Introduction to PTAssembler
Modern technology has allowed the common use of some truly amazing photographic techniques on a widespread scale, and one of the most popular of those is panorama photography. Panoramas started out as pasted-together side-by-side images, but today’s technology allows for 360 degree and full spherical panoramas, as well as virtual tours. Just as in the case of HDR (high dynamic range) photography, constantly evolving technology has allowed a task that once would have required a supercomputer to be accomplished by the average personal computer on the market. Just because the ability to accomplish the task is widespread does not mean that the software is, also. Many panorama stitching programs exist, but most give acceptable results only under close to ideal circumstances. Not Panorama Tools, though, and the successive work on the core has only served to strengthen its capabilities. PTAssembler, a panorama stitcher using the Panorama Tools core and adding a graphical user interface and additional functionality, is on version 4.5 and still going strong - I’ve been using it for five years, and I have no complaints as of yet.
Usability & Performance (4 out of 5)
In an era where command lines are an anachronism, a good graphical user interface is essential, and PTAssembler delivers in that respect. Despite the fact that the user has a remarkable degree of control over the finished product, there is also a one-button route to panoramas, as well, and that one-button route works as well or better than the other options on the market. Downloading and setting up all the plugins required to automate the process entirely can be somewhat tedious, given the number of options there, but the final result is worth it beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Capability & Features (5 out of 5)
PTAssembler is designed primarily to cope with panoramas, and it does so incredibly well even in the toughest situations. If the automated process runs into problems, you can manually select the control points used to stitch images together or select a different projection. The output can be saved as both JPEG and TIFF as well as Photoshop formats, and there are multi-image options that allow for additional post-processing in Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or other image editing software capable of working with layers.
My only complaint was the speed - I say “was”, since my new HP TouchSmart tx2z is more than capable of running it at high speed, especially since PTAssembler 4.5 beta includes multithreading support.
Overall Price to Value (5 out of 5)
When you consider all of the above along with the fact that this program can be used to “stack” photos with differing exposures or depth of field, it begins to look extremely attractive at its price point ($39.99). There might be better software programs out there for the price, but I seriously doubt it!
For those interested in getting serious about panoramas, buying the software qualifies you for a $20 discount on a Panosaurus pano head.