The 3D reconstruction of real-world heritage objects using either a laser scanner or 3D modelling software is typically expensive and requires a high level of expertise. Image-based 3D modelling software, on the other hand, offers a cheaper alternative, which can handle this task with relative ease. There also exists free and open source (FOSS) software, with the potential to deliver quality data for heritage documentation purposes. However, contemporary academic discourse seldom presents survey-based feature lists or a critical inspection of potential production pipelines, nor typically provides direction and guidance for non-experts who are interested in learning, developing and sharing 3D content on a restricted budget. To address the above issues, a set of FOSS were studied based on their offered features, workflow, 3D processing time and accuracy. Two datasets have been used to compare and evaluate the FOSS applications based on the point clouds they produced. The average deviation to ground truth data produced by a commercial software application (Metashape, formerly called PhotoScan) was used and measured with CloudCompare software. 3D reconstructions generated from FOSS produce promising results, with significant accuracy, and are easy to use. We believe this investigation will help non-expert users to understand the photogrammetry and select the most suitable software for producing image-based 3D models at low cost for visualisation and presentation purposes.
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