Create 360 Degree Panoramas with Photaf 3D

You’ve seen a panorama and thought, “cool,” “stunning,” or “beautiful”. But, you think it’s too hard to create one yourself. Well, you’re wrong. You can create complete 360 degree photo panoramas of an environment with Photaf 3D Panorama.

This type of photography works by taking multiple images at different positions and then stitching them together. Photaf takes half the job out of this by doing everything other than moving the handset for you.

The Idea

The idea of panoramic photography is to use a wide angle lens to capture an image with such a wide aspect ratio. This is normally done with specialist equipment and a “swing lens” whereby a camera rotates capturing a wider field of view.

Photaf takes a slightly different way of achieving similar results with segmentation. This is a process both on apps like these and on professional DSLRs, when the user takes multiple photos and the software stitches them together automatically.

Google Street View is an example of segmented panoramas.

Google Street View is a perfect example of this type of photography. The Google Street View car drives around taking photos at certain intervals. Google’s software then stitches them together for you to view online in your browser.

Introducing Photaf

Photaf uses this same segmented process by using your handset’s camera to capture photos. The intervals are determined by your phone’s accelerometer and by identifying the contents of the photo. Helpful arrows and spirit-level-style scales show you where to hold your phone to capture the next image. Photos can be taken either automatically or manually.

You must choose a starting point and then rotate the phone around (following the graphical instructions) taking pictures. Then, once you’ve came back to your starting point, simply hit “Stitch Images” and wait for your panorama to be made.

Photaf has a very simple user interface.

Photaf also allows you to share your newly-generated panoramas on the web via the Photaf website and gallery, and on Facebook. You can also use Android’s stock sharing feature to send via email and other networks. If you want to instead just view the panorama on your handset, you can navigate via the touch screen or by moving your phone around.

Compass mode is by far my favorite part of the app. Using the various sensors and connectivity built into your phone, you can navigate an existing panorama by just moving your phone. The interesting part is, the section that is displayed is actually the image you’d see if you were in that location!

Pro Version

Photaf also has a premium version with additional features charged at $3.99. The Pro version allows you to set panoramas as your phone’s live wallpaper (if your handset supports it), stitch together “HD” photos, capture images in portrait mode, and also import them into your phone’s gallery.

End Results

The end results of the panorama come out pretty well. Not all panoramas will come out great and some might be stitched together with chunks missing. If you want to use this for something other than the novelty factor, I suggest increasing the image quality by paying for the premium version.

Although the Photaf.com website doesn’t look anything more than a badly-designed blog, it does host a great Flash-based viewer for panoramas (both yours and your fellow users’). In fact, the full screen viewer is a great experience not unlike Google Street View. You can navigate them with your mouse or the soft buttons on the player itself.

A raw panorama (not 360 degree however) taken with Photaf in low light. (Click to view full image as exported from the app via email.)

Final Thoughts

Scan this QR code to download Photaf onto your phone (or click to go to the Android Market).

Photaf is an unpolished attempt at creating some cool photography effects and it does that fairly well. With the free version, you’ll definitely get a passable end result that’s fine to show off to your friend. The compass mode is the coolest feature, but it does feel more like a tech demo than a proper experience.

Nevertheless, the free version is great and it’s well worth a shot. If you enjoy using that, then it’s only four dollars to get the pro version and get better quality photos. There are a bunch of alternatives but the compass viewing mode in this one makes it my favorite.

There’s not much else to say after that. The Photaf.com website is a nice experience in the actual browsing, but maybe they should visit ThemeForest and get a new design. 😉


Summary

An unpolished but functional panoramic photography app that creates some interesting results.

6