Review – AutoStitch Panorama Generator

I recently returned from a family vacation in Puerto Rico.  Aside from having a great time and seeing some great sights, I was able to play around with an iPhone app I’d installed some time ago.  I say “play around” but really the app became a core part of my vacation photography.  AutoStitch is one of the most impressive photography apps I’ve seen on any platform, iPhone or otherwise.

You may remember my review of an app called Pano.  AutoStitch one-ups Pano by removing the need to manually align subsequent photos to create the panorama.  Before I go into detail, let me show you a couple of the pics it created.  (All panoramas have been reduced to 60% of their original size to help them fit better on most screens.  Click on the images to see them in their full glory.)

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The image quality is not bad at all, considering I took these using the iPhone 3G’s junky camera.  This app actually made me want to upgrade to the higher resolution/quality of the iPhone3GS, because I think the same pictures would have turned out even better.

If you recall, Pano used its own interface to the iPhone’s camera to do its thing.  You took a series of pictures that overlapped guidelines that Pano provided.  While I originally really liked Pano, I found it really difficult to use in real life because it’s tough to get the overlap Pano needs to make its panorama.  I also found that Pano was slow to snap and save successive images, making picture taking a pain.  AutoStitch solves both those problems.

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When you launch AutoStitch, you are greeted with a very simple screen.

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You have your list of photo folders plus the iPhone default Camera Roll.  I wound up using mostly my Camera Roll as my source (I’ll explain why later).  When you select a folder, you get a thumbnail view of all the pictures in the folder.

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You just tap on two or more pictures to begin the process.  Each picture you tap on gets added to the “Photos to Stitch” area.

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You can remove pictures from the stitching area by just tapping it.  Once you’ve selected your set of pictures, you tap the Stitch button to start the process.  To show you the output, here’s the three pictures I’m stitching together:

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You can get a sense of how those three pictures might overlap to create a single image, no?  Well so can AutoStitch, because here’s the output of its manipulation of the above three images.

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(Click on the image to see it in full size).  Pretty impressive, no?

AutoStitch doesn’t use the iPhone’s camera directly.  Instead, you snap pictures using the Camera app and then just select them in AutoStitch to generate the panorama.  This makes picturetaking blazingly fast.  The iPhone’s camera app is pretty quick to take and save pictures, so you can snap off a series of images to stitch together in no time.  (This is why I say you’ll probably use the Camera Roll most of the time – you just snap pictures into the Roll and then select them for stitching.  I recommend you do this quickly after taking the sequence – it becomes difficult to remember which images went with what panorama if you let too much time pass.)

Another benefit of AutoStitch is that you’re not limited to just six images like Pano.  Instead, you can use as few as two or as many as 20 to create the final frame.  AutoStitch recommends that you let each picture overlap by at least 30% to ensure the best results, but I didn’t really pay much attention to that after my first few stitches.  I just kind of did a fast pan-and-snap and trusted in the app to do its thing.

Once AutoStitch creates the panorama, you can crop the image to remove top/bottom fragments that result from AutoStitch doing the overlapping necessary to generate the image.  The crop area suggested by AutoStitch can be overridden by you but I found that I didn’t really need to do that – the app did a great job of finding the maximum size photo that could be extracted from the stitched images.

As my final showoff of the app, take a look at this gallery of thumbnails:

And here’s the final output:

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I’m totally impressed by AutoStitch and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to create panoramic images from iPhone snapshots.

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