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Panoramas with the iPhone

Update: these images and more examples with additional commentary are shown in Guide to Mirrorless in iPhone 6s Plus: Panoramas.

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Last week I posted some iPhone panoramas. This page collects those images and more, here with comments on each, as well as these general comments:

  • iPhone 6s Plus stills are frequently very disappointing, but with panoramas, the incredible ease of use and fabulous display of the iPhone 6s Plus make a strong argument. The “real” camera market cries for a solution that doesn’t suck—for example, the Sony A7R II bangs the shutter violently when taking a pano, so I consider its pano feature completely useless.
  • iPhone 6s Plus pixel quality is marginal under many conditions for still shots, but with panoramas, downsampling by 2X linearly (3X in some cases) yields a good quality image that still can be 10-20 megapixels.
  • The iPhone 6s Plus actually makes panos with people in it, often with good clarity (though it has some limits as the examples below will show). Panorama portraits are eminently feasible.
  • The limited gamut of sRGB means that many colors are destroyed. The green T-shirt, red sunsets, etc—blasted into dullness.
  • Color balance is frequently has a green tint. All of these images but one required +3 magenta in Photoshop for non-sickly color.
  • The “pocket factor” is a big deal. A camera not carried does not take pictures.
  • The lack of exposure control leads to blowing-out of details. It is a classic case of “make it as simple as possible but no simpler”: Apple made it too simple, meaning flat-out frustrating in too many cases—no control. While the iPhone uses HDR, it destroys things like sunsets and bright areas when/if darker areas are included. There are ways to trick it into better exposure (used for some images below), but this generally means a composition that was not desired (to trick the metering).

I would have killed (squirrels) for an iPhone 6S Plus when I was a teenager. Well, I shot 'em anyway—for the crock pot. Stringy, but good tasting after 2-3 hours. The trick was not getting hair onto them while skinning.

Below, a classic panorama shot. The iPhone 6s Plus does well on such shots, but contrast and tint had to be corrected to eliminate flare and an unpleasant green tint.

Lundy Canyon
f2.2 @ 1/1600 sec, ISO 25; 2016-06-30 08:37:44
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]

This panorama below was made by rotating the iPhone 6s Plus, yet the face and hair are sharp: very impressive software processing, perhaps tuned for people/faces?

Panoramic Portrait, Lower Conness Lake
f2.2 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 64; 2016-06-29 18:53:44
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]

iPhone 6s Plus pixel quality and dynamic range has dynamic range and noise problems in scenes like this, but sometimes the result can be saved with a black and white rendition, including some wide radius unsharp masking to pop the contrast.

Mt Conness Watershed with view to Saddlebag Lake
f2.2 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 50; 2016-06-29 19:14:11
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]

Lots of motion defects here (edge of boat in particular, also distant mountains), but the face is good. Exposure was not so good, so I did some burning to brighten it and fixed up the lousy iPhone contrast. All in all, it’s still an impressive result: a panorama on a moving boat shot handheld!

Boating across Saddlebag Lake
f2.2 @ 1/2500 sec, ISO 25; 2016-06-30 15:25:32
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]
Lloyd Pumping Water, Conness Lake
f2.2 @ 1/2300 sec, ISO 25; 2016-06-29 14:42:12
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]

Motion is not always handled well. Below, the body is sharp and not duplicated, and only the hat is affected. Clearly some “smarts” are involved that could be improved. TIP: if the subject is moving to the right as here, rotate the camera to the left. This reduces the time the camera is over a moving area.

Hiker Ascending Granite Slope
f2.2 @ 1/2400 sec, ISO 25; 2016-06-27 11:00:20
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]

The iPhone 6s Plus works great on scenes with a range of contrast that doesn’t make the camera do destructive things to bright or dark areas. The moving water is handled well.

Tenaya Creek Rushing Down Granite Bedrock
f2.2 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 25; 2016-06-27 11:53:03
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]

By framing a bit differently, I was able to save this image by tricking the iPhone 6s Plus into not blowing-out the peaks overly much. It’s not great, but it can be far worse with the iPhone metering—terrible in wanting to destroy sunsets and open up shadows.

Lower Conness Lake
f2.2 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 64; 2016-06-29 18:54:55
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]

Just started that morning as we headed north, the Lee Vining 'Marina Fire' was confirmed human-caused (cigarette?), but the exact cause not yet determined as I wrote this. Jeff Sullivan has a cool time lapse video of the fire.

Lee Vining Marina Fire Begins
f2.2 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 25; 2016-06-24 08:12:47
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]

Camping at Junction Campground just outside Yosemite. I usually avoid campgrounds but with my daughter along, a campground works better.

Sunrrise at Junction Campground
f2.2 @ 1/850 sec, ISO 100; 2016-06-27 06:48:48
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]
Unicorn and Capricorn Peaks from Pothole Dome
f2.2 @ 1/1150 sec, ISO 25; 2016-06-15 19:05:59
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]
Spring Snowmelt Down Granite Slope
f2.2 @ 1/1800 sec, ISO 25; 2016-06-27 11:00:38
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]

The iPhone 6s Plus does well on subjects that while bright, actually are not particularly high contrast.

Fresh Snow, White Mountains
f2.2 @ 1/7700 sec, ISO 25; 2016-06-13 07:51:51
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]

Moving subjects are dealt with adroitly by the iPhone panorama feature.

Lunch at the Campground
f2.2 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 25; 2016-06-27 13:18:53
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]

The road from Owens Lake / Keeler up to the old Cerro Gordo mine. Well worth a visit to the min.

Cerro Gordo Road
f2.2 @ 1/2000 sec, ISO 25; 2016-06-10 08:47:05
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 29mm (4.2mm)

[low-res image for bot]
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