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Panolapse 360 Review

Panolapse

Introduction

I recently got a chance to install and test Panolapse, some time-lapse software with some interesting and unique features. This Panolapse review aims to give a fair and balanced account of my experience using the software.

Just like you’d expect from any time-lapse creation software, Panolapse (or Panolapse 360 as it is also known) allows you to stitch photographs together to produce a smooth, flowing time-lapse video.

Is that it? Well, no! Panolapse has a unique feature that allows you to add panning and zooming effects to your final video, similar to what can be achieved using expensive motion control hardware, only it achieves this result using only software techniques.

What is Panolapse?

Panolapse is software that takes your static time-lapse photographs and stitches them together into a smooth time-lapse video, whilst adding advanced three-dimensional panning and zooming effects.

Time-lapse creation software

If you already have a series of time-lapse photos, or you are planning to shoot a time-lapse sequence, then time-lapse software is something you’ll probably need.

Depending on your exact requirements, Panolapse will turn these photos into a high-definition (or standard definition, if you prefer) video file which you can play like any other video.

What makes Panolapse unique?

If you were to pan across a timelapse sequence in most video production software, it would be painfully clear that the camera remained static and you had just panned the flat images across the screen.

Panolapse maps your sequence over a 3d ‘globe’, adding realistic perspective, meaning the pan/zoom effects really do look like your camera was panning/zooming during the shoot.

The ‘RAWBlend’ feature is also quite unique, scanning and adjusting exposure settings across the sequence of images, producing smooth, flicker-free videos every time.

Panolapse Features

Of course Panolapse has all of the usual features you have come to expect from time-lapse software, such as allowing you to stitch photos together and export them to a video of the desired framerate.

Here are some less common features that Panolapse offers above and beyond the basics…

Rotational Panning/Zooming

The key feature within Panolapseis the rotational pan and zoom.

Unlike typical pan and zoom controls within most video editing software, Panloapse has a hidden trick up it’s sleeve. Your video is mapped onto a sphere, kind of like the effect you may have seen within panorama and augmented reality apps.

By distorting the visual image in this way, the pan and zoom effects look virtually indistinguishable from actually turning the camera on a motion control slider.

Whilst you can sometimes just about tell that the effect has been achieved with software, in my experience the effect is pretty good and considering you don’t have to lug motion control hardware around with you, it’s definitely something you should give a go if you produce time-lapse videos.

Blend frames with RAWBlend

Another one of Panolapse’s flagship features is its ability to smoothly blend between RAW or JPG images. According to the vendor, it allows you to interpolate settings across multiple frames such as exposure, contrast, white balance, vibrance, saturation, fill, shadows and more.

Autoexposure

This feature analyses the aperture, shutter speed and ISO of each image in a time-lapse sequence and automatically adjusts exposure to give a smooth and consistent transition throughout the sequence whilst minimising flicker.

Without an automation feature like this, holy-grail sequences are incredibly difficult to achieve smoothly, so this is a welcome feature indeed.

Deflicker

As any experience time-lapse photographer will tell you, time-lapse flicker removal is an important subject to get to grips with if you want to produce smooth outdoor time-lapse videos.  An essential feature then, found in most good time-lapse production software.  Panolapse is no exception.

Exposure correction

Just about every photographer knows how easy it is to get exposure wrong when shooting.

Panolapse helps by allowing you to adjust and correct exposure after the fact. 

Works with RAW or JPG

If you produce time-lapse videos professionally, or if you are serious about producing professional time-lapse videos, then you should really be shooting and processing images in RAW format.

RAW images are a must if you plan on using Panolapse RAW Blend feature as essential data is saved into RAW images which is lost on convertion to JPG.

You will then need to convert to JPG to use the video production/panning tool.

If you’re just getting into the subject and you’re not sure on the benefits of shooting RAW, then check out our handy blog post on the differences between RAW and JPG.

Works with Fisheye lenses

Since the software supports fisheye lenses, you can account for this and pan/zoom functions will still work without having unnecessary distortion.

Works with stitched panoramas

According to the official website, Panolapse supports 360° equirectangular panoramic images.

