Anything New Here?

Panoramic photography has been around for a while. In fact, the first recorded panoramic photo was a hand stitched scene by Joseph Puchberger in Austria in 1843 (below).

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In September 2012 Apple added the panorama feature to its standard camera app in iOS6, so it is fair to say that they haven’t come up with anything new, but nor do they proclaim to.  But what Apple does have a habit of doing is taking something that has been around for a while and adapting it really well. Examples would be ‘copy and paste’ introduced in iOS3, and multitasking in iOS4, both of which Apple’s competitors had been using for a long time. Not to mention other product lines, like the revolutionary idea of a mouse for a computer back in the 70s (borrowed from Xerox), and even OSX itself (which is just a rewrite of Unix). Love them or hate them Apple do it very well.

Panorama In Paris

So back to the new Panorama mode… I was in Paris last week and this posed a good opportunity to take a few nice photos. I had actually taken both my iPhone5 and a compact digital camera but found myself using my iPhone5 almost entirely due its quick snaps and the fun of the Panorama mode.

It’s worth mentioning that Panorama mode is only compatible with the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, and the fifth generation iPod touch running iOS6 or later, another Apple habit I won’t go into now.

I had been using the Panorama mode for a few days and got some lovely wide angle shots of the Parisian streets and monuments, but while taking photos of Notre Dame I wondered how iOS would work with panoramic shot that went vertically rather than horizontally. The panoramic shots on iOS are meant to be taken right to left or left to right while holding the phone in portrait.

This is what I found. Below is a standard image of Notre Dame, and as you can see, I struggled to get all of the building in.

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If I worked right from ground level to the sky I would get some ‘interesting’, mostly awful, photos (as below), with squashed bodies and floating legs. This was because of the way iOS splits the screen in two vertically down the long edge (hidden to the user) and uses this to determine the change in shot, a position from which to stitch, which works well when the phone is in portrait moving horizontally. But this caused havoc if flipped on its side as half the subject had moved out by the time I had moved up for the next frame... hence the floating legs and missing body.

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But if I started with the first shot containing anything that could move and subsequent frames containing only a static subject then the iOS stitch method wouldn’t get it wrong and I could get a lot of building for my photo. See below.

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You do have to make sure that you follow the guide arrow otherwise you end up changing the laws of perspective.

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Also remember the closer you are to the subject the more noticeable the change in perspective becomes, but done right even this can in itself can be fun to play with.


Note: the building and street in this picture are actually straight and not curved.

So I realise that this could be construed as a bit of a misuse of the iOS Panorama mode and the photography purists out there will be shouting at the screen right now at the very idea, but either way its a lot of fun and produces some interesting photos.

Panoramic Apps

This method of panoramic photography appears more limiting with its guide and 240 degrees of capture but in my opinion it is far better than a lot of the other panoramic apps available in the App Store. Other apps, even with their 360 degrees of capture, are let down by a poor stitching and leave you with less than square photos that aren’t really a lot use. I would say that it’s this progressive capture, and some clever Apple software trickery, that gives iOS its superior seamless panoramic photos.

Apple’s other tradition and perhaps a part of their success, is taking something and making it so simple that anyone can do it. This is certainly the case here. If you stick to Apple’s handy stability arrow you can very quickly take panoramic shots and leave with a nice photos that might even make it out of the printer.

Have A Go!

Below are the steps to get started with your panoramic adventure:

Step 1: Open the Camera app on your device. Step 2: At the top click on “Options”. Step 3: Next, tap on the “Panorama” option. Step 4: Tap the camera icon at the bottom of the Camera app and slowly follow the arrow across to keep a stable, straight image. Trust me the better your steady hand the better iOS will stitch it together for you.

Why not give it a go yourself and tweet us with how you get on @unravellingtech.

Written By: Jonathan Ford