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A new approach to iPhone panoramas

Mel Martin

There are plenty of iPhone apps that shoot panorama photos. You take a picture. Move to the left or right, and after you have 3 or 4 images the panorama software stitches the images together.

Now, Occipital is offering 360 Panorama, a different approach to getting wide, or even 360 degree images. The app is dead simple. Click on a button to start the process, then slowly turn left or right. You appear to be taking one continuous image, and as you move you can see the image filling in on a grid. You don't do any stitching, the software does it in nearly real time. You can go wide, or even shoot vertical images. Or you can do both, panning up and down, and moving left or right. The image will fill in. It's pretty cool to watch. When you tap 'save' the image goes to your camera roll.

The app does a lot of processing and therefore needs to run on an iPhone 4 or 3GS. I had good luck using the app. I did have some trouble getting the edges to line up in a complete 360, but I think that is a matter of practice. Boinx released a similar app last week called You Gotta See This!

Gallery: 360 Panorama images | 3 Photos

The resolution of the photos does not equal the sharpness of the iPhone camera running under the Apple on-board software. It's a trade-off between speed and quality. The developers say the resolution will improve in later versions of the software. I found the resolution as-is more than adequate, but of course I'd like it to be higher. I have a few samples of images I did around the neighborhood. They are reduced in size to make them more web friendly. Check out the gallery to take a look.

Unless you can rotate very rigidly, the images will need cropping. You can always do this in iPhoto when you export your camera roll, but I think the cropping should be built in as you will almost always want to crop. I'm using Photogene, which runs right on the iPhone, and offers other enhancements besides cropping.

360 Panorama is very interesting and thought provoking software. What it does would have been unthinkable on a full size computer a few years ago. To have it on a cell phone is extraordinary. I'm looking forward to updates and improvements, but the current version is quite good and blew some people away when I demoed it.

360 Panorama is very unique and very useful. It's US $2.99 at the app store.

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