More options than ever before!
Arguably the biggest factor in the adoption of Photogrammetry as a 3D scanning technique it the fact that necessary software has now become more accessible, powerful and affordable. Photogrammetry is inehrently tied to a software process – the algorith of mathcing the various images of an image, aligning them and then creating the point cloud and resulting mode.
Previously the availbel softwware options were both expensive and quite hard to use, and more importnantly necessitate considerably powerful computing hardware. But with the advent of both increased personal computing power, and cloud-based computing power, there are now options for desktop and mobile based photogrammetry.
What has also evolved are the bussiness models which software companies use. Historically such software was locked behind monolithic licences costing thousands which made them incaccesible to non-dedicated users. The popularity of modular licensing has changed this situation, with many software options being available on tiered licenses and pay as you go subsctiptions. Many also have free tiers which allow hobbyists and smaller organisations to get started and leverage these technologies for their purposes.
Choosing the best Photogrammetry software for your purposes
One of the main purposes of the Scannerbox project is to guide individuals and organisations in choosing the most appropriate photogrammetry software for their purposes and means. The following table summarises the options that we have tried and tested. As with most things there is a trade-off between cost and ease of use and performance. However the best software is not necessarily the most expensive! The options listed below all provide free trials – we would recommend evaluating each before making a decision.
|Name||Suitable for:||System||Output||Cost / Business Model||Demo/Test Available?||Notes||Link|
|3DF Zephyr||Objects and Environments||Windows||Model And Textures in common formats.||Tiered One-Time Licence Fee, from €150 to €3900||Yes - 14 Day Trial||https://www.3dflow.net/|
|Agisoft Metashape||Objects and Environments||Windows, MacOS, Linux||Model And Textures in common formats.||Standard (€150) and Professional (€3000)||Yes - Full functionality but cannot save result||Previously called Agisoft Photoscan. Consistently popular option.||https://www.agisoft.com/|
|Autodesk Recap||Objects and Environments||Windows||Model And Textures in common and proprietary formats.||Subscription based (€400 per year)||Yes - 30 Day Trial||https://www.autodesk.co.uk/products/recap/overview|
|COLMAP||Objects and Environments||Windows, MacOS, Linux||Point Cloud||Free||-||Scientific Focus||https://colmap.github.io/|
|Meshroom||Objects and Environments||Windows, Linux||Model And Textures in common formats.||Free||-||Comparable capabilities to commercial software.||https://alicevision.org/#meshroom|
|MicMac||Objects and Environments||Windows, MacOS, Linux||Model And Textures in common formats.||Free||-||https://micmac.ensg.eu/|
|Pix4D||Objects and Environments||Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS||Model And Textures in common formats.||One-Time Licence (€3990) or Subscription (€260 per month)||Yes - 15 Day Trial||Industrial Focus||https://www.pix4d.com/|
|Reality Capture||Objects and Environments||Windows||Model And Textures in common formats.||Flexible - Subscription or Pay-as-you-go||Yes||https://www.capturingreality.com/|
|VisualFSM||Objects and Environments||Windows, MacOS, Linux||N-View Match (NVM)||Free||-||Scientific Focus||http://ccwu.me/vsfm/|
Mobile-based photography software
There are several mobile apps available that promise the ability to create 3D models of objects using only your phone. They use on-screen guidance to capture the necessery images and upload the data to cloud services for processing.
While an appealing prospect, Scannerbox does not recommend the use of such apps for most applications. The first issue is that the resulting 3D scans are nowhere near the quality of those captured with stable cameras and processed correctly. Although it can be argued that in the future the technology will be on par. However the real issues stem from the business models of the mobile applications and the practical issues that stem from this.
First, as the apps rely on cloud based processing, they require internet connectivity which has to be very fast and reliable due to the large amounts of data that need to be uploaded from your mobile device. This can also lead to extra costs from your internet provides and also connectivity issues if you are planning to do 3D scanning in areas with poor internet coverage, as well as a long-term reliance on the company’s servers.
Similarly the second issue is that most of these applications employ service type business models that use subscription based or pay as you business models that can rapidly increase the costs of any project. And third there are serious considerations about the data privacy and copyright concerns of such approaches. Some companies proposed business models where any they provided scanning services for free, but in exchange they acquired the copyright of any images and 3D models produced.
For the above reasons we would not recommend using mobile based scanning apps and services are your primary method, however there can be valid use cases, such as the need to produce a lower fidelity scan of an enviroment for an in-field project. Some notable exmaples of apps include QLONE (https://www.qlone.pro/ ) and SCANN3D (http://www.smartmobilevision.com)