When Microsoft released a free tech preview of the Photosynth.net service in November of 2006 following their acquisition of Seadragon technology, I was blown away. Back then, compelling panorama creation utilities were far and few between and required a lot of horsepower.
These days, of course, breathtaking 360-degree images can be captured with ease on a smartphone. Still, the Photosynth service manages to impress me to this date with its speed, image and zoom quality and intuitiveness. That said, it’s beyond comprehension why it took Microsoft so long to deliver a companion iPhone app, but here it is and it’s been a worthwhile wait. My initial thoughts and test shots are right below the fold…
To test out the Photosynth app, I set out to create a panorama shot of the block where I live. I chose a motionless scene at midnight, lit only by street lights and full moon. Those are pretty harsh conditions to deliver a smoothly-stitched panorama image. Photosynth did a great job and the only problem was the human factor (more on that a bit later).
I stood at the crossroad and right under a strong streetlight and held my device firmly while slowly revolving around myself. The program automatically took shots each time the viewfinder approached an empty tile.
However, it didn’t immediately strike me that the next shot in the series must be adjacent to the previous image. This means, if you loose a track of your previous shot and turn your device in an unexpected direction, strange artifacts and incorrect stitching will ruin the scene.
I’ve included a pair of images showing the normal part of my panorama shot and the section with the mid-air suspended pavement as a result of this. By the way, if the full panorama scene embedded at the bottom won’t work, that’s because it requires the Silverlight plug-in.
All went OK (above) until I forgot where the next tile in the series was supposed to be (below).
Other than that, the program gets the job done remarkably well even though there are tons of specialized apps on the App Store that produce better results. Sharing options include said Photosynth.net service (you’ll need a Windows Live ID for that) and Facebook. You can also lock the camera’s exposure control to avoid strange lighting differences between the individual tiles.
Also worth mentioning is the smooth user interface which takes clues from Windows Phone’s “Metro” design rather than follow Apple’s guidelines. Photosynth for iOS is a free download from the App Store and definitely one of the better apps for the iPhone worthy your time.