Pano is an app that lets you create seamless panoramic photos using just your mobile device. There are other apps that seems to do the same thing, but Pano seems to stand out among the crowd. It has been available only for iPhone and iPod Touch, until now; the folks at Debacle Software let us test drive the newly-released Android port before it came out, and I am definitely impressed.
I think the key is the “deliciously simple interface” as the team puts it. There are minimal bells and whistles and no distractions. The process of creating your panoramas is simple and intuitive. Each panoramic photo can include up to sixteen images, which gives you a resolution of up to 6800×800.
This award-winning iPhone app was selected by Apple as one of the “Best Apps of 2009” and has received thousands of positive reviews from users around the world. When they say “award-winning,” they aren’t kidding:
- Selected by Apple as one of their “Best Apps of 2009”
- Selected by Apple in 2010 as one of the “App Store Essentials Hall of Fame”
- Awarded “Best Photography App” in Best App Ever Awards.
- Awarded a Top Pick in O’Reilly’s “Best iPhone Apps”
- Selected by iLounge as one of their “100 Essential iPhone Apps”
The Deliciously Simple Interface
There is actually not much to discuss about Pano’s interface, which I consider a feature. With the version we got to play with, all you get is the camera viewfinder and three buttons across the bottom:
- Camera Rotation: this button lets you switch the camera angle between portrait and landscape.
- Take Photo: once you’ve lined up your shot, use this button to capture your next image.
- Done: this button, marked with a check mark, gives you the option to let Pano know you’re done snapping photos and ready for it to do its magic to merge and create your panoramic photo. You can also choose Resume Shooting if you need to add more frames.
- Geotagging: don’t bother tapping your Menu button looking for the settings because there are none. All you get while snapping your images is the option to toggle geotagging, so that your photos can include location information.
A banner across the top of the screen reminds you to take your next photo, counting up from 1 to 16, the maximum number you can add for each panoramic photo. Again, if you’ve taken all the photos you need to take and have no need to create an epic 360-degree snapshot of your surroundings, hit the check mark on the bottom right (or top right, if in landscape mode) to begin processing.
Taking Beautiful, Seamless Panoramic Photos
The interface for Pano is dead simple, but there is a certain technique involved in getting the photos just right. As you can imagine, taking a bunch of photos with a hand-held camera and stitching them together to form one continuous image requires a bit of work, both on the photographer’s part in capturing the images and on the software’s part with the post-processing. Pano provides a handy-dandy semi-transparent guide that helps you line up each shot perfectly.
After you snap your first shot, you’ll see a translucent after-image along the left side of your screen. Line this up as you snap your next shot. This guide follows you as you progress through your images, giving you a way to make sure everything lines up in the end. Much easier to understand than some other methods I’ve seen, but does bring its own set of problems.
If you don’t have a steady hand, you can run into problems getting things lined up exactly. Depending on your scenery, it may be difficult to get things even as you can rotate your phone left to right and also tilt forward and backwards. Also, if you happen to catch a solid surface or pattern on the right edge of a capture, it will be impossible to line up exactly as you’ll have just destroyed your reference point.
There are more advanced methods of ensuring the photo is lined up properly, but they would definitely clutter the interface and make things a bit more confusing. If the Pano team did add features to help in this area, I would hope they would be tucked away in a set of advanced settings.
Regardless, even if you’re shaking like a leaf and can’t hold your phone straight, Pano’s advanced alignment, blending, and colour-correction algorithms make up for it. In the worst conditions, I was still able to get an image that was seamless, and you could barely tell where I tilted at an odd angle for no apparent reason.
Sharing Your Work
Once you’ve got your panoramic photos just right, it’s time to share with the world. Why would you be taking them otherwise, right? Pano makes sharing your photos a snap. Once all the processing magic is complete, you’re given a screen with three more buttons:
- Tips: this links you to the Pano FAQ, which gives you a few basic tips to taking the best images.
- Share: this integrates with the standard Android sharing options.
- Take Another: create another awesome panoramic photo.
I did run into a few quirks with sharing. In some instances and with some apps, the image isn’t actually attached or sent to the app you’re sharing to. I couldn’t figure out whether this was an issue with Pano, the other apps, or some limitation in Android, but luckily, Pano automatically saves your new panoramas to your gallery. From there, you can share and send as usual.
Pano is a great app if you’re looking for a simple way to create panoramic photos. It’s easy to use and does an excellent job of stitching your images together. It also brings a polished user interface that will be an excellent addition to the Android Market. I give Pano a 9 out 10, for the minor issue with sharing and an ocassional bug in the rendering of the preview pane (although these are possibly fixed in the Market-released version).