Panorama Stitching and the sloppy photographer.

Started Mar 8, 2004 | Discussions thread
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MissMouse Senior Member • Posts: 1,797
Panorama Stitching and the sloppy photographer.

The older one get the less equipment they will be willing to carry. This means most of the time I will not have a tripod and pano head available to use. Any images I take to be stitch together will contain parallax errors.

Sloppy photographers need stitching software that can cope with these errors and still produce excellent results. I tested three programs using six hand held images of a marina I took while on vacation last year in New Zealand. The three programs I used were Panorama Factory, Panorama Tools and Photoshop CS Photomerge. And the winners are:

For ease of use and speed the hands down winner Panorama Factory.
For best results and low cost the hands down winner Panorama Tools.
For the most frustrating the hands down winner Photoshop CS Photomerge.

Panorama Factory did a very good job was simple to use and was fast. Panorama Factory was able to automatic stitch a 360 degree panorama that I took using a cheap tripod that I was unable to stitch with Panorama Tools. Because I hand hold most of my Panos there is usually some ghosting in Panorama Factory seams. There may be some way to correct this ghosting Panorama Factory has a lot of manual feature I have not bothered to learn. Its automatic wizard mode is so easy to use there is nothing to learn and when the high resolution stitched image is scaled down for web viewing the ghosting will not be noticeable.

Photoshop CS Photoshop had no trouble aligning the images and it can create a layered PSD file without layer mask but these layers can not be aligned any better then Photmerge did and the layers are not blended easily. It is easer to just use Photomerge advanced blending option and not create a layered file. I played with it's perspective and cylinder modes and found the setting of the vanishing point is a joke. It seem you can only select one of the images to be the image the vanishing point is in and for some of the images Photomerge will fail. IMO Photomerge controls are primitive and crude. I tried many times to get a result I would be willing to use. Some were better then others but after a while Photomerg started having program problems and would terminate. I exited Photoshop and restarted but Photomerge would still fail and terminate, had to exit Photoshop restart and press Ctrl-Alt-Shift to have Photoshop reset its preferences to get Photomerge to function again. Photomerge does not have any setting or control for lens focal length and has no requirement that the images contain exif data so how does it figure out how to transform the images not very well that is how.

Panorama Tools has a morph feature that will supposedly warp images to correct parallax errors. I have never had to use this feature because you can have Panorama Tools Create a layered Photoshop PSD file with layer mask. Most of these errors can be fixed by adjusting the layer mask without having to have Panorama tools distort the images. On occasion I have used a little cloning to help disguise some errors. Maybe someday I will try the morph feature. I have to admit that Panorama Tools by them self requires so much effort to learn how to use them that I gave up trying. Instead I use a third party GUI front end to them that ease their use. There are three low cost GUI available PTGUI, PTassembler and a third for the Mac. I tried both window version and can report both are excellent. I chose to buy PTassembler by Max Lyons if you have never seen his Web site you should visit his Digital Image Gallery he uses a long lens to capture the images he wants to stitch and produced some truly high resolution images. His gigapixel image stitched from 196 images was on display at the PMA show. Somehow he must have found a way to print it.

Panorama Tools is freeware and all that is needed. However if you want ease of use they need a low cost GUI front which changes free to cheap. But if you want best results Photoshop is required not low cost. Photoshop is worth the price and can enhance the stitched image more then Panorama Tools alone. Photoshop has many applications and if Photoshop is already your Digital Darkroom and you want to stitch some images opt for Panorama tools for Photomerge is a toy compared to them.

In my test the all three programs were able to produced a high resolution stitched image form my six images. Each stitched image when trimmed to the maximum rectangle without raged edges had a different resolution. The largest PTassembler Panorama Tools 7658x2649 resized for here 1600x553 the smallest Panorama Factory 7422x2242 resized for here to 1600x483 and Photomerge Normal mode 7636x2431 resized for here to 1600x509. I do not think you will be able to pick out the seams in the top two PTassembler Panorama Tools and Panorama Factory. The panoramas are followed by 100% crops of the visible seams seen in the high resolution images. Ghosting in the Panorama Factory image and crude seams in the Photomerge image. There were no visible seams in the PTassembler Panorama Tools image. The high resolution images can be seen using this link if you have a high seed internet connection. do not attempt if you have dial up.

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