Panoramic photography

Mountains near the village of Kalofer
Mountains near the village of Kalofer

Panoramic photography

is a technique of photography, using specialized equipment or software, that captures images with elongated fields of view. It is sometimes known aswide format photography. The term has also been applied to a photograph that is cropped to a relatively wide aspect ratio. While there is no formal division between “wide-angle” and “panoramic” photography, “wide-angle” normally refers to a type of lens, but using this lens type does not necessarily make an image a panorama. An image made with an ultra wide-angle fisheye lens covering the normal film frame of 1:1.33 is not automatically considered to be a panorama. An image showing a field of view approximating, or greater than, that of the human eye – about 160° by 75° – may be termed panoramic. This generally means it has an aspect ratio of 2:1 or larger, the image being at least twice as wide as it is high. The resulting images take the form of a wide strip. Some panoramic images have aspect ratios of 4:1 and sometimes 10:1, covering fields of view of up to 360 degrees. Both the aspect ratio and coverage of field are important factors in defining a true panoramic image.


One of the first recorded patents for a panoramic camera was submitted by Joseph Puchberger in Austria in 1843 for a hand-cranked, 150° field of view, 8-inch focal length camera that exposed a relatively large Daguerreotype, up to 24 inches (610 mm) long. A more successful and technically superior panoramic camera was assembled the next year by Friedrich von Martens in Germany in 1844.

An 1851 panoramic showing San Francisco from Rincon Hill by photographer Martin Behrmanx

Because of the high cost of materials and the technical difficulty of properly exposing the plates, Daguerreotype panoramas, especially those pieced together from several plates are rare.

Some of the most famous early panoramas were assembled this way by George N. Barnard, a photographer for the Union Army in the American Civil War in the 1860s. His work provided vast overviews of fortifications and terrain, much valued by engineers, generals, and artists alike.

Following the invention of flexible film in 1888, panoramic photography was revolutionised. Dozens of cameras were marketed, many with brand names heavily indicative of their time. Cameras such as the Cylindrograph, Wonder Panoramic, Pantascopic and Cyclo-Pan, are some examples of panoramic cameras.

View from the top of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, Albumen prints, February, 1864, by George N. Barnard

In the 1970s and 1980s, a school of art photographers took up panoramic photography, inventing new cameras and using found and updated antique cameras to revive the format. The new panoramists included Kenneth SnelsonDavid Avison, Art Sinsabaugh, and Jim Alinder.

Types of Panoramic photos

Short rotation

Short rotationrotating lens and swing lens cameras have a lens that rotates around the camera’s rear nodal point and use a curved film plane.

Short rotation cameras usually offer few shutter speeds and have poor focusing ability. Most models have a fixed focus lens, set to the hyperfocal distance of the maximum aperture of the lens, often at around 10 meters (30 ft).

Full rotation

360-degree panoramic projection of the VLT survey telescope.

Rotating panoramic cameras, also called slit scan or scanning cameras are capable of 360° or greater degree of rotation. A clockwork or motorized mechanism rotates the camera continuously and pulls the film through the camera, so the motion of the film matches that of the image movement across the image plane. Exposure is made through a narrow slit. The central part of the image field produces a very sharp picture that is consistent across the frame.

Fixed lens

Fixed lens cameras, also called flatbackwide view or wide field, have fixed lenses and a flat image plane. These are the most common form of panoramic camera and range from inexpensive APS cameras to sophisticated 6×17 cm and 6×24 cm medium format cameras. Panoramic cameras using sheet film are available in formats up to 10×24 inches.


        Example of a segmented panorama. Taken with a Nikon Coolpix 5000 and stitched with PTgui.

Segmented panoramas, also called stitched panoramas, are made by joining multiplsegmented panoramae photographs with slightly overlapping fields of view to create a panoramic image. Stitching software is used to combine multiple images. In order to correctly stitch images together without parallax error, the camera must be rotated about the center of its entrance pupil. Some digital cameras can do the stitching internally, either as a standard feature or by installing a smartphone app.

Catadioptric cameras

Lens and mirror based (catadioptric) cameras consist of lenses and curved mirrors that reflect a 360 degree field of view into the lens’ optics. The mirror shape and lens used are specifically chosen and arranged so that the camera maintains a single viewpoint. The single viewpoint means the complete panorama is effectively imaged or viewed from a single point in space.

Built-in digicam feature

Panoramic photography is built into some digital cameras, using firmware to capture and stitich multiple images. Even some low-end cameras include this capability:

  • 2 to 3 shots overlapping stich panorama by Fujifilm FinePix S1800
  • sweep (motion) panorama by Fujifilm Finepix S4000
  • 3D sweep panorama by Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX9V; also in some of the latest Sony Ericsson smartphones in the Xperia series
Panoramic night view of the Buisness Park Sofia, taken with a Sony smartphone
Panoramic night view of the Buisness Park Sofia, taken with a Sony smartphone
Sony NEX 5
Some of the cameras like the NEX series of Sony have incorporated the 3D sweep panorama function.

Source of information: Wikipedia


Published by Borja Bobby

I am Borislav Borisov, a young and talented photographer and a passionate traveler.

6 thoughts on “Panoramic photography

  1. “Mountains near the village of Kalofer” is spectacular! I would love to see it enlarged, but when I click on it, it kicks me to your Facebook page and I can’t find it.

    1. Ok. I’ve made some changes in the post. Now you should be able to see it larger when you click on the image. The bad thing is that the picture hasn’t got a lot of quality, because it’s made with a 5MP cell phone.

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