Dienstag, 24. August 2010

Performance Observations Stitching Applications

It does not make much sense to qualify stitching applications by their speed. !! But for the fun of it I compared the render time for 1 project in Autopano Pro and PTGui (both in Windows XP and Ubuntu  10.04 on the same hardware, Core 2 Duo 8300 @ 2,4Ghz).

Source Images:
12 images (Panasonic MDC FZ28, F5, 1/800s, 9.8mm)

Autopano Pro in Ubuntu (native): 3'34
Autopano Pro in Windows (native): 5'09

PTGUI in Ubuntu (Wine): 2'25
PTGUI in Windows (native): 3'05

Result file: ~14.5 MB JPG , ~15659 x 3925

  • All default settings used.
  • I also tested a virtual Windows XP in Virtualbox for Ubuntu, but the timing were much longer (using only 1 virtual CPU).
  • The test above are in no way a re objective reference or whatsoever. It wont give you any advice what product is better based on timings.Is merely showing you you get more performance with Linux ! Most important is stitching quality and ease of use !
  • When using batch stitching it does not matter if it takes 10 or 12 minutes (or any other time) because you can leave it running over night(s).
  • For serious large gigapixel projects you need to operate in different scales. To stitch 100's of images in one project you need lots of memory and CPU horsepower if you want to render in reasonable amount of time.

Sonntag, 22. August 2010

OEM Panorama Software

The RAW processing application DPP (Digital Photo Professional) is a pretty good tool to work with your images. It is "free", as it comes bundled with the camera, and can even handle the specific characteristics of Canon lenses. Unfortunately it only works with Windows (and dont run properly with WINE under Linux).
But what I dont get is why Canon still bothers to add the application PhotoStitch !? The software is outdated and can handle only perfect flat images and fails the smallest challenge. It rather turn new photographers away from panorama photography. Canon should have done a OEM deal with some of the serious panorama applications, similar to the Photoshop Light Version that you found earlier bundled with scanners and cameras.
11 images aligned.
Stitching error (ghost problem)

Essential Links for Canon (5D) Cameras and Lenses

Samstag, 21. August 2010

Equipment Update

Decided to send my Canon 1Ds into retirement. I bought it end 2002, shortly after it was launched and the 11MP was a big deal at that time (with a lot of consumer cameras hovering around 3MP) ! Why not 1 Ds III or a 1Ds IV (going to be launched at Photokina) ? I am not going to spend another fortune which could buy me easily a second hand car. And I found a good alternative, the 5D MK II ! Fullframe is a must, so this is the choice when you want to stay in budget. Btw, no 5D III to be released before next year ! The 1Ds served me well accompanying me to a lot of countries and never failed, except the third-party batteries that collapse now after 2 shots.
It is just amazing to compare the specs and results of 2 Canon cameras being apart 3 generations.
Why not stick completely to the Mamiya ZD (which also runs at 21MP) ?
The Mamiya is an awesome camera together with its wonderful lenses, but the camera can only create stunning results if you use it with a tripod (in my opinion). I still use it, but the 5D is lighter and I have a range of L lenses that are much easier to carry around. The ZD is not for hiking and does not have IS.

VR Marktplatz Neustadt

Marktplatz Neustadt in Germany

Gigapan: Stadthaus Speyer

After a while some new highres images and panoramas. Hosted on www.gigapan.org

Mittwoch, 18. August 2010

On Stitching Software

Over the years I tried to optimize my workflow of creating virtual tour spots from fisheye images as well large regular panoramic views using stitching and graphics editing software.
Photoshop is my choice to finetune all panoramic works in terms of color temperature, brightness, contrast, and patching. I use PANO2VR to create flash files and do conversion between various formats.
But what is about stitching software ? I use 3 of them (PTGUI, Autopano, MS ICE). Why this ?
With some panorama images I get different results (mostly in the default mode), while sometimes PTGUI can immediately work out a good result with the source images, Autopano cannot handle it and vice versa.
Sample: PTGUI works

Sample: Autpano fails
I guess the algorithm behind the 2 applications are different.

