I’m playing with Cycles, and I’m quite disappointed, besides being dead slow, unless you apply some exaggerated effects, it doesn’t produce realistic images. Let’s say no DOF, CA, Vignetting, etc. Even though it’s possible to achieve a quite realistic results using other renderers.
I had a theory that all unbiased (>80%) renderers were very photorealistic, but now this theory just went downhill. After rendering an image for 24 hours it ended noise-free, but with too much gradients and exposure problems, it reminds me mental ray renderings from a decade ago.
Blender is an absolutely nice 3d app, its productivity for modelling is unbeatable imho (once you get used to the hotkeys), but a problem that it always had, since the old times, is the lack of a decent and decently integrated “high-tech” photorealistic renderer. Cycles is high-tech imo, it takes advantage of all the cutting edge technology, but for my needs it just doesn’t have quite the right approach, of course it’s the best renderer Blender ever had, and it’s very useful and a very valuable addition, but for architecture, it isn’t quite the thing.
Yafaray for example is more suitable for architecture, but it is very slow, in fact slower than Cycles depending on the scene. At the moment I’m sticking with Vray and Octane, but I’d really love to use an opensource renderer, but unfortunately at the moment none of them allows me to achieve a ‘marketable’ result. Compared to the industry standards Vray, Maxwell and Mental Ray, and recently iRay/VRayRT, plus the commercial ones like Indigo and Octane (and even the alpha Corona), no opensource renderer stands ground, Cycles is more comparable to Arnold if you want my opinion, not good with much indirect lighting and doesn’t produce stunning images, but somewhat decent, of course Cycles is way slower than Arnold though.
Blender has an extra problem also, on other 3d apps, most renderers are implemented as a plugin that has direct access to the scene, but for Blender you have to export the scene, what could take some minutes depending on how complex is the geometry.
I’m not telling that it’s not possible to achieve a good result using Cycles, of course it is, but you need to apply some heavy post-processing, a lot of coffee :), and you need to use the “physical” effects like CA and DOF, which are very valuable for “artistical” renderings, but for architectural visualization, we don’t rely on these effects to achieve a realistic result, in most cases these effects are very subtle and what makes the images look real are accurate models and materials and also a very good global illumination and some post-processing.
I’d like to hear experiences/thoughts on Cycles.