Freitag, 17. Oktober 2008

Panasonic LX3 Review

I am not very good in reviewing cameras in a professional and technical exact fashion. I know how to choose a good camera with the features I need and usually check a couple of online reviews before deciding to buy. There are myriad of testsites, but let me tell you 95% of them are crap, they just try to get you on the site with links to online shops selling the camera, sometimes you find the same text on several of these "test portals"..rubbish. Two I regularly visit is (link) and (link), the latter one is pretty independent, has less reviews, but feels more serious than the standard review approach in dpreview, anyway judege by yourself.
I want the highlight the Panasonic LX3 review (link) which confirms that this is a real great camera and belong into the pocket of any photographer who wants to do crips shots out there while not carrying around a DSLR ! I wonder whats the big deal about the Leica D-Lux 4, which is the exact same camera whith a red dot and a 200S$ difference in price.

Mittwoch, 15. Oktober 2008

Lumix FZ28 goes gigapan

Managed to mount a Panasonic Lumix FZ28 on the gigapan head with the help of a little homemade support bracket from the DIY shop. Not the final version, but a start.

Sonntag, 12. Oktober 2008

GIGAPAN Tips and Tricks (Part 2)

This topic does not apply specifically to images created with the Gigapan system, but to all stitching practice in general. The gigapan gives you more control over the process than for example handheld shot panoramas or using a panohead without dents.
I am a perfectionist when it comes to stitching images. I dislike (creating or printing) panoramas where you can see obvious seams or moving subjects that show up half (usually referred to as ghosts).

a) All images are shot with same camera settings (whitebalance, aperture, speed). Optional usage of RAW.
b) The more overlap the better (to some extend only!). I recommend somewhere 30..45%. This you set during the Gigapan Setup (FOV setting) or manually while shooting with non-gigapan gear.
c) The more images (or the higher the cameras resolution) you want to stitch the longer it will take, resp. require more memory in order to get results in a realistic timeframe. I am not sure what are the limitations of running Gigapan Stitcher under Windows 32.
d) Set the "Kepp projected images" option in the Gigapan Stitcher Options screen (see Img.1)


Retouch/Post Processing:
With plenty of overlap I created the 2 images (detail crop img.2) of the same spot with the scene itself changing. The stitcher cannot take care of moving subjects like people or cars. You can se the result in img. 3 (upper part). To remove the ghost appearance you load the warped images with the overlapping scenes from the data/projected folder (applies only to gigapan stitcher) into Photoshop. If you use PTGui save the resulting panorama file either as image with all layers or save the layers as separate files. Now you copy and paste parts of the scene to repair from the warped images into the stitched "big" file (use 50% transparency to match the non-moving subjects like flagpole, etc.) and use the layer tools to reveal or hide the parts to repair. I find this as a very efficient and fast way to repair the ghosts and its way better than cloning and stamping subjects, background patterns or copy-n-paste-mirror-resize bodyparts. See he result in img.3 or goto (link) to see the fullsize version.

Tips for Photoshop:
(Big panoramas require lots of memory for a decent working speed.)
- Use Windows 64 with lot of real memory (not always an option due to availability)
- Terminate any other non-essential programs or services.
- Switch off the copy to clipboard function (see PS options/settings).
- Assign 75..80% of memory to PS (see PS options/settings).
- Reduce the PS history to 2 or max 3, worst case to 1 (see PS options/settings).
- Do a regular EDIT/PURGE/ALL to relief memory (seems to work for me).
- Be patient.


Here the links to the highres versions of the german panoramas at (select link !):

Bad Duerkheim (link)

Speyer, Kaiserstatuen (link)

Speyer, Dom (link)

Freitag, 10. Oktober 2008

handheld panorama

While playing with the bw mode I also did some panorama. Handheld, 24mm, 7 images. Stitched in PTGui resulting in 10.000 x 3.000 pixel

monochrome Digital

Professional DSLR dont have a monochrome (or any other special effect) mode. If you convert you really want to do that in PS with the maximum of control and flexibility. The monochrome mode you find in consumer camera is pure crap and you use it one time only (after buying the camera and playing with all menus!).
But the LX3 is the first camera that changed my opeinion about this. The (dynamic) bw mode is really coming close to "real" bw and its fun to use it. The below samples are all shot in ISO100, 16:9, JPG fine and dynamic bw mode.

Donnerstag, 9. Oktober 2008

Hacking your camera: Remote Trigger

I am still working on my panorama-rig with 10 cameras. To be frank, all the equipment is still sitting in the drawer collecting box with 1 opened camera and a soldering iron beside it.
Anyway, I found some "free" info on creating a remote trigger:
Wiley is publishing a book "Hacking Digital Cameras" (link). Check out the free pdf prevew chapter, it contains exactly what we are looking for !

Canon Camera Hack

I came across some websites with in-detail information about hacking Canon cameras. Not all, but some models allow changing the firmware in a temporary fashion, means it is non-destructive and reversible. Some pretty cool new functions you get out of an el-cheapo consumer cam. RAW, timelapse, scripting, to name a few.
Unfortunately I dont have one of the supported cameras and I fear if I buy one, it wont support because of a different firmware version.
Why is it interesting for us ? Because we can turn a camera with full-auto only into a manual camera ! (please note I am not 100% sure about this)

Links: (link)
CHDK Wiki (link)

Closing Remark: This "hacking" function seems to be a support function backdoor that found its way into public. X-Files: Maybe it was leaked intentionally to make the camera more hip to the tech geeks ?

Mittwoch, 8. Oktober 2008

New Stitching application

During the last few years a couple of image stitching applications appeared on the scene and most of them matured well, means upgrades with faster performance, more functionality, better results and so on. Just to name a few (at leats these ones I ever used):

Panorama Factory (link)
Autopano Pro (link)
PTGui (link)
Hugin (link)

Today I prefer to work with PTGui with a truckload of manual functionality, as well superb results in auto-mode.

Btw, the Gigapan system is "shipped" with a stitcher as well. (link)

Microsoft Research just launched another new stitcher (ICE, Image Composite Editor) in the neighborhood of Deepzoom Composer and co. I just gave it a try and the results are pretty good. I will continue to test.

Some more info (link)
Download (link)

Donnerstag, 2. Oktober 2008

Update In-Camera-Stitch Cameras

Just stumpled upon two brands who are offering consumer cameras with (in camera) panorama-mode. Even starting at 35mm is not that exciting like the 24mm of the Kodak, but still worth looking at:
- Praktica luxmedia 8403 (link)
- Rollei XS-8 (link)

GIGAPAN Tips and Tricks (Part 1)

  • Check if the camera fits into the GIGAPAN camera bracket, the Panasonic LX3 almost doesnt fit. Check the list of tested cameras here (link)
  • Use a camera that allows manual override, at least with a exposure lock, otherwise dont waste your time. Results are disappointing (due to the camera producing different exposed pictures, not the fault of the gigapan system).
  • You might want to look out for a camera that supports RAW to get some extra control on color, exposure and detail(?).
  • Best result with these camera settings: manual exposure, manual or fix whitebalance (aka sun, cloud,..), fix focus.
  • Dont use digital zoom ! It is not going to increase the resolution ! Switch it off.
  • The more overlap you have between the images, the higher the chance you can patchwork (in PS or GIMP) some of the moving and most probably half objects.