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Monday, September 17, 2012, 02:00 pm PT (05:00 pm ET)

Apple's new iOS 6 Camera app makes Panorama capture easy

Apple unveiled iOS 6's ability to easily capture high quality, panoramic images in its new Camera app, but it doesn't directly compete with the features of standalone pano apps.

Apple's iPhone Camera app was rumored to gain panorama capture last year after an unfinished version of the new feature was discovered in iOS 5, but it never made the cut for release, until now.

Like iOS 4's HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode, the new Panorama feature in iOS 6 isn't available on the iPad; it's also computationally demanding enough to require at least a dual core processor A5, meaning it only works on the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S and the newly released fifth generation iPod touch.

Also like HDR, Apple's super simple Panorama feature is a one-button mode (below) that changes how the Camera app captures an image. Rather than rapidly taking multiple images and processing them together as HDR does, turning on Panorama invokes a mode that guides you along a path, capturing and processing the images along it into a single, balanced, seamless panoramic image.



Below are two highly compressed iOS 6 Panorama images taken from the top of Corona Heights in the middle of San Francisco, one taken starting from downtown and wrapping around to Sutro Tower and the other starting and finishing at the opposite end points (note that you can only capture in one direction, from left to right).




To indicate how much these images been shrunk down to fit on this page, here's an 800 pixel slice of the top image as outlined by the white box, showing the level of detail in the original 10,800x2332 Panorama.

Panorama mode works to smooth out exposure differences, and it works much better than trying to take individual captures and manually edit them together later. If your subject has very bright and very dark subjects, however, you might need to set the AutoFocus/AutoExposure lock by touching and holding at a particular location along your capture path before you begin taking the Panorama.

Both the shots above were taken while standing on a rough outcropping of rock, buffeted by a very ridiculous wind. Even in such conditions, there are rarely any discernible seams or overlapping flaws unless your subject is moving quickly.

If you're really sloppy handed when capturing, you might see black spaces encroaching your pano from the top and bottom, as is visible below, or other motion-based glitches similar to the artifacts that can appear when capturing HDR shots. (Note that these images are scaled down and highly compressed from 16.8MB down to about 61K to fit on the page.)