We put several apps against the iPhone's native panorama feature, and the results may surprise you
With iOS 6, the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S now have a neat panorama feature within the native camera app. When Apple announced this new feature, lots of folks said, "Way to finally catch up, Apple! Everyone else has been doing this forever. There are even apps that have been taking panoramas for years now." This is all very true.
When Apple introduces a new feature -- at least a feature new to its product line -- the end result is typically good; very good (with the exception of Apple Maps). So I was curious: How well does Apple's native panorama feature compare with panorama apps that can be purchased or downloaded free in the iTunes App Store? I put a few of them to the test.
The photo below is a panorama taken with iOS 6's native panorama app. You can view it in full resolution right here.
As you can see, the immediate differences at such small sizes is the exposure (click the corresponding links to view the images at full size). The iPhone's native panorama feature tends to underexpose the image, but it is the easiest to keep straight, and it stitches the entire scene together almost perfectly.
DMD Panorama, formerly Dermandar, arguably has the best exposure, but the stitching on it is terrible, and it's a little tricky to get images straight because of the way it forces you to take photos.
Photosynth does an admirable job, but the stitching isn't great. You'll also have a significantly smaller file size compared with AutoStitch or the default iPhone panorama feature. This means you lose a lot of detail and you may not ever want to print panorama images from Photosynth. One benefit that Photosynth has over the iPhone's native panorama app, however, is that you can take full, 360-degree panorama images. The downside is that you have to view them within Photosynth's app or site.
AutoStitch was my app of choice. It typically produced very good results, but in this showdown it performed almost as poorly as DMD Panorama. The stitching is pretty bad and very blurry, and the exposure across the entire scene wasn't very consistent. One tremendous advantage that AutoStitch has over all the other panorama apps is the ability to deviate from the usual plane and take a wide-angle shot. Here's what I mean below:
In the photo above, AutoStitch manages to get exposure across the screen pretty nicely and evenly. The biggest difference you'll notice is that I was able to capture more of the scene when compared with Dermandar or the iPhone's native camera app. You can do this with PhotoSynth as well, but the results aren't great at all. AutoStitch still blurs the stitched areas, but it's good enough for sharing a bigger picture or bigger scene on your social networks or anywhere else online.
So, who wins this panorama showdown? The native panorama feature in iOS 6 for the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 is the clear winner. Hands down. You get a larger, more detailed image, and the stitching is practically flawless. The downside is that the files can be huge! The one I took, when viewed at full resolution, is a whopping 9MB. Otherwise, I'm tempted to just delete all my other panorama apps since Apple did such a damn fine job with the native app.