Which 360 Camera is Best for Real Estate Virtual Tours (2021)?

13th January 2021

If a picture speaks a thousand words, then a 360 photo is the whole book. There is no better way to visualise the internal area of any real estate than with an interactive 360 photo, and now it’s possible for anyone to shoot super-high quality 360 photos for real estate. Virtual tours are becoming an increasingly popular tool for realtors to show off their most impressive listings, but how easy is it to create these VR tours and what camera should you use?

There are now dozens of all-in-one 360 cameras that make shooting 360 photo and video extremely simple, but if you’re not familiar with the product category you may find it hard to choose the right one. Thankfully I’ve used an tested pretty much all 360 cameras and I can tell you now that you only need to choose between two.

The Two 360 Cameras Most Suitable for Real Estate Virtual Tours (Updated May 2020):

Best Quality: Ricoh Theta Z1

1 Inch Sensors | RAW Files | HDR auto Bracketing | DSLR Quality Images

Available on Amazon

Cheaper Option: Insta360 One R

23MP Photos | 5.7K Video | RAW Images | Auto Bracketed Images | Lower Quality Sensors

Available from Insta360 Website

Why these cameras you ask? They each have specific features that make them excellent for taking photos and a few others that make creating virtual tours easier too. Most other 360 cameras focus heavily on video, which is great, but not really important when creating virtual tours for real estate.

In this post you’ll see example images shot with a variety of cameras; this will allow you to see the quality you can expect from them. You can also improve photo quality if you are proficient at editing.

At the end of this post you’ll see an example shot with a DSLR 360 panorama rig. DSLR panoramic rigs were traditionally how 360 photos were created prior to the all-in-one devices. These rigs are quite expensive, require a lot of shooting and editing time and need specialist software, however the quality is excellent if you get it right.

Can the all-in-one cameras like the Ricoh Theta Z11 match up to the DSRL panoramic rig in terms of quality? Probably not, but creating a virtual tour with one takes far, far less time and is do-able for anyone who knows how to work a smartphone. Let’s have a look at those comparisons between the different systems, their positives, negatives and total cost.


Ricoh Theta Z1

Difficult: Medium

Price : $$$$

Time for Each Panorama: 15 Mins

Equipment Required: Ricoh Theta Z1 Camera, Tripod

Software Required: Adobe Lightroom

Example 360 Photo: 


The Ricoh Theta Z1 is the perfect all in one 360 camera for shooting virtual tours right now. It features two 1 inch sensors which are far superior to the low quality smaller sensors used in other 360 cameras. The Z1 can also shoot in RAW DNG allowing for greater editing potential, Ricoh have even developed a plugin for Lightroom to allow you to stitch and edit in one program. You also have the option of automatic HDR which requires even less editing but still produces great results.

The Theta Z1 is powerful enough to be used in even the most challenging conditions and the results rival that of some DSLR’s. You do have to pay a premium price for the Z1 but I think its worth it if you want the best quality with the lowest learning curve.

  • High Quality 360 Photos
  • Easy to Use
  • Auto HDR Mode
  • One Inch Sensors Superior
  • Lighroom Plugin

  • Expensive

Buy Now


QooCam 8K

Difficult: Medium

Price : $$$

Time for Each Panorama: 5 Mins

Equipment Required: QooCam 8K, Tripod

Software Required: QooCam Studio, Kandao Raw +, Photoshop/Lightroom 


The QooCam 8K is the first consumer 360 camera that can shoot 8K resolution video. While this is impressive it doesn’t help those who want to create virtual tours with 360 photos. Thankfully the QooCam is also a bit of a powerhouse when it comes to shooting photos.

The QooCam 8K can shoot DNG 8 photos with excellent results. This mode stacks 8 DNG photos together to create very high dynamic range images that look great in virtually all types of lighting. This mode will allow you to capture more detail than ever and avoid over exposed light areas.

Working with these file types can be a bit tricky and you’ll need to download a special desktop program to combine all the images together. You may also need a program like Photoshop of Lightroom for the finishing touches, but within a few minutes your 360 images should be ready for uploading to a virtual tour.

The QooCam features larger sensors than most consumer 360 cameras which allows it to capture more detail and avoid blurred images. Compared to the Theta Z1 the QooCam doesn’t match up in terms of hardware but it does have more shooting options and an easier workflow.

Buy Now


Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere

Difficult: Medium

Price : $$

Time for Each Panorama: 15 Mins

Equipment Required: Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere Camera, Tripod

Software Required: Adobe Lightroom

Example 360 Photo: 


The Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere is a fairly cheap 360 camera that can shoot impressive 24 megapixel images. The camera has been widely praised for its photo taking abilities which is why it’s one of the two options for shooting real estate virtual tours. The Mi Sphere shoots 360 photos with just the tap of a button and no manual stitching is required.

The above photo was created using three separate images, shot with the bracketing mode feature on the camera. This mode forces the Mi Sphere to shoot a dark, normal and bright image, you then combine them to create an overall superior quality panorama. Unfortunately the camera itself can’t combine the images together, so you’ll need to do this manually with a program like lightroom.

