Panoramic photography is a new technology that seems to mystify a lot of people, mostly because it is hard to achieve by the average home photographer. The iPhone has been screaming for an app that will employ this technique, but with the kind of user simplicity that has marked the majority of iPhone applications. Today, 360 Panorama was released for the iPhone, and it brings this type of full range photography into the practical realm.
The key to panoramic photography is taking many pictures, and then “stitching” them together into one seamless, wide-angle image. What 360 Panorama does well is that it performs the stitching process in real time. You begin with 360 Panorama by touching the screen, and then moving the camera along a track, which will then start building a final image along a globe-like grid. The globe that is constructing the image will respond to the motions of the camera, in an effort to (hopefully) build a panoramic photo.
Every part of this sounds fantastic in theory, but the difficulty happens when you are actually trying to create a panoramic photo with it.
So to some degree, expectations for the app were about right. You have to pan the camera in one smooth motion to achieve the best results. If you do not, you end up with lots of overlap or incomplete pictures that are just worthless.
Actually, because of the new gyroscope on the iPhone 4, it is very easy to pan in one smooth motion and get a good quality panorama. Keep in mind that the whole stitching is happening in real time; to make the process “instantaneous,” the app takes and stitches lower resolution images. The end result is a panoramic image which is only about 200K in size. If you look closer at the image, the stitching is flawless, but the resolution leaves a lot to be desired.
It’s clear that Panorama 360’s developers focused on real time stitching for the first version of the app. To that end, they have succeeded. We only hope that users can get more options in the future versions: higher resolution, post processing (like Clear Cam), and integrated manual stitching.
On a final note: this app comes from developers of the RedLaser app (recently bought by eBay), which has improved over time and become the iPhone’s de facto standard for barcode scanning. We can only hope that the same will happen to 360 Panorama, since it has a ton of potential.
For only US$2.99, Panorama 360 really does deliver what it promises. We actually had a debate going about what to rate the app: from a purely functional standpoint, we though the app merited only a 3 out of 5, but when it came to the whole real-time, auto-stitching panorama technology, we really were blown away. So our final rating is 4 out of 5, with the hope that the app will only improve.