Vertical solutions for creating spherical HDR’s for lighting in 3D can run in the thousands. There are cheeper solutions using a DSLR and software to stitch and create the images needed. There is also another simple and low cost solution as brought up by Story 2 Pixel’s Perry Patterson.
This is an affordable solution to create your own HDRI’s for any 3d application, using the Kodak SP360.
Perry shows how you can use a low-cost 360° camera from kodak that will allow you to take bracketed images that are already in the “dome” format needed. Then it is just a matter of processing the images in Photoshop to create a usable HDRI for an IBL that can be used for lighting 3D scenes, or as an environment backdrop, or both.
The Kodak SP360 is a GoPro-like consumer camera that has a super wide 360° lens on it. The camera runs a few hundred dollars, which is really inexpensive, if you want to create your own HDRI content.