Photography tools

Why 360-degree cameras are essential tools for construction professionals

Article sponsored by RICOH.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the way we live and work, throwing us into a world of digital entertainment, socializing, shopping and working almost instantly.

Many industries, including the construction market, have quickly integrated new technologies and changed workflows to operate virtually. A technological innovation that has gained popularity during the pandemic has been the use of 360-degree cameras to document job sites and showcase completed projects via virtual tours.

The benefits of 360 degree photography

360 degree cameras use two fisheye lenses to capture the entire environment around the camera with just one click, resulting in high-quality, immersive images and videos. These compact cameras are easy to pack and feature preset shooting modes and simple interfaces, making them ideal for photographers of all skill levels.

Let’s explore how contractors are integrating 360 degree cameras into their workflow and the benefits of using these handy tools throughout the project.

Survey plots of land

Before launching a new project, Japanese architect Waka Kimizuka studies the plot of land using an advanced 360-degree camera model, the THETA Z1. By attaching his camera to an extendable monopod, he can get a vantage point from a range of higher elevations to assess various sights and the surrounding landscape in the surroundings.

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Document construction progress

Once the foundation is poured and construction begins, Franco Albarran, architect and founder of Texas-based Albarran Architects, finds 360-degree photography most useful for documenting the construction phase prior to drywall coverage, when all mechanical components of walls and ceilings are exposed.

It uses the THETA SC2 for Business, a mid-range model designed specifically for professional use, to fully document mechanical components such as HVAC ductwork, plumbing lines, and electrical wiring, in case they need be repaired in the future. Knowing where these mechanical components are keeps you from having to cut into drywall blindly or accidentally nail them.

Another challenge Albarran faces when photographing construction sites: lighting. Lighting is usually not yet installed in the pre-drywall phase, resulting in dark spaces that are difficult to photograph. But the THETA SC2 for Business offers a ROOM preset mode, which is an HDR mode that automatically compensates for the difference in brightness between indoors and outdoors. Using this mode, Albarran was able to capture bright, crisp, high-resolution images with ease.

Before and after: capturing renovations

When it comes to renovations, Kimizuka uses 360 degree images to assess the structure of the building. He first checks the structure of the building – usually from the attic or basement – to see if there are any columns that can be removed. He notes that these areas can be difficult to photograph, as they are often dark, but the THETA Z1 has a variety of settings and the ability to shoot in RAW, which produces images with more light and less noise.

Kimizuka notes that he prefers his 360-degree camera to a DSLR or smartphone because he’s unable to capture everything in one image, which means he might miss important design details. But with THETA, he can easily capture the whole scene, saving him from making costly mistakes.

Share progress and collaborate with teams

To help contractors through all phases of a project’s lifecycle, RICOH THETA has developed a proprietary platform that digitizes the entire construction site. RICOH360 Projects allows teams to upload, organize and share 360-degree images taken on the jobsite in one transparent platform. Team members can then collaborate and comment directly on the 360-degree images on what changes need to be made, reducing the number of trips around the site.

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Besides, there are many other ways to share 360° images with free apps and services. RICOH THETA offers an official PC application (RICOH THETA for Windows and Mac) to view and share. Google services are also compatible with THETA and offer a simple sharing platform.

Choosing the Best 360 Degree Camera

So which 360 degree camera should you buy? For construction professionals, there are a few key features to consider: ease of use and image quality.

In March 2022, a new camera will hit the market, designed for construction professionals: the RICOH THETA X.

A first in the RICOH THETA 360-degree camera line, THETA X is equipped with a large 2.25-inch color touchscreen that allows the THETA X to be used without the aid of a smartphone, which makes it easy to use. THETA X also supports battery and memory card replacement, enabling efficient and reliable shooting in any situation. THETA X has a compact and lightweight body in a sleek metallic gray finish that can be easily carried anywhere and delivers high-resolution image quality equivalent to up to approximately 60 megapixels (output pixel).

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To learn more about how 360 degree cameras can streamline your workflow, visit