Which Is The Best 360 Camera for Photography & Virtual Tours? EARLY 2020
Which is the best 360 camera for photography and virtual tours? In this video, I’m going to compare four of the top cameras in 2020 side by side to see which one shoots the best 360 photos in tricky lighting situations The contenders are the Insta360 One X, Kandao Qoocam 8K, the Theta Z1, and XPhase Pro S The One R wasn’t fully ready when we made this video, however, I do have a sample in a very similar situation from the One R that I’m going to show you, as well as my thoughts about how it does for virtual tours And even better, I have a special guest to help me Welcome, Mic from 360Rumors – Hey guys These are the best cameras for 360 photos, so yeah, I wonder which one’s gonna win – We’re in LA right now and i’ve hired a studio in downtown LA, it looks a little bit dodgy, but it’s got the perfect lighting conditions for what we need Which is high contrast, we have bright light shining through the windows And the other side of the room is quite dark with strong shadows And to be able to expose these properly in the same image is going to be a challenge So we’re going to try a few different shooting techniques with each camera to see which one does the best job We’re going to be using the firmware, software, and apps from early 2020 They are definitely going to get better as time passes, but this is what we have now and we’re going to do our best to get some awesome-looking photos – [Mic] All right, Ben, which cameras do you wanna use? – I’m gonna be using the Insta360 One X and the Theta Z1 – [Mic] Nice, which one do you think is gonna win? – Well, my gut says it’s going to be Theta Z1 ’cause I’ve shot a lot of amazing 360 content on this However, I think the Kandao Qoocam could really give it a run for its money because I’ve seen some incredible photos taken with it – Yeah, I think the XPhase might have a chance too, like with the detail – It could, it’s super high resolution, but is it gonna have the dynamic range? We shall see All right, the first contender is the One X, and what I’ve done is taken the diffuser off of my soft box here to create an extreme hotspot And this is essentially simulating lights on the ceiling or a really bright lamp If you were shooting a virtual tour, you gotta deal with extreme hotspots like this one So my first test with the One X is going to be inbuilt HDR with two stops, then four stops, then I’m going to choose Raw and see if I can get a better result that way Okay, so this is the bit where you have to get out of my shot, please – Okay – Out with you! (laughing) (camera clicks) – All right, so this is the XPhase, one of my favorite 360 cameras It’s really unusual because it’s got like 35 lenses and none of them are fisheyes And another issue for the XPhase is with so many lenses, what about the stitching? Will it be good enough for virtual tours? Especially in a tight spot like this? So, the app lets you choose either three-shot HDR or six-shot HDR What’s cool with the XPhase is that the HDR has no ghosting Like, literally, you can take a handheld shot and it will still have no ghosting Now, the only thing is with no six-shot HDR, there’s a chance of failing But with three-shot, it’s totally cool Now, one challenge with the XPhase is that you don’t get to preview your shot Like, here’s the app There’s no preview It doesn’t show you like what the shot’s gonna look like, so you kind of have to trust the exposure algorithm and here’s the thing, its exposure algorithm is a little bit aggressive Given the conditions here, I’m gonna go with minus two EV, particularly only because of that So, here’s the three-shot and there’s a self-timer option, but we don’t need to do that So we’re gonna press okay and then we’re gonna press the shutter (camera clicks) So it actually stitches the photos and fuses them with the HDR on your smartphone in 135 megapixels, full resolution Now, it’s in jpeg, but if you use your desktop, you can actually export it in Adobe DNG Raw Now, it’s not exactly real Adobe DNG Raw, but you know, you can use it for the DNG8 workflow if you’re so inclined – Camera number three, the Theta Z1 I have no question at all, it’s going to do an excellent job But how good of a job will it do compared to the others? All right, here we are, here’s the preview You can see around the space, it already looks good And I’m gonna start with HDR rendering I found the Theta cameras to have the best inbuilt HDR of all 360 cameras so, so I know it’s gonna do a good job (camera clicks) Let’s have a quick look and see what we’ve got Oh, look at that, that’s beautiful! Look at that, that’s such a strong light source and it’s really muted it very nicely Let’s look outside, I can see everything Oh, I love this camera, it’s so good at dynamic range, and to think that this is a jpeg, that’s just incredible Now I’m going to try something a little bit fancy I found the best method of exposing a high-contrast environment is using bracketing,
