Find out why this inexpensive 3-D digital imaging software is considered the
"Porsche of Stitchers."
Anyone looking for a versatile, high-performance stitching engine will find even RealViz's entry level Express invigorating. Beyond this $79 baseline, Stitcher 5.6 is also available in three other souped-up versions: Pro $349, Unlimited $580, and Unlimited DS $800. To compare versions, download a trial version, or purchase Stitcher 5.6, visit stitcher.realviz.com.
What are the differences between the versions? What do you not get for the $79 version? In short, the Express version is quite capable for most users but does limit some options; most significantly, Express will only work with 8 bit files; it cannot load or save PSD files, and will not work with circular fisheye images.
OTHER STITCHING SOFTWARE TITLES
Besides RealViz's Stitcher 5.6, here are some other recommendations:
• Photoshop CS3 ($649 new; $199 upgrade: adobe.com)
• Photoshop Elements 5 or 6 ($99 new; $79 upgrade: adobe.com)
• Autopano Pro 1.4.0 ($140: autopano.net)
• PanoStitcher ($29.95: pixtra.com)
• Autostitch (Free: autostitch.net)
Photoshop CS3 and Elements 5 and 6 use the same super-fast algorithm for their Photomerge function and leave you with a layered file, whose masks can be tweaked for better blending (although Photoshop's automatic masking has always been excellent for me). If you already have one of these top-selling Adobe titles, you may not need a separate stitching program; none of the Photoshop packages, however, has options for creating interactive panoramas such as QuickTime movies. The sophistication of controls in Autopano Pro for planar or "snapshot" panoramas is quite good -- with many adjustments offered in photo-editing programs like Photoshop -- but Autopano does not offer interactive movie options. PanoStitcher, while limited in its controls, creates nice planar images and cylindrical QuickTime movies. You can save money with Autostitch, a no-frills program that does a decent job with some "snapshot" panoramas but is not suited for serious panorama photography.
David FitzSimmons is a freelance photographer and writer as well as an Assistant Professor of English at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. He previously wrote about Helicon Focus and its ability to create images with extreme depth of field. His photos have appeared on regional postcards, in international calendars, and in a variety of periodicals. Check out more of David's work at fitzsimmonsphotography.com.