A little different blog here, just reporting on something that blew me away this week…

I saw an amazing panorama of the Sydney Skyline on wired.com. Check out the original article here: Permalink

After being amazed at the photo, I checked out Autopano Pro .

It was, amazingly, available as a beta for the Mac, I was sure it was going to be another Windows only tool (it’s available for Windows as well, and Linux too!). The site claimed you just told it what directory to look at, and it would go find the panoramas itself, no placing them in order. And, it would adjust the exposure so things looked uniform. Big claims. Over the last couple years I’ve used a lot of tools to try to put panoramas together. Some did a reasonable job, all required some to a lot of manual adjustment, and even with all that, getting the colors uniform was so much effort, I just generally gave up.

I knew there were big dollar panorma packages for professional photographers, but hey, I’m a cheap hobbiest, and I initially wanted to put panoramas together so I wouldn’t have to buy a wide-angle lens (not that I could with my older digital snapshot camera anyway).

So, I downloaded it, figured I could try it, and toss it.

Well, I hardly ever gush about software. Some is good to great, I use iView Media Pro to organize my photos, for instance. It’s very, very nice. Klunky in several areas, at least the way I use it, but good, solid utilitarian software that does it’s job. Over time, new entrants like Adobe Lightroom show much promise, but aren’t 10x or more of an improvment. But, I’ve been doing computer software for several decades now, and I appreciate solid tools, but they don’t floor me unless they effectively do magic, and do something I need in exactly the way I need it, where others have fallen short for so long, I’ve come to expect only so much.

Autopano Pro floored me.

I pointed it at a couple directories. Literally in less than a minute, it went through hundreds of photos, figured out which were associated panoramas, and assembled them automatically. Some were horizontal, some were vertical, some were both, a mosaic. They were small panoramas, 4-10 shots at most. One of the mosaic pictures I’d spent several hours working on, when I first took it, trying to get the exposure and color to kind of match. I got it OK, but it had noticable “stripes” in several areas where I just couldn’t quite get the colors consistent.

Autopano Pro did a far, far superior job. Selecting an optimal perspective, doing an amazing job of actually picking the photos out and matching them up, and then balancing the colors way better than I had done. And, it did it in literally a couple minutes, for 30+ panos, or seconds per panorama.

Now, it’s not perfect, so don’t expect that it’ll take moderate source material and create flawless results. If pictures are perspectively misaligned, or out of focus, it’ll do it’s best. You may still have to do some manual tweeks to get the best results, and some pictures are simply not gonna match up perfectly. But, in terms of speed, and accuracy of results, this tops anything I was able to do, even given spending an hour or more on each photo.

So, unless I missed something since I last looked, Autopano Pro is a tool in a different category entirely than programs like panorama maker, or using Photoshop to assemble a panorama. The result one is looking for is the same, but the path there is the difference between sailing between continents, and flying.

It’s still in Beta for the Mac, and they’re charging 99 Euros for it. I’m still amazed at how well this works. I’ll be recommending it to anyone I talk to about digital photography now.

Blogged with Flock