which essentially means you’re capturing multiple exposures that each cover a specific part of your image So, when you’ve got a really bright highlight, you’re exposing just for the highlights, when you have dark shadows, you expose just for the shadows, then you combine all the images together later into one perfect image So I’m going to set it to five stops each, about one or two EV away I’m going to say two So I’ll do one-four under, one-two under, one on zero, one two above, and one four above Then later on, I’ll combine them together into one perfect image (diabolical laughing) (camera clicks) – This is the Kandao Qoocam 8K, and it can shoot not just in jpeg, but also in Adobe DNG Raw And not only that, but there’s a unique mode called the DNG 8 Burst Mode So, what that does is it takes a series of eight Raw DNG photos, like, all in quick succession And then you use the Kandao Raw+ free image stacking software Now, of course, image stacking is nothing new, right? But here’s the cool thing With Kandao Raw+, there will be no ghosting No ghosting whatsoever, even if you shoot it handheld – Wow, yeah I’ve seen some incredible DNG 8 Raw shots from the Qoocam 8K, so I think it’s a really cool thing that they’ve added because what it does is it takes those photos in quick succession, so it can basically eliminate all the flaws, things like noise and other imperfections, from the colors, from the shadows, from the highlights, and get a really balanced image – It almost makes it like as if you were shooting with a larger sensor And so, you’ll have like better shadow recovery and we, we’ll test it out Now, in the future, there’s gonna be an additional mode called Express DNG 8, which means that you don’t even need to use the Kandao Raw+ software, it’s going to stack the Raw DNG photos in the camera So one of the cool things about the Qoocam 8K is that it has this touchscreen, it’s a 360 touchscreen, and it gives you a preview of not just the composition, but also the exposure So, we’re gonna shoot with, you know what? Let’s shoot with DNG8 Because when you shoot in DNG8, you’re gonna have access to all the individual shots anyway So you can choose whether to use a DNG8 workflow or just use a simpler one-shot DNG Here, I’m choosing a shutter speed that will just expose enough of the highlight Here, it’s just a matter of a choice of like how aggressively do you wanna recover thee highlights because if you have to do a lot of shadow recovery in post, then there’s gonna be more noise, so it’s kind of like a balance I’ve just like moved it to a shutter speed that, I think, you know, it preserves enough of the highlights Five, four, three, two, one (camera clicks) – [Ben] Are you going to try any other exposure methods? Or are you confident enough in DNG8? – And you know what? Here’s another tip, to get even better quality with the Kandao Qoocam 8K, do it twice, because the Raw+ software, four, three, two, one– The Raw+ software can stack up to 16 Adobe DNG Raw images – All right, we are done shooting It’s time to edit – [Narrator] One eternity later– – Okay, we’ve taken our sample photos, we’ve edited them, stitched them, and now let’s take a look at the results we got Opening up my first Insta 360 One X photo and this was taken with two stops in-built HDR I’ve gotta say, I’m surprised at this image, this looks halfway decent, I was expecting much worse – [Mic] Yeah, I, you know, for me, I don’t really see the One X as a photo camera, I see it mostly as a video camera, but this looks great The colors are fantastic The only thing I would say is that that building in the background is totally blown out – So what I did next was shot the HDR with four-stop intervals, and it’s already looking better outside, we can see more detail, but it’s not perfect It is a bit hazy and washed out I mean, look, this is a good image, I don’t mind this at all And when I look to the other side of the room, it’s looking okay, the colors are a bit blotchy Whenever you zoom in, I’ve found with One X images, you really start seeing those imperfections pretty quickly, especially softness I’m not really seeing anything sharp at all in this room and that’s fair enough because it’s not the highest megapixel camera in the world, but it is noticeable, especially if you’re shooting for virtual tours I just don’t feel comfortable charging money for photos where there’s noticeable softness there ’cause people like to zoom in They’re not gonna zoom in a thousand percent, but they want to 200% And you can notice that with any kind of One X photos, that there is going to be a noticeable softness there – [Mic] I also notice that here, the colors are not totally consistent
