iPhone App Review: Panolab – iPhone panoramas!

I’ve been playing around with this new Panolab app for a few days now and I’m really impressed with it. What it does is offer you a very easy way to take photos on your iPhone and then overlay them with each other to make arbitrarily large panoramic pictures. It isn’t without its drawbacks (the phone’s weak ass camera itself is a problem), but it is a very usable very fun (and free!) application.

The good news is that you can easily use either pictures already in your camera or take new ones right in the application. Each picture you take (or select) brings you back to it’s single editing screen with all your previous pictures made translucent and moveable – so you slide your old pictures around until it matches up properly with the one you just took. It allows for single finger dragging and two finger rotating – so it gives you a lot of control over picture placement. Importantly it also deals with perspective for you so the pictures themselves will be skewed slightly by the app in relation to where you place them.

I do have a couple problems with the application – but these are all just because I really like it. Please keep that in mind. The first is that there’s no sort of saving of the raw data or undoing of any piece of it. If you should leave the application (or if it crashes, which it did only once on me) whatever you were working on is lost. Or if you make a mistake with the picture you took and want to redo some stuff, you can’t. Well, if you haven’t placed the shot yet you can get rid of it, but as soon as it is placed it is permanent.

That’s the biggest problem. It would also be great if it would let you zoom a little bit when placing pictures – sometimes it’s hard to make sure everything is lining up just so. A quick little zoom would easily solve that. Speaking of placing, some voodoo on controlling the app would be nice as well – possibly some manual control where just tapping an onscreen arrow or something would move the photos 1 pixel (or so) at a time. I found that it could take much effort, at times, to do some fine adjustment because the touch screen would feel my finger leaving the screen and move a tiny bit.

There is also a problem simply with the lack of control over exposure time – this is a general iPhone issue. But when you are stitching photos together if there’s a strong light source in the scene, there will be wildly varying exposures in the picture, which is kinda cool sometimes, but it’d be so great if the iPhone would let you do something about that.

Ultimately, though, this is a really fun app. If you take photos with your iPhone it is definitely worth a download. It took me a few shots to figure out the best ways to construct the photos. Importantly since everything is layered you want to take your best shots last – otherwise they’ll be covered by your other shots. As far as I can tell the developers (Originate Labs) don’t have a website or anything, so not sure what the roadmap is for this app, but I hope it’s under active development! Have you played around with it? Post some links to your panoramas in the comments!

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