Doing the IPhone 360 Thing

Technology + Gear
by Michelle Schusterman Jul 4, 2011
The Explorer pulls over, gravel crunching under the tires.

I hop out with my SLR hanging around my neck, pocketing the lens cap and following my husband and his mother. At the top of a short but steep hill, we let out a collective gasp.

Red sand, blue sky and rocks with swirls of white, orange and gray stretch in front of us, the brightest and most “alien” landscape I’ve ever seen. The SLR is to my eye and I snap and snap, then swap out for the zoom lens and snap some more.

“Oh! Do the 360 thing with your phone!” my mother-in-law exclaims.

For the last few days we’ve been driving through Utah. I first showed her 360 Panorama on my iPhone just outside of Olympic Park.

“See the grid? You just hold the phone out and turn, very slowly, in a circle. When you’re all the way around and the two ends meet, tap the button at the bottom and that’s it!”

I’ve been using Occipital’s panoramic photo app for nearly a year, though I’ll admit I missed a few updates. The latest version has two modes: the “classic” mode I’m accustomed to, and “next gen,” which features something called advanced stitching.

Classic mode is like painting a picture. You can hold the phone steady and swivel in a full circle, or move slowly up and down to fill the entire grid. Even if there’s motion going on, 360 does a great job of taking a photo sans blur. However, I have yet to create a perfectly connected panorama – it’s usually pretty clear where the start/stop point is.

Apparently “next gen” was the only option on one of the versions I skipped, and folks weren’t fans. Occipital claims that the photos actually improve after you upload them, as they are “stitched” together. I find it a bit jerkier to use, though admittedly I’ve had a lot more practice with the classic mode.

Either way, when it’s all said and done you’ve got a sweet 360 photo to swipe around. You can save the pic to your album, as well as share it on Facebook or Twitter.

Perfect? No. But at $.99, it qualifies as one of my favorite photography apps. Works well enough that when we pull up to another insane Utah vista and my mother-in-law says “do the 360 thing again!”, I zip my SLR in my bag and whip out my iPhone.

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