Hands-on with Photosynth for Windows Phone 8

When Google introduced the latest version of its Android mobile operating system – v4.2 – in November last year the Photosphere 360 degree panorama mode in the camera app was the most talked about new imaging feature.

However, Windows Phone users were quick to point out that a very similar function had been available on their devices for quite some time. Microsoft’s Photosynth platform for creating 360 degree panoramas was officially launched in 2008 and the Redmond-based software giant released a corresponding app for Windows Phone 7.5 ‘Mango’ in May last year. However, it took until late February 2013 to update the Photosynth app for Windows Phone 8, making it compatible with latest generation devices such as the Nokia Lumia 920, HTC 8X or Samsung Ativ Odyssey.

Using the Photosynth ‘lens’

We installed Photosynth on Samsung’s first Windows Phone 8 device, the Ativ Odyssey, and had a closer look at what it can do. After the installation Photosynth appears as a ‘lens’ within the camera app on your device. With the lens selected, image capture is pretty-much conducted in Auto mode (though you can lock exposure and white balance for all frames in the settings menu).

Capturing a sphere is started by tapping the screen. Additional frames are then captured as you move the camera up/down or left/right from the last captured frames. This usually happens automatically but occasionally the ‘viewfinder frame’ turns yellow to indicate a switch to manual capture. You then have to tap the screen again to record the next image.

If the app is unable to align the next frame the viewfinder turns red and you have to re-align with the last captured frame before you can continue. Unfortunately this happens pretty often and can slow the whole process down significantly. On a few occasions I simply could not get the app to capture certain parts of the sphere, despite a number of re-aligning attempts, which then results in an incomplete image.

Once you think you’ve captured enough individual frames for your sphere, you tap the OK-button and Photosynth starts the rendering process. On the Samsung Ativ Odyssey this takes approximately 30 seconds but on more powerful devices, such as the Lumia 920, the process should take less time. After rendering is complete the end result can be shared on photosynth.net and/or the usual social networks. It can be shared either as a 2D panoramic image or an interactive panorama. If you want to use this second option, it has to be uploaded to the Photosynth website first.

Overall the capture process is straightforward and intuitive but the frequent need to re-align the framing makes it a little painful to use and slower than the Android Photosphere equivalent.

Image results

Below I have posted a few results of my test session with the app and, as you can see, they are pretty disappointing. Photosynth does well in adjusting the exposure and white balance across the entire image but it’s the stitching that really ruins the fun. The errors are so numerous and significant that the panoramas are almost unusable.

The stitching quality of panoramic images can usually be improved by mounting the camera on a tripod, ideally with a panoramic head but this being an app for mobile devices we used the Ativ Odyssey handheld, as the vast majority of users would do. We’ll try and validate these results with a Nokia Lumia 920 or HTC 8X when we have these devices back in the office but we have no reason to believe they would be any different to the Samsung.

Microsoft’s Image Composite Editor, the Photosynth desktop app, is capable of generating good quality results from images that have been taken with DSLRs on panorama head, but it seems that at this point the mobile app isn’t up to the same standards. Hopefully Microsoft will release an update soon that can do both improve the stitching quality of the final image and reduce the need for camera re-alignment during the capturing process.

Source Article from http://connect.dpreview.com/post/1983515684/hands-on-with-photosynth-for-windows-phone-8