Apple's new iOS 6 Camera app makes Panorama capture easy

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Apple unveiled iOS 6's ability to easily capture high quality, panoramic images in its new Camera app, but it doesn't directly compete with the features of standalone pano apps.

Apple's iPhone Camera app was rumored to gain panorama capture last year after an unfinished version of the new feature was discovered in iOS 5, but it never made the cut for release, until now.

Like iOS 4's HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode, the new Panorama feature in iOS 6 isn't available on the iPad; it's also computationally demanding enough to require at least a dual core processor A5, meaning it only works on the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S and the newly released fifth generation iPod touch.

Also like HDR, Apple's super simple Panorama feature is a one-button mode (below) that changes how the Camera app captures an image. Rather than rapidly taking multiple images and processing them together as HDR does, turning on Panorama invokes a mode that guides you along a path, capturing and processing the images along it into a single, balanced, seamless panoramic image.



Below are two highly compressed iOS 6 Panorama images taken from the top of Corona Heights in the middle of San Francisco, one taken starting from downtown and wrapping around to Sutro Tower and the other starting and finishing at the opposite end points (note that you can only capture in one direction, from left to right).




To indicate how much these images been shrunk down to fit on this page, here's an 800 pixel slice of the top image as outlined by the white box, showing the level of detail in the original 10,800x2332 Panorama.

Panorama mode works to smooth out exposure differences, and it works much better than trying to take individual captures and manually edit them together later. If your subject has very bright and very dark subjects, however, you might need to set the AutoFocus/AutoExposure lock by touching and holding at a particular location along your capture path before you begin taking the Panorama.

Both the shots above were taken while standing on a rough outcropping of rock, buffeted by a very ridiculous wind. Even in such conditions, there are rarely any discernible seams or overlapping flaws unless your subject is moving quickly.

If you're really sloppy handed when capturing, you might see black spaces encroaching your pano from the top and bottom, as is visible below, or other motion-based glitches similar to the artifacts that can appear when capturing HDR shots. (Note that these images are scaled down and highly compressed from 16.8MB down to about 61K to fit on the page.)


Not your typical pano

The built in Panorama capture process in iOS 6 is quite a bit simpler (and also more limited) when compared to dedicated pano-capture apps. A number of third party apps already offer to capture panoramic images on any iOS device, and most offer a variety of features Apple's new built in Panorama feature does not match.



The highly rated 360 Panorama app by Occipital, for example, can capture full immersive images (above, the resulting image was originally less than 1MB and a much lower 4096x883 resolution compared to Apple's new Panoramas) that users can subsequently pan up, down and around (manually with a finger, or using the gyroscope) to view the image in a full circle from a central virtual vantage point (below), reminiscent of Apple's abandoned QuickTime VR technology from the mid 1990s.



The app also renders a "North Pole" stereographic view (below) of captured panos, and lets users upload them to a sharing site for further processing and enhancement.



Note that the app is capable of capturing much better images than these quick examples when correctly panned up and down to fill in the entire "grid" available in its capture mode (below).



Despite introducing immersive, surround imaging capture and presentation nearly 20 years ago with QTVR, Apple's new Panorama feature only captures a maximum field of view of 240 degrees. That's wider than the typical human field of view of about 180 degrees, but certainly not a full circle as most pano apps do.

Rather than reclaiming its abandoned QTVR effort to help users capture immersive worlds or purposely obsolescing the variety of apps designed to capture dynamic "everything" views of particular location, the new Panorama feature in iOS 6 has a different goal in mind.

Going wide, shooting tall

Instead of creating immersive QTVR movies, the iOS 6 Camera app simply captures huge, stunning conventional photographs. And it does so with remarkable ease, guiding the user's pace and trajectory with an arrow indicator driven by the built-in digital compass and gyroscope.

While existing pano apps stitch together a patchwork of images that reach up and down and around in a full circle that's best viewed as a dynamic, interactive movie-like view, Apple's new Panorama feature incrementally captures and outputs up to a 28 megapixel 10,800x2332 resolution image that is suited for printing, Facebook Cover images and inclusion into photo books.

Despite being limited to 240 degree views, the resulting Panorama images capture views wider (or taller) than is possible with even the most extreme wide angle lens, even wider than a typical fisheye lens (but without the distortion).

So rather than thinking of the new feature as a limited QTVR pano, it's more accurate to describe it as "virtual" wide angle lens that makes it easy to capture either spectacular horizons or dramatically tall figures (like buildings, below) that simply won't fit into a normal camera's field of view, but without the optical distortion of a fisheye lens.

Panorama processing vs. a wide angle lens

Apple has continually upgraded the iPhone's optics with each generation, significantly widening the picture that can be taken with it. However, there are still very real constraints on the angle of view a compact smartphone can capture.

One option to widen the field of view is to add an external lens, which a number of third parties offer. Olloclip, for example, is a friction-fit, double sided external lens device that fits either a closeup Macro lens, a Wide Angle or a 180 degree Fisheye lens (which just by itself is considerably thicker than the iPhone).

These lenses allow you to capture more with each shot, although they involve some (or in the case of the Fisheye, a lot of) distortion. They also do nothing to enhance the iPhone's native capture resolution. They can, however, be used in both photo and video modes, enabling the capture of a variety of creative shots.

Below, photos of the Golden Gate Bridge captured with the standard iPhone 4S lens, then with external wide angle and fisheye lenses, and finally an iOS 6 Panorama from the same location.









Below, the same series of shots taken from the highest southwest corner of San Francisco's Dolores Park.









The new Panorama mode only captures static images, and takes longer to do so. You also have to have a moderately steady hand and your subject has to remain relatively still. As with taking HDR shots, moving subjects may simply disappear or be clipped partially out of existence, as the bicyclist who passed while this Panorama of the Embarcadero was being captured.



