Over the last 10 years of being obsessed with photographing panoramas, I have come to consider spherical images the ultimate in pano photography. These cool images not only let the viewer look around but also include the up and down view of a location.
There are several ways of creating spherical panoramas, the 4 main methods is listed here.
- Multi-row panoramas, where the photographer photograph several rows of the panorama, this involves many pictures and can yield extermely high resolution images if so desired. Advantages: inexpensive, equipment. Disadvantage is long photography time and large numbers of files for each panorama.
- Single shot spherical. Created by photographing a reflecting sphere, this type require the photographer to photograph a up and a down picture and add these to the final result. Advantage, very quick photography. Disadvantage very low resolution because the doughnut shaped file only use about 1/3 of the image file.
- Spherical Fisheye panoramas. Photographed with a fisheye lens with a field of view greater than 180 degrees. Advantages, quick photography, great utilisation of the image area resulting in rather high quality panoramas, relative inexpensive equipment. Disadvantages, sentisive to lens flare.
- Rotating Scanning back cameras. Such as the PanoScan digital camera and the RoundShot Film based camera. These are cameras which slowly rotate while photographing a complete panorama, there is virtualy no limitation to the quality of the image or the size of the file. Disadvantages: HIgh Price in the $10.000 range. Large size, and supporting equipment requirements, not ideal for light traveling. Slow scan times, making them unpractical in areas with rapidly changing conditions, such as the outdoors, or where large numbers of people might be in the picture.
All of the above processes will produce a beautiful spherical panorama. However the fisheye seem to be the most interesting. After Nikon came out with a inexpensive fisheyelens for their digital cameras, this process have become the ....... Tools are readily available, the Nikon lens can be purchased for about $300, and tools such as the 3D-Vista package will let you stitch these images easily The Njkon fisheye is available in two versions, a 53mm lens tread version and a 28mm lens tread version. With few exceptions most cameras require the larger diameter lens in order to fill the image area. I prefer the 3D-Vista stitcher package, because it is easy to use, fast and offer advanced features such a outputing layered Photoshop files or cubefaces, to mention only a few.
Click here for step by step instructions for stitching spherical fisheye images in 3D-Vista
PTgui - Probably the very best stitcher on the market. Highly Recomended
3D Vista Studio Stitcher and tour maker, this sticher is was my favorite
but the latest version 3.0 have some serious unsolved issues.
PhotoVista Panorama easy inexpensive sticher
PanoGuide.com The source for anything Panoramic
Pano Tools very advanced freeware sticher by Helmut Dersch
VRi oneshot panorama lens
Non Panoramic Multible exposure Resources
RoundShot the original no stiching pano camera
PanoScan, the digital pano camera
Multible exposure highrez images