Panos versus Wide Angle Lens

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Hi all,

A bit of a noob question here: I have noticed when I use a really wide (e.g.12mm) focal length, objects close up seem stretched a bit. I am supposing this is the opposite of the compression effect of telephoto lenses, but please correct me if there is a better explanation. Anyways, I am learning how to do panos for landscape, and while I can certainly see the convenience of taking a single, wide angle shot, it seems to me that using a more mid-range focal length and stitching several shots together offers advantages both in detail and possibly this distortion effect (if there are foreground elements, that is; I don't see a noticeable effect at longer distances). Is this correct, or am I missing something? If it is correct, why would any serious landscape photographer not do panos all the time?

The answer will partially help me focus on developing landscape technique, but also help me decide whether I want to keep my 12mm f2 (for which I may post more questions to factor in my decision).
 

BigTam

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I have the Olympus 9-18, and do most of my landscape work with it. I also have a Fuji X100, which has a 23mm lens (FF=35; m43=17). The X100 has an 'automatic' pano feature, in that I press the shutter and tben swing the camera slowly round. The result is a JPG panorama. I have also done multiple shots with the 9-18 or a longer lens and stitched them to a panorama with Microsoft's ICE (surprisingly good).

Stitching is fine and gives good results IF nothing changes between the individual shots. This is not the case with a seascape, for example, where the position of the waves changes. Or leaves on a windy day. So yes, using a 17 or 25 and stitching can give excellent results, but bear in mind the caveats.
 

kwalsh

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A bit of a noob question here: I have noticed when I use a really wide (e.g.12mm) focal length, objects close up seem stretched a bit. I am supposing this is the opposite of the compression effect of telephoto lenses, but please correct me if there is a better explanation.
Yes and no. There are really two effects at play here.

The main effect people see from wide angle lenses and telephoto lenses (compression) is "perspective distortion". There is often a lot of confusion about perspective distortion and focal length and sensor size and so forth. The basic idea though is that when the capture angle of view (i.e. wide angle vs telephoto lens on a camera) and the viewing angle of view (i.e. looking at the image on a screen or a print) differ that we visually experience "perspective distortion". This partially results in the "stretching" you probably perceive. Read more here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perspective_distortion_(photography)

The other effect for wide angle lenses or panoramas is the type of projection. Your wide angle lens unless it is a fisheye uses a rectilinear projection. Most panoramas use a cylindrical projection. For objects towards the edge or corners a rectilinear projection will produce a lot of apparent "stretching". Read more here:

http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/image-projections.htm

Anyways, I am learning how to do panos for landscape, and while I can certainly see the convenience of taking a single, wide angle shot, it seems to me that using a more mid-range focal length and stitching several shots together offers advantages both in detail and possibly this distortion effect (if there are foreground elements, that is; I don't see a noticeable effect at longer distances). Is this correct, or am I missing something?
Yep you've got that mostly right. See above, and if you chose rectilinear projection in your stitching/panorama software you'll get the exact same look as your wide angle lens.

If it is correct, why would any serious landscape photographer not do panos all the time?
There are a variety of reasons but one would be that often the rectilinear distortion is actually desired and used in the composition. There are also plenty of photographers who even go out of there way to make rectilinear panoramas using a tilt shift lens instead of the typical stitching approach of rotating the camera. There really isn't a right or wrong answer. However, it is worth noting for very wide panoramas that rectilinear projection is just not practical and so you have to use cylindrical.
 

bartjeej

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Oct 9, 2012
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As for the perspective distortion, it doesn't matter if you stitched several shots together or if you used a wide angle lens; if the distance between you and the subject is the same, the perspective distortion will also be the same. As implied by kwalsh, if you view the image from up close, the perspective distortion in a wide FOV shot will look natural; if you view it from a distance, it'll look odd.
 
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