For example, this is slightly reddish, here, slightly greenish, instead of like being all white – [Ben] Yeah, bit of inconsistent colors Look, I gotta say, the soft walks actually looks quite good in terms of the exposure Overall, the exposure is very decent, but it’s lacking a bit of contrast, it’s a bit washed out, and the colors are a bit blotchy – [Mic] I think for entry level virtual tours, I think this is passable – Yeah, very entry level Beginner virtual tours for small businesses, yes, but look at those highlights, it’s completely white I still think we’re gonna get better from the other three cameras First, though, I’m just gonna show you what I got with my Raw shot with the One X, and look at this, this is worse This is single shot raw and I just wouldn’t use this So I think overall, we’ll give the One X a pass, but I think we’ll probably find some better results with the other cameras I found the One R to be almost identical to the One X in terms of image quality being its second priority The One R and One X shoot great videos, no question, but in terms of 360 photo quality, it’s compromised in a lot of ways Again, we’ve got the detail issue and basically, this shot, even though it’s in a different circumstance, looks basically identical to the One X in terms of color contrast and clarity Where I’d say the One R has a slight edge over the One X is it shoots nine-stop HDR, and it’s also got Nightview Mode, which doesn’t strictly have to be used in nighttime, but you can also use it during the day to minimize noise in your shots So yes, I would say the One R is like 10 to 20% better for photos than the One X, however, it still has the same flaws of the One X that we just talked about All right, so here we have the XPhase and what happened here? – (laughs) Well, to put it quite frankly, the results were not quite as expected I’ve had, you know, very high regard for the XPhase, but with the extreme lighting conditions here, I had a lot of problems Several issues here, first of all, let’s talk about the good parts The good parts, the stitching is kind of okay I see just a few stitching errors in the floor with the cable, like there’s a slight, you know, bend there, here, and but it’s, generally it’s smooth Another thing that’s good here, well, outside, the exposure is great – [Ben] That actually looks fantastic – [Mic] Yeah, the window, you can see so much detail You can see even that air conditioner, I wanna see like, see that on the Z1 – I’m pretty sure you couldn’t see that with any of these other cameras – Yeah, because the XPhase resolution’s up to 135 megapixels Now, that’s the good part – Okay, and now for the bad part – Now the bad part, well, there’s several issues here First of all, the colors in the shadow areas that I had to push to recover, like I pushed it around four EV, and you see that the accuracy of the colors is, it’s gone, color noise all over, it’s just not really usable And beyond that, there’s like a severe problem with flare – [Ben] And especially in this area here, it’s come up with these blue and green types – [Mic] Yeah, and see, that’s the part makes me wonder, I haven’t seen that before and I think it might be flare Because one of the issues with the XPhase is flare resistance is somewhat weak, and so when we look at this soft box, for example, then you see the magenta flare artifacts and they’re even on the floor – [Ben] Yeah, and this doesn’t mean that all photos you take with this camera will produce this It’s because firstly, we deliberately underexposed the image because those highlights were really bright, and they would’ve been completely blown out if we haven’t had have done that, and then trying to recover the shadows, they didn’t quite recover as nicely as possible, so there’s a good chance that, you know, doing that has brought up these colors maybe just a little bit – Yeah, but, and then the other thing is because the soft box was like shining on some of the lenses, not others, it’s just absolute kind of like worst case scenario for the XPhase Now, in better conditions, let’s say if the soft box were turned away, I would expect this