App Review: Photosynth

FRIDAY: Design & Co. (Tech and Curiosities..)

I just recently found out about an amazing iPhone app, amazing, incredible. It has always been one of my photography-dreams to have the wide-angle lens and be able to capture with one shot all what our eyes see before us.

Photosynth is what exactly it does: wide-angle and fish eye picts. It’s very simple to use and great. You just have to decide what you want to include in your camera, open the app, and Photosynth will automatically take the series of picts when pointed at the panorama. Once you  have pointed your iPhone camera to all the panorama you want to include, Photosynth stitches the pictures all together and harmonizes the colors. You can also share your pictures online… and it’s just really wonderful!

Photosynth can be found on the apple store by clicking here: Photosynth

And here are some pictures I took yesterday at Villa Ada, a beautiful park in the center of Rome and some I took today in the Roman countryside, truly beautiful day I wouldn’t have been able to capture in my lenses without the aid of Photosynth!

Villa Ada, Rome, Italy – photo by Roberta Cucchiaro using Photosynth

Villa Ada, Rome, Italy – photo by Roberta Cucchiaro using Photosynth

Villa Ada, Rome, Italy – photo by Roberta Cucchiaro using Photosynth

Roman countryside – photo by Roberta Cucchiaro using Photosynth

Roman countryside – photo by Roberta Cucchiaro using Photosynth

Roman countryside – photo by Roberta Cucchiaro using Photosynth

 © Roberta Cucchiaro 


9 thoughts on “App Review: Photosynth

  1. Hi there, Roberta! I love your panoramas above.

    I thought that your readers might be interested in a few panorama shooting tips.

    :: Panorama stitching is 2D stitching.

    What this means is that you shouldn’t move the camera lens between shots.

    The reason why is that moving the position of the camera lens causes foreground objects to line up differently with background objects and when the panorama stitcher tries to line things up, it won’t know whether it ought to line things up based on matching foregrounds or matching backgrounds.

    For the most part you did very well with this, but in the first ‘Roman Countryside’ shot above (this one: ), you can see some trouble with the retaining wall at the bottom of the shot.

    The further away from your camera your subject is, the less this parallax effect will impact your panorama because mostly everything will be background – or to put it another way the difference in position between nearer objects and further objects will be such a small percentage of your panorama that even if there are stitching errors, they will be much less noticeable.

    This isn’t peculiar to just Photosynth’s mobile app (or their parent: Microsoft ICE on Windows). All panorama apps will give you this kind of advice.

    :: Exposure lock

    Your panoramas are, as I said, very good. Some people may be a little disturbed, though, when they view their panorama and see the sky switch from dark to light between shots. In your panoramas, the only example is the river in the second ‘Villa Ada, Rome, Italy’ shot. (This one: )

    You can use the Photosynth app’s ‘exposure lock’ setting to avoid this, but just remember that your first shot will determine your photos’ exposure for the rest of the panorama, so don’t make your first shot looking at the sun (because everything else will be black by comparison) or staring into the darkest shadows in the scene (because that will wash everything else out too white).

    If you’re shooting photos with your normal camera or even the plain camera app on your phone, you would want to disable automatic focus and automatic exposure, so that those things match in all of your input shots.

    :: Auto Crop

    Now, whether you were using the Photosynth mobile app’s ‘auto crop’ feature when sharing your panoramas to your camera roll or using another app for that, I don’t know, but you obviously understand the presentation value of cropping your panoramas.

    I just wanted to make people aware that there is the option actually within Photosynth’s mobile app itself. Also, if you are using Microsoft ICE on Windows, they have the option in there as well.

    :: Resolution

    The interactive panorama shooting mode of Photosynth’s mobile app is probably what makes it the most popular. Unfortunately, since the app is busy using the phone’s resources to do image tracking and 3D graphics of swooping your already captured shots around your screen as you swivel your phone to capture more shots, it is unable to save full resolution input shots to your phone’s storage memory.


    What this means is that once you’ve got the hang of shooting panoramas, you might want to just use your normal camera app to shoot input shots for panoramas so that each capture is 5 megapixels (on an iPhone 4) or 8 megapixels (on an iPhone 4S). From there, you can use the free Microsoft ICE app on Windows to stitch much higher resolution panoramas and upload them to be interactively viewed on’s free storage.

    :: Interactive viewing

    If you want your friends and photography audience to be able to view your panoramas interactively like you can in Photosynth’s mobile app, you can upload your panoramas to a free account on Photosynth’s website.

    Any iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad can view these panoramas in Safari and turn them around by using’s prototype HTML panorama viewer. When you’re viewing a panorama in Safari, you’ll see an option to view the panorama in Photosynth’s mobile app too, which will let you zoom into the full resolution. Likewise, PCs and Macs will be able to do the same thing as long as they have Silverlight installed.

