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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

DPP Solutions: Sweep Panorama

A feature found on many consumer cameras can be useful for pros looking to add a different perspective to their stock library

This Article Features Photo Zoom

In photography, a surprising amount of technology actually trickles up from amateur gear to equipment a pro uses. There are numerous examples of the phenomenon. Live View and HD video-shooting capability are two of the most prominent technologies that began in consumer-level point-and-shoot cameras and yet are now all the rage in pro-level DSLRs. At the recent NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show in Las Vegas, HD video DSLRs were being shown in more booths than one could count. Some incredible technology trickles up instead of down.

When Sony introduced the Sweep Panorama function in one of its consumer-level cameras a couple of years ago, most pros probably didn’t even hear about it. After all, the camera wasn’t on the professional radar screen, and even if it had been, most pros would have dismissed it as a gimmick.

The Sweep Panorama feature in the Sony NEX-5 makes it easy to get a high-resolution panorama. These high-impact images can be a welcome addition to your stock library, or you can use the function as a “Polaroid” to see if the scene warrants setting up the big camera and tripod.
Fast-forward to the recent introduction of the Sony NEX cameras and Sony E-series lenses. Not much larger than a consumer point-and-shoot, these cameras are mirrorless, interchangeable-lens models with APS-C image sensors in them, and while still billed as consumer-level cameras, several pros are finding them to be useful as compact backups or when having a very small package of body, lens and flash is important.

The Sweep Panorama feature is included in the NEX cameras, and while it doesn’t replace a carefully conceived and composited multi-exposure panorama that’s created with a sturdy tripod and head that allows the photographer to precisely rotate the camera around the nodal point, you should still take notice.

Sweep Panorama works by quickly sweeping the camera across a scene. You can use it for horizontal or vertical compositions. The camera automatically takes and combines a series of exposures and generates the completed panorama. The images are stitched together with sufficient overlap to create a seamless finished image, and there are no noticeable jumps in exposure from edge to edge that would betray the composite.

For a process that takes almost no effort, the result is extraordinarily good. Sweep Panorama always makes a strong impression, and a pro looking to add to his or her stock library can be well served by pulling out a compact camera that can create a high-resolution panorama in a few seconds. It’s a no-brainer.

For photographers who are already well-versed in panorama photography, Sweep Panorama gives you an excellent scouting tool. Think of it a bit like a Polaroid. You can grab a quick shot with the compact camera, check out the results and then decide if it’s worth setting up your professional panorama setup.


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