The Panono is a ball-shaped 360 camera with 36 lenses. It can capture 108-megapixel photos, which had been the highest resolution for an all-in-one 360 camera for a long time, and overtaken only recently by the Staro (136 megapixels).
I’ve always wanted a Panono. From sample photos, I found its image quality to be amazing not just for its resolution but also its dynamic range. But I was intimidated by the stitching. I knew that there was no in-camera stitching, and no stitching app on the phone. Instead, its photos would have to be stitched through Panono’s cloud. I felt like I had little control. I also heard some say there’s a subscription fee for the cloud (I later found out it is not true, unless you want to remove the logo when viewing on their page.) Finally, not too long ago, Panono raised their prices by around 33% to $1999 USD plus shipping. Those things made it harder for me to decide to get it.
The thing with Panono is, it doesn’t have any real competition. Staro would have been nice but they don’t seem to answer emails or indicate how to purchase their camera. Either you need high-resolution 360 photos in one shot or you don’t. And if you do, Panono is still the only 360 camera that does that and is readily available. So I got one from B&H Photo.
The Panono came in a simple cardboard box with no frills. There were instructions, a Micro USB cable, and then the Panono itself.
The Panono was smaller than I expected. It is about the same size as a shot put for men, 11cm in diameter. It is neither heavy nor light. It weighs about as much as I thought. The body is covered with polycarbonate plastic and feels very solid and high quality.
I also got two accessories that are really must-haves for the Panono: the tripod adapter and a selfie stick. The Panono doesn’t have any kind of tripod attachment and its unusual shape makes it difficult to find a holder for it. The tripod adapter attaches to the Panono’s micro USB port and locks with a quarter turn. It is pretty much the only way to attach the Panono to a standard tripod or monopod. The tripod adapter is also handy because it has its own Micro USB port, which can be used for charging. I’ve been leaving my tripod adapter attached.
The selfie stick is a convenient way of triggering the Panono. Like the tripod adapter, the selfie stick connects via the micro USB port. However, it does not have another Micro USB port, unlike the tripod adapter.
Unfortunately, my first test shot was horrible. I took it at our small home office and the stitching was quite bad. Literally, it was the worst stitching I’ve seen.
|Interesting abstract piece. It’s a crop from my first Panono shot.|
That puzzled me because posted samples from the Panono looked like they had decent stitching. It turns out that the minimum shooting distance is 1 meter (due to parallax), according to the tech support rep I contacted. Obviously, anyone who has shot with 360 cameras even for a little while knows about parallax. But I didn’t expect the minimum distance to be so large. In fact, in practice, it seems even larger than that, although I haven’t figured out the limit. Panono’s creator Jonas Pfeil has said in Panono’s forums that for the best stitching, Panono needs many distinct features that it can use as control points. The worst case scenario would be a room with white walls, which would make it difficult for the computer to identify control points.
For my next test shots, I took them in better conditions and the stitching was perfect. I could not find any stitching error. I need more practice on figuring the best way to shoot with the Panono. But meanwhile here is a featured Panono photo by Jeff Wolters where I could not see any stitching errors:
Overall, I’m pleased with the Panono. The quality is about as good as I expected. It’s sharp, and has very good dynamic range. With the HDR option, the dynamic range becomes fantastic, and the combination of exposures looks realistic, not “HDR-ish.” There is very minimal chromatic aberration, a little bit of flare, but no major problems. Stitching is good but usually not perfect. It’s amazing that they can stitch 36 photos together and have it look relatively smooth. However, there are often stitching errors where you would not expect, such as a straight line having a broken segment.