Daiwa House Group is a major house builder established in 1955 with 59 offices in Japan. They have been using RICOH’s virtual tour creation service THETA 360.biz* with THETA 360-degree cameras since February 2020.

We spoke with Mr. Kishimoto of the Condominium Business Division of Daiwa House Group, who supports sales of new condominiums via the internet. We asked him to try out the newly released THETA X and asked his impressions of the THETA V and THETA Z1 he typically uses for shooting real estates.

*A virtual tour service available only in Japan.

Active use of the virtual tour service in sales

How does Daiwa House Group utilize the THETA 360.biz virtual tour service?

Unlike DSLR cameras, RICOH THETA is a 360-degree camera that anyone can use to take pictures with ease, so of course our sales staff use it regularly. THETA 360.biz allows users to create virtual tours by importing the THETA data, and has an easy-to-understand user interface that makes content creation simple and painless, improving business efficiency.

Our virtual tours are used in a variety of situations depending on our sales staff, such as on our website for condo listings, in emails to customers, and for those who have difficulty visiting our properties for various reasons.

Which THETA models do your sales staff typically use?

Right after the corona pandemic began in 2020, we received a request from some of our branches that they want to do sales using virtual tours, so we purchased one THETA V and one stand for each sales office, while I use a THETA Z1.

Impressions of THETA X

What did you think of THETA X when you tried it out?

I found it very easy to use, as we can change settings and check images on the large touch screen, just like on a smartphone. I was also surprised at how good the Wi-Fi connectivity is with a smartphone.

Sales staff often contacted us saying that they have trouble connecting their smartphones to THETA. Now we feel THETA X has made it easy to connect to Wi-Fi.

Comparing THETA X to the previous models, which did you find easier to use?

By far, THETA X is easier! For someone who has never seen a 360-degree camera before, it’s tricky to visualize how to take a 360-degree photo when you just hand them THETA.

THETA X is equipped with a large touch screen that allows users to immediately view 360-degree images on the body in preview mode before shooting, and to quickly check the playback after shooting. This makes it very easy to explain how to take 360-degree images to sales staff who are new to THETA.

I would certainly recommend THETA X to people who are just getting into 360-degree cameras for the first time.

Shot by THETA X and THETA V

THETA X also features a battery that is now interchangeable. What do you think about it?

We didn’t need a replacement battery for today’s shoot, but it is useful to have a replacement battery. I noticed that if I keep shooting with THETA X connected to my smartphone via Wi-Fi, the battery drains faster.

Still, I actually always carry a portable battery pack even with THETA Z1, so I used it to charge the THETA X this time as well.

About THETA X image quality

What’s your impression of the image quality when actually shooting buildings and interiors with THETA X?

I always use HDR when I photograph a property. I was surprised at how different the quality of THETA X’s HDR image is when compared to THETA V. The images taken with THETA X show the view of the trees outside the window and look much clearer and higher resolution.

THETA X also features less “purple fringing,” a chromatic aberration that often occurs when shooting with THETA V and other cameras, in which window frames and other objects turn purple.

Indeed, the purple fringing of window frames was a concern with V. Looking at images taken with THETA X, it is easy to see the difference.

Also, the THETA X image shows the border between doors clearly with high resolution, while the THETA V image of the same area shows no clear lines even when zoomed in.

How were the HDR images shot with THETA X?

The colors of the THETA X images were more consistent between the view through the window and the interior, making them more natural compared to the THETA V images.

In fact, one of my concerns with the THETA V images was the red ball ghosting that occurs when the camera is exposed to strong light, such as sunlight. It also occurs in the harsh light typically found just inside the front entrance of homes and I am often asked if I could erase it. It is so time-consuming and difficult to remove the ghosting using editing apps.

Red ball ghosting tends to occur with 360-degree cameras, but thanks to improvements in the optics, it has been suppressed with THETA X, just as it was with THETA Z1.

One of the things that impressed me the most when I first used THETA Z1 was the lack of red ball ghosting. The same goes for THETA X, allowing me to take clear shots even indoors.

THETA X now comes standard with the “Time-Shift” function. It allows photographers to take pictures without being in the shot, even while standing next to THETA, by shooting with a delay for each lens. Have you tried this function already while shooting indoors?

When shooting in apartments, there is usually somewhere I can stand out of frame, so I always hide and shoot remotely from the smartphone app. For example today, there are lights in many places in the room, and I thought there might be a possibility of my shadow being in frame when using Time-Shift, so I hid for each shot.

However, I sometimes shoot on the balcony, and if it’s windy, there is a risk of the tripod tipping over. In such cases, it is safe and convenient to use the Time-Shift function so that we can stay very close to the tripod while shooting.

Please refer below YouTube for Time Shift shooting.

Differences from THETA Z1

You also own THETA Z1. What differences did you notice between the two?

I think THETA Z1 is the best after all when it comes to image quality. Z1 image quality is superior in all situations overall. I once shot indoors while the property was still under construction with only natural light, and I could feel THETA Z1 stood out with its one-inch sensor in such a scene. THETA Z1 shows great performance even in dimly lit scenes.

With V, I was concerned about the roughness of the image in dark scenes, but I don’t feel it in Z1 and X. Compared to V and SC2, I think the image quality of both Z1 and X is outstanding.

If you had to choose between THETA X and THETA Z1, which would you recommend?

For people who are new to 360-degree cameras, I think THETA X would be better because its large touch screen allows you to use it like a smartphone. If you are sharing THETA with several people, for example in a sales office, some of them may not be familiar with such devices. THETA X would also be better in such cases because it is easier for everyone to use.

And for those who are used to using a camera and need the best image quality, I would recommend THETA Z1, and also for those who are dealing with luxury real estate. When we shoot luxury properties it’s comparable to 3D virtual tours, which are becoming more and more common, and I think the 360-degree images taken with THETA Z1 measure up very well to 3D virtual tours.

Future Potential of Virtual Tour Services

How do you think the use of virtual tours will progress in the real estate industry after the pandemic?

I believe that virtual tours will remain the main content for attracting customers in the real estate industry. The pandemic has led to the enhancement of information online, and more and more customers are coming to the location after thoroughly researching the property in advance, including via virtual tours. In the past, our tendency was to show as little content online as possible in order to encourage customers to visit. However, the situation has changed due to the pandemic and it led us to the realization that showing a lot of content, such as 360-degree virtual tours, generates a greater response from customers and makes it easier to have business discussions with them after they visit properties.

This realization was a major turning point for us, and we have made significant changes in the way we present our website.

We are glad to hear that! Well, thank you very much and we hope virtual tours and THETA will support your business effectively!