Lightroom 6 /CC Photomerge Panorama Review

As stated in my earlier post, one of my main reasons for upgrading to LR6 was because of the built in Photomerge functions, particularly the panoramic feature, which I use a lot. Some people question why I create panoramas rather than just use a wide angle lens. The answer to that is simple: detail. Using a short to medium prime lens, say 50-80mm, hyperfocusing and taking multiple frames allows you to capture substantially more detail than taking a single frame using a wide angle lens of say 17-24mm. The camera is able to resolve far more fine detail, such as foliage, far better than it would using a wide lens.

The final image can be well in excess of 80MP. That doesn’t sound much does it? A Nikon D800 will capture the scene at 36MP with a wide angle lens you say, so what’s the advantage? Well, to get that letterbox effect you’ll need to crop away 30-50% of your image. Suddenly 36MP becomes 24MP or less. And I’ll guarantee that even the great D800 with a high quality 17mm lens will not resolve anywhere near as much detail or be as sharp as using a medium telephoto lens and creating a panorama.

When printing having a high MP count means better enlargements. There is simply more information in the image, more data, and hence allowing you to print at a very high DPI.

Also there is no perspective distortion: the image will appear as a human would see it.

Not convinced? Watch this video and you might be.

There are disadvantages to the method however: it won’t work for fast changing scenes where the light is constantly changing, or where clouds are moving rapidly, and maybe you do want that distortion effect simply because it fits the image well and adds an extra element of interest to the image. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not adverse to using a wide angle lens. I own one and love the interesting effects and perspective it can generate.

So, cut to the chase: is the Lightroom Panorama Photomerge any good?

Well it’s fairly simple to use. Simply select the images on the filmstrip and either press Ctrl+M or right click Photomerge>Panorama. In short it’s no different to using PS or any other application such as AutoPanoPro. There is one key advantage however: you don’t have to edit the image before you merge it, with the exception of removing vignetting etc or anything that might adversely affect the panorama. The reason is the photomerge creates a DNG file (essentially a RAW file) from the original images. What this means is that you have full control over the overall resulting image in the same way you had over the individual RAW files. If you wish to change something such as white balance, exposure, well, any setting really, you can apply it to the panorama as opposed to having to rework each file and then re-stitch the panorama into a new image. Pretty amazing stuff, and currently LR6/CC is the only program that can do this.

After you have initiated the Photomerge function, LR will go off and create a preview image of the completed panorama. And this is my biggest issue with the merge feature. Unlike any other software I have tried, you cannot zoom into the preview to check everything is OK. This is what I am met with on my 23″ screen when I try to merge 11 images.

Pano problem

Adobe please take note: This is ridiculous! I’d expect the preview to at least fill to the extents of the border. That wouldn’t be quite so bad. But not being able to zoom either? Who missed that one under test?

The only way you can zoom in to check everything is OK is to complete the panorama… at least you can carry on working on other images whilst this is taking place.

After the preview has been rendered, pick the projection mode, select if you want to crop the image (leave it unchecked if you want to use content aware fill in PS if you wish to retain parts of the image that would be otherwise cropped out) and click merge. Once complete the resulting DNG is added to the LR library adjacent to the photos used to create it. And then you can edit it to your heart’s content in the Develop module or PS as you wish.

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is SPEED! It is quick…. far quicker than any other program to create a panorama that I have come across so far.

LR took 22 seconds to render the image and 2minutes 10 seconds to complete the merge from selecting the images to adding it to the library. The resultant file was a 176MB DNG.

In comparison Autopano took 3 minutes 10 seconds from start to finish, but a large proportion of that was spent exporting the images to TIFF files. It also doesn’t add the image to the LR catalogue automatically. It created a 114MB TIFF file. I think the extra 60MB to give RAW editing capability is worth it.

PS on the other hand took a lengthy 4 minutes 30 seconds. It adds the resultant image to the catalogue, but it’s a whopping 1.26GB PSD file.

Overall I’d give it a thumbs up. It’s fast, it creates a very usable finished file…just fix the annoying preview where it doesn’t fill the screen or you can’t zoom please Adobe!

I really hope that’s the only niggle, but I doubt it somehow. This software has been over two years in the making, it’s been long awaited and I was hoping that was because it was being thoroughly tested and was bug free. Looking at the comments on Facebook on the Lightroom page, I don’t think it is.

Adobe really should have released this as a Beta, but then that doesn’t seem to mean much from past experience. I tested the Beta of LR5, found a load of bugs, reported them on the Facebook page as requested (and as did others) but it looks as though they never made it to the developers for the final version. The result was a highly buggy LR5 final release a few months later and disgruntled people. It appears that we should have posted them to the Adobe forum, but it seems  the Facebook and Developer people weren’t talking…..oh well….

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