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I haven’t tried this feature but this could open up some interesting creative opportunities. I do have a fish-eye lense so next time I’m out in the mountains I’ll look out for an opportunity to capture a nice wide scene.

Export to MP4, MOV or JPG frames

Of course Panloapse supports exporting to some of the most popular video formats including MP4, MOV and individual JPG frames.

The ability to export to JPG is a welcome feature as this allows you to add an extra layer of processing if you require depending on your workflow. For example, you may want to touch photos up in Adobe Lightroom prior to being stitched together into a video.

Hands On With Panolapse

When I first launched Panolapse, I assumed I could click on ‘Import image sequence and import all of my RAW images. Unfortunately it looks like this isn’t possible. You can only import JPG images from what I can see.

You can import RAW into the RAW Blend feature, but this is a separate feature used to create holy grail time-lapses which transitions through exposure values and saves them back to the metadata. A cool feature indeed, but create a simple time-lapse video from a sequence of photos, you’re going to have to convert to jpg first.

No worries, I’m used to editing my photos first in Adobe Lightroom anyway.

Importing Photos

Once I had generated my series of JPG images, I went back to Panolapse and hit the ‘Import image sequence’ button again. I selected a sequence of 1300 photos which were imported within a few seconds. No waiting around which was great.

I decided to produce a pretty simple time-lapse video, with a panning effect from left to right, to simulate a camera slider moving along a single axis.

I changed the focal length so that the image was effectively zoomed in, then I selected the first image and dragged my photo to the right, essentially ‘pointing the camera’ to the left side of the image. This will allow me to pan across the image sequence. I then clicked on the last image in my sequence and dragged the image to the left, again ‘pointing the camera’ to the right of the image.

Panolapse editing endkeyframe

Panolapse editing endkeyframe

Now my first and last images of the sequence are keyframes. When rendering the output video Panolapse will gradually adjust the Pan, tilt and Roll values across the frames between the keyframes, giving a smooth transition.

Exporting Video

I then hit ‘Export Frames…’ to output my time-lapse video. 

On the export settings window, I chose to output with 1080p resolution to MP4 video.

Panolapse output screen

There aren’t a lot of options here, but I found I was able to achieve what I set out to do. There were a couple of things that I think could be improved however. For example, more supported video formats would be nice to see.

The Result

It wouldn’t be a proper Panolapse review without showing the final result!

Overall I was happy with the result I got with just a camera and tripod. 15 minutes of post production is all I needed.

Problems I Encountered

For example, I set the output folder to a new folder within my main project folder. When Panolapse outputted the video (and images) it created a folder of it’s own within the one I created. This is good as it would have saved me creating a fresh folder, but it was totally unexpected, and I ended up with an extra folder. I did this a couple of times after forgetting about it. Not a major problem, but still a bit of an annoyance. Easily corrected though.

Another unexpected quirk was when exporting the video, Panolapse not only outputted the MP4 video that I wanted, but all of the rendered jpg frames into the same directory. I thought I may have accidentally selected ‘export jpg frames’ on the export options page, but there doesn’t seem to be any such option. You can choose to export jpg images instead of mp4, but I chose mp4 and expected just the mp4 to be generated.

In Summary

Overall, I think Panolapse is a good tool. It’s light and efficient to load and run, and it does what it does really well.

I haven’t had chance to test the RAW Blend feature yet, but if it works as advertised, which I expect it will, then it’s worth the license fee for that alone.

For time lapse photographers on a budget who want to achieve the effects of an expensive 2-axis motorised slider and capture that elusive holy grail time-lapse sequence, then Panolapse brings these effects within reach, for less than a couple of rounds of drinks.

If you want to give Panolapse a try, then I recommend downloading the demo version first and giving it a try.

Panolapse vs LRTimelapse

In case you are unaware, LRTimelapse is another popular brand of time-lapse production software which has some similar features to Panolapse.

One key feature of LRTimelapse is the ability to add keyframes and automate the transition of settings through a sequence. It does this by integrating with Adobe Lightroom, automating the powerful image editing capabilities of Lightroom to produce professional level time-lapse video.