  • ICE is only suitable for regular (non-fisheye) images. Occasionally its default panorama detection works better.
  • I tried to migrate completely to Linux (Ubuntu) to enjoy the flexibility and speed of Linux systems. While Pano2VR and Autopano have dedicated Linux versions, Photoshop and PTGui dont. You can run PTGui with WINE (a Windows emulator for applications), but to get Photoshop running with WINE requires more experimenting and might not 100% work.
  • I also tried to migrate to GIMP, but after working for 15 years with Photoshop (it is around since 1990 with version 1.0) it is hard to re-adjust. It is free to use and it comes with its features close to Photoshop and certainly will satisfy your standard postprocessing needs.
  • 2010-08-22:
    Check this blog for CS5 with WINE.
    MS ICE does not work with WINE 1.3 and Mono.net 2.6.7

    Sonntag, 15. August 2010

    Medium Format D goes Panorama

    If you want to mount a medium format camera on a panoramic head, you better have some serious kit that can support weights beyond 2kg. The Nodalninja has no problem to carry my Mamiya ZD plus 105-200 or 24mm lens (which adds up to 3kg). Here some images of this setup. The tripod looks a bit flimsy but it stands like a rock (and it has a reasonable weight) and you dont need to remind me of the dangling shoulder strap which adds to blur !
    Mamiya ZD on a Gitzo fibre carbon tripod with NN5
    + 105-210mm lens
    +24mm lens

    Joined 360Cities

    A great platform with VR's from all over the world. A big community that build up a huge collection of virtual spots that can be explored with Google Earth and Maps. The project run by Jeffrey Martin is already on the road for a couple of years, but really took off lately.
    Drop by www.360cities.net for a virtual world trip !

    Donnerstag, 5. August 2010

    Panorama Gear 2010

    Some panoramas can be shot handheld (usually few images) or using a monopod with bubble level (4 images for 360x180) or using a regular panorama head on a tripod. I was using a Manfrotto VR Head for many years, before I changed this year to a Nodalninja 5. 

    Main reasons:
    • Weight and size
      The Nodal Ninja is 4 times lighter and can be transported in a small pouch.
    • Supporting cameras
      I use it with the 1Ds and long lenses and a Mamiya ZD, which are impossible to support in portrait mount on the old Manfrotto.
    • Accuracy
      The Nodal Ninja just nicely clicks into position for a fast and reproducible shooting process.
    • Price
      Get the head at their online shop for 499.- U$ with the D16 rotator.
    Whats in the box ?

    RAW files revisited

    Having a few hundred gigabytes of raw files sitting on various external drives and backup media, nicely organized, made me re-visit some of the RAW files from the last 5 years. Either I never worked with the material or with today's tool you just can much better results.
    I just ordered the PANOBOOK 2010 from Autopano and decided to submit some images for the 2011 project.
    Shwedagon Pagoda
    The Docks

    Mittwoch, 4. August 2010

    Microsoft ICE

    I played with some 2 years back and I am a bit surprised it is still around, got more functions and it is still free to use. You can download it from
    Of course, it is nicely embedded into the Microsoft landscape, it will work only on Windows and requires Silverlight and Photosynth if you want to publish the panorama on PhotoSynth. But you are still free to create panoramas and just save it to your harddisk.
    • Download it

    • Install and use it (simple workflow)

    • Optional download PhotoSynth and publish it

    • I usually dont like solutions that lock you to a specific framework or product, but ICE is a nice simple application with enough functionality for beginners and it allows to save you work as a separate file.
    • I dont know why the upload function forces you to upload the un-cropped panorama.
    Test Result online:

    Software and CPU Evolution (Part 2)

    I digged out a panorama from Zurich in 2001 (earlier blog post). I remember well using Panorama Factory to stitch the 11 images (1600x1200 px, 1.9MP) and it took me more than 1 hour manually adjust the control points to get a OK result (plus a 30min stitching time). Today I took the same images and processed it in Autopano Pro in 25 seconds (incl. of opening the application, images, stitching and saving the panorama). 
    Stitched 2001
    Stitched 2010
    Conclusion: We have great tools and crunching powerful CPU's that save valuable time. Lets go out and focus on shooting nice panoramas and dont race for the biggest Gigapixel image only !

