• Price When Reviewed: 335 . 140 . 170

  • Pros: Versatile panorama stitching program now with full automatic and manual options. Handles cylindrical and spherical panoramas and saves templates for fast stitching of subsequent projects.

  • Cons: Can’t handle two-shots from circular fisheyes (for patent reasons). Can’t merge bracketed exposure shots for wider range, but Photoshop CS 2 can do this in advance.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

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Stitcher 5 is a panorama assembly program that can blend multiple overlapping conventional photographs to produce a seamless ultra-wide image. It can work with anything from just two or three originals to ultra-wide panoramas up to seamless 360 degree views. It can also assemble fully spherical projections from three or more rows of originals, in which the camera pivots up and down as well as left to right.

There’s a choice of projections available. You can produce low-resolution cylindrical and cubic images for interactive Web formats such as QuickTime VR (now with a script menu); high-resolution cylindrical and planar for prints, or spherical (or "equirectangular") and cube faces for export to 3D or other programs.

Export formats include cylindrical or cubic QTVR MOV, Shockwave, VRML, and most 8- or 16-bit photographic bitmap formats. Imports include photographic bitmap formats, plus Cineon, Maya, and SGI image files. It can also convert existing panoramas to other projections, or stitch tiled flat scans.

RealViz has been selling Stitcher since 1999. Version 3 in 2002 was the first to ring all the right bells, with a logical user interface, multi-row assembly and a wide range of output projections and file formats. The new version 5 is initially available for Mac OS X and Windows XP. There’s also Stitcher Express, a basic 8-bit version for £70 plus VAT, but it’s not yet updated with Stitcher 5 technology.

 border=0 /> </div>There are plenty of significant new features. Most helpful is fully automatic stitching. Stitcher will do its best to assemble sequentially-numbered files automatically, with decent results. The original semi-automatic process is still available – this allows you to drag each image into rough alignment before Stitcher fine-tunes the fit. 
Also new is manual stitching, where the user defines multiple pairs of matching points on adjacent images. This can rescue some badly aligned images. 
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