360 Camera Photo Quality Comparison on a real Construction Site
January 11, 2018
Hands-On Approach to Reviewing Camera Hardware
360 Camera specs only tell us half of the story. At StructionSite, we prefer a hands-on approach to reviewing camera hardware where we actually go out and test the cameras on actual jobsites to get a true, apples-to-apples comparison of cameras in various conditions, and to see which 360 cameras perform better!
This blog post is focused on how these 360 cameras perform in different lighting conditions. Note, that almost all cameras work great outdoors in full natural light (as with most regular cameras), but you might be surprised as to which cameras perform the best when you actually go into the jobsite and have varying degrees of both artificial and natural lighting.
The cameras being tested:
From left to right:
Ricoh Theta V (14 mp) ($375.99 on Amazon)
Garmin VIRB (15 mp) ($694.99 on Amazon)
Samsung Gear 360 (2016) (30 mp) ($69.99 on Amazon)
LG 360 (16 mp) ($111.49 on Amazon)
Note: More Megapixels do NOT always mean better photos! Lighting highly affects the results, and expect to have huge differences in lighting inside a typical building that is under construction.
A Test on Lighting Conditions for 360 Cameras
We’d like you to take into account the information below when deciding to purchase 360 cameras for your next project. I also highly recommend that you check out the provided raw photographic data for each image and decide for yourself before coming to any decisions.
All of the cameras do reasonably well in letting you know the status of construction and seeing what’s there. The LG360 definitely struggles around where the light-source is, and gets grainy and the colors start to look strange, but overall you can still see what’s going on. The Gear 360 provides great lighting as well as clarity. The VIRB and Ricoh Theta V are tied; the Theta V provides better color contrast but the VIRB provides slightly vetter clarity but looks dark/grainy. To most non-technical users, darkness/graininess plays an important role here, so I’ll give it to the Ricoh Theta V in this case.
The Gear 360 seems to provide the best balance in both brightness and clarity; perhaps this is where the superior number of megapixels comes in (note: double the file size and sync time!). The VIRB provides the darkest-looking image, which may seem bad to many at first, but if you look more closely you actually have higher clarity and can make out things easier.The Ricoh Theta V performs fine, but seems to make things look a little blurry. The LG360 seems to produce strange co-centric circles near the camera, which seems typical at times when there is both natural and artificial light from different directions.
Ricoh Theta V
3. Electrical room with artificial omni-directional LED lighting from tripod
The photo frmo the Samsung Gear 360 looks the brightest in this situation and it’s easier to see the overhead MEP, although if you look closely at the MEP above, the edges of the equipment, labels, etc., the VIRB offers higher sharpness, but is a darker image and thus it’s harder to see the components. Both Ricoh Theta V and VIRB offer good clarity, but when looking at certain parts of the room it appears that I can make out what I’m seeing a little bit better on the VIRB compared to the Ricoh Theta V
Samsung Gear 360
Ricoh Theta V
Note: On StructionSite, you can adjust the brightness settings in the live preview of the photo. In this test, we did not adjust the brightness manually and used the default auto-exposure settings on the camera itself, to mimic a novice user
All of the cameras here work relatively great. Note, that this is the ideal situation for most cameras in general. The differences are marginal and will likely not matter to most construction-folks looking at progress on a jobsite for internal use, but it would likely matter if you’re looking to show this to an owner or architect who’s getting used to the technology for the first time.
Overall Ranking (very close)
Ricoh Theta V
Samsung Gear 360
Summary on Photo Quality
Ricoh Theta V – This camera is well-balanced, although clarity seems to suffer more-so than other cameras in darker conditions. It can handle low light better than the LG 360. Ricoh Thetas are the most popular camera in the market, and if you stick with this camera, you should be solid.
Garmin VIRB – This camera seems to perform the best in terms of photo clarity, but doesn’t do so well in terms of brightness in its images. It’s important to note that although the images look darker, the features are sharper, and at the end of the day, you can make out things easier with a sharper image better than photos from other cameras that provide greater brightness. Note, that image brightness should be able to be adjusted easily using manual brightness settings in the StructionSite App, however this requires more manual intervention and a higher learning curve (which we at StructionSite are not fond of).
Samsung Gear 360 (2016) – This camera consistently provides the brightest images even in dark areas, and seems to try to make up for it’s lack of clarity at times with higher megapixels, which work in some cases (at the expense of a much higher file size). Warning: when taking a lot of photos, the file-size of photos could become a concern as it affects loading time and time to sync.
LG 360 – Although favored by many folks for it’s high speed of capture (only 3 seconds per shot) and cost, it fares the worst in terms of both photo clarity and ability to handle darker areas while still maintaining clarity. It does work pretty well, however, in natural light. This type of camera is great for outdoor use, or when you want to capture quick, progress-type photos.
For more information on how to implement 360 photo documentation into your jobsite workflow, contact StructionSite today!