Auto-combine images into panoramas with Panorama Plus Starter Edition


There is something strangely satisfying about stitching pictures together to create a panoramic image. If you’ve been out snapping consecutive images and looking for a program that would merge them for you, take a look at the free Panorama Plus Starter Edition.

There are two kinds of panorama-stitching programs; ones that are user assisted, where the user has to set ‘control points’ (e.g. Hugin), and ones where the computer automatically does most of the work (e.g. Microsoft ICE); this program also belongs to the latter category.

Note, however, that this free version of the program is restricted to exporting JPG’s with a maximum width/height of 3000 pixels, which makes it unsuited for professional image stitching, but is quite adequate for internet publication or personal photo sharing.

Compared to some of other free image stitching programs previously reviewed on this site, (HuginMicrosoft Image Composite Editor), this program is not as powerful, not as flexible, has less features, and to top if all off, has the annoying restriction of image output width to 3000 pixels, to encourage buying the paid version.

So why am I writing it up then, you ask? Three reasons:

  1. The algorithm: is excellent. In my testing of it, it was able to stitch one somewhat problematic section of the images I threw at it quite well (although Microsoft ICE did a fairly decent job, Panaroma Plus’s rendering looked better and more natural).
  2. Stitching for dummies: no learning curve, 3-step wizard and you’re done. You couldn’t tweak the process if you wanted to.
  3. Give it the images and don’t worry about it: just like Microsoft ICE, you can simply dump in all the shots and let the software worry about it. But remember garbage in = garbage out; a little weeding out of bad images first can significantly benefit the final output.

Wish list: I wish they would take away the 3000 pixel width/height restriction, but seeing as they probably won’t I wish they would let me crop the image first before exporting, so as to let me get the full 3000 pixels for my final product.

Version Tested: 2.0

Compatibility: WinAll.

Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx. 24.3 megs). You will have to supply a valid email address for the download link to be mailed to you.

  • Fref

    Hugin has an automated mode which generates the control points pretty accurately. In many cases, it’s just as “Fire’n Forget” than this program, without the limitations.

  • Starter editions of pretty much anything are (or at least tend to be), just generally, disappointments. If it’s a freeware version of something which normally has a fee, then the things crippled in it are usually the things most needed/desired; and then when the freeware version is, on top of all that, the “starter” edition, then using it is the equivalent of saying to the software maker, “Go ahead… taunt me.” That said, Serif’s free stuff (of which Panorama Plus Stater Edition is one) tends to be pretty good, just generally. So, I find no fault in this site’s recommendation of it here.

    It’s hard to get excited about any panorama maker, though, once one has used Microsoft Research’s surprisingly good “Image Composite Editor” (ICE). As effortless, don’t-have-to-think-about-it panorama-making tools go, this one — to my surprise, frankly, because it’s by Microsoft — has no rival…

    …or so, at least, it is my opinion. Of course, I’m not sure why I’m so surprised the Microsoft got it right in ICE. At least two versions of its free Photo Gallery software — including the current (at this writing) Windows Live Photo Gallery — do a quite defensible job of stitching together panaorama photos.

    And I agree with the other poster that Hugin need make no apologies to anyone for how well it does panoramas. Then there’s “POS Panorama Pro” which is also quite capable, and is freeware. There’s also a free Adoba Air app called CleVR which creates “virtual reality” like “wrap-around” type panoramas that’s kinda’ interesting.

    Also, just a final helpful-hint-o’-th’-day: The freeware Olympus Master 2 software comes with all Olympus brand digital cameras, and is intended for use only with them… but only in the sense that Olympus Master 2 is the method by which Olympus Cameras obtain firmware updates (and it will sense which Olympus camera is plugged-in (via USB) to the computer on which it’s running. Other than that, though, Olympus Master works just fine with pretty much any camera on any Windows machine; and it will, indeed, do panorama stiching. Granted, most of the tools I’ve mentioned above do a better job of it, but the freeware Olympus Master 2 product nevertheless gets it done, by hook or by crook; and offers some other interesting photo management features as well. It ain’t terrific, but some may want to check it out, and will be quite happy with it.

    I forget who makes the software for Olympus (I’ve got a bookmark to the company on another machine), but I once researched it; and it turns out that the company makes software like Olympus Master 2 for the makers of several digital cameras; and I believe I remember that a vanilla, generic, non-camera-brand-specific version of it can be obtained from the original maker’s web site… you know… just in case anyone wants to research it and figure it out. I can’t remember if it’s a Japanese company or what, but the company from which Olympus (and several other camera makers) OEM their software is out there and definitely discoverable on the Internet. It’ll just take a little time (or at least it took ME some time, back when I researched it, and finally stumbled onto it).

    Hope that helps!

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • Anonymous