Panorama app showdown: Pano vs 360 Panorama
Panorama shooting is something that now comes built into some phones, while third party software has to provide it for others. There are a lot of third party solutions out there, though, and unfortunately my move to Android cost me my two favorite of such apps, which are iOS only: Microsoft’s Photosynth app and AutoStich. In looking for substitutes on Android, I found potential substitutes for both of these, and decided to put them head to head.
Pano is your traditional panorama app. You use it to take multiple overlapping photos, and it stitches them together. There’s no automation in the shooting process, and all you get to help you line up the shots is a translucent outline of the previous image. If you’re taking pictures of something with a lot of detail that makes it easy to line up shots, but if you’re doing landscape photos that don’t vary much from picture to picture it’s a lot harder to find out what goes where. Once all the images have been shot, there’s a decent wait period while the merge takes place.
I had a horrible bug occur during such a merge, where the app would close to the home screen with no error message at the same place in the merge process every time I tried to merge a specific set of photos. The app locked into this merge mode so that no matter what I did, including force closing the app, it would boot straight into restarting the photo merge and promptly close, then start the same thing over again the next time the app started. I had no choice but to uninstall the app to fix the problem, which is not something you want to be dealing with outside on a beautiful day, which is exactly where it happened to me. It did, however, only happen once.
Despite the difficulty of shooting and this peculiar major breakdown, the results are very good. It creates practically seamless panoramas that stick to the same camera settings for each frame, producing an image that looks like it’s actually one image even if you pass by the sun with some of the photos. This is the app that is replacing AutoStich for me, and while I still prefer my old iOS favorite, this does the job for sure. It’s $3 in Google Play.
This is the Photosynth replacement, as it works along the same lines. Instead of creating wide images, this creates scenes you can navigate StreetView-style online. It also uses a similar shooting system to Photosynth where it uses the gyroscope to detect which way you’re pointing the camera and automatically takes photos as the view moves into pieces of the image that hasn’t been filled out. It then stitches everything in real time, but slows down when it comes to uploading the data that’s needed to get a proper viewer you can navigate, like it had intended.
I originally planned this article for a few days ago, but my results with this app were so horrible compared to some examples I saw online that I figured I had to have done something wrong. Specifically, the app adjusts camera settings for each image, resulting in a quilt looking image made up of tiny image pieces with very obvious differences in light settings. I thought I had moved the camera too much for each image, not providing enough overlap, so I went back out to test some more today. Even at the absolute smallest increments in image taking that the app’s auto shoot system reacts to, you get these horrible quilty images. The image quality in general is also closer to what I had with Photosynth on my iPhone 3GS, and doesn’t reflect my Galaxy S II’s camera. The app is very fast, taking no noticeable time to merge images on my device, and quality suffers for it.
Quality and lighting issues are, however, nothing compared to upload issues! Out of 5 panoramas I’ve uploaded with this app, 3 of them have missing frames that make up the image, resulting in some 360 degree white panoramas with some landscape images patched in here and there. The previews on the phone were fine, the uploads finished successfully and were allowed to run in the foreground, and I’m straight in the middle of a HSPA+ zone where upload speed and stability is not an issue. Still, 60% of the uploads are useless and lost forever.
This is still not all that surprising. The app’s website is also broken, with the exploration feature not working as it should. That combined with how this app makes the most noobish mistake one can make when doing panoramas – using automatic settings for each frame – leads me to think that the developer isn’t really all that serious about this app (despite the fact it was updated only a few days ago).
Below are the same scenes that I shot with Pano above, in the same order. This also includes panoramas now lost forever due to the upload bug (not that they were worth keeping with the quality this app produces). The app is $1 in Google Play if you’re still interested.
Do I have to say it? Pano wins, in what wasn’t supposed to be a contest with a winner, as the two apps that these replace coexisted happily on my iPhone. 360 Panorama is just such a horribly flawed app in so many ways that it has no business coexisting with anything, in my opinion. I could even almost forgive it for bad image quality, as that’s fairly typical of that type of panorama app, but not the upload bug. When your system deletes your users’ content and it doesn’t even register as a bug, you should pull the app completely.