What are the technical differences between F12 render and viewport preview render, if any?

This is all the documentation I could find about Cycles viewport rendering:

interactive rendering can be started by setting a 3D view editor to draw mode Rendered. The render will keep updating as material and object modifications are done.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ To add to ideasman42's answer, you should note that if you're using progressive sampling, the amount of samples has two different settings, one for the viewport preview render and another for the F12 render. $\endgroup$ Sep 6 '13 at 0:44

The differences between render operator and viewport render are that the viewport render has:

Blender Internal




Note: I'm not sure if this list is complete, these may not be the only differences.

  • $\begingroup$ panorama works in the viewport for me.. (for cycles) $\endgroup$
    – gandalf3
    Sep 6 '13 at 0:01
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps include that (for cycles) it doesn't render in tiles? $\endgroup$
    – Greg Zaal
    Sep 7 '13 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ IIRC, the viewport preview also doesn't do full GI (for Cycles), it does something similar to the Direct Lighting preset. Can anyone confirm? $\endgroup$
    – Matt
    Dec 17 '13 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ I've even seen that at least BI ignores texture repeat, if I turn it off in the texture settings, it still repeats in the viewport, but does not in the render operator output. $\endgroup$
    – Ray
    Mar 18 '15 at 9:52
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    $\begingroup$ @DebugErr GLSL preview and Rendering have many minor differences. GLSL preview is an approximation at best. $\endgroup$
    – ideasman42
    Mar 19 '15 at 19:33

Not sure it classifies as purely technical but there are different flags that control if objects are visible in the view and in render. Hiding it in the view doesn't hide it in the render. This has bitten me more than once when I sent out preview test renders from viewport preview.

And of course the resolution is dependent on the viewport resolution when doing preview.

  • $\begingroup$ While correct - the question is whats different in preview-render to render-operator, in this case both use same hiding options. $\endgroup$
    – ideasman42
    Sep 7 '13 at 21:14

The big difference is:
when use F12 Render, blender engine will render your scene using your settings(like motion blur,mist, complicated light and effects) ignoring your hardware limitation, blender engine will draw your scene(very slow ...very quick...not matter.. will draw it).

When use viewport rendering, blender is limited to hardware limitation and OpenGL abilities which blender uses it.

You can render your scene by blender engine or Viewport rendering, but to get same result, you need to use many tricks in viewport rendering mode to get same result of rendering by F12.

F12: Easy Design, Slow Rendering(depends on your hardware and scene).
View port Render: Hard Design, Very fast rendering(it's big and wonderful challenge)
cute scenes BY viewport rendering

  • $\begingroup$ This question is asking about the differences between the F12 render and the F12-like render in the viewport (Shift Z). Not the opengl view, but the interactive render. I apologize for the confusion.. $\endgroup$
    – gandalf3
    Apr 17 '16 at 19:09

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