Blender Cycles vs V-Ray - Which one is better?
V-Ray is so far the most popular rendering software, and thanks to Andrei Izrantciev also known as bdancer, you can use for free a seperate Blender build prepared especially for V-Ray Standalone.
About V-Ray for Cycles users
I want you to know that V-Ray in Blender has 4 Global Illumination rendering algorithms, and a quality and speed of rendering depends on them. V-Ray allows to choose a different algorithim for primary bounces, and a different one for secondary bounces.
- Mostly used algorithms are:
- Irradiance map & Light cache – best quality / speed ratio
- Brute force & Light cache
- Brute force & Brute force – highest quality, works similar to Blender Cycles
Scene 1 - Interior
For cycles I've set 500 samples and the rendering was done on CPU after 1h, 16 min and 40s. On the GPU the render was ready after 26 min. V-Ray however was tested only on CPU and the rendering of the scene took 11m and 46s, but the fur had lost details. Rendering scene with brute force and light cache took 24min and 39s, buti n this case fur is detailed, and the rendering was done 3 times faster than Cycles on CPU and there is even less noise.
I didn't make tests on GPU, although V-Ray supports rendering on Graphics Cards, but advanced materials aren't displayed correctly.
Scene 2 - Lawn
The second tested scene was a lawn.
For cycles, I've set 300 samples. With Depth of Field, the rendering was finished after 18 minutes and 1second. Without Depth of Field the render was ready after 17 minutes and 46 seconds. V-Ray with DoF turned on, done the rendering after 13 minutes and 28 seconds, but for V-Ray with DoF turned off, it was 3 minutes and 37 seconds. As you can see, rendering DoF in V-Ray is pretty slow and many users of V-Ray prefer adding DoF in post processing because of it.
Scene 3 - Tree
In this case, Cycles finished rendering after 8 minutes and 16 seconds with 150 samples. V-Ray did it after 5m 44s.
Scene 4 - BMW
The last tested scene was the popular BMW model created by Mike Pan. Both engines finished rendering after similar time. For Cycles it was 6 minutes and 47 seconds, and for V-Ray it was 6 minutes and 13 seconds. This scene shows weaknesses of both render engines. Cycles produce more noise on glass, and V-Ray's DoF algorithm is much slower.
Whenever you have to render a swimming pool, or a glass object, caustics will make your scene much more realistic. V-Ray can render them and also glass dispersion, which allows to achieve a cool rainbow effect. I've tried to create something similar in Cycles, but physically correct caustics hadn't been implemented yet.
Another feature missing in Cycles, is a tool like V-Ray proxy, which allows to use a simplify version of models in the viewport, and during exporting scene to V-Ray, they’re replaced with high poly equivalents. This simple tool allows to create very large scenes, which without V-Ray proxies couldn't been done. V-Ray proxies make Blender faster, because they decrease memory usage, and Blender don't have to work with large amount of data. 10D: This is especially noticeable, when scene require more memory than RAM is available, and Blender use your slower hard drive disk or SSD, to store information. Blender works also faster, because file is very small. File size impact on Blender's responsivness, because autosave freeze Blender notoriously, and it becomes annoying when your file is bigger than 500MB. What's more, Blender immediately export scene to V-Ray when you're using proxies, and this is helpfull, if your scene contains bilions of polygons, because waiting 5 minuts to get first results, finding out that something was wrong, and waiting another minute to cancel the rendering, is really annoying in Cycles.
The main feature Cycles has and V-Ray doesn't is a viewport rendering. Realtime update isn't supported by V-Ray Standalone, but Andrei Izrantciev uploaded a video, where viewport rendering works, however he used a special version of V-Ray for developers, and for some reason this video is private. I think Chaosgroup is working on V-Ray for Blender, and as every other V-Ray for specific software, price might be higher than Standalone version.
Creating materials in V-Ray and in Cycles is similar. It's based on nodes, but they're less user-friendly than in Cycles. Almost every node contains plenty of options, and even more in properties menu. Many options repeat almost in every node, and they're not very important. They're making nodes much taller than they could be. Also there is a seperation between color and float data and for each type are different nodes.
In Cycles adjusting quality depends pretty much on one slider. V-Ray contains much more options but if you know around 10 most important options, you are able to optimize V-Ray for almost every scene.
V-Ray Standalone costs €250 and also you have to buy a V-Ray dongle which costs another €30, whereas Cycles is free. You migh think that V-Ray Standalone is expensive, but check the prices of 3ds max and V-Ray for 3ds-max.
”Should I buy V-Ray?”
If you wanna make architecture visualizations for living, or work in 3D industry, consider buying V-Ray. If 3D graphics is only your hobby, I recommend staying with Cycles.