to turn out much, much better – Yeah, and I’d always add that it’s still early in the XPhase’s life life and they are going to improve it significantly, including the workflow, the stitching, the colors, the dynamic range It’s probably gonna take time, though – [Mic] Yeah, I guess if you love the detail, which is not available on the other 360 cameras and this is like, the detail here is unsurpassed If you really love that, I would highly recommend taking many different exposures as possible Hopefully at least one or two them will turn out okay and you can work with it – Yeah, so I have seen some really impressive results with the XPhase, better than what we’ve got here Firstly, most of them have been outside, but also, they’ve probably gone through quite a bit more editing and post-production work This was only a really quick edit that we’ve done here and if we were to reshoot this again, the only reason we didn’t is ’cause the lighting conditions have changed quite a bit So, with a bit more editing, I’m sure we could salvage this image a bit more
But for now, it does require a bit of work, especially in high-contrast interiors Oh, the exteriors are fine, you won’t have any issues, but unfortunately, virtual tours and a lot of 360 photography is done inside – And you have to be forewarned that with flare, it is extremely difficult to correct in post – So, at this point, I wouldn’t have confidence using the XPhase Pro S professionally, but I know I will in a few months’ time once they find out all the bugs in the workflow and everything’s working nicely, I would definitely consider using this But for now, it’s too experimental, it’s too in the alpha or beta stages, and it’s just not really ready to use it as a camera you charge for – [Mic] I guess it’s great as a hobbyist, it’s a good choice and because of the detail But when the situation is such that you cannot afford to make mistakes, the XPhase would not be my first choice – No – Or my second – But yeah, watch this space because yeah, it is gonna get better – Or third – Or third, or fourth Yeah, it is gonna get better, but for now I would say just wait a bit on the XPhase Now, if you wanna see the XPhase shots in other lighting conditions, but that are arguably more representative of typical conditions, go check out the link in the description below – All right, the next camera is the Theta Z1 And here is my inbuilt HDR image I shot with the Z1 – [Mic] This is used entirely in the camera – [Ben] All in the camera, I haven’t done a single piece of color correction on this image Take a look at those highlights I can see every window of that building – [Mic] No bloom highlights at all – [Ben] No, other than the soft box a little bit – [Mic] It’s got particular highlights– – [Ben] Yeah, that’s a really strong light, but it’s still done a good job for an inbuilt jpeg image To produce that, that’s really good Exposure looks good When I zoom in, it’s sharp-ish It’s not noticeably soft and it’s not noticeably sharp either It’s kind of in that middle ground But it’s good enough Something I’ve noticed with the Theta Z1 is it does have chromatic aberration, but not where you think You would assume chromatic aberration would come in the window areas But what I found with the Z1 is I see it in other places of the image Like on this light here You are seeing chromatic aberration, but also on other objects, even maybe a little bit on these light stands Let’s take a look around I’m seeing a bit of it, and on this soft box here, and I’ve just found it spill into other areas, not necessarily the windows It does spill around a bit Look, this can be fixed very easily, and you do have to zoom in, like I just did, to find it But it a noticeable imperfection to keep in mind with the Z1 Little bit of chromatic aberration But otherwise, for an inbuilt HDR shot, this is incredible – Yeah, considering that, did you have to edit this? Or just as– – No, no, this is straight out of the camera – That’s amazing – Yeah – Yeah I mean, if you don’t plan to do any editing, you can’t get better than that – Yeah, this is much better than the Insta 360 One X inbuilt HDR with both two and four stops It blows it away and it’s sharper, the colors are better, it’s just a better image in every way But it doesn’t stop there because we have another image from the Theta Z1, and this is my bracketed Raw shot, so, as you can see here, I shot five images, all jpeg and DNG, I combined the five DNGs, and this is what I got So we have a very similar image to before So we can still see our highlights outside, but let’s have a look at the soft