360-Degree Cameras for Age of Virtual Listings

Find out how emerging technology in photography and video can be put to use in your real estate business.

February 29, 2016

The latest advancements in camera technology are all about improved wireless mobility and creating immersive experiences. Two innovations particularly useful for real estate include the groundswell of 360-degree cameras and the development of low-energy Bluetooth connectivity from camera to mobile device.

The latest 360-degree cameras are in the same vein as the $4,500 Matterport Pro 3D Camera, a highly popular option for real estate photography. But the price tag of 3-D video and photography is coming down significantly, and new “spherical photography” camera models are taking a mobile-first approach.

  • The Ricoh Theta S is a stick-shaped, handheld device with two ultrawide fisheye lenses that can take still photos or record full HD video. Imagine being able to show an entire room to a client from your iPad. You can even stream live 360-degree video using the dedicated smartphone app — perfect for showing properties to out-of-town buyers or investors. Mount the Ricoh Theta S for better exposure. The device comes with 8 GB of memory, which is sufficient storage for about an hour of video. Cost: $350.
  • Another camera option that offers an endless field of view is the 360fly. Think of it as Google Street View for video, but instead of inching along by moving the image with your finger or mouse, you use the 360fly app and move your phone as if it’s a 360-degree window into what’s recorded. This single ball-shaped camera with an ultrawide fisheye lens can be mounted almost anywhere — or even attached to yourself to capture an immersive home or neighborhood tour — and the video can be shared instantly on social media. Cost: $399.99.
  • The V.360 is another HD 360-degree camera with a companion app that allows you to edit and export JPG and MP4 files compatible with the YouTube 360 format (allowing the viewer to pan left or right to see the full view); they can also be shared on other social sites. V.360 is compatible with GoPro mounts and can also be used as a videoconferencing camera or security device. Cost: $449.
  • Samsung is expected to release its virtual-reality camera, called the Gear 360, in the second quarter of this year, made specifically for Galaxy smartphones. It looks like a Ping-Pong ball with a fisheye lens on either side and includes a micro SD slot and micro USB port. It can also be mounted on a tripod or on your car. Capture a neighborhood or a new development in 4K resolution. It’s also capable of time-lapse videos or still photography. Cost: Not yet available. (Samsung also makes a virtual reality headset for its Galaxy phones for $99.99.)
  • Nikon is also diving into the virtual-reality video market with its soon-to-be released Keymission 360. Previewed at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Nikon’s price and release date are still under wraps, but this waterproof camera (take it underwater up to 100 feet) uses dual fisheye lenses to produce immersive 4K HD video and still images. View a sample video below.

Bluetooth LE Cameras

Tired of sharing poor-quality smartphone photos? Wish there was a faster way to upload and share your listing photos right from your DSLR? The development of low-energy Bluetooth DSLR cameras will take connectivity to the next level.

Yes, camera manufacturers have been offering Wi-Fi connectivity on DSLRs and point-and-shoot models for years. But Bluetooth LE offers greater range than the Wi-Fi–enabled cameras, using less battery power and providing higher data transfer speeds than previous versions of Bluetooth.

Nikon unveiled its new Bluetooth software called SnapBridge at CES 2016. It will eventually be a standard feature in most Nikon cameras. The SnapBridge technology is included in the new Nikon D500 DSLR camera, for example, so that the user can transfer images from the camera to a smart device in real time. The other benefit of SnapBridge is once the mobile application is installed, you can automatically and consciously transfer images and video to your mobile device without having to reconnect each time. Up to five devices can be paired with a camera. The SnapBridge app also works as a remote, so you can shoot from your phone, control the self-timer, zoom, and adjust camera settings.

Not in the market for a new DSLR but still want a faster way to transfer files? San Diego–based Alpine Labs has created a Bluetooth LE device called Pulse that can wirelessly link most Nikon or Canon DSLR or mirrorless cameras with a mobile device. The product launched through a Kickstarter campaign that raised $1.1 million — well above the company’s original $500,000 goal. The credit card–sized device plugs into your camera’s USB port and fits in a camera’s hot shoe. The Bluetooth LE signal has a range of 100 feet, allowing you to send images wirelessly to your phone in real time. The companion app allows you to change all your camera settings remotely, start and stop video, and set a time-lapse shot. The device is currently on preorder for $89 with an estimated ship date of April 2016.