The National Association of Broadcasters held its annual convention recently here in Las Vegas, and one of the largest exhibits was put on by Canon.  While they were here to promote the video capabilities of their DSLRs and some higher end video equipment, Canon has its foundation in still photography.  Prints from stills decorated some of their exhibit space, with one in particular that caught my attention – not so much for the image, but the process.

The image, being touted as a 2.1 gigapixel panoramic image, was taken with the new 5DS R model camera.  The camera itself takes 50 megapixel shots, and this panorama was comprised of 108 separate frames.  Now, I would have been astonished if a camera could take a photograph this clean in one shot, and even very impressed if it was put together with, say, a dozen shots.  But 108?

As I stated in a previous post, digital photography finally attained a quality level that matched or exceeded what I expected from my film camera when Photoshop fine-tuned their photomerge feature.  I was out there trying all kinds of lenses in all kinds of situations to see how far this software would let me go.  Most merge shots I take are usually made up of between 3-8 frames.  I have taken up to 40 shots on a couple occasions, and I have determined that is where I am going to draw the line.

For those of you who’ve never put together an oversized panorama before, let me explain the procedure.  First, let’s start with image capturing.  A 40-shot panorama usually takes me about 10 minutes to complete.  This is the quick part.  I always take photos in RAW format, so when I open up the images, I save the settings applied to the first shot, then apply same settings to all the rest.  An hour later, this is still the quick part.  I have a fairly decent computer, and I have yet to get Photoshop to process 40 images at once.  After watching the progress bar not making progress for 30 minutes, I realized I was going to have to build these panoramas in blocks or columns.  After several failed l attempts, I finally completed the first of these in four hours.  This is not counting failure time.

I do not envy the people who took or assembled the 2.1 gigapixel panorama.  There are only a few times I might take a 40-shot panorama again, but never 108.  For one thing, the light has to remain constant during the exposures.  Canon’s shot was taken in nighttime, but I can’t imagine a daylight scenario where this would work.  Open shade with no breeze, maybe?  I’m very patient, but I don’t believe there are very many photographers willing to put this much effort into one photograph.

I once scanned a 4×5 film that I thought was very sharp at 1.2GB.  When viewed at 100%, it was showing the grain of the film.  However, when the client printed it on fabric, it looked stunning.  The large panoramas that I have completed are just under 1GB in size, and the detail exceeds anything I could scan from film.

In making panoramas, I have to remember that it’s still all about the final single image.  I never had much use for a telephoto lens until now, but many telephoto shots put together make for a nice perspective.  This last shot was taken at Red Rock Canyon, from the Calico Hills 1 area.  It is a popular area for climbers and hikers, and as I scrolled through the final image, I was finding great details.  Final photo made of 15 images with a 300mm lens for a file size around 450MB or 160 megapixels.  You may have to zoom in with your browser window to see this more clearly.

Calico Hills 02