March 06, 2009

Sweep the leg, Johnny

This week Sony introduced the $499 HX1 camera, notable as it offers a very cool “Sweep Panorama Mode.” This new mode lets you “click and drag” with the camera, pressing and holding the shutter button while pivoting up to 224 degrees horizontally and 154 degrees vertically. The camera itself stitches the images together on the fly, producing images with a max resolution of 7152×1080. Check out this demo video (low res but effective). A number of journalists I met on Tuesday at PMA were clearly impressed.

Coincidentally, I was just about to talk about using Photoshop to do something similar. Our little champ turned one on Monday, so we threw a birthday party on the weekend. My 24-70mm lens wasn’t nearly wide enough to let me capture the folks gathered around the table, so I fired off a quick series of frames, then tossed them from Lightroom to Photoshop for automatic stitching. (Here’s before & after.)

Photoshop’s Auto-Blend algorithm handled the moving people well overall, and in the one area that needed touching up, I was able to simply paint on the auto-generated layer masks to modify the blending. I was really pleased with the results.

So, it’s great to see cameras doing more automatically, but don’t forget that you’ve already got some interesting power at your disposal. (Bridge offers the same single-step hand-off to Photoshop for processing: choose Tools->Photoshop->Photomerge.)

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