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Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 09:54 am PT (12:54 pm ET)

Apple's iOS 6 Camera app turns Panoramas on their head

When Apple showed off its new Panorama feature in iOS 6, it didn't even demonstrate half of its capabilities—specifically the ability to capture vertical panoramas.

The unveiling of the new Panorama feature in iOS 6's Camera app left many observers unimpressed because they failed to see anything new. After all, there are already plenty of pano apps to choose from in the App Store.

However, as noted in the previous segment, Apple's new iOS 6 Camera app makes Panorama capture easy, Apple isn't just seeking to muscle into territory already staked out by third party apps, but is instead introducing Panorama as a new camera feature intended to capture something different.

Rather than outputting conventional, low resolution dynamic panos, Camera app's Panorama mode captures images as huge as 10,800x2332 and that weigh in at around 16.8MB. Note again that the example images below are highly compressed.

Putting the camera in camera phone



From humble beginnings on the first iPhone, which took only the most basic of photos, Apple has (particularly since the release of iPhone 4) become both a leading camera phone maker and a top innovator in mobile optics, geotagging and photo enhancing software ranging from iPhoto to iMovie.

In fact, the top two cameras of the Flickr Community are the iPhone 4S followed by iPhone 4, with the rest of the top five being the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and REBEL T2i and Nikon D90 (three models that cost around $600-$1500). Among the top smartphones on Flickr, Apple owns four of the top five spots with the iPhone 4S, 4, 3GS and 3G.

So when Apple adds a feature to its camera phones, it's kind of a big deal. It also doesn't happen too often. The last time the company significantly improved its Camera app software was the addition of HDR and face recognition, which were based upon its multimillion dollar acquisitions of IMSense and Polar Rose, respectively.

The Panorama feature in iOS 6 is the latest example of Apple's use of sophisticated software to enhance photos and work around the limitations inherent in mobile device cameras.

Panoramas looking up

While the last segment focused on horizontal Panoramas, Apple's new software is also designed to capture vertical panoramas, sometimes called a "vertorama." These are a bit tricker to capture, since it's more natural to pan from left to right than it is to sweep from the ground up (particularly if you keep going through a full 240 degrees, requiring a yoga-trained back bend).

The results, however, can be spectacular, even downright mindbendingly strange. Here's what one such vertical panorama looks like standing under the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, near Fort Baker, looking toward San Francisco. It was taken at an odd angle to the bridge deck, resulting in a twisted perspective.



More examples follow.