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Old Jul 9, 2011, 11:24 PM   #1
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Default Panoramic head and Real Estate 360s

Is it possible to stitch a good quality 360*180 panorama for indoor real estate virtual tours without using a panoramic head ?

I have an apartment that i have to sell with alot of articals in everyroom..

please suggest.
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Old Jul 10, 2011, 12:32 PM   #2
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Do you need a "panoramic head" - No. It is just a tool and makes the job easier. Plus, if you want you can build your own...
You can also use a regular head on a tripod, but you need to ensure that the tripod is absolutely level, so that when the camera is mounted (on its side - usually with an L bracket) it will rotate around perfectly level. Or some heads will put the camera over on its side and rotate them around, however the camera's lens face will not be over the center point (nodal point) and will probably cause problems in stitching. One advantage of a Pano head is that it shifts the body of the camera back so that the front lens rotates around the nodal point, and there by reduces the introduction of parallax in to the images.

You can also just hand hold the camera as is demonstrated here...
This works well for out door shots (longer distances covers a multitude of sins), however for indoor short (since the distances are not great and things are relatively near) or night shots, the shutter speeds will probably be slow and you will introduce blur (even with image stabilization in the camera body). Thus the need for some sort of mechanical support - a tripod and some sort of head.

With that out of the way, to do a "360*180 panorama for indoor real estate virtual tours", is a bit more than just a pano head. There usually is a fisheye lens, dSLR, some sort of head to pan level, tripod, stitching software, along with some time and expertise.
You want to use a fisheye lens with the camera up on its side (portrait) so that you can get a ceiling to floor slice in one shot. Then stitch 6 to 7 of them together (with sufficient overlap) to do the 360. There is also a shot straight up and straight down so that you do not have the donuts hole effect.

Given that you have the camera and tripod already you will need a couple of additional items.
  • The lens - you can use a Tokina 10-17 which runs about $600 and comes in a Nikon, Canon or Sony mount. Or if you have a Pentax body the Pentax DA 10-17 (same lens - Pentax and Tokina co-designed it).
  • L Bracket or pano head - L Bracket runs about $100 for a dSLR, with a Pano head running up to about $400 or a combination of these.
  • Software - There are several utilities here, they each run around $100 or so.
  • Time - To get acceptable results, you may be doing this several times and take a weekend or so to stitch everything together the way you want it.
Then there is the viewer if you are going to view them in the round, or you can lay them flat but tend to get some funny bends. I do not know what you are looking for.

If this is going to be a one time occurrence, it may be easier to do it for you who has all the equipment and software and knows how to put it all together.

Do you need a fisheye lens - No. However you asked 360 x 180. You can do a 360 x 70 degrees (cutting out part of the ceiling and floor) by using the kit 18-55 lens set at 18mm. However, in this case the tripod becomes a bit more important in that if you do not shoot level, and after stitching the images together, you will wind up cutting the top and bottom off to make it square.

Again, do you need a tripod, no - but indoors, the light levels are low and even with relatively high ISO speeds, you are going to have some rather slow shutter speeds to contend with, and will probably have some blur. So you are back to a tripod and head once again.

Another option is to use a wide angle lens and shoot from each corner of the rooms. You would probably do 3 shots stitched together for each corner. That would be simpler. Lighting would still be an issue. Also the windows that you leave open would probably be blown out (the outside light coming in would overpower everything else). A way a round that would be to shoot HDR (bracketed shots), and that would help mitigate the blow out effects of the outside light through the windows.
There really is no single, easy, high quality and cheap solution.

hope that helps....

Last edited by interested_observer; Jul 10, 2011 at 4:48 PM.
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