box now We can actually see a clear circle there that we couldn’t before So it’s even better with this dynamic range And you’ll find there’s noticeably less noise in the darker areas, look, there is a little bit of noise I could’ve reduced the noise like quite a bit, but I did use a bit, but not that much And look, this is acceptable, for a dark area of the image, it’s not that noisy – And which software did you use to fuse the exposures? – Yeah, so I combined the five exposures in Adobe Photoshop So yeah, it’s very easy to do that, and I’ve got a tutorial on my channel, it’s called something like, how to take better interior 360 shots I’ve gotta say, I’m really impressed with this image Look, it’s not as sharp as a DSLR, and it’s not as sharp– – Or the XPhase – [Ben] It’s not as sharp as the XPhase, I can’t see, well, there’s that air conditioner, but I can’t, yeah, you can’t really see it – It’s just like a little block Yeah, not withstanding the lack of detail, this is the, so, out of the three we’ve seen so far, this is by far – Yeah, this is by far the winner, especially for dynamic range And I find in a lot of situations, good dynamic range is more important than flat-out resolution And look, I could’ve bumped it up even more to like 10 shots if I wanted to really go that extra mile, if I wanted to get more detail from here and maybe bring up those shadows a little bit more I could’ve done that, it’s just overkill, like, this is good enough of an image already But overall, I’m extremely impressed with the Theta Z1 And at this point, I’m gonna say, it’s between the Theta Z1 and the Qoocam 8K
– Yeah, next is the Kandao Qoocam 8K – [Ben] Wow – [Mic] What do you think, Ben? – [Ben] Wow, that’s really good – [Mic] This has shot, this is a 16-DNG shot, and so, as I explained earlier, there’s a DNG8 mode, but you can do two DNG8s and stack them all in the Kandao Raw+, and there will be zero ghosting The benefit of that, you get so much better color depth, better dynamic range, especially in the shadows And so, what do you think, Ben? – [Ben] Yeah, you’re right, I’m noticing how nice the contrast is here in a really light area of the image, it still maintained that really good contrast, that depth – [Mic] It’s really rich, right? – [Ben] I’m seeing so many different shades of color, of light and dark, it’s not just either light or dark, it’s like, light, a little bit lighter, a little bit lighter, and so on – [Mic] And that’s the effect of depth right there And it’s not just the luminosity, but it’s also the saturation and the hue – [Ben] Yeah, I’m seeing it all around the image, and this is by far the cleanest the soft box has looked in any of these camareas so far That’s a clean circle We haven’t seen that with other three cameras yet This is extremely impressive, I’m finding very few flaws with this image I’m seeing a little bit of noise – Oh, there’s quite a bit of noise, yeah See, the thing is with the DNG16 mode, you are not shooting at different exposures You’re only using one exposure Now, it is technically possible to take two different sets at two different exposures, like manually bracketed, in other words, and then combine them later on, the way you did with the Theta Z1 But it’s not, doesn’t have like a built-in feature for that – Still though, I think that this has a lot of potential with the Qoocam 8K, with this DNG8, you could take three of those, which would be eight, nine, 10, 11– – 24 – Are you sure? I’ll have to get out of a calculator – Yeah – 24 images, combined together at three different exposures, to me, that seems like the recipe for a perfect image – Yes, if you have the time to do it and you have the client who’s willing to pay for that time, then yes, this looks like it has like one of the highest potentials – Yeah, and I’m sure you could to that with the Theta Z1 too, it just might require a bit more work because they don’t yet have DNG8 as an inbuilt feature – [Mic] All right, when you look at the soft box, there’s a little bit of flare there That’s partly because of my mistake in wiping the lens not very carefully I mean, other than that, there’s also a little bit of flare artifacts there And you’d just have to make a judgment and like, you know, whether that is possible or not – [Ben] Mm, oh, you’re right I didn’t notice that, I mean– – [Mic] Yeah, it’s not as good as the flare resistance of the Theta Z1 – [Ben] Yeah, I mean, in all fairness, it’s unlikely you’re gonna have soft boxes like these in your– – Without a diffuser– – [Ben] Yeah, without a diffuser on your virtual tour shoot, but you might have another