The just-reviewed HP Photosmart R967 has a cool built-in panorama feature. During the evaluation of the R967, it turned out to be its funnest special feature. Not that there is anything wrong with other special features…
There are a few things to know about making digital panoramas:
- A panorama mode is not needed.
- You do not need many pictures.
- A tripod is not required.
- A panoramic tripod head is not needed.
- Having all of the above helps a lot, but is more cumbersome.
There is something rewarding about making a perfect panorama using all the ideal equipment. On the other hand, it is quite fun to have a panorama ready in just a few moments. That is where the R967’s panorama function packs all its punch. With it, you can have a wide-angle panorama ready in under 3 minutes! Here is a 2-minute panorama.
There are several cameras with panorama-assist modes. Canon and Pentax have several models with that feature. A panorama-assist mode helps you line up images. This is normally done by showing a piece of the previous image while framing the next one. The HP Photosmart R967 does this by showing an overlay of features it will use for matching individual images. This gives an immediate hint as to wether the panorama will be difficult to stitch or not. It also allows a more precise alignment of images.
The HP Photosmart R967 goes one step further though. It also stitches the panorama right in the camera. This is not unique. Among others, the Kodak V570 does this too. What is really fun about this feature is the turn-around time. After selecting the stitch panorama function from the playback menu, the Photosmart R967 shows a low-resolution preview for the panorama nearly instantly. Then, a press of the OK button produces a panorama in up to 3 minutes (for a 5 image panorama). That is it. You get a panorama right in the camera, ready to be shown. No need to use software at all. Most importantly, no need to play with stiching parameters to get things right. The original images are left intact for processing by software, if so desired.
With such a beautifully simple system, there are obviously some compromises. Even modern computers can take several minutes to stitch a panorama. The R967 does this by stitching only a medium-resolution version, leaving up to 1280 lines of vertical resolution. The result is a panorama for displaying on an average resolution monitor or for a small print of up between 4″ and 6″ in height. Not the greatest, but quite rewarding considering such a quick turn-around time. This camera also limits the number of images to stich at 5 and the possible stitching directions. Panoramas must be stitched in the landscape orientation, either from left-to-right or from right-ot-left. Unfortunately, the ideal setup is to stich portrait-oriented images due to increased veritcal resolution. Otherwise, a more complex multi-row panorama must be taken.