360 Virtual Tours – Equipment

Having defined what a 360 Virtual Tour is, we now take a look at 360 Virtual Tours – Equipment.

As a virtual tour is displayed in a digital form, the images used are captured using a digital camera.
In theory you can use just about any camera or mobile phone to make a virtual tour, however if you are looking to produce a quality virtual tour, you do need some specialised equipment. (as mentioned in the introduction the specific details are what we, at 360virtual-tours.net use, other virtual tour photographers may well use different equipment.

360 Virtual Tours – Equipment – The Camera.

A decent quality camera is required. We currently use a Canon 550D (or Rebel T2i as known in the US)
360 Virtual Tours - Equipment
This is an 18MP camera with a cropped 1.6x sensor. Whilst not “top of the range” this is perfectly adequate for the job in hand.

360 Virtual Tours – Equipment – The Lens.

Without doubt the most important part of the equipment.
360 Virtual Tours - Equipment
It is possible to use just about any lens for taking images for virtual tours, however, in order to capture the full 360 degrees round, and the full 180 degrees, from floor to ceiling, then multiple images are required.
For example, the lens normally supplied with this camera is the Canon EFS 18-55. If used to shoot a full 360 panorama this would require 32 images to cover the complete 360 Degrees by 180 Degrees.
10 shots at 36 degree separation, at -45 degrees from the horizontal
10 shots at 36 degrees separation at 0 degrees from the horizontal
10 shots at 36 degrees separation at +45 degrees from the horizontal
1 shot Zenith ( vertically up)
1 shot Nadir (Vertically down.)

Thankfully we do not use this. We use a Sigma 8mm circular fisheye lens, having an almost 180 degree field of view, makes it possible to capture the full 360 by 180 in 5 shots. (3 at 120 degree intervals, one zenith, one nadir). In fact we use 4 shots round at 90degree intervals, giving a greater amount of overlap, making the stitching of the images easier, zenith and nadir. (More about this later)

360 Virtual Tours – Equipment -The Pano Head

To ensure that the images taken for the panorama are all level and taken from exactly the same spot, the simplest way is to use a pano head.
Whilst there are some photographers who do panoramas freehand, it does require a steady and a lot of practice to get right.
As with all types of equipment there is a broad range of possible equipment. At 360virtual-tours.net we us a simple but very effective Nodal Ninja 3 Mk2 with a Nadir adapter.
360 Virtual Tours - Equipment360 Virtual Tours - Equipment
The Pano head serves to hold the camera and lens in a precise position so that the No parallax Point is immediately over the dead center of the tripod, and the camera and lens rotate around this NPP point. (For more detailed information on how to determine the NPP please see: Finding The Nodal Point

360 Virtual Tours – Equipment -The Tripod

As mentioned above, we use a tripod combined with the Pano head, to mount the camera and lens at exactly the correct position to overcome parallax issues. The reason why we use this particular tripod (Manfrotto MT190CXPro4)is because of its length when closed down (for easy of carriage especially if having to take on board a plane), and its weight. This is a brilliant little tripod, excellent for what we want to use it for.
360 Virtual Tours - Equipment
When shooting a lot of panos in one day, not having to lug around a heavyweight tripod is a real bonus…

That is the main hardware we use, and apart from a rucksack to carry it in, and I also carry a second camera fitted with a wide angle lens for shooting interior stills, spare batteries, spare memory cards, lens cleaning cloths, and other sundry bits and pieces that s it…

In the next episode we will look at the image shooting techniques used in a 360 Virtual Tours…