Resources

Virtual Tour Starter Kit

If you want to get started shooting high quality Virtual Tours right away, but don’t want to break the bank, this is the way to go. I’ve narrowed down the list of gear to include all of the things you need and nothing you don’t. This kit will give you amazing results at around $1300.

Recommended Lenses

While it is possible to shoot virtual tours with any regular lens, in general the wider your lens is, the easier your workflow will be. Fisheye lenses can greatly reduce the number of shots that you need to take in order to get a full 360 panorama. Here’s the rundown of what lenses you should consider.

Budget

Just starting out and on a tight budget? No worries! The Samyang 8mm f/3.5 will give you what you need. I’ve taken this baby for a spin and was impressed by the results. It is a manual focus and manual aperture lens, so you’ll have to take that into consideration. But in my opinion, that minor inconvenience is a small price to pay for what you get: a good optical quality lens at a really good price. In addition, when shooting virtual tours, you won’t be using autofocus much at all. At under $300 you’re not going to get top-of-the-line image quality, but it will work well for low-budget virtual tours. One thing to note is that this is a DX lens, meaning that on full-frame cameras, you will have to use the cropped-sensor mode. Not a huge deal, but still worth mentioning. The lens is available in every major camera mount.

 Mid-range

This is a very nice offering from Sigma. At around $600 they’ve got a great product that compares to higher-priced fisheye lenses from other manufacturers. I haven’t shot with this lens but I do own three other Sigma lenses and they’ve all be sharp as a knife sharpened by a professional knife-sharpener. Yes, that’s sharp! All around great reviews, and it’s super wide on a full frame camera, giving you a quicker workflow for virtual tours. Instead of needing to shoot

 

This is the lens that I’ve been using for virtual tours since I started. At around $650, it’s pricier than the Sigma but will give you a wider angle on a cropped frame camera. Super sharp, handles lens flare well. Pretty good construction, although it’s not necessarily built like a tank. The distortion is minimal, which is very important when stitching images together. It does show a bit of chromatic aberration in the corners, but I’ve been able to easily fix that in Lightroom, as seen in this post.  All in all, if you want great performance but want to keep the budget reasonable, this is a sure shot.

High-end

  • Nikon 16mm f/2.8

    The Nikkor 16mm fisheye is as good as it gets for Nikon users. It’s designed for full-frame cameras and will give you a 180 degree field of view (meaning you need to take less images than the 10.5mm to make a full 360 virtual tour.) The metal body means it’s built to take a beating. The optics are superior to the previously mentioned lenses. The only question is: Is it worth it? The $200-300 price difference is significant, and the optical benefits of using it for virtual tours aren’t huge. However, saving the time in your workflow, as well as being able to put the full frame capabilities of your DSLR to use may justify the cost. Ultimately it depends on your budget, but if you can afford it, I’d say go for it!

Sigma has a special place in my heart, as their lenses are almost always as good or better than the Canon or Nikon versions, but at a fraction of the price. This is a super wide lens that works on full-frame cameras. At 8mm, this is a circular fisheye that covers 180 degrees in every direction, so if you’re shooting with a full frame camera, you will be able to reduce the number of shots needed to make a virtual tour significantly. Instead of needing to take 10 photos for each scene with a 10.5mm fisheye on a crop frame, you cover the entire 360x 180 it in six shots if shooting on a full frame.

Canon’s flagship fisheye. The L series has a great reputation for sharpness and build quality. Prices are around $1,200 right now, which is pretty high. You’re paying a premium for the ability to zoom, but if you’re buying a lens strictly for the purpose of making virtual tours, you don’t need that. If you’re a Canon shooter who’s in the market for a lens to shoot virtual tours AND other subjects, go ahead and grab this one. However, if you want to save money and are only planning on shooting virtual tours, definitely grab the Sigma 8mm instead.

Recommended Cameras

If you are primarily using your camera to shoot virtual tours, you will not need the best of the best. As long as you can change lenses and set your exposure, white balance, and focus manually, you will be good to go. The bracketing feature on mid-range cameras is useful but not necessary.

Miscellaneous

    • Phlearn – I consider Photoshop to be a pretty essential part of making virtual tours. Whether it’s getting rid of unwanted cockroaches or changing the color of the sky, it doesn’t hurt to know your way around Photoshop. The software can be daunting at first, but Aaron makes learning photoshop fun and easy, and has created some awesome tutorials. Check out the Photoshop 101 and 201 PRO tutorials if you’re just getting started.
    •  Bluehost – If you’re starting a virtual tour company, you’re going to need a website and a hosting account. I’ve tried a couple of different hosting providers, and in my opinion, Bluehost is the best value. Amazing customer service, fast speeds, and hosting plans that start at $3.95/month. I use Bluehost for all of my websites, including the one you’re looking at right now!

 

  • Samuel Carney

    Hi Patrick, great site. Super useful.

    I have Canon 750d. Will the Samyang 8mm fisheye work? And what Panohead is best fit.
    Many thanks.
    Sam

  • HI Patrick. Thanks for your tutorials! I wonder why you use 16 BIT images? I work professionally in Photoshop and we seldom use 16 BIT but for Panorama images it’s necessary?
    br
    Anders in Sweden

  • Natalie S.

    Hi Patrick! I am about to venture into the 360 virtual tour world of shooting real estate. I know it’s been 3 years since your virtual tour videos and equipment recommendations.. I am inquiring to get your advice on what kind of equipment I need to begin. There are 360 cameras out now, but do you still recommend the DSLR’s? I currently have a Nikon D90 (which may not be powerful enough for the right HDR quality photos). Paired with the right fish eye lens would it work? Also, I’ve seen the 3d room scanner cameras that matterport offers. Can those be bought elsewhere? And do you have any different favorite software for the virtual tours now? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

  • Hi Patrick. Hope you still check these comments!

    I’m using a Samyang 7.5mm on a micro 4/3 camera. Do you know how to work out how many degrees each image will shoot and thus how many I’ll need for a full panorama. Cheers, very usefl site and videos btw.

    • PatrickNiddrie

      I think you’ll need to experiment but I would start with 4 shots to get the horizontal 360 (so 1 shot every 90 degrees) and if you’re having a hard time generating control points because you’re not getting enough coverage, shoot 6 for 60 degrees coverage.

  • Kasun Alwis

    Hi Patrick
    I have canon 60d, and I’m thinking to purchase budget lense what will you recommend for me. is Samyang 8mm or canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM?
    Thank You..

  • Richard Kaylin

    Patrick- I saw your videos on Youtube. Thanks for the lessons… but, I need some more info. I created the pano with Autopano Pro and Panatour Pro 1.8. I know you like 2.5 but that is another $230 or so. That is for the future. My problem is that there is no documentation as to what I actually give the client. After I build the tour I get a folder with the below files https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0c3a0d03607e12d716ba3948fc2693b9131bfc3d395464b27855832c60ab735d.jpg . Which one is the tour? Is there something else I should have as a file? Are they all needed? Do I rename the folder and give it to my client? What should she do with it? This is for a real estate agent and I’m assuming she will put it on her website. I really am confused. Thanks in advance for your help.

  • Ashish Solanki

    Hi patrick many thanks for all the tutorials and help, I have 2 questions:
    1. I have a nikon crop sensor camera so if I shoot it with 8mm lens then total 4 shots I will need to cover 360 degree horizontally?
    2. I have a vanguard tripod is it okay for shooting 360 degree?
    Many thanks 🙂