The immersive experience!

How Many Shots?
- Two Approaches

The easiest way to create a panorama is to use one of the specialized cameras which take a single shot - though using multiple lenses - and deliver a complete image file which you can immediately use for presentation.

The other way takes two steps to get an image: first taking multiple shots with a camera mounted on a specialized pano head rig, then stitching these single images into a final image.

The 'One Shot' Approach

Only in the recent years, some one-shot devices have been developed, consisting of an array of multiple cameras packed tightly together.

The big advantage of such an array is that you trigger just one single shot with your smartphone (acting as a remote control). You don't have to care about any moving objects, and you don't need any manual stitching.

But, of course, the resolution is limited to the sum of the built-in lenses. And there's always some parallax due to the distance between the lenses which is bad for close objects.

All of these one-shot cameras support still and motion videos. You'll find anything between light-weight and heavy, regarding physical weights as well as prices.

Just to drop some names:
Ricoh Theta S, Kodak SP360 4K, Gear 360, Nikon KeyMission 360 4K.
This is of course just an incomplete snapshot.

You'll find a good comparison article on the Immersive Blog website.

The 'Multiple Shots' Approach:
Taking Shots + Stitching

Using a 'normal' camera on a pano head device is the traditional way to create panos. It takes some time to prepare a shooting and to move the camera positions, but in the end, you'll get an image that can have a remarkably high resolution.

Of course you'll find hints and tips and instructions and advice about photographing and panorama images almost everywhere. So these are just some results from practical experience which I either consider important or which are not so well-known yet.

You decide about the quality of a panorama image when performing these two steps: First taking the shots and later putting the parts together (which is commonly called 'stiching').

1. Taking Shots:

Today's digital consumer cameras typically have a focal length of 35 mm, 28 mm, or 24 mm (referring to 35 mm film) which corresponds to a horizontal field of view of about 53°, 64°, or 74°. I currently use a camera with a 24 mm lens which covers a full-sphere panorama with 20 single shots. With shorter focal lengths, you need less shots, but get less resolution.

Before taking the series of shots for the panorama, lock the camera's exposure and white balance settings. If available, use the camera's manual mode to set the f-value, exposure time and white balance value appropriate to a spot of average brightness. Use equal settings for the whole series of shots.

If any nearby objects are to appear on your panorama, it's particularly important that you don't move the camera's position between the shots. If you have a tripod with a panorama head, use it (but do you always have one with you?).

Tilting the camera or unequal overlaps between images are not critical and can be handled by a good stitcher (see below).

Always be aware where the horizon is. This may be the edge of the sea, a plain landscape in the distance, or the eyes of people standing on the same height as you. The horizon should not only be at equal height but also right in the center of every image. If this results in cutting important parts of the image, you should consider taking a series of portrait-oriented shots.

2. Stitching:

Remember, Panorado is an image viewer, not a stitching tool! You will need such a tool for stitching your own panoramas.

It's always a good idea to store the original images to a safe place before you do any processing. Use a backup media or at least a write-protected folder on your hard disk.

For stitching, the files should be on a hard disk rather than on a memory chip for performance reasons. Create a working folder that will hold all the source images for one panorama, the stitching software's project file, and the resulting panorama. To copy files among folders, you can use the file management capabilities of the Panorado app.

It's important to use good stitching software (see some references on the Links page).

I personally prefer PTGui which is an interactive tool originally based on the legendary Panorama Tools collection. This is sophisticated software with a well-designed user interface and perfect mathematical background which combines automatical and manual processing. After you have set up everything you may have the stitching done as a batch job. This may take some minutes but isn't an overnight job anymore - calculations are done with the full power of all your CPUs and GPUs.

When stitching is done, some fine-tuning will have to be applied to the resulting image. I'm sure you will use your favorite image editor software - for correcting image transitions, adding some lines to the pavement or painting parts of the sky, do some improvements to the global distribution of lights using a histogram, adding some descriptive metadata.
If the stitcher has not yet reduced the resolution of the original images, you can normally reduce the image size (I'm talking about pixels, not file size!) to about 70% without losing visible quality.

Memory Requirements

To get an idea about the memory consumption of large images:

An image of 10,000 by 5,000 pixels which can be stored in a JPEG file of about 20 MB uses 200 MB when loaded into system memory, plus some more memory for manipulations like copying. This is what a viewer app like Panorado needs; stitching tools (64 bit versions recommended!) are still more demanding.

So don't be surprised if your fast computer takes some time to load large images!