How to create quality 3D scans easily!

Hello !

Are you looking to produce quality 3D scans without taking hours? I found the tools that will allow you to create your first 3D models in no time.

This week I tested two really interesting photogrammetry software. Here is my feedback on the two software:

3DS Zephyr Logo

3DFlow 3DF Zephyr


Reality Capture Logo

Reality Capture

A few years ago I had made 3D scans with photos from my Android smartphone with the 123D catch application from Autodesk which was really not bad but which no longer exists since April 2017… Today there are a multitude photogrammetry applications on mobile. I have only been able to test Qlone, Scann3D and Trnio which allow you to make quick captures, with great ease. The resolution of the renderings is limited and for me this lacks advanced controls (in-app editing for example). However the latter (Trnio) is really very easy to use. That said, back to us sheep ^^

The quality + ease objective =)

So I looked for a 'better' solution to use better quality photos, a simplified process and qualitative results, in a minimum of time. For this test I chose our homemade bread (Thank you Linlin).

I first tried with a series of photos made with my Sony DSLR (SLR camera) then with my Xiaomi MI-9 phone (48Mp), in manual exposure to reduce light variations. Then I made a video clip in 4K, around the subject then, after having transferred it to the computer, I extracted an image every half-second to obtain 400 4K photos. This operation can be done automatically in each of the two software. And using 'only' 4K images is sufficient and less expensive to process. The advantage of using DSLR shots allows you to have several levels of exposure (HDR) to obtain a better generation of texture, without ambient occlusion.

Here is an overview of the images:

Images extraites du clip video 4K pour scans 3D facile
Images from the 4K video clip

If you don't have a lighting studio, an overcast outdoor sky works very well. I chose a non-glossy and non-transparent subject for our test. For a non-matte subject, we will prefer the use of a matrix / laser scanner.

Let's start with 3DF Zephyr:

Download the free version of the software that allows 3D scanning in one click and export your 3D file for free:

The free version is limited to 50 source images. This is more than enough for a simple volume. For large environments or architectures it will necessarily go through the paid version.

Here is the result obtained with the default settings:

For this result I therefore used 50 images, extracted from my 4K video clip. For the result, my goal is to produce a 3D file of 50,000 polygons maximum with a texture of 4096 pixels in order to be able to export it on the 3D content sharing platform: Sketchfab.

Scan 3D facile avec 3DF Zephyr (PC) - Generated Mesh
3DF Zephyr (PC) - Generated Mesh

I also tried the other presets without obtaining optimal results, more details could give more imperfections. With more images, results will necessarily be more precise.

Scan 3D facile avec 3DF Zephyr (PC) - Point cloud
3DF Zephyr (PC) - Point cloud

What I liked about 3DF Zephyr was the simplicity of the interface and the dialogs step by step. There is even a function that allows you to drag the images and get the 3D model in one click! In addition, the internal editing tools are very easy to use. Bonus: 3D mice are supported, very fluid for navigation in the viewport.

On the other hand: Reality Capture:

I invite you to download the free version in PPI license (Pay per input), that you can use all the functions of the software for free and that you only pay for the export of your optimized 3D file. This is paid in 'credits' (minimum purchase of 20$). In the present case I had to pay 9$ for the export, which is really not much. In addition, it is possible to make several modifications and redo different exports, as long as we use the same source image 'set'. ^^

Here is the result obtained by following the integrated tutorial:

In this second version, I was able to use the 400 images extracted from my 4K video clip because there is no limitation. However, be careful not to use too many images because the processing 'cost' would increase. I also tried with 50 images and found that the 3D recognition accuracy was slightly higher than that of 3DS Zephyr, for an equivalent processing time.

Scan 3D facile avec Reality Capture (PC) - Generated Mesh
Reality Capture (PC) - Generated Mesh

The interface is more complex and perhaps less intuitive, but the process is clearly identifiable. There is for me much more possible adjustment to refine the result. The series of videos available in addition to the in-app tutorial allows you to get started quickly. And a lot of good advices on photogrammetry.

Scan 3D facile avec Reality Capture (PC) - Camera path and origin picture
Reality Capture (PC) - Camera path and origin picture

What I really appreciated in Reality Capture is the different configurable tools to refine the surfaces, reduce the number of polygons, achieve an optimized texture development but above all made normal maps on the 'low-poly' model from the 'high-poly' model. This keeps the details on a simplified model i want to export for web display.

Here is my review on theses very promising applications. I couldn't test Metashape from AgiSoft which seems to be a serious rival. If someone uses it, please leave your comments.

Impatient to be able to perform new scans. I hope to be able to test very soon with a drone to scan buildings. The results produced on these two software are impressive!

Cool bonus: native export of the optimized model from the software to Sketchfab. Without having to open other 3D software or the Sketchfab upload page ^^.

Price quoted: 3DF Zephir exists in different versions (advanced features), from € 149 for the lite version to € 3,900 for the Aerial ? version, and there is a perpetual license with 1 year of support. For Reality Capture, in addition to the PPI license, you have monthly licenses from 249 € to 750 € / month or a perpetual license at 15,000 €. Photogrammetry is not my main activity, the basic versions suit me for the moment ^^.

I wanted to link the 2 pages for the video tutorials which are really well done for each of the two software:

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