The quality of the image is a downgrade from the DSLR rig and there is some blurriness in the background, but overall it does a decent job and someone who is a better editor than me could easily make this a much more dynamic image, but again this is more editing time.  For just over $200 the Mi Sphere is certainly the most cost effective way to create indoor virtual tours.

  • Cheap
  • Easy to Use
  • Bracketing Option
  • High Resolution Image

  • Some Blurriness
  • Less Dynamic
  • Merging of Photos Needs External Software

Ricoh Theta V

Difficult: Easy

Price : $$$

Time for Each Panorama: 5 Minutes

Equipment Required: Ricoh Theta V, Tripod

Software Required: None

Example 360 Photo: 


I chose the Ricoh Theta V as one of my options for real estate virtual tours because of its excellent photography credentials. The Theta V is the latest in a long line of 360 camera from Ricoh but it’s showing its age. The Theta V utilises technology usually found in DSLR’s that enable it to capture more detail accurately.

The most important feature on this camera is the auto HDR photo mode, this allows you to combine three separate images into a single one at the push of a button. You won’t need any extra software or to do anything manually, which makes the Theta V the easiest camera to use out of the three tested here.

The example image, produced by the Theta V using the auto-HDR mode is actually very impressive considering the price of the camera. The photo is dynamic, colorful. vibrant with hardly any blurring or stitching errors. I’d say the image quality is superior to the Mi Sphere but not quite as good as its more expensive brother the Theta Z1.

  • Great Looking Images
  • No Extra Software Required
  • Very Easy to Use
  • 4K Video

  • Camera Unit Fairly Expensive


DSLR Panorama Rig

Difficult: Hard

Price : $$$$$

Time for Each Panorama: 30 mins +

Equipment Required: DSLR, Wide Angel Lens, Tripod, Panoramic Tripod Head

Software Required: Adobe Lightroom, Stitching Program (PTGui) 

Example 360 Photo: 


The quality of the image is undoubted, not to mention the brightness and colour accuracy. DLSR rigs allow you to create such high quality panoramas because the lenses are very good at capturing light and detail. You are also taking 8-10 separate photos and manually stitching them into a single one, which means there is no loss of quality.

Some drawbacks to this, apart from the large amount of time it takes, is that there can be stitching errors visible in the image. You can spot a few here if you look carefully, for example at the bottom of the door. These errors are caused when you haven’t quite lined up two images properly, most of the time they can be fixed but require you to spend more time in editing. If you have a lot of photos to take in your tour, you could find yourself spending hours editing and stitching images together.

To achieve this you’ll need to invest in some software packages, particularly a stitching program such as PTGui. This along with the price of the equipment makes this an expensive as well as time consuming way to shoot real estate virtual tours, but certainly produces the best results. For this shot I used a Samyang Fish Eye Lens, which is actually one of the cheaper fish eye lenses suitable for 360 photography.

  • Highest Quality Image
  • Not Overexposed or blurred

  • Time Intensive
  • Requires Skill to Get Right
  • Expensive
  • Tripod More Visible
  • No Video Option

Buy Now


So which 360 camera is the best for real estate virtual tours? It depends what you want to achieve. If you need to absolute best quality then you’ll still need to use a DLSR rig. If you can sacrifice a bit of quality, then the Ricoh Theta V is an excellent option that will save you a huge amount of time. If cost is an issue then the Mi Sphere will do a decent job for a very low price.

If I had to choose, I’d pick the Ricoh Theta V as an excellent compromise between quality, time taken and price. You can get the Theta V from Amazon for around $429 and it can also shoot 4K 360 video.

No matter which camera you choose, the investment will be worth it. I’ve had countless enquiries from real estate agents asking about 360 photo, video and virtual tours and I think it’s going to become a standard part of the industry within the next few years.


See Also: How to Start a Virtual Tour Business 

Owner of threesixtycameras.com. Writer, photographer and videographer. You can see my YouTube channel for guides of how to shoot 360 video. I've written for The Times, Digital Photography School and Sunday Express. 

  1. Hey 360guy, sooo looking at the Mi vs the Ricoh, im surprised to see the Mi’s spherical being softer than the Theta?

    But if one want to take the next step up. whats the most impressive 1-click spherical files?


  2. What would be the best camara for 360 videos??

    I got into real estate 360 virtual tour thanks to you, since I am on the budget I was lucky to get me a Ricoh Theta S (older model) for $150.00, for pictures still good. Now i need more clients to save some bucks to get a better camera that can take 360 videos for indoor low lights and outdoor sports such as biking.

    Thanks looking forward to hear from you soon.

    Keep the good work.

  3. Which program can I use to make a final virtual tour with Ricoh Theta V?

  4. Awesome article, thank you for taking the time. I’m getting ready to enter the real estate market in Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island and want a way to make my future clients listings really stand out. With my technical background and the affordable cost of these 360 cameras it seems like a good move. The Ricoh Theta V seems like a good bet for my needs. Do you have any better recommendations now that this article is several months old?

  5. Hi, what about Matterport camera? What is your opinion? I am interested in buying it.

  6. I’m looking at the Matterport samples. They allow you to travel/surf through a building or apartment to view the entire building instead of just doing a 360 view. Are the cameras you review on this post able to do the same thing? If so is it a lot more work than if I just purchased a Matterport?

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