Comparing the two, I would say that LRTimelapse, with it’s integration with LRTimelapse is a more fully-featured offering for producing time-lapse videos. However this is an expensive setup, especially considering that you will need costly motion control hardware if you want to pan and zoom.

Chronolapse vs Panolapse

Chronolapse is an entirely different type of software to Panolapse. Whilst Panolapse allows you to produce professional level time-lapse videos from source images from your camera, Chronolapse is primarily intended for capturing images from a camera connected to a computer (or from the screen).

If you are looking for some software to capture photos from a webcam or USB camera on your computer at regular intervals, then you should check out Chronolapse. It’s free and could be just what you need.

How to download Panolapse

You can find the Panolapse download link on the official Panolapse website. This will download the trial version of the software.

You can then unlock the full version of the software by purchasing a license from the same website. You will then receive a license key which you can provide in the software to unlock it.

To download Panolapse, check out the official Panolapse website which contains a Panolapse download link.

Frequently Asked Questions

What operating system will Panolapse run on?

At the time of writing, the software is available for Windows and MacOS.

I tried to install Panolapse on Ubuntu Linux using Wine (software that allows you to run Windows software within Linux), however, it didn’t run properly as fonts weren’t correctly loaded. This is quite common though, most software doesn’t work properly within Wine.

Is Panolapse compatible with GoPro?

In a word, yes. The video file exported by GoPro’s, or most action cameras for that matter, can be imported into Panolapse without any problems.

Any camera that exports video in common formats such as MP4 video should be compatible with Panolapse, including cameras with fisheye lenses.

Does panolapse require lightroom?

Unlike some other time-lapse software, Panolapse does not require Lightroom to be fully functional. Your entire workflow from image files to a final rendered video file can be carried out within the software itself.

You can include Lightroom in your Panolapse workflow, but this is entirely optional and depends on your own particular needs. 

Is Panolapse free or is there a license fee?

It is free to install and use Panolapse, however there are some limitations. For example you are limited to standard definition (SD) output video.

To unlock full functionality, you can purchase a license key which enables you to unlock all features including full HD output video.

Panolapse is very fairly priced considering the amount of functionality so we strongly recommend just buying a license instead of trying to find a Panolapse torrent or crack . In my experience this route often results in you getting an outdated version at best, or more often than not you’ll be downloading malware and infecting your computer. It makes sense just to get a proper license. Plus you’ll be supporting the author, so it’s win-win!

LRTimelapse Pro Timer 3 Review

Pro Timer 3

There are quite a few time-lapse controllers on the market. From the basic unbranded basic intervalometers you can pick up on eBay, through to the complicated, specialist high-tech units that link up to your favourite motion controller. 

Pro Timer 3 Box

The Pro Timer 3 from the maker of LRTimelapse, Gunther Wegner, sits somewhere in the middle. Packed into a small form factor that slides nicely into your camera’s flash mount, this nifty little unit packs plenty of features whilst maintaining an intuitive interface. We tested the product over a couple of weeks, here are the results.

Someone who is new to time-lapse (or photography in general) may see the PT3 as expensive, especially considering their entry-level timer may have cost a fraction of the price. To those people I would say that the PT3 is a specialist piece of technology aimed at professional time-lapse photographers and amateurs that are serious about their craft, and it is priced as such.

First Impressions

The first thing that struck me when I opened the box was just how small the timer was. At just over 3 inches (84mm) on its longest edge, this device really is quite compact. You’d be forgiven for thinking that its small size and weight means there is not much to it, but you would be wrong. Despite the product’s small size, it is packed full of features, as I went on to find out.

Pro Timer 3 Start Screen

The texture of the plastic that the case is made from seemed slightly unusual at first. It has a rough matt textured surface which gave it an almost prototype-like feel. I have seen similar results from high-end 3d printers before. This is not a criticism however, the case seems sturdy and fit for purpose.

After reading the online documentation, I turned the Pro Timer 3 on and started to play around with it. I was impressed with how intuitive the user interface was, despite only having a single clickable knob.

As well as having all of the features I want, the information shown on the display during a time-lapse shoot is exactly the information I need.

