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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...
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 really do suggest you also read the V2.6 review, since I go 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.
First published Feb. '13 - Updated: Mar 13 [speed and graphics cards]
Kolor 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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 ;-)
The final rectified image I've rendered is 32k x 17k pixels (107 inches wide at 300 ppi).
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.
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.
Discuss this article on our blog or on G+ with Keith
Full Feature list (from Kolor)
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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.
Work on Mac, PC and Linux
The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
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