The Difference Between PhotoView 360 and Visualize

Formerly known as Bunkspeed, SOLIDWORKS Visualize is a rendering software that you can receive with your on-subscription SOLIDWORKS Professional or Premium package (you can also receive it as a standalone package). Visualize is primarily used to create photo-realistic renders of 3D CAD models, essentially allowing the user to create images of models that look more like actual photos of the finished product rather than simple computer renders.



The way that Visualize achieves such realism in its renders lies in its usage of nVidia Iray, a GPU-based rendering engine that creates photo-realistic imagery by simulating the physical properties of light and how light interacts with different objects and materials.

That being said, SOLIDWORKS has had its own built-in rendering software: PhotoView 360, also only available in SOLIDWORKS Professional and Premium packages.



So what’s the difference between these two rendering solutions and when should you use one vs the other?


First off, let’s briefly talk about the capabilities of each:


PhotoView 360

PhotoView 360 is built straight into the UI of SOLIDWORKS, making its activation and use extremely easy. Just activate the add-in through Tools -> Add-ins, click on the “Render Tools” tab on your command manager and get to work.



From the Edit Scene and Options, you can change around multiple settings for your render like directional lights, rendering brightness, scene reflectivity, background environments, environment rotation, and much more. Furthermore, you can have an integrated preview window active, giving you a good idea of what your render will look like before you even perform it.

Not only that, but due to PhotoView’s integration into the SOLIDWORKS user interface, you can seamlessly switch from adjusting your rendering options to making geometric changes to your CAD model, without having to load or start new programs.



Visualize is its own standalone software and must be started outside of SOLIDWORKS.



Once Visualize is loaded in and active, you can do many of the same things in PhotoView 360, adding background scenes, textures, colors, directional lights, bloom, HDR, and animations.



Visualize also has the option for a user to simplify the UI using something called "Easy Mode". The simplistic UI of "Easy Mode" is such that even a user not well-versed in SOLIDWORKS has the ability to create lifelike renders of 3D CAD models quickly and intuitively, negating the need for complex training classes and extensive tutorials.


What’s the Difference?

Well let’s take a look at the difference between the rendering output capability of both PhotoView and Visualize. To do this, I’ve attached two renders, one from PhotoView and one from Visualize, of the same model with similar backgrounds.

The top image shows a render from PhotoView 360. The bottom image shows a render of the exact same model using SOLIDWORKS Visualize. Both renders are attempting to render the appearance of brushed steel, with floor reflections, floor shadows, using a 3 Point Faded Environment.




We can see that that Visualize render has much greater detail and texturing work than the Photoview render. Not only that, we can see that the floor reflections are softer and more realistic than the Photoview reflections, and that the brushing of the steel is much more visible in the Visualize render. Here’s the comparison of the images side by side:



So what can we conclude from this comparison?

First, that SOLIDWORKS Visualize does indeed create more photo-realistic renders than PhotoView 360. That being said, the time to complete even this relatively simple Visualize render on a fully certified machine took approximately 3x longer than the PhotoView 360 render (about 17 minutes compared to 5 minutes and 31 seconds). When utilizing more of the features that Visualize has to offer, full high resolution renders could take a considerable amount of time.

Second, considering PhotoView 360’s faster rendering time and full integration into the SOLIDWORKS UI, if you suspect that you’ll be making more changes to your model in the near future, it may be most efficient to simply use PhotoView to render quick images for the purpose of demonstration. Although Visualize does have the ability to update geometry based on changes to the originally imported model, it's easier to create renders that reflect major design changes to a SOLIDWORKS model from within PhotoView 360. These images that you’re creating may not be good enough for your marketing team or a sales pitch, but for basic proofs of concept, they may be just what you need.

Long story short, here’s some guidelines for you to consider when trying to decide whether to use one or the other:



PhotoView 360


Product Timeline

Still got quite a bit of time before release, more revisions are going to be made to the model

Product is pretty much finished. No significant changes will be made to the model

Render Quality

Needs to be indicative of what the end product will look like, but doesn’t have to be photorealistic.

Needs to be customer-facing, magazine, advertisement quality. The more realistic, the better.


For reference, giving the engineers and manufacturers a good idea of what the end product should look like.

Customer facing, marketing quality images.





Marketing Team





For more technical information on SOLIDWORKS Visualize, here are a list of articles from our Help Center:

Visualize 2020 System Requirements:

Visualize 2020 Installation Guide:

Visualize Boost Installation Guide:

Visualize Boost Configuration Guide:

Visualize Matrix (Standard vs Pro):

Visualize Professional Advantages:

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1 comment
  • This is a fantastic article, well done !


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