Cycloramic Pro Swims With the Sharks
To use Cycloramic Pro, you simply balance an iPhone 5 or 5s upright on a smooth, level surface. If you're in a fantastic place -- say the deck of an outdoor restaurant overlooking mountains and a beach -- the table might not be level or smooth. You might be able to substitute an upside-down plate -- but maybe not. Still, the ability to take a panoramic image using vibration flirts with magic.
Cycloramic Pro by Egos Ventures is an iOS app available in the iTunes App Store for US$1.99.
How does an iOS panoramic photo shooting app first introduced in 2012 rocket to the top of the Paid App list in Apple's App Store?
Answer: The developer takes it to ABC's Shark Tank, an entrepreneurial investment TV show, where he demonstrates how his iPhone can spin around, taking photos all by itself.
He then shakes off a US$200,000 offer for 10 percent of his business and holds out for $500K of venture investment. Then the downloads come rolling in like thunder.
I had to try it too.
360 Degrees of Vibration
The hands-free vibration behind the Cycloramic Pro is the key to the app. Here's how it works: Without a case, you simply balance an iPhone 5 or 5s upright on a smooth, level surface -- a kitchen counter or a table will do nicely. It just has to be darn near level, as well as smooth. You tap a button to start the photo, which then gives you 3 seconds to balance your iPhone in an upright position.
The app snaps a photo, then vibrates to cause the iPhone to spin counterclockwise. After an inch or so of spin, it stops and the app snaps a photo. It repeats the process -- vibration and spin, stop and snap -- until it completes a full circle. Cycloramic Pro then stitches the photos together to create a panoramic photo.
It also can create a panoramic video -- and the video, by the way, is my preferred way to share a panoramic view. It just seems a bit more real, probably because viewing a video doesn't require your brain to translate a wide, static, flat image into a panoramic understanding of the photo.
Unfortunately, the magic of Cycloramic Pro is limited to smooth horizontal surfaces, case free. If your case is hard to take on and off, you'll need a good reason to launch the app.
Similarly, if you're in a fantastic place -- say the deck of an outdoor restaurant overlooking mountains and a beach -- the table might not be level or smooth. I imagine you might be able to use Cycloramic Pro on an upside down glass or plate -- but maybe not.
Still, the ability to take a panoramic image using vibration flirts with magic. If you can't balance the iPhone, you can still use the manual method with your hands to create a pano from within the app.
Editing, Enhancement and Effects
As you might expect, Cycloramic Pro comes with a variety of standard photo-editing tools, like crop, brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpen and blur. You can draw or add text. What's any photo app without filters these days? Cycloramic Pro has filters, too. Standard stuff here, really, and easy enough to figure out and use.
Once you're happy with the results, you can share them via built-in social media sharing tools -- the usual suspects: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Mail. Because you can save the panoramic images to your Camera Roll -- including the stills that make up each pano -- you can share them in other ways, too.
My favorite editing feature is the ability to import an existing pano image and convert it to a 15-second panoramic video in 240p, 360p, 480p, 720p or 1080p.
In my tests, the stitched results sometimes failed to line up correctly. For instance, a stationary object might appear to have a partial blur, or a building or window might have straight lines that don't connect exactly right. I'm sure this has something to do with managing the iPhone lens through a variety of minute angle changes, but the point remains: "accuracy" of results will vary.
To be fair, before Cylcoramic Pro, I never bothered to pay much attention to near-distance panoramic images -- the only panos I bothered to take were landscape shots, which I'm sure are easier to stitch together so that the result seems more seamless.
Last of all, there are two versions of this app, both of which are paid. At the time of this writing, Cycloramic Pro was discounted from $2.99 to $1.99, making it the same price as the $1.99 Cycloramic Studio 360 Panorama app, which contains ads and in-app purchases to get to the same level of built-in features found in the Pro version.