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PanGazer – making panoramic images


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Making panoramic images

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PanGazer opens spherical panoramas from an ‘equirectangular’ image (see the Wikipedia article » for an explanation of ‘equirectangular’).  360° cameras (such as the Ricoh Theta and the Insta360 series) create these in-camera, and those images can be viewed immediately using PanGazer.

You can also use a drone (such as the DJI and Anafi drones) to capture a spherical panorama.

For example, the DJI Mavic Pro and Mavic 2 Pro take 34 or 26 still images respectively from about 40 above the horizon to −90 below (one image is taken straight down), and these can be assembled into a ‘part-spherical’ panorama (where imagery more than 40 above the horizon is missing).

Similarly, the Anafi drone takes 42 still images which cover the full sphere (+90 above the horizon to −90 below).

Both of these include considerably more detail than the 360 cameras, which only capture two still images.

The drone images, however, need to be assembled (‘stitched’) into an equirectangular image before they can be be viewed as a whole by PanGazer.  There are a number of programs that can do this (and the drone or its supporting app may also be able to do this).

I have mostly used the following three programs for stitching panoramas. Two of them are free, but the first listed has often given better results on my small collection of ‘problem’ images – and also has a work-around for images with incorrect exposure data (explained below).

  • PTGui » (Panorama Tools Graphical User Interface): this commercial panoramic image stitcher, based on Panorama Tools », also has many other features.  It is notable for not requiring that input images be in any particular order (and so well suits Anafi drone sphericals).  A trial (free) version is available.

  • Hugin »: a set of cross-platform and open-source panoramic imaging tools, also based on Panorama Tools », for stitching and manipulating panoramas.  This works well, but can be quite slow when many images (as from a drone) are to be stitched.

  • Microsoft Image Composite Editor (MS ICE): this is a relatively fast panoramic image stitcher, created by the Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group.  It is no longer downloadable from, but is fairly easy to find on other download sites.  The most recent (2015) version is 2.0.3.

Step-by-step instructions for stitching multiple images into an equirectangular panorama are given below for each program (these instructions all assume you have copied the images to a folder on your PC, or the SD card from the drone is readable from your PC).

Note that PanGazer can save part-spherical panoramas (as from the Mavic Pro, described above) as full-sphere panoramas for use in social media applications, etc.  For details, see the Sharing images and the Spherical fill pages.



  • Click “Load Images”, then select all (and Open) the images that form the panorama.  At this point some or all of the selected images will be shown in PTGui, under “Source images”, along with lens and camera details.  You can check whether all images have been loaded as expected by clicking “remove or reorder images” (or “Source images” on the left).

  • Click “Align images”.  When complete, this should show the ‘Panorama editor’ with a plausible equirectangular image.
    If the displayed image is poor (not smooth stitching, perhaps with oddly bright or dark areas) then the exposure values recorded in the source images may be wrong (this is known to occur with the DJI Mavic Pro).  In this case, in the Panorama editor try:
    1. Click the ‘<’ at top right of the window for the pop-out menu
    2. Select ‘Blending’
    3. Uncheck ‘Exposure compensation’.  This may well fix the problem; if not, more experimentation may be needed.

  • If the image is not a full sphere you should next crop the image so the top edge is within the stitched image data (that is, below any dark areas protruding into the image).
    To do this, move the cursor over the top edge of the image to get an up/down arrow cursor then left click to get a yellow horizontal line; this can then be dragged down to the desired position.  In the next step, only the image below that line will be saved.

  • Click “Create Panorama”, and modify details (e.g., ‘Output file’) as required.  Then click the second “Create Panorama” button to actually stitch the images and write the panorama to disk.
    You should then be able to view the saved image with PanGazer, which should show its title annotated with “360 spherical”.

Hugin Panorama Stitcher

  • Click the Assistant tab (probably default) and then click “Load images...”, then select all (and Open) the images that form the panorama.  The temporary display of the loaded images, at this point, will probably look unpromising.

  • Click “Align...”.  Hugin will then analyse the images (this may take 5–10 minutes or more; progress is shown in a ‘Running assistant’ window).

  • When done, a plausible panorama should be shown (with uncorrected exposure bands, etc.).  Click “Create panorama...”.  Check that the settings are: LDR format JPEG, Quality 90, and ‘Exposure corrected, low dynamic range’.

  • If the automatic crop looks wrong, you can click the ‘Crop’ tab to adjust it.

  • Click OK.  A ‘project file’ will then be saved (accept as-is, or you can rename this, and/or delete it later).

  • Similarly accept the suggested ‘output prefix’ or modify as desired – this will be used to name and place the final output file.  Stitching will then begin, with a ‘Stitching’ progress window and a ‘Batch Processor’ window (leave both open).  Again, this will take some time.

  • When the ‘Stitching’ progress window closes, you can close the ‘Batch Processor’ window.
    You should then be able to view the saved image with PanGazer, which should show its title annotated with “360 spherical”.

Microsoft Image Composite Editor (MS ICE)

  • Find, download, install, and run the Microsoft Image Composite Editor.

  • Select “New Panorama From Images” and select all (and Open) the images that form the panorama.  Leave the defaults ‘Simple panorama’ and ‘Camera motion – Auto-detect’ unchanged.

  • Click the ‘Stitch’ arrow/tab.  This will probably take a minute or so to align and combine the images.

  • When the stitch has completed, ensure that “spherical” and “auto orientation” are selected.  You should see a distorted 360 panorama with a somewhat ‘puffy’ top edge.

  • Click the ‘Crop’ arrow/tab.  This will project the image (rather more quickly than the last step).  This will then show a possible cropping rectangle (the bottom should be fine, at −90 but the top edge will be above the content of some of the images).  First try ‘Auto crop’ to move the top edge down so it is all within the drone images; if this doesn’t move the edge enough then drag the edge lower.

  • Click the ‘Export’ arrow/tab.  Select Quality ‘Superb’ (this should show a value of 90; you can increase this to 100 if desired).

  • Click ‘Export to disk’ to save the image.
    You should then be able to view the saved image with PanGazer, which should show its title annotated with “360 spherical”.

PanGazer and these web pages were written by Mike Cowlishaw; Please send me any corrections, suggestions, etc.
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This page was last updated on 2022-04-01 by mfc.