At this point, I really got a sense that this was a gadget I would find useful and would likely have a permanent place in my everyday time-lapse kit. 

One thing to be aware of when buying this timer is that you need to buy a separate shutter release cable. By default, the timer comes on its own in the box with no accessories of any kind. When buying this timer online, retailers may offer to upsell you a cable, however it’s up to you to make sure you get the right one for your camera.

I didn’t realise this at first and the cable I had in my kit bag was too short, so I had to order another and wait for it to arrive.

A paper manual would also be a welcome addition. Whilst a simple leaflet would add almost nothing to the overall cost of the product, it would allow you to quickly look up specific features and settings on the go, without needing a computer or phone with an internet connection. I know I could download and print the manual, but this really shouldn’t be necessary for a premium product at this price point.

According to the manufacturer, since the software on the timer is regularly updated, printed instructions would quickly become outdated. Downloadable digital instructions can regularly be updated, so they encourage you to download the latest manual from their website.

Features

The Pro-Timer 3 has more than enough features to meet the needs of most time-lapse amateurs and even professionals. Whilst 99% of my time-lapse shoots use the standard interval mode,  I could definitely see myself making use of the interval ramping feature and the scheduling feature at some point in the future. These features just open up new creative possibilities that would be difficult to achieve otherwise.

When navigating through the software features of the device, I had more than a few “oh, nice” moments when discovering things that it could do, or settings that could be configured.

Pretty much all of the features felt like they would be useful at some point, I didn’t get the feeling any had been added for the sake of it. You can tell this unit was designed by a true time-lapse photographer who understands what the end-user will need, as opposed to someone hired to design electronic devices.

Below are some of the more notable features, beyond what you may expect to find on a typical intervalometer.

Fast Shutter Release

One interesting difference between the Pro Timer and many other intervalometers is the way it handles (or rather, doesn’t handle) the autofocus signal. Unlike most other timers, this one doesn’t send an autofocus signal at all, freeing up valuable ‘dark’ time between shots.

Interval Ramping

Whilst this isn’t a feature I often use, the ability to ramp your interval over time opens up a world of creative possibilities.

The most obvious being the elusive holy grail time-lapse. For those new to the subject, the holy grail time-lapse technique is shooting day-to-night (or vice-versa) transitions. It’s called holy grail as historically keeping good exposures over such a dramatic change in scene brightness has been incredibly difficult (however modern technology has taken much of the difficulty out of getting this right).

Dual Trigger Output Ports

If you ever want to connect the timer to a second camera or send a signal to your motion controller, the Pro Timer 3 features a second output port. Whilst I haven’t yet needed to use this, it’s great to know that option is there when I decide to set up a motion controller at some point.

Dual output ports

The raised “I” and “II” around the ports help you to identify the ports by touch alone in complete darkness, which is a nice touch. 

OLED Display

The sharp, bright OLED display is a great feature as it allows a wider range of visual display elements to be displayed. Unlike LCD displays that have fixed characters or symbols, OLED screens have a large number of individual pixels. This means that the manufacturer can be more creative with their user interface and display almost anything on it including text, numbers, symbols, borders, shapes, you name it!

For nighttime shooting, this display is great. Unlike LCDs which generally have to use an LED to backlight them, the OLED is bright and clear in any ambient lighting condition.

Scene Flashlight

Screen Flashlight Tool

A simple, yet useful feature. You can illuminate the OLED screen in order to illuminate your scene. Whilst this would be nowhere near enough light to be useful in other circumstances, during long-exposure night sky shoots, this is apparently plenty enough light to illuminate the foreground.

Hot Shoe Mounts

The ability to set the timer on top of your DSLR camera’s hot shoe (flash) mount is simple, yet a great feature that means you don’t have to hang it down from a cable.

The Pro Timer has two hot-shoe mounts, so as well as the standard setup of the screen facing backwards, you can also attach it with the display facing upward, perfect for when your camera is set low on the ground.

Hot shoe mounts

You’ll also notice the clip on the back there for securing a lanyard. Another nice little attention to detail. 

