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Canon PhotoStitch Software
© 2006 KenRockwell.com
Five shots combined, a 200 degree view.
Seven Images, a 250 degree view,made with a $150 Canon A530. (click for really big image!)
All Canon compacts, at least all announced before 2007 and most today, have had a very trick panoramic mode and special software included - free!
These examples are hacks; snapped hand-held in a few seconds to illustrate this article. If I used a tripod they'd line up much better.
The cameras have a "stitch assist" mode which helps make a series of aligned images.
Even more trick, all of these Canon cameras, even the DSLRs, comes with a program called "PhotoStitch" which easily combines these shots into real panoramas. It works, it works well, it works easily and it's all automatic. Point it to the images you want to assemble, tell it what sort of panoramic result you'd like, and off it goes. You can tweak it if you don't like the automatic results.
PhotoStitch works for more than shots from Canon cameras. I use it to stitch from my Nikons, and even from film scans. With the Canon cameras it's smart enough to read the lens and camera information and give perfect correction for lens distortions.
If you don't already have a Canon camera, this software is so good that you may as well get a Canon A530 for $150 or less and just use the software. Of course the A530 is a great camera, too, and has the stitch assist mode. If you're really cheap for all I know there are cheaper Canons which come with the software.
Real estate people need this! It saves them spending thousands of dollars to pay QTVR specialists to do the same thing.
I don't believe in tripods. All the examples below were whipped up in a few minutes, hand-held. Tripods would let you keep all the vertical lines straight, presuming you leveled your tripod first.
Eight shots combined, a 300 degree view!
These shots were output in the standard mode, which gives a curved view which allows you to put even a 360 degree view into one flat print. The results are big: as big as all the images added together. You can print these huge!
If you want all the horizontal lines to stay straight, not curved as above, go to the "3. Save" tab in PhotoStitch. Select Adjust Image, and select Display Format: WIDE instead of the default NORMAL. Now you'll get the same result as a $7,000 6 x 17 panoramic film camera (almost). Of course you can't possibly get 200 degree wide angles in the straight mode; the Wide (straight) mode is limited to only about three or four shots, maximum. Here's what you get:
Flat (rectilinear or "Wide") output, three combined shots.
This isn't that impressive on-screen until I point out that these shots were made only 15 feet (5m) away from the patio furniture! Here's what one shot looks like for comparison. This is the extra-wide setting (28mm equivalent) of an SD800:
One shot made at 5.8mm (28mm equivalent)
Want to be able to see 360 degrees all around? Those are called QTVRs, for QuickTime Virtual Reality. Canons have done this for years.
All you have to do in PhotoStitch is select QuickTime VR for the format when you hit SAVE. See the QTVR version of these shots here (2.3MB download.) You can use your mouse to look around the entire yard and zoom in and out. You can make it look better, but the file size gets too fat for the Internet.
All these four examples (300 degree, flat view, single shot and QTVR) were created from the same series of shots. PhotoStitch provides at least three kinds of output: Normal (curved), Wide (straight), and QTVR.
It seems to ship, free, with every Canon camera, even the cheapest. Likewise, every Canon compact seems to have the Stitch Assist mode.
Lunch at The Castle, BEST, Torino, 11 Ottobre 2003.
How to Find the Stitch Assist Mode
Stitch Assist mode on an A70.
Some Canons make it easy and have it right on the mode dial. This camera is set to it already. The icon is two overlapping rectangles.
Newer, smaller cameras hide it in a menu. Be sure the M mode is set on the mode dial, since other modes may lock it out. Press FUNC SET, click up/down to get to the M at the top left if it's not already highlighted, click right to get to the same two overlapping frames icon. Press FUNC SET to lock it in. Usually the icon has an arrow; newer cameras let you shoot clockwise or counterclockwise.
Now your screen will have a small, live image overlapping a gray rectangle. Take your first shot. If it looks good, tap the shutter and it will move and the live image is shown to one side. Move the camera to get the two to line up, make the next shot. Keep repeating until you're done. When done, tap SET.
This can vary with camera. See your manual, or call Canon for free phone support in the USA at (800) OK-CANON.
Canon names the series of files as STA_0001.jpg, STB_0002.jpg, etc. The number increments, as does the third letter. The third letter always starts at A, while the numbers start wherever the last shot left off. The ST comes from "Stitch."
This drives me nuts in filing, since my alphabetical sorts put these at the end of the list. I usually put each panoramic sequence in its own folder to preserve my sanity.
Lighting, Contrast and Exposure
The lighting varies wildly outdoors as you look into or away from the sun.
The camera locks exposure on the first shot, or locks it wherever you half-press the shutter. Therefore, point the camera at the brightest part you need correctly exposed, hold the shutter, then point it to the location you want as the beginning of the series.
It can help to use a lower contrast image setting. I always use Vivid (under FUNC > (click down and to the right to) V, Vivid) for normal shots, which increases the contrast. For some pans it may be helpful to use NORMAL, or under MY COLORS (same area in the menus) set contrast to LOW. From the USA, phone (800) OK-CANON for help if you need it.
You may wind up twiddling later in PhotoShop with the Shadow/Highlight tool (Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlight). Go easy with this tool, not more than about 7 on the shadows. Most people screw up and use the default of 50, which looks awful. Go easy, or it looks fake because it is.
I see overuse of the Shadow/Highlight tool in almost every real estate magazine and local newspaper. It's scary. Go easy!
Most of us make a series of horizontal shots.
You can get even bigger outputs (and larger vertical angles) by shooting a series of vertical shots.
I haven't figured out how to get the cameras' stitch assist mode to rotate to help, but the software switches just fine. The software probably will presume you made a vertical (up-down) panorama, but you can reset it to make them horizontal.
You can shoot a short series, or go for a full 360 degrees.
You also can shoot up and down and left and right, and stitch it all together like a quilt.
You tell PhotoStitch what you want to do under "1. Selection and Arrangement" > Arrange.
Stuck? Call Canon for free phone support in the USA at (800) OK-CANON.
It seems PhotoStitch version 3.1 has been shipping for years, and is still shipping with the SD800 that started shipping in October 2006.
It runs on Mac and Windows.
It takes a while to do its business, especially if you're not running a hot machine.
PhotoStitch ran fine on my 2004 800MHz G4 iBook, but took so long to run that I didn't use it often.
It runs much faster on my Quad 2.5 GHz G5, fast enough to want to use it often.
Of course the resulting image files can be huge. It's common to get outputs 10,000 pixels on a side. Remember you're crunching on not one image, but a slew of them at full resolution.
Software Installation and Operation
I stuck the CD that came with the camera in my drive and it was obvious, both on my PC and my Macs.
Likewise, operation is obvious. Open the program (which oddly comes from opening Canon's PhotoStitch Launcher and then clicking on Photostitch) and under "1. Selection and Arrangement" click OPEN. Select the shots you wish to merge.
Click the "2. Merge" tab. Hit Start.
Click the "3. Save" tab. Hit save.
Tweak any of these commands as needed and as explained above.
Stuck? Call (800) OK-CANON for free support in the USA.
It turns out that PhotoStitch.biz is a place that creates sewing patterns to let you cross stitch a pattern in cloth to match a photo. It's unrelated to Canon's software.
If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me write more.
Thanks for reading!
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