Panoramic alternatives – iPhones and more

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I like panoramic photos.  We’ve all been to many places where the view is so grand it doesn’t fit into a single frame.  Sometimes you can’t capture what your eyes see with one camera exposure.  So I started stitching panoramas together.  My first few were way back in the film era (1999 or 2000).  When I started using digital cameras, panoramas became easier and I’ve made many more since then.   They help me avoid “tunnel vision” and show more of a scene.  They’re also an excellent way to capture an image with a huge number of pixels – which allows for very large prints.

I often include panos in this blog.  When I checked today, there are 33 different posts (over 10%) that are tagged “panorama”, including my very first one from May of 2007.  For some panorama examples, look at this set of over 100 images on Flickr.

San Francisco panorama from Twin Peaks

May 2007:  View of San Francisco from Twin Peaks (6389 x 3110 pixels)

I’ve learned quite a bit about how to make panos, and in August of this year, I shared info on how I usually process them.  That was a description of the detailed workflow I use to make the best quality image I can.  It can be time consuming and requires care in capture as well as post processing.  But if you put in the effort, the results are very good – and the files are much bigger than from a single frame.  Here’s a recent example:

City at twilight
September 2013: Chicago skyline at twilight (11,175 x 4706 pixels)

But it turns out that my way isn’t the only way to make panos.  There’s a much easier way to make them – here’s an example:

Underneath the bridge over the St. John's River by the old bridge and railroad trestle
October 2013: Underneath the bridge over the St. John’s River by the old bridge and railroad trestle (7908 x 2692 pixels)

I made this pano with my phone.  It’s not as large (2692 pixels on the short side compared to 4706), but you probably couldn’t tell much of a difference in quality unless you pixel peep.  Using my phone is easier and if something is easier, people will do more of it – and more panos means better memories.

iPhones have had a built-in panorama mode for a while, and the latest versions bring a lot of processing power into it.  The iPhone 5S does automagic adjustment of exposure across the frame, and stitches the results together in real-time as you sweep your phone.  The results are fairly large files, and the quality is surprisingly good.

Here’s one more recent iPhone panorama example and proof of the saying that the best camera is the one you have with you:

Interior panorame of the Roman Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheatre)

November 2013:  Interior panorama of the Roman Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheatre) – Photo by MK Rosack (used with permission)

Lets compare making panoramas on a phone with a multi-photo approach.  I’ll use the iPhone 5S for this – your phone may be different.

iPhone 5S Multi-Photo
Capture convenience Very high – you always have it with you Low – You need to plan for it and carry your gear
Quickness High – End result available very quickly.  And can post right from the phone. Low – Need to get home and run your software
Processing flexibility Low – Done by the camera; Can adjust jpg result High – Adjustments can be made throughout each processing step
Processing difficulty Low – Done by the camera;  Some amount of touch up may be needed May be High, depending on software and source images
Raw capture No – jpg only Yes
Output size Medium – Short dimension a max of 2448 pixels High – DSLRs typically higher resolution than iPhone and you can make multiple rows if desired

So, should you use your phone for panoramas?  Yes!

Should you always use your phone for panoramas? Not quite yet.

Phones are getting better all the time.  And they’re getting better faster than cameras are getting better.  Sooner or later, most people won’t want or need a dedicated camera.  Right now I think phones are “good enough” in many cases, especially if you think about the trade-off between output quality and ease of use.   For panoramas, the ease of use and convenience allows many people to make photos they otherwise wouldn’t.  In my case, if I don’t have any other camera with me, I’m sure going to use my phone.  But if I want the best quality image possible, I’ll still use my stand alone cameras when possible.  Check again in a few years – the answers may be different.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some panoramas!  And don’t forget your phone!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

About Ed Rosack

I live in Central Florida and enjoy exploring the area. I'm interested in nature and wildlife photography - and many other things. I'm the chief reporter, lead writer, managing editor, main photographer, and publisher of the Central Florida Photo Ops website hosted at www.edrosack.com. You can also see more of my photos on my Flickr stream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/

2 thoughts on “Panoramic alternatives – iPhones and more

  1. Interesting! We aren’t mobile phone users and I’m astonished at the quality of panorama achievable with an iPhone! And I guess they’ll offer RAW, etc, before too long! After a disaster a month ago of putting down my heavyish camera and macro lens on a bench in the garden, and forgetting about it while attending to fallen leaves, and then having a rainstorm happen before I remembered it again (aaaagh :() I’m thinking iPhones are so much easier to pocket!

    1. Oh my, Rhona – I’m so sorry about your camera. I can only imagine how bad you must have felt. I hope you’re able to get it repaired or replaced – I really enjoy seeing your photos on Flickr.

      I forget that not everyone has a mobile phone. We gave up our land lines and have been using only mobile phones for years. The technology is amazing and getting better.

      Ed

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