extreme light source, so it’s good to know these things if you come across it Yeah, I mean, it is noticeable now that you’ve pointed it out I probably wouldn’t have noticed it, actually, if you hadn’t have pointed it out But now that I see it, I can’t not see it (laughing) And so on So yeah, but otherwise, I’m so impressed with this image The only other thing I would add is I noticed this area is a little bit darker Part of it was because we shot this as the very final shot of these cameras, and it was a tiny little bit darker naturally But maybe it also could’ve just used a little bit more color correction to bring up the shadows in the back of the room I’ve gotta say, I’m extremely impressed with this image – [Mic] Yeah, so am I – And I would say this probably looks better than the Theta Z1 I mean, I love the Theta Z1, how I would differentiate them a bit more is that the Theta Z1 is an already established camera at this point, it’s been out for long enough that they’ve fixed the problems with it and you can use it straightaway, you’re not having to beta test their apps and their software and you’re not getting some of these issues, which are conducive of cameras when they first come out, whereas the Theta Z1, it’s been there, it’s done that, it’s good to go right now So, with the Qoocam 8K, it might be a bit of a waiting game before you consistently can get shots like this and better So overall, if we had to pick a winner, what would yours be? – My top choice right now, if I had to shoot a virtual tour would be the Theta Z1 – Okay My top choice right now, if I were to shoot a virtual tour would be the Theta Z1 If I were to shoot a virtual tour in two, three, four, five, six months’ time? It’s going to be the Qoocam 8K – Yes, I think it’s very likely that they’ll be able to perfect the software, especially the flare resistance, using software correction – Yeah, they’re both incredible cameras, so really, it’s up to you, like, no matter which one you choose of these four, you’re probably gonna get a good result, other than the XPhase, which may or may not work, but they’re all good So it’s just a matter of your budget and what workflow you like best As well as your platforms, because some of these cameras are more friendly for Macs, some are more friendly for PC So, the most ready one is the Theta Z1, that will give you a professional result for 360 photography But it’s also the most expensive,
so that’s another factor to weigh out The Qoocam 8K is cheaper, so you may want to– – Yeah, almost half the price – Yeah, so you may wanna wait a month or two, or you can buy it now, I’ll put a link in the description as well as to all the cameras you see in this video All right, guys, there’s our comparison, hope you enjoyed it, I’m curious to know which one of these four was your winner and why Let me know down in the comments If you’ve ever thought about shooting virtual tours professionally, but don’t know where to get started with one or all of these cameras, then I put together a video course called Virtual Tour Pro that will show you the entire process from beginning to end Nothing is left out You can start as a complete beginner and it will upskill you to the point that you can shoot professionally and start earning money with your work I’ll put a link to Virtual Tour Pro down there Something else I think you guys will find super useful is a tool that Michael put together, and that’s called the 360 camera comparison tool – The comparison that we made, you can do it yourself, so that you can judge for yourself which camera is better So all you need to do is go to 360cameracomparison.com Now, with this tool, you’ll be able to compare two cameras side by side We’re gonna upload these shots there, and you’ll be able to zoom in, take a look at them, you can see the level of detail, the noise, everything that you might not notice from a quick video By the way, it costs nothing – Yay! (clapping) Also, a quick heads up, I do have a new 360 camera sitting on my table right now, and it’s the LabPano Pilot One, which was made specifically with virtual tours in mind The firmware isn’t totally ready yet, but I will get a dedicated review out as soon as it is Now Mic, where can they find you? – You can check me out at YouTube.com/360Rumors – Yes, and also, 360Rumors.com, I’ll put a link to his channel and his website down there You know where you can find me, right here in front of your very eyes, so you probably already know that That’s it from us Hope you’re all doing excellent If you have any questions, leave them down there – And we’ll see you in 360 – Whoosh!