May 16, 2006

Wide-angle lenses versus Stitched Panorama

From time to time the question comes up as to which is better, using wide-angle lenses or using software programs to create stitched panoramas?

Certainly one use an auto program such as Panorama Factory which can at times provide very good results, but it is not perfect and sometimes the results you will find are unacceptable. But for general use and quick fixes its okay. Be sure to use newer software versions as they are far better than the older, less sophisticated versions.

Using tools such as Panorama Maker, one can produce simply outstanding images without having to deal with the barrel distortion issues you find in most of the wide-angle prosumer cams.

Another thing to consider is that for really wide panoramic scenery photos which will be printed on a long strip of paper. A single wide angled image just would not have enough resolution, especially compared to 6 or 8 photos joined side by side.

Now, if you just need to capture a building from up close, a wide angle lens would be the best way to go. Stitching photos like this - unless you have VERY expensive stitching software - is a nightmare and I would not recommend it.

So, it seems to depend what you like to capture. If you want to shoot building interiors, or close up people reportages, a wide angle lens is a good choice.

If you like to make panoramic landscape shots, stitched panoramas are the way to go.

With a wide angle lens, it is important for a good composition to have something interesting in the picture foreground, otherwise the result is mostly a dull picture, with a lot of empty foreground.

On the other side, with todays digital cameras, it is easy to create a wide landscape shot with a stitched panorama. When using a focal length on the tele side, the result is a more compressed and detailled view of the landscape.

One drawback with stiching is movement. Another is fast changing lighting, as what you see when when clouds are fast moving.