Build Quality

Whilst I don’t feel like I have put this device through its paces physically, I can comment on the build quality for general use. I haven’t subjected it to extreme weather, moisture or any drops/crushes, which I would have to do to be able to comment on how it stands up to tough environments.

Having used the Pro-Timer 3 for a few weeks, shoving it into my camera bag and various pockets, leaving it out for a few hours at a time, I have experienced no problems with it at all.

The build quality on inspection looks more than adequate for standing up to average time-lapse photography usage. Like with any high-tech electronic equipment, look after it and it should serve you for years to come. 

User Interface

One thing that is guaranteed to annoy me with technology is poor user interface design. Quite often, product developers fail to put the necessary thought and planning into designing an intuitive, simple user interface. This is often the result of a lack of expertise in that area.

Whilst a product team may have all of the technical skills to develop working hardware to spec, user interface design is a totally different discipline. Making a powerful tool with a lot of features, whilst also maintaining a simple interface is no easy feat. This is as true for software as it is for hardware.

Fortunately, the product developer has managed to develop a really simple, intuitive user interface for the Pro Timer 3. He clearly has a lot of experience with interface design, having worked as a software engineer and having developed the LRTimelapse software over 10 years according to his fascinating documentary of the LRTimelapse story.

Hardware Interface

Aside from the on-off switch, the only control on the device is a rotary knob, which has a satisfying ‘notched’ feel as it turns, helping you to cleanly select items in the user interface. The knob also clicks in to select an item, or you can hold it down for a second or so to go back. Really intuitive.

The ability to use the product with just a single knob is no accident – it allows you to use the timer with gloves on, in almost any weather condition. Although I wouldn’t use this product in the rain as, to the best of my knowledge, it is not rainproof.

Knob adjustment

Initially, when using the knob, I was a little frustrated that the knob seemed to be reversed compared to my expectation. Turning clockwise scrolled up the menu and anti-clockwise scrolled down. Satisfyingly, it turns out that the rotation direction can be set in the settings, brilliant!

Software Interface

The menu structure follows a fairly standard hierarchical structure. First, you choose the mode by turning the knob, then you click into it and proceed to progress through each of the settings for that mode by turning and clicking.

This is about as simple and straightforward as it could be. You can go back a step by holding the knob, right back to the main menu. This simple mechanism of forward/backwards covers all of the main functionality of the Pro Timer 3, meaning as soon as you work this out, you can pretty much use every feature on the device.

Battery Life

I left the intervalometer running for 3-4 hours at a time each night and it didn’t need charging for a couple of days.

The battery definitely exceeded my expectations, each time I checked the battery indicator I half expected it to be empty but it just seemed to keep going.

For longer shoots, I use a USB power bank to power my camera, so I could have plugged the Pro-Timer into that however I didn’t need to as the timer’s battery lasted much longer than was needed for any photoshoot.

Documentation

As previously mentioned, there was no physical documentation included in the box, but documentation is available online.

The online documentation covers all of the features and settings of the device, which proved to be sufficient for me. The inclusion of a PDF diagram depicting the full navigation menu system was a great idea and worth printing out.

I did feel like something was lacking however, some secondary information would be useful such as information about the battery, options for connecting the device to your camera(s), tips on using the backlight, resolving common problems etc.

I had a problem where my camera hadn’t finished processing the photo when the next photo was triggered, causing every-other photo to get missed. Whilst this wasn’t a problem with the timer itself (and was an easy fix), being able to identify these potential issues prior to going out into the field could have saved my some frustrations!

In Summary

All things considered, I really like the Pro-Timer 3. It’s well designed, easy to use and has all of the features I want from an intervalometer.

Whilst the price is quite high compared to some other intervalometers, the simple software menu system and unique hardware interface puts the device on another level compared to the competition and justifies the extra cost.

If you are looking to buy a new intervalometer and the Pro-Timer 3 is within your budget range, then this device would be a great purchase.

Pros

  • Excellent user interface
  • Lots of features
  • Great battery life
  • Small and light

Cons

  • Quite expensive for a timer
  • Lack of bundled cable/physical manual

To find out more about the LRTimelapse Pro-Timer check out the official website here.