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Autopano Giga 3 review update

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Autopano Giga 3.0 review update

Image stitching and panoramic prints


Keith looks at V3 of the ‘Autopano Giga‘ image stitching software from Kolor…

Last year he produced quite a detailed review of Autopano Giga V2.6, and used it for creating a 14m long print for an exhibition in 2012.

corn exchange apg pano

Kolor have now released version 3 of the software, which adds a number of features and refinements. There are two versions Autopano Giga and Autopano Pro (differences listed below)

The fundamental operation of the software is unchanged, so I’m concentrating here on a few of the more visible changes that impact on my work as an architectural and landscape photographer.

If you are new to the software, I’d suggest you also read the V2.6 review, since it goes into a lot more detail about how you use the software, and just as importantly, why you would use different aspects of it.

This review is based on using the Apple Mac version of the software, but the Windows and Linux versions are similar. There is a downloadable demo available.

Autopano Giga 3.0 changes

kolor apgKolor list a number of changes and have a video showing some of them on their update notes page, where you can also download a demo.

Amongst the features listed are:

  • 9 projection modes, including Little-Planet, Panini, Hammer, Mirror Ball, and Orthographic.
  • Panorama editor is now real-time and pixel accurate. All tools can take advantage of the real-time editor.
  • Preview mode can give an instant visualization of your final panorama, before even rendering it.
  • Manually remove the ghosts in the overlapping areas with the Mask tool.
  • Speed increases in program operation
  • Improved RAW file support
  • layer editor (in the panorama editor) has new features that ease the manipulation of images within the layers, including the selection of multiple images.
  • Seitz Roundshot VR Drive II motorized head is now fully supported
  • Improved Linux support
  • Better use of multiprocessor systems

I’ll run through the stages of assembling a sample panoramic shot that illustrates some of these features.

The example I’m using consists of 40 shots (21MP each) taken one evening at Leicester marketplace, showing the old Corn Exchange building.

There is a ‘wizard’ that makes the import process smoother for sets taken with my GigaPan.

image import wizards

Although RAW file import has been improved, I like to set RAW file processing parameters in Adobe Camera Raw first.

You can launch the import via Adobe Bridge, or create the files to be merged via your favourite RAW converter. In the view below, I’ve just been checking the amount of highlight recovery applied due to the very bright spot of light on the wall.

raw file processing options

If you’re using an external RAW converter, do be careful not to apply adjustments based on image content (such as clarity in ACR) since these won’t be consistent in overlap areas.

The images and alignment are detected.

gigapan derrived images selected and imported

After a few minutes, a stitched panoramic shot is produced.

This is just like V2.6, not a lot faster, since the multiple cores of my Mac Pro (24GB RAM) were running pretty much flat out before.

panorama detected, stitched and assembeld

Opening the Pano to edit it, first shows the refined editing panel, starting with a pixel grid (it’s going to be a big image)

panorama editing panel

A spherical view is shown.

Move your mouse over the image to see the planar (rectilinear) projection. This shows the particular distortions you get with very wide rectilinear projections.

There is a convenient ‘globe view’ indicator to remind you of the kinds of distortions/projection you are going to get.

Mouse over the image to see the difference.

A cylindrical projection and if you move your mouse over the image, the Panini projection.

Do remember though, that the ‘best’ projection for an assembled image depends very much on the subject, angle of view and eventual use of the image (see the full review for more examples).

Mercator and Hammer projection.

Mirrorball and Little Planet projections.

Orthographic

orthographic projection

My most common use of the GigaPan is for the creation of very high resolution images of relatively small angles and to produce images that are the equivalent of very wide lenses (12-14mm on 35mm FF sensor), but with large format resolution.

An example of the full rectification of such an image. I’ve selected a reduced area of the whole stitched panoramic, and applied a crop to the planar view.

Setting horizontal and vertical planes allows me to fully rectify the image (mouse over image to see).

I should note that during initial testing of APG V3, I noticed a distinct slugishness during redrawing on screen. Reverting the OpenGL setting to ‘compatability’ mode, even though the OpenGL test image looked OK, upped the drawing speed.

Altering the OpenGL settings and subsequently turning off the full rendering speeded things up appreciably (Mac Pro, 24GB RAM + ATI Radeon HD 4870).

The full rendering might be good on smaller images, but with my Mac, it was a feature too far. Without it, the program did seem faster and more responsive than V2.6 – perhaps it’s just what I should expect when stitching such high res images ;-)

Update Note: An update to V3.0.4 speeded things up quite noticeably in some of the areas I’d noticed a slowdown [Mar. 13]

The final rectified image I’ve rendered is 32k x 17k pixels (107 inches wide at 300 ppi).

fully rectified image at 32000 pixels wide

A detail (100%) from the clock tower, showing one reason why I produce rectified images like this for damage and stone identification, and other aspects of our Heritage architecture photography services.

stonework detail - clock tower

Conclusions

The improvements in general speed are noticeable (with caveats noted above) and the new projection geometry options are good to use where I’m after a more creative image.

The masking/ghost removal option is welcome for when someone get into a shot and is much easier than photoshoping them out afterwards.

I’m aware that I don’t use many of the advanced control point editing options, but I’ve found that with good quality source materials, the automatic options are invariably good enough for what I need.

It’s worth taking time practicing with smaller images, say just four (overlapping) of the ones at the size I use, and experimenting with some of the program’s detection and optimisation options, to see what might be of use.

The software was good before, but I definitely like the extra polish of Version 3.

Autopano Giga from Kolor

Specifications Pro vs Giga

Full Feature list (from Kolor)

Features Autopano Pro 3.0 Autopano Giga 3.0
Automatic creation of professional quality panoramas (Check the list of common features in image stitching) Yes Yes
Real-time panorama editor Yes Yes
Preview of the rendering Yes Yes
Manual Editor of Control Points Yes Yes
Creation of gigapixel panoramas and support of motorized heads Partial (Professional Clauss Rodeon and Seitz VR Drive II panoramic heads are not supported) Yes
Mask tool: manual choice of the parts to keep or discard in the overlapping areas No Yes
HDR : automatic fusion Yes Yes
HDR : customisable fusion No Yes
HDR for special effects (saving of the .hdr file) Yes Yes
Management of Plug-ins No Yes
Neutralhazer Light Anti-Haze Algorithm (plug-in) No Yes
Support of Adobe Lens Profile to correct lens defects (plug-in) No Yes
Export of image stacks for processing in third-party software (plug-in) No Yes
Export plugin for Picasa Yes Yes
Export plugins for Aperture, Bridge, Lightroom No Yes
Multiple viewpoints support (for linear or aerial photography) No Yes
Creation of stitching templates No Yes
Workspace saving No Yes
Available in 9 languages Yes Yes
Compatible Windows, Mac, Linux Yes Yes

Summary

Easy to use panoramic stitching software that is both very quick and effective. Comfortably handles large numbers of images such as produced by motorised panoramic heads.

Latest version improves speed and usability, expands functionality in a number of areas, and offers new projection geometries.

Very broad range of input files supported – mixed focal length images are no problem.

Works on Mac, PC and Linux

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