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Recommended camera settings for panorama stitching

Camera mode

Prefer camera modes where aperture is constant between frames. Basically it is the aperture priority mode (designated A or Av on many cameras) or the manual mode (designated as M). A varying aperture may lead to noticeable depth of field differences — the same object is in focus in one frame and blurred in the next. Vignetting also depends largely on the aperture and is much harder to correct when it is different in every frame.

Selecting aperture value

If lighting conditions allow consider using smaller aperture values (with larger f-numbers). A stopped down lens has its advantages for stitching. For one, there is less corner softening and vignetting. In addition, more of the frame is in focus which provides greater detail for matching and image quality is generally more uniform over the entire frame.

Selecting exposure

The simplest and bullet-proof strategy is to keep exposure fixed through the sequence to obtain a uniform panorama. Another approach is to rely on exposure levelling algorithm of the stitcher and use different exposure for every frame. With some experience this will allow to achieve better results in some cases. For example, a two frame panorama with bright sky and dark street. If exposed only for the street the sky will be overexposed or the other way around the street will be too dark. If exposed separately and then stitched you can get best parts of both images in a panorama.

Raw vs. JPEG

Raw format gives an ability to change the color rendition in post processing. Panorama stitching may have an additional requirement to compensate exposure differences between frames. JPEG has only 8 bits so even a moderate exposure compensation may lead to posterization effects and loss of image quality. Raw files usually record 12-16 bits and thus are much more flexible in this regard.

Other settings

ISO speed setting affects image noise. Therefore, it is preferable to keep ISO setting fixed for the entire panorama.

White balance will gradually blend between differently balanced frames. To improve image uniformity you can keep white balance fixed through the entire image sequence (this may be easier to do later in raw converter).

Copyright 2010-2016 Alexander Boltnev, Olga Kacher.

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