February Review in Panorama Magazine

Feb 1999

New product::

The First Digital Scanning 360 Degree Camera on the Market!

We saw this coming, but it came sooner and is of much better quality than I'd expected. Just on the market for a month, the new Panoscan camera uses the topnotch Phase 1 digital line scan technology to capture a 360 degree image. The Nikon 28mm PC (perspective control) lens is preferred, though the system works with other Nikon mount lenses from the 16mm fisheye to the 125mm telephoto. The 42 bit internal color depth gives the image capture 11 f stops exposure latitude, which is superior to negative film's 7 stop range and transparency film's 4 or 5 stop range. At prices ranging from $26,900 to around $35,000 this is no stocking-stuffer, but it has great potential as a hard working tool for high end photographers.

What's so great about it, philosophically speaking:

One fell swoop! The system requires no film or processing, no clicking and tinkering with a jig system, no post-production stitching. Less time spent dashing for labs, computers, and express mail services means more time to put up your feet, catch a few rays, and have a cold one. Or time to do more jobs, since less effort per unit of work can also mean greater productivity.

Electronic "Polaroids"! While at the site you can see exactly what you're getting in terms of composition and accurate color. You can make on-site adjustments. Since the "Polaroids" are digital, you can e-mail your baby seal polaroids from your ice floe to the art director in Timbuktu and she/he can respond from the opulent comfort and safety of the tent at the oasis before a polar bear has time to find and eat the seal. Your delivery of the digital photo and invoice, and their electronic funds transfer can be completed before sandstorms bury the Fed Ex box and bandits ambush the Sahara Camel Mail Train. Get the picture?!

Lightweight portability! The Panoscan camera including panhead weighs just 8 pounds. Add a battery pack (9 hours of operation), tripod, lens or two, cell phone, and the computer, and the total pack weight is around 40 pounds and it works as an airline carry-on. In the parlance of panoramic photographers, that ain't half bad.

High Tech and Versatile:

The Phase OneTM digital line scan technology built into every Panoscan System is top of the line, producing images with exceptional resolution, extreme light sensitivity and extraordinary quality. Panoscan's 42-bit internal color depth and 14-bit per color precision capture outstanding shadow and highlight details. Light sensitivity of up to 1600 ISO gives the system extra F-stops, reducing the need for light, while providing a significantly wider exposure range than film. The system is adaptable for use with all standard lenses. After an initial quick preview scan at low resolution, any portion of the revolution can be selected for a slower full resolution capture. The lowest resolution scan is 884 x 3500 pixels for a file size of 8.9 Meg. and takes one minute. The highest resolution scan is 7000 x 28,000 pixels for a file size of 560.8 Meg and takes 15 minutes. Intermediate scans can also be done. When used in conjunction with an automated turntable, the Panoscan system takes fully automated object movies, making it ideal for capturing both panoramas and objects.

Computing the Image:

After the image capture, it's possible to deliver the computer file without any stitching work whatsoever. However, many adjustments are possible if you wish. The system runs with Macintosh and has, in short, many easily performed manipulations to work with exposure variations, highlight and shadow values, tonal values, and more. Computer illiterates will need a growth experience to get the most out of this, but the pixel-pushing tools are user friendly, fast, and versatile these days.

Suggested applications:

The system has a wide range of applications in fields such as residential and commercial real estate; architectural and interior design; auto marketing and sales, boat and airplane interior/exteriors; crime scene capture for law enforcement and litigation; and a variety of entertainment industry and media company uses. The crux move here is to find the clients that can cover the costs of buying and insuring the Panoscan.

Current limitations:

1) It's expensive.

2) It's too slow for aerial or action photography. At rates of from 1 to 15 minutes for a full revolution, a tripod is necessary and moving subjects will blur. This will improve when the Fire Wire and faster downloading technologies become available. The image capture itself is fast, but the wire that carries the information to the computer doesn't talk fast enough yet.

The basic system includes the Panoscan high resolution digital camera, computer controlled pan head, AC power supply, sophisticated and user friendly software, documentation and tutorial guide, AR 1 and TG 1 filters, and a 1 year warranty. Optional equipment includes a DC battery supply, solar charging kit, object turntable, backpack, and custom lens mount.

Additional recommended equipment includes a Nikon 28mm PC lens, Gitzo 1548 tripod, Gitzo GTZG421 levelling head, Apple Powerbook G3 with 64MG RAM and 4G hard drive minimum.

Buy, rent, let them do it:

The system is not just for sale. You can rent it for around $600 per day or hire Panoscan, Inc. to capture the image for you.

Who dunnit?

The inventor is photographer Ted Chavalas of Los Angeles, and his business partners are Lawrence Peters, Jeff Stuart and Casey Coss. They're agreeable about answering questions, and are waiting for your call.

More Information:

Panoscan Inc.

5632 Van Nuys Blvd. #150

Van Nuys, CA 91401-4600

Phone: (818) 908-4641

FAX: 818.783.9539

Website: Http://www.panoscan.com