We set out on a quest to find out which is the ABSOLUTE BEST HDR Virtual Tour Camera in late 2021 if money, usability, and consumer-friendly features do NOT matter. This high-quality 8K 360 video gets you the answer we were searching for.
✅SHOW, DON’T TELL: this 360 video shows Sony Alpha 1 with Sigma 8mm f/3.5, Xphase Pro X2, Ricoh Theta Z1, Insta360 ONE X2, Qoocam 8K, and even the new Kandao Obsidian Pro HDR photo samples in a real-world location:
Xphase Pro X2 vs Theta Z1 vs DSLR:
Rank #1 – which has the absolute best image quality is a Mirrorless or DSLR camera with a fisheye lens. Not just any DSLR. You have to get a full-frame camera like the SONY Alpha 1 as you see right here, or the Canon R5. Pair it with a decent fisheye lens. I use the Sigma 8mm here – which is one of the affordable high-end fisheye lenses. If you want to find the absolute best fisheye lens with ONLY TWO shots for a full 360 photo – check out my tutorial right here.
The reason why SONY Alpha 1 is my top choice is the color. HDR 360 photo out from the SONY Alpha 1 with my PTGui workflow has the best natural-looking color. You can’t really tell this is an HDR photo. And this is the beauty of it.
It also gives you a 12K 360 photo – the best resolution on almost all virtual tour software. If you capture nature and outdoor virtual tours like me on Google Street View, the max resolution is 14K on Google. Write this information down.
In terms of image quality, SONY Alpha 1 or any DSLR has things I don’t like – ghosting in HDR and missing nadir. Ghosting is not such an issue for an indoor virtual tour. For outdoor with people and animals, you will see HDR ghosting. Alpha 1 has the less ghosting among all Full Frame cameras out in the market thanks to its super-fast capture speed. But still, it has ghosting.
Another very annoying thing about a DSLR with a fisheye lens is the nadir. Look down, and you see a black box missing pixel there. It is extremely annoying to do a ground shot on location.
So, if you want to go for the absolute best quality – just learn how to use a professional photo camera like the SONY Alpha 1.
Rank #2 – Xphase Pro X2.
After months of shooting virtual tour and outdoor nature in Yosemite with the Xphase new camera – I am convinced this is the best One-Shot 360 camera. You are seeing the result of Xphase Pro X2 right now in the exact same condition.
Even the Xphase does not have a rich color like SONY Alpha 1, it looks very close to SONY Alpha 1 image quality. The dynamic range of Xphase is radicular good. Look up at the hot California sun – everything is beautifully captured. It does not have the problem of the old Xphase S2 in stitching and color. If you look down, you can see me clearly – still very sharp. There is no 360 camera that has the same sharpness, even in Nadir and Zenith. It also does not has ghosting on moving scenes. It is all around the best One-Shot camera if you care about image quality.
What about indoor Virtual Tour? According to others, Xphase is really bad for indoor Virtual Tour. Well, not anymore. XPhase Pro X2 has a new enhanced stitching algorithm that is almost faultless indoor or outdoor. Take a look at yourself.
If you don’t think this is challenging enough, how about this one? In DSLR, this location will be a control point nightmare. But Xphase Pro X2 handle it like a charm. Look down, you can even read the book title. That is some crazy sharpness that no other camera has.
Is that easy to get this result with Xphase Pro X2? No, not at all. There are a learning curve and editing technique you need to master on this camera – just like SONY Alpha 1. I will go into details on my 2D Xphase Pro X2 review and tutorial video. Don’t forget to subscribe and hit the notification bell, so you don’t miss that tutorial.
Rank #3 – Ricoh Theta Z1
Now you are looking at the result of Ricoh Theta Z1 using the third-party plugin – DualFisheye RAW to capture this HDR 360 photo. This is the best way to get a professional result from Z1. The 2021 new update makes it super fast to capture HDR – so there will be no ghosting in an outdoor virtual tour. If you want to learn more about the new Theta Z1 51G version, which is used in this photo, check out our 2021 review here.
Rank #4 – Insta360 ONE X2
New you are looking at the 9 bracketed HDR DNG result from the Insta360 ONE X2. This is a consumer camera, not a professional camera. So don’t expect to see the professional result no matter what kind of photo editing you do in post.
To even better illustrate my ranking, let’s zoom in 300% to take a look at the side by side comparison result here:
BTW, I also provide this photo for download – link in the description:
SONY A1 has the overall best natural-looking image. If you have been to Laguna Beach, California, this is exactly what it looks like in real life. The over 12K resolution keeps the details – even in the distance.
But the Xphase Pro X2 comes really close to 2nd place. If you look at the 800% zoom circle, Xphase has the best clarity. You can literally see inside the hotel room – which is like miles away. It is better than the SONY Alpha 1 in this regard.
Theta Z1 can not hold the image quality in distance object even tho it has beautiful color. It is not a good camera for outdoor virtual tours where distance details are important for the photo.
Insta360 ONE X2 is just bad. I won’t recommand any serious 360 photographers to use ONE X2.
Xphase Pro X2 vs Qoocam 8K vs Obsidian Pro
What about Qoocam 8K and Qoocam 8K Enterprise.
You are looking at it now. We did a separate test at Yosemite National Park to compared Kandao Obsidian Pro, which essentially is a eight shots DSLR, Xphase Pro X2, and Qoocam 8K. To save you some time, let’s go directly to the side by side comparison:
Xphase Pro X2 again has the best resolution and sharpness. The color is also beautiful except for the purple spot right here, which is a common issue that I will go into details in my Xphase Pro X2 official review.
Kandao Obsidian Pro at the time of recording does not have HDR or DNG8 features. So the color is quite flat, and the dynamic range is not as good as Xphase. But it is a 3D camera, and the sharpness is just as good as a DSLR – so I still rank it #1. HDR feature will be out soon in Obsidian Pro.
Qoocam 8K on the other hand, still suffer from blurry focus issue in the faraway object. The Half Dome is really far from Glacier Point, which is where this photo is taken. But still, compared to Xphase, this sharpness is just bad. Just like One X2, I won’t recommand it for outdoor virtual tours.
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