The detail captured in iOS 6 Panorama shots (in contrast to adding external lenses) allows you zoom in or crop images after you've taken them, sort of like the opposite of Digital Zoom. You also don't have to carry around any external lens package, as Panorama does all of its magic in software.

If you're feeling really creative you can capture Panoramas with a wide angle or fisheye external lens attached, resulting in some really unique shots. Outfitted with a fisheye lens, Panorama mode captures even more than 360 degrees to create really strange images.

There's another fun trick the Panorama mode can capture, which is detailed in in the next segment.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 53
    How did Dilger get an iPhone 5 so soon?
  • Reply 2 of 53
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,166member
    How did Dilger get an iPhone 5 so soon?

    The feature is available in iOS 6 on the iPhone 4S as well. So all 4S users will get it on Wednesday.
  • Reply 3 of 53
    You said "note that you can only capture in one direction, from left to right" but this is incorrect. Tap the arrow before you tap the capture button and it changes direction.
  • Reply 4 of 53
    feynmanfeynman Posts: 1,087member
    So iPhone 4 users do not get Panorama?
  • Reply 5 of 53

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feynman View Post



    So iPhone 4 users do not get Panorama?


    Correct.

  • Reply 6 of 53


    Originally Posted by Feynman View Post

    So iPhone 4 users do not get Panorama?


     


    Right.

  • Reply 7 of 53
    I like the fact of taking the panorama in the vertical orientation...
  • Reply 8 of 53
    Sounds like I need to work out a better refresh schedule. I originally had a 3g which was upgradable to iOS 4, but not so pleasantly. I then got a 4 (3g went to the wife) and it sounds like many of the cool features of iOS 6 will be left out on the 4 :(

    Just not sure at this point if I want to stay with ATT or not.

    Panorama would be nice when we go on hikes in the mountains or when we're on vacation.
  • Reply 9 of 53

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheUnfetteredMind View Post





    Panorama would be nice when we go on hikes in the mountains or when we're on vacation.


     


    You can always try one of the third-party apps.

  • Reply 10 of 53

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheHecta View Post


     


    You can always try one of the third-party apps.





    True. Of course with the newer phones you get the better cameras as well (and the other features of iOS 6 like turn-by-turn, which of course I could also pay for via third party apps, but then you're into the cost of a new subsidized phone that is much faster, etc).


     


    I wanted to do a yearly refresh of one phone (and hopefully sale of the oldest would fund it), but I want to see what happens with voice and data on LTE and which provider will be the best in my area.

  • Reply 11 of 53

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by NasserAE View Post





    The feature is available in iOS 6 on the iPhone 4S as well. So all 4S users will get it on Wednesday.


     


    How about iPadians?

  • Reply 12 of 53

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


     


    How about iPadians?



    Panorama feature will not be available on the iPad

  • Reply 13 of 53
    TLDR: Don't delete Microsoft's Photosynth.
  • Reply 14 of 53
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,328member


    I puzzled why it would not work on the iPad 3, since that has a dual core A5X.

  • Reply 15 of 53
    muppetry wrote: »
    I puzzled why it would not work on the iPad 3, since that has a dual core A5X.

    Because Apple doesn't want it to. The iPod Touch has a similar camera and no dual core, the excuses are pure bullshit. Photosynth works on anything with a gyroscope, including the iPad 2 and the 4gen iPod, which have crappy main-cameras, without complaints (though they don't do exactly the same).
  • Reply 16 of 53

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Vaelian View Post





    Because Apple doesn't want it to. The iPod Touch has a similar camera and no dual core, the excuses are pure bullshit. Photosynth works on anything with a gyroscope, including the iPad 2 and the 4gen iPad, which have crappy front-cameras, and the iPhone 4 which has a crappy CPU, without complaints (though they don't do exactly the same).


     


    Missing a few salient facts. 


     


    The 4th iPod touch has a single core A4 chip with half the RAM of iPhone 4, and a 0.7MP rear camera and VGA 0.3MP front camera (they're only good for FaceTime, not taking photos). 


     


    The original iPad has no camera, while the iPad 2 has a dual core A5 but the same 0.7MP rear/VGA front cameras as last year's iPod touch.


     


    So the only device that could made decent panoramas but was left off was the new IPad, which has an A5X + 5MP camera. 


     


    Apple supported the feature on the devices that make sense to capture high quality panoramic photos, including its 2010 iPhone 4. Not because of "BS," but because it made engineering sense. 


     


    Microsoft's Photosynth, like the app mentioned in the article, is designed to output highly compressed pano pics that are less than half a MB. Apple's new feature generates a 28MP image closer to 16MB. Not really the same thing. 


     


    Maybe next time you TLDR you shouldn't bother commenting either. 

  • Reply 17 of 53
    gqbgqb Posts: 1,934member


    Now if they would just fix the stupid video/still switch so that I can easily tell which mode I'm in, I'd be pretty much satisfied with the built-in camera app.


    (Seriously... how many 1 second videos do you have on your phone?)

  • Reply 18 of 53
    gqbgqb Posts: 1,934member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Corrections View Post


     


    Missing a few salient facts. 


     


     



    Not if his purpose is just to gripe and troll.

  • Reply 19 of 53
    But I thought Apple wasn't plagued by fragmentation issues? whistle.gif
  • Reply 20 of 53
    So the only device that could made decent panoramas but was left off was the new IPad, which has an A5X + 5MP camera. 

    That part is curious. Presumably the 3rd gen iPad is hardware capable, and I can't imagine there is a lot of software difference between the iPad's camera app and the iPhone's. The only thing I can think of is that they didn't have enough time to test it on the iPad, and that it'll come in 6.1 or so when they're sure it works perfectly. That's probably what happened with Siri for iPad.
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