As I see, it comes up regularly and it is not easy to answer, because it depends on the circumstances.
Free/OSS or commercial renderer? For production environment or for hobby? Easy/quick setup for custom shaders or using a ‘standard’ material library (like in case of archviz scenes)? Stills, animations or both? Do you want to learn renderers what are available on other platforms like Max?
You see what I mean.
Although I use Blender for more than a year and I tested several external renderers, my recommendation at least partially will be based on my 3ds Max background and experiences.
So here are my answers:
As a hobby you can use anything.
There are 2 things what comes up regularly on forums.
1. Blender Internal is fast and offers great quality.
Well, it is not true, except of specific usage. I use it for texture baking and as a ‘draft’ renderer when I model in Blender and it is usable for that.
But if you turn on reflections, it becomes slow like hell; the default (and also very outdated) 3ds Max scanline renderer is faster (even without reflections) 10-20 times than BI.
2. Cycles is fast.
Well, Cycles is a great rendering engine and it support really fast material editing as a the built-in renderer for Blender.
But on notebooks (I mean running it on Mobile GPU or on CPU) it is slow and I lack the ‘biased’ features from it (literally you have to spend the price of Vray for Blender for a decent GPU to use it effectively and you still will be bounded to the memory limits of your GPU.
If you need something serious and production proven stuff for archviz, try VRay. It costs money, but it is the industrial standard in archviz.
If you risk an alpha-stage renderer, I highly recommend Corona.
It is still free and offers great quality with incredible speed.
If you can, please support Joel’s dedicated work for Corona exporter for Blender (downloads are here).
I found Corona a few years ago as a promising 3rd party renderer for 3d Studio Max.
I made some really quick tests, but I was busy in that period, so I just decided to go back to their site regularly and I postponed ‘serious’ testing.
I never thought that I will make those tests with Blender a few years later.
Let me to be honest, through the years I got really tired because of the fact that so much 3rd party renderers are around without any new features.
There is simple no sense in this ; most of them are average in every aspect.
I would like to see development, not just the implementation of the next shitty-slow unbiased rendering algorithms without any additional value.
Otherways, offering the most common functions is not ‘real’ development either.
That is copying.
Except if it offers better workflow.
Speed. …. Speed, speed, speed.
One of the things I hate in my profession since I started it 20 years ago is that I have to wait for the renders.
My PC is f…ing nuclear reactor compared to the first one (Intel DX-2-66 with 32 MB of RAM) and I still have to wait.
VRay was the first renderer what gave me the feeling that I could have a good compromise between speed and quality.
And now I have the same feelings about Corona renderer.
It could be a game changer for Blender and it could be the strongest competitor of VRay for archviz.
As I told earlier, Cycles is not production ready yet and it is slow like hell.
For all my current Blender projects I use Blender Internal for quick renders.
But the last week I was able to play with the Corona renderer for Blender for a while; moreover I helped the development with some advices and tips.
Guys, Corona will be awesome!
Big thanx for Joel D, the developer of the exporter.
And I have to say that it is quite a loss that related to some legal issues around codes and open-sourcing the developer didn’t had a chance to integrate it INSIDE Blender.
Check the gallery here!
You can download and try Corona for Blender here.
Just a small test, do not take it too serious…
I didn’t pay too much attention on colors; the VRay render was over saturated, the Cycles ones needed additional saturation.
Unfortunately I was not able to test VRay on a ‘real usage’ resolution (it was a Maya demo).
If you are interested, visit this site!
Before starting a debate, first read this and this.
Let me to be more specific:
1. Slow GUI in general
Blender uses OpenGL for the GUI. It results good things and bad things.
The good: it has the same GUI on all platforms.
The bad and more important: the responsiveness of the GUI depends on your GPU.
What does it mean in practice?
I played a little bit with the Vray rendering engine for Blender.
Ok, I should be more specific: there is no something like ‘Vray for Blender’ officially from Chaosgroup.
There is a talented and devoted developer, Andrei Izrantcev, who put his efforts to tweak Blender and Vray Standalone (what is the command line version of Vray) to work together.
It a not a dedicated or almost completely integrated solution compared to the 3DS Max version, but for me it seams that pretty stable and usable.
I have to declare I didn’t measured speed compared to the Max version and I didn’t tested it in ‘real’ production environment. Yet.
I just set up a simple test scene with ‘real usage’ geometry.