iOS 6: Panorama Mode

Happy iOS 6 release day!

One of the cooler new features in iOS 6 is the panorama mode for the camera. This is something Sony’s been putting in their cameras a lot lately. There are apps that do this, I’m pretty sure. And Android probably already has it, for all I know. I’m not here to cheer the feature for being first or world-breaking in any way. I just like it and wanted to give you the heads up on it.

iPhone 4S panorama mode

"Panorama" gets its own button on a screen full of choices that don't go together well at all.

You can access it in the same menu you pull down for HDR photography. Click on “Options” at the top of the screen and tap the “Panorama” button. I’m not sure why HDR mode is paired up with the option to show the grid overlay while Panorama is off on its own. Seems a bit awkward to me. Maybe they’ll eventually get to an iconified picker panel with this, the way they have now with the menus to forward something along as a tweet/Facebook status update/email/etc?

Panorama Mode in iOS 6

(Forgot to take this screenshot while I was at the park, so instead you get an image of my carpet...)

After that, you get a clear display to show you which direction to move your camera in, as well as a horizon line so you know you’re moving straight across. If you tap the screen, the direction reverses. It starts out as being left-to-right in portrait mode. In landscape mode, they assume you’re going for an up-and-down panorama. The uses for such a thing are more limited, but there are still uses.

Just click on the camera button at the bottom to start your panorama, and swing your camera around. Watch the display. It’ll show you how far off the horizon line you’re going and warn you when you’re about to be so far off that you’re losing picture. It’ll also warn you when you faster than the camera can stitch the image together.

Just for scale's sake, this is what a single portrait-orientation picture would look like.

The picture is complete after you sweep 180 degrees around. It doesn’t matter whether you’re just twisting the camera in one hand around 180 degrees or swinging your outstretched arm in a half circle. The phone knows. I’d go with holding the phone out a little bit. It slows the image-gathering down just enough to make it easier to complete without losing any data, and it also lessens the bulge effect in the middle of the image, I think.

You can stop early if you’d like. Either tap the camera button again, or reverse the direction of your sweeping motion. Either will stop the process and save your image.

Full panorama picture taken with iPhone 4S in iOS 6

Click on this thumbnail to download the whole 34MB file that's over 10,000 pixels wide.

The results are pretty good. In the few that I’ve taken, I’ve tried to keep people out entirely. I haven’t been completely sucessful, but I’ve had no problems. The person renders only once in the image, and they’re not ghosted or blurry. The built-in software knows to freeze that person in one spot and fill in the rest. I could easily take them out in Pixelmator later, if I wanted to.

The final image size is 10,800px x 2388px on the iPhone 4S. What you see here is a smaller version scrunched down to 600px wide. But you can click on the pic to see the full 34MB file. I brightened it up a tad in Pixelmator and used the healing brush to wipe the top of my daughter’s head out of the bottom of the picture.

Panorama is a neat technique nicely implemented. I bet there are a few apps in the App Store that just got put out of business, though.