    Here’s an example panorama:

    :: Embedding interactive panoramas and photosynths

    On any website where you have the power to post whatever HTML code you would like, you can embed the interactive version of a panorama or a photosynth for others to zoom around.

    Sadly, many websites, including, Facebook, etc. do not allow the posting of HTML iframe elements. Thankfully other blogging platforms like Blogger do not have this restriction. Likewise, if you use Tumblr, you can use a video post to embed your interactive panorama or photosynth.

    :: Wouldn’t it be cool if we could shoot inverse panoramas, where you circle something with photos?

    Yes! It would!

    In fact a feature is in the works, currently called spin movies. I’m not sure when this will come out, but hopefully 2012 is the year. To learn more, visit

    :: The difference between photosynths and panoramas

    Just so you know, you can only create photosynths from Windows so far, sadly, because of phones’ lack of RAM and horsepower. If you’re interested, though, here’s a little information.

    The original Photosynth on Windows was not about panoramas at first. Panoramas had been around for quite a few years. Instead, Photosynth used some 3D stitching techniques that had been floating around in the academic research community for years (not achieving much there) and used it to organize photos taken from different positions.

    Like I said, panoramic 2D stitching had been around for quite some time, but it only matches photos well which were taken from exactly the same position. Photosynth (and it’s research predecessor, Photo Tourism) used the technology, not to make photo-realistic video game models from photographs (which is what computer vision researchers saw the technology as good for), but to organize photos of the same thing or place taken either by many different people at different times or all by the same person, simply walking all the way around a statue and zooming in on interesting details.

    Maybe it makes more sense to see it than hear about it. Here’s a video:

    Here’s an example photosynth:
    As you can see, it is not a panorama, nor is it intended to be.
    Similarly here:

    (You can view those on iOS by using the unofficial iSynth app and searching for ‘Orbital Propulsion’ and ‘Beaver Grove Sign’ by Nathanael. Sadly, it doesn’t load the full resolution photos, but it will allow you to navigate the synths.)

    Two more synths: +
    In iSynth, search for ‘Blue Ridge House for Sale’ and ‘Gary Faigin Studio’ by David

    When I see people try to use Photosynth on Windows for the first time, they often shoot a panorama and then upload those individual photos as a photosynth. This doesn’t create a good photosynth or a good panorama.

    Like I mentioned above, you can upload panoramas to with

    Quick guide to shooting synths:
    More thoughts:

    :: Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to link multiple panoramas from different positions to each other in the same way that the original Photosynth linked multiple photos from different positions? We could make our own homemade Streetside/Street View if Bing or Google hadn’t been around for a couple of years!

    Yep! What the Photosynth and Bing Maps teams are currently working on is a project that will link photos, panoramas, photosynths, videos, spin movies, and other audio/video media together as though the entire world was one big photosynth.

    They don’t have much to use yet, but I’m hoping we’ll see a public beta in 2012.
    I’m collecting information about it at

    I’m sure that’s enough out of me. If panoramas are really all that you’re interested in, that’s fine and I hope you enjoy that portion of Photosynth. I just wanted to let you know that there’s a little bit more to the community and say hello.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful panoramas with the world. ^_^
    Your fellow photosynther and panner,

    • An immense thank you for your input and time to contribute to my otherwise tiny review! I really appreciate your comments! In fact, like you said the first panorama of the countryside has a problem. More practice would definitely bring better results and since I am new to the app, your comments are definitely helpful!! Thanks!

  2. About 10 years ago I worked with a photographer using a 13mm Vertical Scanning Panoramic Camera, which had a rotating head with a verticaly alingned CCD, which was controled via a laptop, like I say, this was 10 years ago just as everything was booming onto digital.
    We ended up trying to do a nightime shot of Troon Docks in Scotland at 3 am in the morning, with 15 articulated lorries commining off the ramp of a container ferry. The problem was, very low light conditions, minus 5, and everyone and everything had to remain perfectly still as the head of the camera rotaded round a full 360….. I’ll see if i can find the shot for you, it was well worth getting chillblains for
    Nice shots Roberta, where abouts in Italia?

    • That sound extremely tough! Would definitely like to see how the pictures came out! Especially because pictures taken on freezing nights always have a great light touch. I took those pictures in and near Rome. The last three are just at the outskirts of Rome, beautiful day it was and was happy to be able to incorporate it all in one picture.

  3. Hmm it looks like your site ate my initial comment (it was really long) so I guess I’ll simply sum it up what I wrote and say,
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