Smartphone Panoramas Are Not The Answer

It’s funny what passes for advances in technology these days. Recently a very prominent real estate search portal came out with an app that they say is,  “the first of its kind – allows you to capture 3D tours with your iPhone in minutes and showcase beautiful homes at any price point.”

We find that a bit humorous here at immoviewer, since our clients have been able to capture the exact same experience with their smartphones, iPhone & Android, for several years now. Would you like to experience it yourself? Just go to iTunes or Google Play Store and download the immoviewer app. When it comes time to choose the camera, pick “Smartphone” and you can see the results possible for yourself. You won’t need to buy anything to give it a try.

Why don’t we talk about this more?

It’s simple. Shooting a panorama inside a house with your phone camera produces inferior results and isn’t the best, simplest or fastest way to create a 360° 3D home tour. It’s not new. It’s not innovative. But, it sure is free. And as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

We offer this option as a way for people to experience the immoviewer app, just as we offer a “fake camera” option that allows you to choose images already loaded in the app without taking any photos yourself. It helps our clients play with the software before they make their decision to purchase a camera.

Capturing a panorama with your smartphone alone is never going to be as good as using a single-shot, full spherical 360° camera for several reasons.

  1. Focal Length.  Your smartphone lens alone, even shooting in portrait mode, can’t capture the full spherical 360° image when you simply move around in a circle on a single plane. The image of the kitchen stove above is the beginning image of a smartphone panorama capture in my own kitchen. I don’t have a small kitchen, but the focal length of the camera simply isn’t enough to capture even the bottoms or tops of the cabinets, let alone the floor and ceiling. This will be true of ANY attempt to do this with just the smartphone camera alone. Single-shot 360° cameras use two 180°+ lenses, front and back, to capture an entire scene in one click.
  2. Nodal Point. I could get really technical here, but I’ll spare you the truly boring stuff.
    • Essentially, to make sure you have a panoramic image that “stitches” properly, without waves or “glitches,” the lenses must either be fixed at the proper nodal point or a single lense must move around the proper nodal point as you shoot multiple images.
    • When using any standard camera to capture a panorama you must move the camera around the optimal nodal point or “no parallax” point.
    • Finding the right nodal point is not simple and something the average human is simply not going to take the time to do or understand. Nor should you, but if you want the image to be without stitching artifacts, it’s necessary. Single-shot 360° cameras have a fixed nodal point that ensures higher quality stitching.
  3. True Speed. Standing in the center of a room and moving the camera around the focal plane may seem like an easy way to get the job done until you’ve done it a few times and had to restart the panorama because your hand moved. Placing your phone on a tripod is an option, of course, but that is still not as fast as clicking once, even if you need to leave the room. Single-shot 360° cameras take, well, a single shot. And most stitch instantly in the camera. 

We know we’re on the right path here at immoviewer.

Full spherical 360° photography and video is going through an explosion of innovation. And since we’re NOT a camera company, our clients will be able to take advantage of these innovations as they arrive on the scene. Case in point, there were two new cameras that attach directly to your smartphone announced at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. Both the MadV Mini & the Insta360 Nano S provide the single-shot ease and quality you’re really looking for, but also provide the ability to shoot full spherical 360° video as well.

Don’t be fooled by the manufactured hype. Your smartphone is not the best option for easily creating 360° 3D tours.  And you shouldn’t have to mortgage your house to buy a camera that captures a full scene. Let us show you how simple, easy and truly inexpensive it is to do this right!