The Iris wilts
I’ve been waiting over four months for the NCTech Iris 360 ($1,999 USD). I hoped to find a 360º camera that I could use to replace the manual process of shooting 24 exposures for a single panorama. This would allow me to speed up the virtual tour shoots and cover a lot more ground. The Iris 360 did not live up to my expectations.
My decision to try the NCTech 360 was based on the following research:
- it’s the only single-shot camera approved for Google Street View Virtual Tours
- it was suppose to outperform the Matterport camera ($5000) in outdoor photography
- in order to shoot more Google Street View Virtual Tours, I need the speed of a single shot camera
If the Iris outperforms the Matterport (outdoors), I can’t imagine what it looks like. In direct sunlight, the Iris was horrible. Compared with my iPhone 6S (8704 × 4352 pixels), it was a #2, on a ten scale. The resolution across the board is bad despite the pixel equivalent of the iPhone. Outdoors it did better in overcast, but the hue was typically on the blue side.
Four feet from the front door of my first virtual business tour shoot, the photo was so blurry you couldn’t read the stores hours of operation (in full zoom). I was certain I must have been shipped a defective camera, so I sent the full resolution file (8000 × 4000 .jpg) to their technical support. I did receive a prompt response, but was told that the photo sphere was typical for the Iris.
I consulted with another photographer, and we ran some tests over a range of manual settings. The auto mode did as well as any combination of shutter speeds and ISO ranges we tried (no f stops). The only advantage we could see with the Iris, was seamless photo stitching and speed.
The Iris has it’s place if you need an easy to use quick pano. It also has a cool app that interfaces with your smart phone via Wifi (device to device). You can control the capture with the app and also set it with a timer. An SD card is required and not included. The returned cost to the U.K. was $235 (shipping UPS with $2000 insurance). You have two weeks to return the Iris from the date of delivery.
I was looking forward to the speed the single shot would offer, but there is at least one advantage to a manually shot panorama: if someone walks into the scene, you can wait for them to move, and continue the shoot. There are times when you just can’t avoid moving parts in your photographic crosshairs.
This virtual tour includes shots from the iPhone 6S and the new NCTech Iris 360. The 6S was not used with a wide angle lens, so any object closer than 10 to 15 feet tends to get distorted (parallax error). Notice in photo sphere #4 the clarity, especially when you zoom in. This image took considerable retouching in Photoshop to correct parallax, and still needs more work.
Note: get the full screen experience by clicking the icon in the lower left of the video frame. The center arrows advance from location to location. A zoom option is available also for reading the historical signage. Some markers are embedded in the floating icons.
Below: screen shot comparison from the same point (zoomed in about 50%)
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