The App: 360 Panorama
The Device: iPhone 4
The Price: Free
The Basics: The 360 Panorama app is ambitious, to say the least. The App Store description (and the app’s website) talks a big game, promising photographic panoramas that can be created in real time that can be tagged with your location and uploaded to a universal map, letting the world experience and explore the locations you visit. You’ve got to admire any app developer with the audacity to advertise to product with “The future called. It wants its panorama app back.” So much talk…but does the app live up to its own hype?
The Review: Yes. Kind of. Sort of. Most of the time. Well, it depends on where you’re using it.
Let me put it this way: when you use 360 Panorama under the proper conditions, it’s absurdly impressive and the technology works without fail. When used under the proper conditions, 360 Panorama is unfairly impressive. Creating panorama photographs is effortless, breezy and fun. When working under lesser conditions, not so much. It will still work, but it’s slower and more frustrating, often concluding with mixed results. It’s tough to review 360 Panorama because it’s an easy A in some conditions and a B- or so in others.
It all comes down to light, honestly. When used outdoors on a bright day, the app is incredible. Break it out inside and you’ll find mixed results (even if the room seems brightly lit). So if you want to take the app to the park for an afternoon photo shoot, you’ll come back with some incredible stuff, but if you just want to shoot your home, you have a problem. Thinking from a professional standpoint, that means this app would be perfect if you wanted to share images from national parks, but kinda’ crummy if you’re trying to cleverly showcase an apartment you’re trying to sell.
The actual mechanics of 360 Panorama are simple and elegant. When you open the app, you are immediately looking at a gray grid that curves outwards from the center of the screen. There is a “window” of sorts that shows what your camera is picking up. Once you tap the record button, whatever is in that window is captured. Then you can turn the camera right or left, up or down, and capture anything around you and behind you, creating a complete panorama. The grid makes capturing a clean image easy, letting you advance from row to row, ensuring that everything lines up perfectly. As mentioned above, the capturing process is instantaneous in high light situations, but it requires you to hold your phone steady and still on each area when less light is available. Since human hands tend to twitch, this means that even a patient user may find a panorama that doesn’t quite line up or accidentally captures the same thing twice. The app does have a nifty sort of “auto-correct” that will instantly line up objects that have been captured slightly off, but its track record is far from 100%.
Naturally, creative users can take advantage of the app’s small glitches to create some really fun art projects, like a panorama featuring the same person multiple times. Un-captured spots in a panorama appear as black or white blots, which, when utilized well, can also look really cool. The app is never advertised as an artist’s tool but it could be and should be. Future updates will hopefully give users more creative manipulation options.
When your panorama is finished, you can choose to examine it through swiping or through tilting and rotating your phone, which lets you feel like you’re exploring a room despite not actually being there. You can make a few minor cosmetic changes, add captions and send it to your Facebook and Twitter (this is a photo sharing app below all of the bells and whistles, after all). Although your panorama will be saved to your phone, you can choose to submit it to the official website, where it will join countless other images, some mundane and others extraordinary. The only downside to this is not being able to access and explore the site and its map inside the app: you have to explore it in your browser, which is a cumbersome experience. The site itself is pretty slick on a computer, but integrating this into the app needs to happen ASAP.
I worry that it sounds like I’m being to harsh on 360 Panorama, but that’s only because it has so much potential. It’s easy and fun to use and it creates incredible images. If the tech can be spruced up to deliver better results in low light and the features of the site are made available through the app, it’ll become an easy A.
The Final Grade: B+