    Gigapixel Record Hunt

    2 years back there were only few images on gigapan.org with a serious "big" resolution, now with the production release EPIC devices more highres panoramas are out there.
    A bit longer breathtaking new super records of high resolution images come up every now and then.
    Conclusion: We will see more of this kind coming up, and it is amazing at what detail level you can "zoom around" in these images. I recomend reading the technical background of the above projects, as you need serious project preparation, support (maybe some $$$) and serious CPU power. Guess I will stick to the "less-than-10 GP" department.

    • You find more gigapixel project if you research, some of them based on film (Gigapxl Project). Unfortunately some of the early projects are not online anymore.

    Montag, 2. August 2010

    Panorama Software advancing

    I remember back 10 years (more or less) with few software applications around to stitch images. That was before Photoshop learned stitching and the time IPIX was running behind Prof. Dersch and his famous Panorama Tools. You had good results only with perfectly setup nodal point on a tripod, not to think of a handheld panorama without sometimes spending hours adjusting control points.
    Now, you just throw any overlapping imagery into the actual versions of the software and you get decent results. Just a sample here, a panorama I tried to stitched 3 years back (handheld 7 images, 24mm) and put it into the "forget-it" folder. I took it out again and fed Autopano Pro 2.0.9 with it.
    See some details of the result (all auto, stitched in less than 10min) compared with the 2 years old "auto-mode" stitch (the red squares are the detail from the old version):

    Sonntag, 1. August 2010

    My Digital Panoramas 2010

    Fact 1: The market for panoramic prints is flat, you get average panoramic images everywhere and less customers are willing to pay a few hundred dollars for a large print (mounted or framed).
    Fact 2: Same applies to virtual tours. I stick to existing customers but dont pursue actively new markets. It is not worth competing with 5$ per spot flatrate competition.

    Conclusion: I do panoramic images for myself, continue to produce large prints for our house or anyone interested.

    Plans: I just go through some unprocessed image material that accumulated over the last 2 years and finish some old projects. I have a Nodal-Ninja panorama-head that fits perfect to my Mamiya ZD to create outstanding resolution with few images. Guess I will restart posting here.

    Digital Panorama 2010

    Cameras: Panoramic Photography becomes mainstream, or at least the technology. More cameras are on the market creating panoramic views on the fly. Sony offers the Panorama Sweep mode, that allows literally sweeping over a scene and the camera creates a panoramic view on the spot. The quality is amazing but still cannot compete with "traditionally" stitched images and the camera still stitches discrete images and does not resemble a vertical line scanner. I wont buy one, but stick to my old Kodak V705 for on-the-spot panorama experiments.

    Sony Alpha NEX-5 Digital Camera
    (Picture by SHAFT9 on flickr)
    See this sample panorama (link) or just serach for "sony nex 5 panorama" on flickr (it shows quite obvious stitching errors.

    The result: you see panoramic images more often now, but similar to the flood of images when digital photography conquered the world in shape of mobile phones, it is hard to find outstanding panoramas.

    Software: Panorama Stitching software keeps on evolving and we have CPU power and software (PTGui, Autopano,..) that creates panoramic images in much shorter time, even of not so perfect raw images. I re-visit old projects that failed some 2..3 years back in automode of Autopano and now get decent results ! On the expert-end more super-highres panoramas are released. Look at the 26 GigaPixel image of Paris, made of 2346 individual images (Dont think you can shoot that handheld!)