How to Use the Panorama Camera to Take Amazing Panoramic Pictures with iPhone

Sep 28, 2012 - 10 Comments

Panorama photo taken from iPhone 5 small

The Panorama camera is one of the better features of the iPhone Camera app, it makes taking incredible high-quality panoramic pictures ridiculously easy without adding any additional apps to your iPhone. The feature is built directly into iOS now and works on all modern iPhone devices. If you’re unfamiliar with the feature or you just haven’t used it yet, here’s what you’ll want to do:

Using the Panoramic Camera on iPhone

  • Open Camera (from the lock screen is the fastest way)
  • Tap “Options” at the top, then tap “Panorama” from the menu
  • Tap the camera button to start taking a picture, then move slowly while keeping iPhone stable as the panoramic image is drawn
  • Finish by reaching the end of the panoramic guide line or by tapping the camera button again

Panorama Camera on iPhone

There is virtually no wait time while the final picture is rendered as a result of how Apple basically “paints” the picture live as the panorama is taken.

Tips for the Best Panorama Photo Results

  • Hold steady and aim to center along the provided line
  • Move slowly horizontally to allow for lighting adjustments as image pans
  • Tap an area of neutral lighting for the initial exposure, avoid exposure lock in dramatically varied lighting situations
  • If you do end up with artifacts and/or regions of black pixels, use Crop directly on iPhone to clean them up instantly

Once Panorama is active, moving slowly and holding steady to “paint” your panoramic photo gives the best results. If you move too quickly the camera won’t have time to adjust properly to lighting changes, and artifacts can appear on the final image either in the form of black pixels for areas that are missed or out of the guide line, or in the form of chunky transitions. You can see an example of the chunky transition artifacting that can occur from a quick motion at the far right corner of this otherwise very nice sample panorama image from an iPhone 5.

Panoramic pictures are stored in the Camera Roll as usual, and you can email or send them through messages as you’d expect. If you want the highest quality version of a panoramic image, you’ll need to connect the iPhone to a computer and transfer the photos by USB, otherwise it will be automatically compressed and reduced in file size and resolution down to somewhere between 5000×1000 and 8000×2000 to save data usage and make it reasonable to open on iOS devices and in email. The original panoramic photos are gigantic, coming in around a whopping 20,000 x 4000 pixels, so be prepared for iPhone storage space to disappear rapidly if you take a lot of these.

Finally, though the built in Panorama Camera is limited to new devices like the 5S, 5, and 4S, older iPhones are not totally out of luck… if you have an iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, or you want to take panoramics with an iPod touch or iPad, an excellent third party app called Dermandar is available for $2 on the App Store.

Thanks to Ryan for the sample image

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Tips & Tricks

10 Comments

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  1. Derek says:

    That shot of Zion would be an excellent wallpaper for multimonitors if it was just a tad larger and the artifacts weren’t on the edge there.

    HINT HINT

  2. Don says:

    There’s actually no need to move the phone horizontally to get a good panorama shot. My wife took a lovely pano of a very tall waterfall while on our vacation last weekend. What you DO have to do is move the phone consistently along that line – whatever direction that might be.

  3. CP says:

    Interesting, I’ve got iOS6 on 4S but the pana camera doesn’t seem to be there. Anybody knows anything about it?

  4. KD says:

    An easy way to import the original is by turning on the automatic photo import feature of Dropbox. Mine came in at 7,392 x 2332.

  5. bakajiji says:

    Does anyone know why this feature is not included on the iPad 3?

  6. Casey says:

    Download iPad app called DMD. Does a nice job of panoramic photos. I think the app was either free or very low cost. C

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