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Panorama and Movie Mode

Capture wide scenic vistas and live action with special camera settings

Panorama Mode

A small number of digital cameras help you take very wide panoramic photographs. These are useful if you want to capture an entire horizon line rather than just a portion of it.

How It Works

For most cameras, there is not a single-shot panoramic setting. You actually have to take several different photographs and then use computer software to stitch them all together into one continuous image. The good news is that the cameras make it very easy for you to line up your sequential photographs.

What's a Panorama Anyway?

First, a quick introduction for those who are not familiar with panoramic photos. Panoramic photos capture a very wide view: an entire city skyline rather than just one building. Here is an example of a panoramic photograph of a sunset skyline.

panorama skyline

This photograph was created with the help of the panoramic feature on my digital camera. I started out with the camera aimed at the very left side of the image and took one photograph. Then I moved the camera a bit to the right and took another photo. In the end, I took 4 photos, each time panning the camera more to the right.

Each time I moved the position of the camera, it showed me the previous photograph, so that I could line the next one up. This is what the panoramic setting on most digital cameras does for you.

In order to create the final panoramic image, I had to copy all of the separate photographs to my computer. I then used special software to put them all together side by side. This process is called "stitching". Once the 4 photos were stitched together, they were saved as the single image that appears above.

Keep This in Mind

Having the ability to create panoramic images can be a lot of fun. Panoramic mode is especially useful for skylines, sunsets and other situations where you want to capture a very wide view.

A word of warning: panoramic images that have been stitched together do not produce photographs that are standard sizes. If it is your intention to print your panoramic images, you have to be careful about where you get the prints made. You do not want your beautiful panorama to be cut off when it goes to the printer.

Also remember that creating panoramic images requires special software to stitch different photos together. If you are not comfortable using your computer to perform image manipulation, you may find that you do not use this feature a lot.

Panorama mode is another one of those features that is nice to have, but should not make or break your decision to purchase a camera.

Movie Mode

Some digital cameras will let you record short movies. Rather than taking a still photo, the camera captures a moving image with sound. The movie is stored on the same removable media card as your photos. You can transfer movies to your computer the same way that you transfer your photos.

Not Your Hollywood Movie

If you really want to get quality video, then purchase a video camera instead. Video created by most digital photographic cameras is small and grainy. If you are expecting to capture video and watch it on your TV, you will be very disappointed.

Video also requires more storage space than photos do. While you can get hundreds of photos on a 256 MB card, you will only be able to capture a couple of minutes of video.

Does More Megapixels Mean Better Movies?

There is no relationship between the number of MegaPixels your camera has and the quality of the video that it will take. You can have an 8.0 MegaPixel camera, and the video capture can still be small.

Remember that a digital photograph is made up of millions of tiny dots called pixels? The same pixels apply to the video that a camera can take. This table shows the difference in size between a still image and the video that the camera captures.

Photo SizeSmall Video SizeLarge Video Size
2048 x 1536160 x 120640 x 480

Pretty big difference isn't it? The video that the camera takes is SIGNIFICANLTY smaller than a still image. Another problem is that at 640 x 480 you are only going to be able to capture about 30 seconds of video. This is not much if you really want to create a home movie.

Is It Really Useful?

Look for other digital camera features first. After all, you are buying this camera to take photos. In some cases, the perfect camera for you may come with a movie mode (many do these days), so you might just wind up with it in the end.

I have almost never used the movie modes on the cameras that I have due to the limitations. Eventually they may come out with a digital still camera that takes really nice video, but for now you should pay more attention to the quality of the photographs that a camera takes.

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