The difference between “still photography” from a DSLR Camera and “snapshots” from a Matterport virtual tour.

Should you purchase DSLR photos versus using FREE photos from a Matterport scan?

With so many options for Real Estate Agents out there for property photos, it is sometimes hard to determine if you need to spend the money for super high quality photos. Is the extra cost of high end photos a good investment, or can a lower quality photo do as good a job marketing the property? Today I want to address this issue. You will see examples of both types of photos and you can decide if photographs from a Matterport scan or from a DSLR Camera like a Canon 7D are that different after processing for the MLS. 

The first thing you want to consider when deciding whether you want to spend the extra money for DSLR photos, is how are the photos going to be displayed. If you are just uploading the photos to the MLS or some other service, it may not be worth paying for a higher end set of photos. Here is why that is true. When you purchase the higher quality photos they are taken and saved at a very high quality. The kind of quality you would not notice a degradation in quality unless you were to have a very large print of the photograph created. Consider this, the first thing that happens when you want to upload a photograph to the MLS is that you have to reduce the size and quality of the photos that you just paid good money for that quality. Well you can always post them to your website, right? Not quite. If you upload the print quality photos to your business or brokerage website the potential buyers of the property, even with a high speed internet connection, will have to wait for the photos to download and then display on their computer or mobile device. So it is best to reduce the quality once again, for your website. If you plan to print property flyers for the property you will need a print quality photograph, which is still a lower quality than the “Raw” format from a DSLR camera.

Example Photo #1: DSLR (Canon 7D with 10-22mm F3.5 lens) bracketed photograph that has been resized for the MLS.

 

Example Photo#2: Matterport Snapshot from the same angle that has been resized for the MLS.

A Closer Look

“SMALL” (640X480) formats compared

Matterport Snapshot “SMALL” format zoomed in 800%

DSLR Photograph “SMALL” format zoomed in 800%

“PRINT” Formats Compared

DSLR Photograph “PRINT” format enlarged

Matterport Snapshot “PRINT” format enlarged

The following gets into the weeds with the technical details, please bear with me.

As you can see in the snippets of the photographs above, the Matterport photos have a maximum resolution that is limiting if you are trying to zoom in on the photo. After working with the photos for a while we found that the maximum size of the Matterport snapshot is 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels or 1080p the same as a HD camcorder or your HD TV. The maximum size for the DSLR Photo is 5184 pixels by 3456 pixels which is a much larger or higher resolution format. This additional resolution allows you to digitally zoom in on a DSLR photo without loosing too much quality. With respect to real estate photography, being able to focus in on one part of a room is not really something we as real estate photographers get asked to do very often. If you consider that the resolution of most of your desktop computer monitors today is within the range of 1920 x 1080, if not less, viewing digital photographs that are greater than that resolution is not going to be noticed due to the medium (your monitor) you are displaying them on is limited to the 1920 x 1080. As an example my laptop monitor has a resolution of 1440 x 900 pixels, and the Full HD monitor that I have attached as a secondary is 1920 x 1080 pixels.

The DSLR does have superior quality but from the previous example you can see where this may not be worth paying the extra money for this service due to the fact we want to see as much of a room as possible, and the displays we are using to view the photographs cannot really display the DSLR photograph in its full resolution. The Matterport Snapshots which we can take from a 3D Virtual Tour, have decent quality, but that is not the best part. Since the Matterport camera takes a 360 degree photo we have the capability of taking a much wider field of view in a much smaller area.

Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons for both the DSLR Photographs and Matterport Snapshots:

  • DSLR Photographs:
    • Pros
      • High quality photos for printed materials
      • The photos can be easily digitally zoomed
    • Cons
      • Price (starts at around $125 in the industry)
      • Turnaround Time is Longer
      • If a photo needs to be re-taken the homeowner has to be disturbed
      • Super wide angle lenses have trouble compensating for the fisheye effect (bowing at the edges of the photo)
  • Matterport Snapshots
    • Pros
      • Quick Turnaround (usually within 24 hrs)
      • Included with the 3D Virtual Tour
      • Able to go back and retake the snapshot from the 3D Virtual Tour at a different angle if the first snapshot is not satisfactory all without disturbing the homeowner
      • Capability of taking a wider angle shot without degradation to the edges of the photograph (less fisheye effect)
    • Cons
      • Limited quality
      • Sometimes there are stitching issues with the scans which may show up in the photos
      • Maximum resolution of 1920 X 1080(1080p) limiting the ability to digitally zoom.

Wide Angle Photography Compared

Here is an example of the photograph above taken from the 3D Virtual Tour but this time we expanded the field of view. It may not look like much but if you are in a confined space like a bathroom this makes all the difference in the world. Notice that the lines at the edges of the photograph are straight and do not tend to curve even with a very wide angle.

Example Photo #3: Super wide angle Matterport Snapshot of kitchen

The following photographs compare the differences between the DSLR Photographs and the Matterport Snapshots in a more confined space, a bathroom.

Example Photo #4: DSLR Bathroom photograph

Example Photo #5: Example of super wide angle Matterport Snapshot. Notice how much more of the room is captured.

We could change the lens on the Canon 7D to a much wider angle lens and get a much wider photograph, but the tendency of the photograph to get a fisheye effect on the edges is more prominent. This tendency to have skewed or bowed edges is not seen in the Matterport photographs. A good example of the effects of a super wide angle lens can be seen below, originally posted by Darlene at Digital Photo Mentor. The original can be found here: https://goo.gl/TpMQ5N

 

Conclusion

We feel that the differences between the two types of photos after post-processing for the MLS is minimal. After processing the photographs for the purpose of being viewed online the two types of photographs have minimal differences. The Matterport snapshots actually have more flexibility due to the fact we are able to go back to the 3D virtual tour and retake a snapshot if we feel the original is not of sufficient quality without having to go back into the home. There are many benefits to using snapshots from a 3D virtual tour that a normal DSLR camera is not capable of without heavy post processing. These differences make processing Matterport Snapshots a much easier process than that of the DSLR. This difference can be relayed to the end user through price discounts. Which is why soon Virtual Viewpoint, Inc. will be including the photographs from the Matterport virtual tour in “Small”, “Large” and “Print” formats for FREE!

 

Jonathan R. Batchelor

 

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