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Software Review of:
Panorama Maker


Bill Hunsicker is a retired computer scientist and software developer who dabbles in photography and genealogy. Bill's Webpage.

From the October, 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

The image above was assembled by Panorama Maker from four pictures taken last July about 800 feet above Jenny Lake at Inspiration Point, Grand Teton National Park. At the time, I had not planned to merge them. However, Panorama Maker proved powerful enough to adjust for my lack of planning; as you can see from the four pictures. These four images were taken with a hand held Fuji S602z.

Panorama Maker allows you to easily turn a small collection of reasonably related images into a single panorama image. It will install in either a Windows or Mac. The interface is clean and elegant and appears very similar to QuickTime.

Clicking "Start" allows you to select from four style options for gathering you images. "Open" opens the Open dialog box where you can access images. "Edit" opens an Edit Screen where you can rotate, crop, and enhance images. "Save" allows you to save your stitched images. "Export" lets you save panoramas as either QuickTime movies or HTML files. And "Print" allows you to print what you have created. If you clicked "Start" you will see that your images can be stitched into a horizontal, vertical, or tiled panorama, or in a full 360-degree wrap-around mode for the web. In most cases, you'll be able to turn your photos into a panorama in just a matter of seconds. After selecting your style and clicking "Next", you will need to "Add" your desired source images to the palate. Once the palate is loaded, you can include the specific images by 'dragging' them from the loaded palate and 'dropping' them into the strip below in the desired order. Then, just click "Next" again. Automatic stitching of the included images will occur.

On my machine, the program was both quick and intuitive. It provided automatic de-ghosting and simple color enhancing features. With just a few clicks, the images were stitched together and in most cases, color matched as well. When automatic alignment didn't work as well as I wanted because of the amount of parallax error in the source images, the manual alignment refinement was equally straightforward and simple. I just clicked on the small "Fine Tune" tool on the right, then on the area to be adjusted. The adjustment window opened (See Figure 5) with three (3) small pointers on each image. I adjusted the three pointers so that they were pointing to identical respective locations in each image, and then clicked "OK". Panorama Maker did the rest.

There was only a little "bad" to report. Probably its greatest strength is also its biggest weakness. The interface is very streamlined and simple. As a result there are few adjustments that can be done by the advanced user, if the source images are not sufficiently aligned. Some minor artifacts occurred at the intersection of the manually adjusted images, but were not noticeable for the size prints I intended to make. Larger prints would have suffered. I created two other panoramas using old photos just to test the flexibility of Panorama Maker. On the first, a couple of pictures I took in 1997 at Canyonlands, I deliberately left in the date stamp so you could see where the merge occurred. The merge was completely automatic and nearly flawless. On the second, two pictures of Herbert Lake in Bow Valley, Canada are merged. The reflections came together perfectly, only after repeated manual attempts. I had trouble with the pointers moving from where I would set them. The images for these two panoramas originally were captured with a Cannon EOS 630, and then scanned from filmstrip using a HP PhotoSmart s20. By the way, the new HEB on the corner of FM 1604 and Kitty Hawk did an excellent job of printing the results.

Panorama Maker also lets you save your panoramas as QuickTime Movie (MOV) files or HTML files. You can acquire images directly from TWAIN-compliant devices such as digital cameras and scanners. You can also use images stored on your hard drive, floppy disks, CD-ROMs, or other removable media. In my case, the source images were already stored on CD. Since, Panorama Maker also contains some simple image enhancement tools, you can use them to adjust the source image brightness and contrast before creating a panorama. However, if the image needs any real enhancement, you will need to do that before using Panorama Maker.

A PDF manual comes on the CD, which should prove more than adequate for most users. Panorama Maker worked fine for me right out of the box and without looking at the manual. I can recommend it for virtually any user for creating small panoramic prints for fun, but would not suggest it for serious work. I do plan to use it to create some images to load on my web page. It's simple, straightforward and quick!

Availability. From ArcSoft $39.99. Amazon wanted $29.88 plus S&H. (I found one on special on the net during my review for $14.99)

Vendor information: ArcSoft was founded in 1994 and based in Fremont, California, ArcSoft uses digital imaging, software development and Internet innovation to bring exciting desktop and Web-based technologies to businesses and consumers worldwide. They can be contacted at ArcSoft Inc., 46601 Fremont Blvd., Fremont, CA 94538, Tel: 1.510.440.9901 - Fax: 1.510.440.1270

Minimum Requirements Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium-based PC or equivalent, 50 MB free hard disk space, 64 MB RAM (128 MB recommended), 16-bit color display at 800 x 600.

Reviewer System Specifications AMD Athlon 1.6 GHz, 1.25 GB RAM, 6 GB IDE drive with Windows XP Pro, 80GB Raid Drive, 64 MB ATI Radeon 7000, DirectX 9.0b, Firewire (IEEE 1394), USB 2.0, On-Lite DVD, On-Lite DVD-+R/RW/CD-R/RW burner, DirectX-compatible Sound Blaster Live card, Logitech Trackball, keyboard.

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