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PTGui 8.1.2 review

24 Mar 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
90.44
(£76 ex VAT at 19%); PTGui Pro £173.74 (£146 ex VAT at 19%)

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PTGui is a specialist application that aims to do one task very well.

It stitches multiple images together to produce composite pictures, usually as high-resolution panoramic photographs for print or interactive on-screen use, although it can also be used to assemble multiple flat scans and similar projects. Version 8.1.2 has just been released, and it adds some very useful workflow and output enhancements.

The program works by finding overlapping areas in images, and warping and blending them together to produce seamless composite results. Control points are used to link matching parts in image pairs, and these can be generated automatically - with impressive accuracy - or manually.

Fine-tuning points is simple, although doing this manually can take a while. The secret to successful panorama creation lies in how the original photos are taken. Any camera will do, although a good DSLR is preferable, and specialist panorama tripod heads will reduce or eliminate parallax; position shifts between near and far objects in overlapping areas. You can even use previous PTGui projects as the basis for new ones, without having to generate new control points.

One of the most interesting new features is direct support for Raw camera files. This means you can avoid the quality compromises associated with Jpeg without the need to do any pre-processing work. This will make life easier for some, although if you need sophisticated Raw features, you'll still need to use other software to process the image. Other enhancements include a batch process project builder and better handling of batch rendering. As maximum resolution output can sometimes take hours to render, this is very welcome.

With the right equipment, it's easy to produce high-quality results of 10,000 or 15,000 pixels across. PTGui can even manage hundreds of shots to create 'gigapixel' images for multi-level zooming online or ultra-large print work. These composite pictures can be produced in a number of different ways. Traditionally, they're made as cylindrical or 'equirectangular' images for interactive viewing, but there are new projection options for rendering ultra-wide angle crops as naturally as possible. One of the most intriguing is Veduta, a wide-angle realism technique developed in 17th and 18th century paintings.

PTGui is an undeniably technical tool, with an interface that has remained distinctly utilitarian throughout its life. However, it's sophisticated enough to produce highly impressive results from a wide range of input images with minimal effort, so the technical manipulation is largely there for power users to exploit rather than being a required part of normal workflows. If things get too much, it's good to know that the developer seems to be active and dedicated, responding to queries on a busy mailing list and producing updates on a regular basis.

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