3 Panoramic Photo Apps Compared

The iPhone’s camera has been getting better and better with time, and taking pictures with it is getting increasingly popular. I’m no professional photographer, but I really enjoy taking panoramic photos. The idea of capturing a very wide area inside of one picture fascinates me.

In this article, I’ll compare 3 very good and popular apps currently on the App Store that do exactly that: take panoramic pictures. I’ll be taking a look at 360 Panorama, Microsoft’s Photosynth and Dermandar. I want to look for the best of the three, considering 2 main aspects: the ease of use and the quality of the panoramas they take.

How I’ll Be Testing These Apps

I’ll be testing two main aspects: ease of use and quality of the results. Besides that, I’ll take two types of panoramas that in my experience are pretty hard for these apps. The first type is where there are too many lines and vanishing points. Normally, the apps can’t stitch the pictures together very well and you end up seeing non-continuous lines, which look bad. The second type are the wide and tall panoramas. In these pictures, you take photos to the left and right, but also up and down, obtaining a very large image, not just wide.

360 Panorama

In 360 Panorama, you tap the Record button at the bottom, and start moving either left or right. Pictures get taken automatically and get stitched together on the fly. You’ll hear a camera sound each time the app snaps a pic. With this app, it’s better to move the camera slowly so it can better calculate where to stitch the pictures together. If you’re in a low light condition you probably won’t get very good results, although the app will warn you to move the phone slower.

For the first type of panorama, this app performed badly, although its attempt at stitching the pictures was pretty good. The app blurs the “complex” parts of the picture so it looks better, but you can still tell that something’s off. For the second type, 360 Panorama left a lot of parts of the image a little blurry, which doesn’t look too good in the resulting image.

Price: $1.99
Developer: Occipital
Download: App Store

Taking a panorama in 360 Panorama, and the app's settings

Taking a panorama in 360 Panorama, and the app's settings

Photosynth

Photosynth’s method of taking pictures is just a little different. You tap the screen to start, and you move the phone around the area you want to capture. You’ll see a little dot in the middle of the screen, and when that dot reaches the dashed border of a previously snapped picture, the app will take another one. You can do this moving the phone up, down, left and right (just like 360 Panorama). It’s very easy to do after some practice.

For the first type of image, Photosynth performed kind of the same as 360 Panorama. It doesn’t blur the image where it stitches the pictures, so you can really see where the images were put together, but the final quality of the image is actually better (in terms of color and sharpness). For the second panorama type, it performed a lot better in terms of stitching and image color and quality. You can’t really tell where the joining points are.

Price: Free
Developer: Microsoft Corporation
Download: App Store

Taking a panorama with Photosynth, and its settings

Taking a panorama with Photosynth, and its settings

Dermandar

Dermandar uses a pretty cool method of taking pictures, and is (in my opinion) a little less error prone. You start taking a panorama by tapping Start at the bottom, then at the top of the screen you’ll see two yin-yang symbols. As you move your phone to the right, those two symbols will get closer and closer, and when they join, the app will take a picture and split them apart again. It’s a very visual way of taking the pictures. The good thing here is that the app trusts the gyroscope to know when to snap a picture, rather than also applying other (far too complex) algorithms.

For the first panorama type, Dermandar was the real winner here. It somehow stitched the pictures it took almost perfectly — at first glance, you can’t even tell where the joining points are. The bad part is that the quality of the image seems a little worse, with less color and sharpness. Unfortunately, in Dermandar you can’t take another type of panorama, since it only lets you take pictures moving left or right (if you point upwards the app will tell you to hold your phone horizontally, and if you point downwards the app actually starts to process the images).

Price: $1.99
Developer: Dermandar
Download: App Store

Taking a panorama with Dermandar and the app's gallery

Taking a panorama with Dermandar and the app's gallery

Which One Is The Best?

In most (normal) situations, panoramas will look great on all apps. It’s the tricky situations where you can really tell which app is the best.

Comparing panoramas

Comparing panoramas

You can really tell that Dermandar behaves a lot better than the other two in this situation. It stitches the pictures almost perfectly, and the final image is great. When we compare the large pictures that you can take with 360 Panorama and Photosynth, one can conclude that Photosynth does a slightly better job than its competitor.

Comparing Photosynth to 360 Panorama taking a "tall" panorama

Comparing Photosynth to 360 Panorama taking a "tall" panorama

Overall, I was more impressed with the results of Photosynth, it performed better on most situations, and the sharpness and color of the pictures was a lot better. Besides, it’s a free app, so that’s another point in favor, and it has a nice option called “auto-crop” when you save the panorama to the camera roll. I encourage you to try that app before the others and see how it fits your needs.