Smartphone apps make panoramic photos easier than ever
Yesterday I made a nice panoramic photo of a double rainbow as we were having a picnic and waiting for fireworks at a local park. The photo was made with my iPhone 4 using the 360 Panorama app. Making panoramas used to be something that required a tripod and computer stitching software, but because so many great apps are now available for iOS and Android phones, you always have a panoramic camera in your pocket.
Some apps make flat panos, some make interactive ones and still others make both. Listed below are some of my favorite apps for iOS and Android, starting with the one I used to make rainbow picture.
For iOS (iPhone, iPad 2, iPod Touch 4G)
360 Panorama by Occipital - This one is very easy to use. You just spin around and "paint" your pano as you go, using a grid for alignment. The stitching happens in real time and you can save flat panos to your camera roll or save and share interactive, 360-degree panos for viewing on a web site or Facebook wall. If your device is equipped with a gyro, the interactive panos make it seem as if you're in the spot where the pano was made. The app is $.99 with in-app purchases for premium features.
Pano by Debacle Software - This has been my favorite app for making flat panos for awhile. The Pano app let's you see part of the previous photo you made so you can line things up to make the next one. When you're all done, you hit the check mark button to stitch the photos and save the pano to your camera roll. It works really well for still objects but if people or things are moving around you can end up with some strange results, like having the same person in the final photo more than once. Pano is $1.99.
Dermandar - This app has been out for several weeks and I haven't been able to try it because I'm currently running the iOS 5 beta on my iPhone and the app is not compatible. I just tried it with my iPod, however, and wow! This may be my new iOS favorite. To use it, you hold your iOS device vertically, press the camera button and turn around, watching as these Ying and Yang pieces fit together. When that happens, the app makes the next picture for you and you keep turning until done. When you reach 360 degrees it stops and starts stitching automatically and if you want to stop sooner, just press the camera button again. You can save flat panos or an interactive ones, share them on social media sites and embed them on web pages. Here's one I just made on my street:
There also is a social media aspect to the Demandar app, with sharing and viewing of interactive panos from within the app and the ability to find popular panos and ones that were made near your current location. Very cool stuff!
360 by VTCreator - This app also is very easy to use for making flat and interactive panos. Like some of the iOS apps, you just move around and the pano is "painted" on your screen. It has two features I really like, The first is the ability to choose between indoor and outdoor panos, which changes the light sensitivity. The second cool feature is a circle indicating how far around you've gone when doing a 360 pano. The app has a public stream of panoramas taken all over the world. Flat panos are stored on your phone's SD card and interactive panos can be shared through Facebook, Twitter and viewed on the VTCreator web site. The one thing I noticed about this app is that it doesn't seem to work very well indoors but for panos outside in good light it works fine. Click here for a sample. The app is free.
Photoaf 3D Panorama - This is the best Android panorama app I've found and it's rated four stars in the Android Market. You can make your panos in auto or manual mode, with the app detecting overlap areas and making each shot in auto mode. A thumbnail of the previous shot appears in the lower, left corner of the screen to help you line things up. One unique feature of this app is the inclusion of horizontal and vertical bubble levels on the screen to help with orientation to the landscape. Stitching is automatic and you can save your flat pano to the phone's SD card or share the interactive version on Facebook or view it on the Photoaf web site. There is a free version of the app and the Pro version ($4.89) adds HD mode, the ability to set your pano as live wallpaper and portrait-mode capability when shooting. Here's a beach scene from the Photoaf site:
These are all great choices on both platforms so check them out, make some panos and send me some links to your creations so I can share them here!