarily by the sensor, so changing the lens doesn’t change it. Resolution will be tackled separately in our upcoming blog posts.

Just like the DSLR body, theoretically you can use any lens but you may need to take more photos depending on which camera lens you use. To reduce time to shoot photos, fisheye lens is recommended. The fisheye lens has a broader angle of view so it can cover more areas.

Depending on which camera lens you use, the number of photos you need to take for a 360º photo is different. This photo was taken with Sony A7R II and + Samyang 8mm/Fisheye (Tilt the rotator +5º take). The total amount of photos you need to cover the entire 360º angles is 4.

Sony A7R II (Full-frame Body) + Samyang 8mm/Fisheye (Tilt the rotator +5º take 4 photos)

Depending on which camera lens you use, the number of photos you need to take for a 360º photo is different. This photo was taken with Sony A7R II and + Samyang 16mm (Tilt the rotator +45º and take 8 photos, from current angle tilt to -30º and take 8 photos to cover lower area). The total number of photos needed for a 360º photo is 16 photos.

Sony A7R II (Full-frame Body) +16mm (Tilt the rotator +45º and take 8 photos, from current angle tilt to -30º and take 8 photos to cover lower area) | Total number of photos needed :16 photos

A fisheye lens is recommended because it has a broader angle of view so it can cover more areas which make it easier to take 360º photos for real estate 3D virtual tour.

3) Rotator

A rotator or panorama head/panohead is an equipment mounted on a tripod that allows photographers to take panoramic photos at NPP (No-Parallel Point), found between shots. By fixing it’s NPP also known as a nodal point, you can achieve a seamless panoramic image. Failure to do so will cause stitching errors.

A rotator or panorama head is equipment mounted on a tripod that allows you to take panoramic photos at NPP, No-Parallel Point.

4) Ball Head

It is also a good idea to use a ball head which maintains the camera level and provides a more stable and accurate stable rotation axis when taking photos. When using only a tripod on uneven surface, you may need to adjust all three legs to keep the camera perpendicular to the ground. This is when a ball head comes handy. You can simply adjust the camera to get an even position.

Ball head maintains the camera level and provides a more stable and accurate stable rotation axis when taking 360º photos for a real estate 3D virtual tour.

360º photo without a ball head

Ball head maintains the camera level and makes the image more stable and accurate. When you take 360º phots of indoors for a real estate 3D virtual tour.

360º photo with a ball head

A ball head maintains the camera level, providing stability when the camera rotates. Especially if you take 360º photos for real estate 3D virtual tour, the ball head is one of the essential equipment.
Ball Head Recommendation:

5) Tripod

A tripod stabilizes shots by supporting the weight of your camera. It makes it easier to maintain accurate framing and achieve smoother results when panning across scenes. With the camera safely secured on a tripod, you can get clean and sharp images that is otherwise difficult to achieve when the camera is hand-held. A tripod is especially helpful under low light condition as it prevents image blur when photos are being taken using slow shutter speeds.

A tripod stabilizes shots and makes it easier to maintain accurate framing and achieve smoother results when panning across scenes to cover 360º angles.
Tripod Recommendation:

6) Remote Shutter Release

Remote shutter release is the least expensive accessory but will bring a great deal of help to achieve sharp photos. If you manually press the shutter button when you shoot, there is a high chance that the camera will shake. Using the remote ensures crisp and sharp images by allowing you to go wireless and click photos without touching the camera.

A shutter release ensures sharp photos by allowing you to go wireless. Especially to make a 3D virtual tour for real estate, it is essential to have a sharp image without any blurriness.
Remote Shutter Release Recommendation:

One cannot rely solely on expensive equipment and accessories to achieve perfect photography. A mixture of the right tools and knowledge is what will bring you closer to your desired results. This goes to both amateurs lacking the equipment and professionals who don’t. You can still accomplish many things as long as you know the limitations of your equipment and know how to overcome them.

Our next post will lead you through the steps of capturing photos at a fixed nodal point and how to properly stitch these photos to create a 360º photo.