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Poor man's Widelux


May 3 2011

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One of Jeff Bridges' favorite cameras is the "Widelux". The Widelux is a very expensive special-purpose camera that acts like a fish-eye lens, but with more resolution: It uses a special moving lens that allows ultra-wide-angle shots. Not only is this camera expensive, but it is difficult to work with.

While I like the effect of the Widelux, I do not have Jeff Bridges' budget for fancy cameras. Fortunately, I don't need an expensive Widelux to make panoramic shots. It is possible to make panoramic shots with the basic camera in my cell phone by using the right software.

I use an open-source program called Hugin to make panoramic photos. To use this program, first I take a series of pictures that cover the width I want in my photo. This is done by taking one picture, then turning the camera to the left so that the left half of the picture I just took is the right half of the picture I am about to take. If I do this enough times, I will have turned around and have enough pictures to make a 360 degree panoramic image.

Of course, doing a full 360 degree rotation is not necessary. In the above picture, for example, I only wanted to cover a little over 180 degrees.

Once the pictures are taken, it is a simple matter of loading the pictures in to Hugin. Despite the program being open-source, there is a built-in "wizard" that can, in the majority of cases, take a series of photos and stitch them togeter in to a longer panoramic shot.

One issue Hugin had in this picture was parallax distortion with the tree about one third from the left of the picture. Hugin caused the tree to have branches floating in mid-air; I had to edit the picture in The Gimp for about an hour to resolve this issue.

Also, it can be difficult for Hugin to stitch photos together if less than about half of the picture overlaps the picture next to it. In addition, Hugin will sometimes crop the ends of the photo montage.

Like the real Widelux, Hugin is a little fickle and unpredictable. Like the real Widelux, Hugin can generate some really beautiful panoramic shots. Unlike the real Widelux, Jeff Bridges' income is not needed to have one.

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